Mad Men’s Carla raises consciousness 140 characters at a time

by Guest Contributor Helen Klein Ross, originally published at Ad Broad

Why do Mad Men fans write feeds for the characters? I know that for many of us, it’s simply good fun. For others, it’s fun and an interesting experiment in social media. For others of us, it’s all that and…an opportunity to touch on controversial social issues the show bravely explores.

Latoya Peterson writing for Racialicious observes there’s a twitter feed for Carla, the Drapers’ African American housekeeper, which puts forth perspective that is “all but absent on the show”.

Some critics have taken Mad Men to task for not dealing with social injustice in a more frontal manner. But Weiner’s characters exist in a universe where concepts of feminism and racism are just beginning to take hold. Where sexual harassment not only doesn’t have consequences, it won’t have a name for a good twenty years.

HighJive, a popular blogger who writes on race and “cultural cluelessness” concedes that “finding fault with Mad Men’s rendering of ethnic minorities in the advertising industry is somewhat impossible because, well, they barely exist. They’re invisible.”

Indeed, when the twitter feed for Carla first appeared in December, there was no profile pic. There wasn’t a profile pic for Carla for weeks. The writer explained why in an email:

I have no picture because I’m invisible.

Carla remained without a profile pic until Jan 19, the day before Obama was sworn in:

Finally found one of my own pictures. Makes me feel like today is a holiday.

From time to time, the writer behind Carla touches on racial inequity taken for granted in the world of Ossining, circa 1963. Here’s her exchange with Betty during a twitter-based Tea Party:

Carla: This uniform makes me feel uncomfortable. But I can’t show it; must maintain my “quiet dignity” for the party.

Betty: And be sure and put out Cointreau for White Ladies.

Carla: Oh, won’t all of your guests be white ladies at the party?

Betty: You are such a character! Gin + Cointreau + Lemon + Powdered Sugar = White Lady. Don’t forget to iron your apron!

Carla: We could offer Black Ladies as well. Brandy + Grand Marnier + Kahlua. Paul Kinsey told me he likes Black Ladies.

Carla: And at least, I get to keep my own clothes clean if Betty and her friends spit up the White Ladies on the black lady.

Betty: And change the record on the hifi to Bing Crosby, would you?

Clara: Putting on Bing Crosby record, wishing I’d brought my Louie Armstrong “Christmas Night in Harlem” record to play.

Some tweeters have taken issue with @Carla_Madmen’s sangfroid, wishing her to be more politically conscious:

re: Fixation on the Drapers’ lives…don’t you need to be marching for your civil rights or something?

But Carla on twitter remains in character. She is no Rosa Parks. She is like thousands of women were then as now: ordinary women trying to make the best of the cards they’d been dealt:

March? I get plenty of exercise walking to and from the train.

I do not know who writes @Carla_Madmen. But we have developed an email relationship in which we exchange views on racism and other issues that Carla and Betty can’t discuss. I sent her the Racialicious piece and asked for her views on how blacks are depicted in Mad Men. She wrote:

African-Americans are the only grown-ups on Mad Men. To the limited extent you see them, they lack any discernible faults. Whether that’s due to their minor roles, I’m not sure. I think it will be interesting to watch Mad Men develop larger roles for minority characters as the 60’s progress — single dimensional with quiet dignity or a more full range of human emotions and foibles. It’s obviously a potential land mine for the writers.

And a gold mine of material for the writer of Carla’s twitter feed.

About This Blog

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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