If you want to see what sin looks like in a laboratory—a gorgeous, depressing, cinematic laboratory—then study AMC’s television series Mad Men. Its characters, although trapped in a very specific time and place in American history, reveal the universal way that human vice separates mankind from the divine. The show’s creators expose the massive divide between beauty and ugliness, a spiritual paradox where appearances deceive us on every level.
I find it hard to recommend Mad Men to most people, especially Christians. Its sexual scenes are uncomfortable; its vices are glamorous. I don’t let my children watch it. I watch the characters sin and then sin again with awkward fascination. I am both appalled by the protagonist and instructed by his self-deception. My parents, who met and married in New York City in 1960 and subsequently lived in real life with every cup, necktie, and piece of furniture on the set, would no doubt find the cultural references and costuming to be pitch-perfect. Yet I’m certain they would squirm at the debauchery behind the proper offices of Sterling Cooper. I have yet to recommend it to them.