Over nearly a decade, Mad Men found itself in a peculiar position when it came to feminism. On one hand, some viewers found the show’s take on rampant misogyny in the 1960s workplace to be refreshingly frank. Others called the show nothing more than an unfortunate light shined on an alcoholic, womanizing crew of one of the world’s most egotistical industries.
As the seasons wore on, it became clear that Mad Men was honing in on these themes in order to highlight just how difficult things could be for a woman in the workforce before gender discrimination lawsuits started to snap male employers to pay attention. After all, how could a show that put the struggles of African Americans, gays and just about everyone else suffering oppression in the decade be doing anything but mocking those problems?
If a recent editorial published by Buzzfeed‘s Susan Cheng is to be believed, some of the characters on Mad Men may have been more than strictly fictional. Paul Johansson, who played Ferg Donnelley on the series, was interviewed by Cheng a few weeks ago — an experience that she claims was filled with inappropriate touching and suggestive comments. Specifically, Susan says that Paul told her co-worker that he would “shoot tennis balls down her throat” if they played a game together and also said that he was “sweating like a rapist” during the shoot.
“It took me a second to register what I’d just heard. Still, none of us in the room objected or expressed our discomfort. Instead, I forced myself to laugh before proceeding. After all, it was just the culmination of about three comments from Johansson that would’ve been inappropriate in an ad agency in the early 1970s, like the one his misogynistic character works at on Mad Men. But this is hardly 1970. It’s 2015, and we work at BuzzFeed — far from the time or place where I would’ve expected his remarks.”
In Cheng’s article for Buzzfeed, she discusses what a huge fan of Mad Men she is, and how she thinks that influenced her decision to stay quiet about the incident.
She also contacted the Mad Men actor’s publicist regarding Paul’s alleged remarks. In return, she received a statement from Paul’s lawyer, Andrew B. Brettler, who argued that these comments were taken out of context.
“Buzzfeed has stooped to the level of a supermarket tabloid by publishing a false story misquoting Mr. Johannson and even taking certain of his alleged statements out of context in an effort to make them appear salacious and/or offensive.”
Do you think Buzzfeed has a real life Mad Men case on their hands?
[Image via AMC]