Mad Men‘s Season 5 Poster Criticized For Looking Like Tragic 9/11 Photograph

It seems as if AMC is going the ultra-subtle role in promoting season 5 of Mad Men, set to premiere on March 25: Michael Surtees uploaded this photo to his Flickr, the first official poster… and it doesn’t even mention the show’s title. The network is relying on true fans to recognize a) the typeface in the date and b) more importantly, the iconic image of a man tumbling through white space. After all, the much-applauded opening sequence concludes with the little black-and-white Don Draper falling alongside full-building ads, only to be OK and smoking a cigarette in his favorite armchair.

But so far, the response has been to assume that this poster is hinting at a depressing season 5. Ology makes the argument for someone’s suicide; the lack of any other visuals makes me want to agree. Similarly, Copyranter is criticizing the designers behind this poster for making it look way too similar to the stomach-turning 9/11 photo “The Falling Man.” (Here’s a link to the photo on Wikipedia, since it can be tough to look at.)

A Copyranter commenter points out yet another way that the photo is offensive: Back in 2008, the creative chief of a top Chicago advertising agency jumped to his death. So now the designers have managed to offend New Yorkers who suffered through the September 11 attacks, and advertisers in general.

Creator Matthew Weiner recently teased some of the themes of season 5, including the promise that each character will have to deal with his/her changing world on his/her own. “And the other thing is — and it really just kept coming up and it’s actually in the show — I’ve never talked about this before, where the line is in the show in episode three and it’s ‘When is everything going to get back to normal?’” he said at a recent cocktail party.

However, it’s this quote from Weiner that makes us think the season could be as bleak as the poster hints at: “We talked about ‘life isn’t fair’ before on the show, but the realization of, like, you really have to deal with your own problems by yourself and other people are not interested—that self-interest can be a surprise, especially if you’re trying to be good.”

So let’s keep guessing until the two-hour premiere (which Weiner says will more resemble a movie than two episodes spliced together) on Sunday, March 25.

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    • steph

      I know the show well enough to easily make a distinction, but it is still the first thing I thought of. I can see how it would be hard to look at for some people.

    • MN

      I’ve always thought the Mad Men intro was discomforting in its evocation of 9/11. Men in business suits falling headfirst out of Manhattan skyscrapers – well, it’s hard to think of anything else, even though the show is of course set in a much earlier era. I’m certain the creators were as aware of that when they first made it as they are now with this poster, so I hope no one tries to claim ignorance.

    • DM

      People were falling before 911. People will fall in real life and in art after 911 too. 911 was awful. But the whole universe and all of human thought does not revolve around that event. Once again, America goes above and beyond to imagine itself at the centre of all creation. Move along, nothing to see here.

    • Jesse

      People seriously need to relax. Call me insensitive but come on. Its a TV show. I can see why people would be upset if this “promo” or the image of Don or a man falling was new but it’s been in the opening credits since the show started. It’s a sneak peak into a new season, that’s all. Its the idea that season 4 was about Don trying to become a better person and face his issues while letting the audience in. This promo is pointing to the idea that Don again will struggle to make the “right” decisons. That’s all.

    • GregR

      I don’t think I would have thought of 9/11 had I not read about the controversy. I consider myself a true fan, but if I had seen the poster out on the street, I wouldn’t have thought Mad Men or 9/11. So because a man jumped to his death in 2008 and he worked in advertising, the image shouldn’t be used? New Yorkers who suffered through 9/11 are offended? I think the people who suffered were killed on that day. But if the image does make people think of 9/11. That’s good. People shouldn’t forget that there are still many unanswered questions and too many coincidences to believe the official story.

    • kel callen

      The survivors (yes, I am one of them) always knew that a vacuous public watching Kim Kardashian would forget 9/11 faster than a supersized box of fries could last. The very fact that someone would say “People…need to relax.” says volumes about the observer. Either you weren’t old enough to understand or you were far away and only saw it on TV.
      It wasn’t a bad Irwin Allan movie, my friend. It was real people jumping out of fire into death’s arms.
      It’s pointless of course to try to explain any of this to you in either case. If you were there you’d be scarred for life. If you were too young or too self involved or watched it in your living room on TV, then you haven’t a clue, have you? We can’t teach the future. Either they are completely different and they won’t know what we are talking about, or they are just like us, and they won’t know why we are saying it. I thought I was paraphrasing Orwell, but I can’t find the quote.

    • Ben

      Wow. 9/11 is the last thing I’d think of seeing that. Hell, I’d think of the 1929 stock market crash before I’d think of 9/11, and I wouldn’t think of that.

    • keith a dewey

      This is their logo. It has been their logo for a long time. I believe that some people just like to cause trouble. It makes them feel important. Their lives must really be sad.

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    • Aaron

      I am a new Yorker who lived through 911 . Call it post traumatic stress or whatever but I was extremely offended by this poster . The real kicker was it is displayed in the chambers street and canal street subway stations only hundreds of feet from the wtc. This image obviously reminds some of us of 911 and some not , but why take the stance that us 911 NYC survivors need to calm down etc etc ? . It is one thing to show this poster in los Angeles or Florida .. But across the street from the wtc site ? Give us a break amc . How tasteless can you be ?

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    • Hanna

      DM; “People were falling before 911. People will fall in real life and in art after 911 too. 911 was awful. But the whole universe and all of human thought does not revolve around that event. Once again, America goes above and beyond to imagine itself at the centre of all creation. Move along, nothing to see here.”

      I couldn’t agree more.

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    • Schwett

      It’s a television show! People die! That’s reality. It’s sad that 911 happened, but I and many others, are sick of hearing about it, and having everything under a microscope as “insensitive” or you’re a “terrorist” for saying so. People die all of the time, and sometimes unexpectedly. People need to start focusing on living and stop pining for lost time or people. I don’t care if this sounds insensitive.

    • Mudhooks

      So… Are there any other completely unrelated images that should never be used in perpetuity “in case” they rind people of an event that we are not allowed to forget? Perhaps someone should send a strongly worded letter to the producers of “Big Bang Theory” for the episode where Sheldon threw his roommate agreement in the air… The sight of flying paper probably reminds at least one person about 9/11!

      Let me get this straight… There is nothing wrong with Hollywood making a mawkish movie around 9/11 and making millions of dollars but using a single, unrelated image of a man falling against a white background is “offensive”?

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