For those of you not familiar with this excellent show, Mad Men is a drama set in the advertising world of the 1960s. Smart, stylish, wonderfully acted, and with a pace that tends to emphasize character over action, this series is notable for capturing the sexism, racism and homophobia of that era. Also striking are the commonplace behaviours that can come across as shocking to today's viewers. Seeing a pregnant woman smoke and drink is jarring to say the least. In fact, the copious amounts of smoking and drinking by almost all characters both at home and in the workplace is a reminder of how much things have changed.
But my favourite example so far of change in public attitude is through an episode where the main characters go on a lovely picnic in a pristine park, and upon leaving shake out their blanket and leave the garbage behind on the grass. I cannot tell you how jaw dropping this incident was, but the huge number of comments this little snippet in the episode garnered all across the Internet tells me that a lot of people were aghast. And that shows how much attitudes can change over a relatively short period of time. Public littering, while still done, is not considered proper behaviour anymore, and that value, even if it doesn't always translate into behaviour, has been pretty much ingrained into our consciousness by now.
So I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. Mad Men demonstrates that collectively we have changed in how we view and treat each other. Yes, sexism, racism, homophobia and environmental abuse are still problems, but at least they're recognized as being problems, and I'm confident that one day future generations will be just as appalled at how badly we used to treat animals as well.