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'Mad Black Men' - New Web Series Satirizes 'Mad Men' & Tackles *Race Problem* (Fundraising)

by Tambay A. Obenson
September 24, 2013 2:25 PM
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I never really have inserted my toe into the deep well that is the ongoing debate over Mad Men's so-called *black problem*. I suppose, as I shared in a past post, like the conversation over a similar *black problem* on HBO's Girls, I really haven't been able to muster up enough energy to care, likely in large part because I haven't watched either show with any consistency. Not that I haven't tried (I did watch the entire first season of Mad Men, and a few episodes of Girls. But that's it in both cases). I'm just not a fanatic. Although I also feel that my time and resources are better spent working to affect change where I feel genuine change is possible, instead of on band-aid solutions, like, as we saw in Girls, inserting what feel like token black characters in reaction to public outcry.

All that said, I do appreciate this filmmaker's approach to the debate: instead of talking about what's *wrong* with Mad Men, he's decided to produce a web series that satirizes the award-winning drama, titled Mad Black Men, which, as he states, takes a look at the 1960’s ad industry from the eyes of three black ad workers.

Xavier Ruffin is his name, and he actually works in the ad business as a graphic designer, and so likely has more insight into the industry than most of us, which should inform the film.

In his own words:

My name is Xavier Ruffin and I am a filmmaker, a writer, and a designer. I developed the idea for Mad Black Men as a 3 minute sketch for a comedy show 2 years ago and some how it’s snowballed into an entire web series. Now what I need is a little help to make sure the aesthetics of our pilot episode are authentic early 1960s and up to par with its AMC counter part, Mad Men. Mad Black Men is a show about 3 black creatives and their struggles in an overwhelmingly white and racially insensitive advertising business while balancing their own lives, set in the 1960s. The idea came to mind after all my design colleagues fell in love with Mad Men, but I couldn’t get into it. I was torn. The designer side of me loved the glamorization of my own profession. However, the black guy side of me couldn’t get past the way African Americans were portrayed in the show and their lack of representation in the office... I want to push the idea of minorities in advertising passed the tokenized and trivial roles depicted in the first 5 seasons of Mad Men.

Xavier has set up an Indiegogo campaign to raise $3,000 to shoot the pilot episode of the his series, so if you'd like to contribute to it, click HERE to do so.

Watch his pitch below for more on the project. And underneath, you'll find a sample of his past work - a music video he directed for rapper Proph.

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  • Marie | September 25, 2013 3:38 PMReply

    I appreciate the creativity and reasoning behind this project. George Lois, the Bronx-born ad man of Greek descent who swears Don Draper is based on him, abhors "Mad Men" (I'm a fan of the show and simply accept the lack of blacks as the myopia of the show's creator, Matthew Weiner.) Lois is incredulous that the show depicts little if any influence of the turbulent times on the characters (Lois was a huge supporter of black civil rights and helped get Rubin "Hurricane" Carter released from prison.) On the other hand, as others have noted, I think we as black filmmakers should focus more of our attention and resources on creating original content instead of lamenting our lack of representation in the white majority's work or, in the case of the upcoming "Annie," making black versions of white stories. We have the imagination and the skills, let's use them.

  • hoboarchitect | September 25, 2013 10:27 AMReply

    sometimes, I would love to see "critics" create something and put it out in the world, but I know they are scared, and rather bring others down.

  • katie | September 25, 2013 10:52 PM

    How Are they bringing him down, they are simply stating an opinion. I personally agree, is this what we want black film to be about, taking white films and television and putting a black face on them. Or worse, putting all our energies into what they do, like not featuring us instead of featuring ourselves with original content? I for one don't and I'm not bringing anyone down by saying or agreeing with some of the content nor do you have to in order to critique someone on a public platform. Especially since this conversation of putting a black face on white films have been going on since the 90's.

  • BluTopaz | September 24, 2013 8:13 PMReply

    I met a young lady a few years back who was American by birth and her parents were from Ghana. We started talking about race in America, and in a nutshell she said many Black Americans are obsessed with racism and White people. At first I was taken aback and offended, but she clarified that she meant since we are in a place we did not choose, it makes sense that we have to carefully navigate the waters here in the US. But since she has the lineage of a culture that is not dominated by Whites, their thought processes almost never factor in her own approach to her career, life choices, etc.

    I don't know how true that is, but I often think about that convo when I see a pitch like Mr. Ruffin has presented here. I praise him for doing something about his dissatisfaction with the imagery that is lacking in the advertising world for decades now. It takes a lot of work to execute a concept and do it well. But imho, I think it would be a more contemporary approach to not present his idea as a reaction to Mad Men's lack of Black inclusion. That poor horse has been resurrected umpteen times, and I think it's a given that Black advertising agencies in any decade experience challenges their White counterparts do not. Why not focus on the actual fantastic work they created, instead of the foundation being a satire of a White show that is ending soon? I know this project is a comedy, but even without seeing the pilot it just sounds derivative on several levels. All that to say, forget Mad Men and do your own thing.

  • Xavier Ruffin | September 25, 2013 10:21 AM


    I just want to say that I'm grateful you would take the time to write such a lengthy comment. It shows me that this project has and can provoke thoughtful conversation which is its intension.

    Yes the race issue in Mad Men is one that has been talked about and questioned for a while but I don't want to continue questioning it. I want to offer an alternative. The show has many people fooled about the realities of blacks in advertising at the time and I just want represent the other side of the story.

    Honestly the idea came to me some 3 years ago now but some how it got bigger, grew legs, and sprouted wings organically and now I need to release it into the wild. Regardless of if we think it is timely or not. It is a commentary. A satire spoofing a show that, all be it ending soon, is at the height of its popularity statistically.

    What ever our differing opinions maybe, this train is moving. So instead of attempting to derail it lets try to put some more coal on the fire to help it get where it's trying to go.

    @madblackmen if you feel like checking out what it looks like when I do my "own thing."

  • BluTopaz | September 25, 2013 8:57 AM

    Hi Melissa,

    If we ever have that global discussion on race; perhaps those woe is me Black American women you speak of could share notes with your countless African sisters who are disfiguring their minds and souls with skin bleaching chemicals, along with the ones who would never dream of wearing their hair natural in public.

  • melissaenafrique | September 25, 2013 8:51 AM

    * Mad Men doesnt need to be immortalized further with this spoof. I agree with you ;)

  • melissaenafrique | September 25, 2013 8:47 AM

    Hi Blutopaz. I'm African and my thoughts on race in america evolved sort of opposite to yours, except for my continued dismissal of the detrimental 'woe is me' attitude of some american black women, in my very subjective opinion. I think it will make an interesting round table discussion when we get black people from all over the world to talk about their approach to race. Ohs Mad Men doesn't

  • AI | September 24, 2013 9:46 PM

    here we go

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