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Controversy Brews Over Ads Promoting New Season of AMC's 'Mad Men'

Family Members of 9/11 Victims Complain Falling-Man Images Recall Those of Tragedy

By Published on . 31

Just weeks before the long-awaited fifth season of AMC's "Mad Men," a promotional campaign for the hit show is sparking controversy as some folks say it evokes images of 9/11.

The latest
The latest "Mad Men" ads are sparking controversy over their imagery.

At issue is a minimalist image featured on billboards and public telephone booths, and in subway stations. It depicts a man wearing a suit stenciled in black as he falls through the sky against a stark white background. Several family members of 9/11 victims told The New York Times that for them, the image conjures the memory of people forced to jump out of the Twin Towers more than 10 years ago.

The sudden outrage suggests that many Americans aren't familiar with "Mad Men," as the falling-man image has been used in the show's opening credits and has been emblematic of the series -- and its lead character, Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm -- from the beginning.

Promotional poster for this season.
Promotional poster for this season.

Wikipedia notes that the title sequences pay homage to graphic designer Saul Bass' skyscraper-filled opening titles for Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" and the falling-man movie poster for "Vertigo." Series creator Matthew Weiner has listed Hitchcock as a major influence on its visual style, says the Wikipedia page.

That the posters are now causing a stir is likely due to heightened outdoor and print advertising around the show's fifth season, as well as a recent article in Esquire that made the comparison to 9/11.

A promo from a previous season of the show.
A promo from a previous season of the show.

AMC denies any link between its advertising and 9/11. In a statement, the network told The New York Times: "The image of Don Draper tumbling through space has been used since the show began in 2007 to represent a man whose life is in turmoil. The image used in the campaign is intended to serve as a metaphor for what is happening in Don Draper's fictional life and in no way references actual events."

We included the image here, as well as another promo for this season and one from a prior season. Have a look and tell us what you think in the comments. Were the creators of the show deliberately trying to gin up controversy to publicize the return of "Mad Men"? Or did they just inadvertently irk some people?

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