JFK, Don Draper, and the New Sentimentality

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Critical Studies in Television Online

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The semiotic similarities between JFK and Don Draper are unmistakable. Each is tall, handsome, and typically turned out in a custom-made dark suit with a matching skinny tie. Their demeanors are outwardly cool but sexy; old-school handsome if a bit aloof; elegant in style while projecting a kind of ironic intelligence. They both embody what David Newman and Robert Benton characterized in a feature article for Esquire in July 1964 as 'The New Sentimentality.' By that time, the Kennedy mystique was reaching mythic proportions in the immediate wake of his assassination on November 22, 1963, which in turn ushered in the Sixties and all the major historical and cultural currents that are usually associated with that era in America, such as the civil rights movement, President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society, the generation gap, rock 'n' roll music, the Vietnam War, student protests, women's liberation, the rise of the counterculture and the subsequent backlash by the silent majority, among many other seismic developments.


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