I wasn’t sure if I was going to watch Pan Am or not when it premiered, but there it was on Hulu and I ended up checking it out. And surprisingly enough, I really liked it.
Let’s start by saying that I do not like Mad Men, a show that Pan Am is obviously going to be compared to due to its setting. I find Mad Men extremely sexist and not really that entertaining. I have yet to manage getting through the first season and honestly, I don’t get the big deal about it. But again, it’s hard to get past the fact that they refer to women as both dogs and idiots, literally. I find that highly offensive, and yes, I know, that’s probably how women were treated then. But what bothers me is that the women on the show seem to have no desire to rise above that and prove those jerks of men (Don Draper included) that they’re wrong. And this was during a time when women were just starting to do that.
Pan Am is a different animal, though. There’s still sexism, obviously, as this is the early 60’s. The women are expected to look glamorous as part of their jobs and have strict rules about weight, make-up and hair. But these women ooze class and intelligence (all of them are multilingual), where the women on Mad Men ooze stupidity and vapidness and seem to have no desire than to try out the latest lipstick colors.
The attitude towards women is much different on Pan Am. These stewardesses are being shown to us as trend setters, those who dared not to get married (as was expected of them at the time) and chose to see the world instead. They were women breaking down barriers, in this sense, and showing that it was okay for a woman to follow her heart, even when that did not lead to scoring a husband with a house and kids. In fact, at the end of the first episode, one of the pilots is talking about how these stewardesses are a new breed of woman. We feel like we’re seeing the very beginnings of the feminist movement.
When I was younger and flying was still considered glamorous, I had entertained notions of what life like a stewardess must have been like then. Pan Am is also that fantasy come to life. But the show has some nice mystery involved, too, including a little spy intrigue. I think this is what will continue to make it entertaining throughout the season. The cast is strong, led by Christina Ricci, a rebel of sorts, who dons the uniform so that she can afford to remain single and live in Greenwich Village and have the sort of life that she desires.
I can honestly say that if this were the early 60’s, I would probably be one of those women. And maybe that’s what I like best about the show. I can relate to that desire to travel and buck societal norms.