Not only have shows like “The Sopranos” and “Mad Men” heralded the end of male authority; we’ve also witnessed the erosion of traditional adulthood in any form, at least as it used to be portrayed in the formerly tried-and-true genres of the urban cop show, the living-room or workplace sitcom and the prime-time soap opera. Instead, we are now in the age of “Girls,” “Broad City,” “Masters of Sex” (a prehistory of the end of patriarchy), “Bob’s Burgers” (a loopy post-“Simpsons” family cartoon) and a flood of goofy, sweet, self-indulgent and obnoxious improv-based web videos.
What all of these shows grasp at, in one way or another, is that nobody knows how to be a grown-up anymore. Adulthood as we have known it has become conceptually untenable. It isn’t only that patriarchy in the strict, old-school Don Draper sense has fallen apart. It’s that it may never really have existed in the first place, at least in the way its avatars imagined. Which raises the question: Should we mourn the departed or dance on its grave?
A. O. Scott, “The Post-Man: Charting the final, exhausted collapse of the adult white male, from Huck Finn to ‘Mad Men’ (with stops at Tony Soprano, Beyoncé, Apatow, ‘Girls,’ ‘Louie,’ ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ Miley, Updike, ‘Weeds’…)”, The New York Times Magazine (14 September 2014), 39.