The Indirect Communication of “Mad Men”

I am a big fan of AMC’s “Mad Men.” The 1960s is a time period ripe for social critique, and there is certainly no shortage of material with which to craft compelling narratives. One theme the show depicts on a continual basis–and one I was again reminded of in the episode that aired yesterday–is how some of the strong female characters often accomplish their desired goals by fulfilling someone else’s concept of their role in society, rather than acting intuitively from the characteristics that make them the unique individuals that they are. From a communication standpoint, we would identify this as indirect versus direct communication. Indirect communication is regularly illustrated in the show as women in the 1960s male-dominated business setting had to suggest ideas in ways that made men think they (or other men) were responsible for thinking of them. Women had ideas, but they had to present them indirectly — in a way that they would be heard and not dismissed.

While musing over this theme in the show, it occurred to me that this illustration of indirect communication could provide an interesting analogy for how rhetorical persona functions in religious settings. It is certainly not a new idea to explore the use of indirect communication by theologians and pastors. (Humor is one form of indirect communication often used — in the work of C.S. Lewis for example). However, how have members of various religious communities had to indirectly communicate their ideas or create rhetorical personas through which a message would be well-received? I need to spend some time cultivating this idea, but I sense that something may be there.

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