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Drinking Like ‘Mad Men’

I’m getting the distinct sense that Slate’s Double X spin-off is some sort of elaborate spoof rather than a smart, female-centric magazine.  Yesterday, via Julian Sanchez, I came across their insipid advice column saying it pushed the “limits of friendship” to expect one’s friends to not leave you for dead after you’d been administered a date rape drug.  Today, via Jason Kottke, I see that they’re experimenting with drinking like the cast of “Mad Men” to see how it would impact running their insipid magazine.

Apparently, these women have no previous exposure to alcohol, no understanding of how alcohol affects the human body, and no concept of elapsed time as portrayed on a one-hour drama.

The gals are completely hammered after a single morning Bloody Mary and act like a bunch of sorority girls at the ensuing meeting. (Scientific disclaimer:  Not having witnessed their meetings otherwise, this may be completely normal and not an effect of alcohol.)  This, despite the fact that they’re still drinking said beverages during the meeting. (Incidentally, I don’t recall any of the boys of Sterling Cooper drinking Bloody Marys during the workday — much less during morning staff meetings.)

The gals then have martinis at lunch. This is completely kosher: Roger Sterling did this frequently during the first two seasons of the show. But, unlike the silver haired name partner in the fictional advertising firm, the ladies of our virtual magazine are now completely unable to have coherent conversations.

Now, I tend not to drink much during the workday. On rare occasions, I’ll have a beer or two at lunch and sometimes I’ll do some more writing after a 5:00 martini on a Friday. Afterward, I function reasonably well doing intellectually demanding work. Then again, I’m not a novice drinker. And, like the more serious drinkers on “Mad Men,” I’m well over 200 pounds. It’s not polite to talk about women’s weight but I will boldly conjecture, having seen the video, that Hanna Rosen, Emily Bazelon, and the other Double Xers go considerably below that.

This, naturally, matters. Consider these charts from Virginia Tech:

bac-women-men

Leave aside the issue of legal limits for operating a motor vehicle, which are the subject of some controversy. We see that small women are generally “significantly affected” by the first drink and even women in the 140-pound range are quite heavily intoxicated by the third drink in a relative short period. By contrast, a 200 point man doesn’t reach the .10 level until the 6th drink!  And notice that there are two charts:  There’s no gender equality in this game.

Rosen says “The Mad Men do this 40 times a day.” No. They don’t.

My wife chides me all the time for picking nits with logical inconsistencies in television shows and movies, telling me I should just suspend my disbelief because IT’S JUST A TV SHOW. So, perhaps I shouldn’t cast any stones on that front. Still, I’m fully cognizant of the fact that a one-hour television episode typically does not represent one hour in real time. Indeed, violating this convention is what made “24” novel. A typical “Mad Men” show takes place over a week or more.

Don Draper and Roger Sterling might have six drinks over the course of a very long workday that extends deep into the evening. But they’ll have had maybe 2 or 3 in the course of a two hour lunch, be completely sober in time for the 5’oclock cocktail, and then pace themselves throughout a long evening during which they’ll have a very heavy meal rich in protein. Metabolically, there’s no reason they can’t maintain that pace indefinitely without being significantly impaired.

Overall, the show does a realistic job of portraying alcohol and its abuse. The junior staffers, apparently not having built up their tolerances, are frequently rather inebriated on the show by the end of the day. As the Double X ladies giggle about over lunch, one of the senior execs is depicted as a drunk who winds up fired after embarrassing himself because of his problem. Another major character is a recovering alcoholic who falls back off the wagon to his peril. Early in the current season, an executive is maimed and his career ruined by a stupid, alcohol-inspired act of an employee.

It’s not all fun even on a show that seems to glorify the good old days of being able to drink at work.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    Coming soon: Investigative reports examines the so-called reality of Cheech and Chong’s “Up in Smoke”

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  2. JKB says:

    The ladies apparently have no experience with functional alcoholics or the impact of a high fat, high protein diet on the effects of alcohol.

    If you’re small, you eat salads or other light meals, and have not altered your metabolism to not only process alcohol but also to physically react to the lack there of, then your not going to understand the lifestyle nor be able to keep up.

    Interesting experience: A friend, at my suggestion, tried the low carb diet before he wedding. Her first observation was how she could drink and not have ill effects the next day on the low carb diet. I had observed this but wasn’t sure it was due to the diet since I am a very moderate drinker. She was also successful in achieving her desired goal for the big day.

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  3. Another point of note that your charts show, James, but is also worthy of explicit mention:

    Even when you account for weight, women don’t process alcohol as efficiently as men do. This is believed to be due to lower levels of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase. Sorry ladies, but it’s biology.

    I should duly note that all of your other points are very solid, and this is only meant to add to them. I would call their entire “experiment” a waste of time, except that I suspect the true purpose all along was just to find an excuse to drink at work, which they appear to have succeeded at.

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  4. I must mention Dr. Johnny Fever’s experiment with the state police to demonstrate the dangers of driving drunk where his reflexes got better the more he drank. Try getting an episode like that produced today, and tell me again how progressives aren’t the new Puritans.

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  5. sam says:

    I must mention Dr. Johnny Fever

    You know, I’ve always believed that Johnny was able to effect the transmogrification from Johann Fevere of the Classical Hour to Dr. Johnny Fever Rock Jock so smoothly in that wonderful scene because he was shitfaced going into it.

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  6. An Interested Party says:

    Try getting an episode like that produced today, and tell me again how progressives aren’t the new Puritans.

    And yet, with the Hollywood support of Roman Polanski as just one example, progressives/liberals are also accused of being libertines…so many labels placed on them, whatever sticks, I guess…

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  7. Mr. Prosser says:

    As ex-Navy from the 60s & 70s I can attest to lunchtime drinking at the club and then returning to work. Not much got done in the afternoon and we knocked off at 1630 and went right back to the club for awhile. I bet a study would show that during that time the most productive days were Tuesday and Wednesday – Too many hangovers on Monday and pre-party times on Thursday and Friday. Most of us were stone sober at sea except for the real alcoholics (a dirty little secret)but there was a drinking culture in place and it robbed productivity ashore.

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  8. James Joyner says:

    As ex-Navy from the 60s & 70s I can attest to lunchtime drinking at the club and then returning to work. Not much got done in the afternoon and we knocked off at 1630 and went right back to the club for awhile. I bet a study would show that during that time the most productive days were Tuesday and Wednesday – Too many hangovers on Monday and pre-party times on Thursday and Friday. Most of us were stone sober at sea except for the real alcoholics (a dirty little secret)but there was a drinking culture in place and it robbed productivity ashore.

    I’m sure that’s true. Then again, depending on the nature of your duties, it’s not inconceivable that the increased esprit and unit cohesion afloat that the drinking culture contributed to outweighed whatever make-work you weren’t getting done ashore. And I say that as someone who was pretty much a teetotaler in my Army days. (I wasn’t anti-alcohol but hadn’t developed a taste for beer or hard liquor and wine wasn’t generally available.)

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  9. Mr. Prosser says:

    I agree with you re: the cohesion, especially the bar-hopping, etc. overseas. Fortunately, we all mature and most of us get out of the lifestyle before the long-term heavy abuse ruins us.

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