Explicating Creativity and Design: The Nature and Meaningfulness of Work in Mad Men

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meaningful work, organizational communication, popular culture, professional

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Scholars have infrequently explored meaningful work of creative industries despite a resurgence of interest in meanings of work. To address this gap, we took as our starting point the award-winning drama Mad Men. Although other cultural artifacts engage the imagination, Mad Men is distinctive in its depiction of careers, work-life considerations, and moral dilemmas associated with the nature and meaning of work. We critically analyzed the discursive framing of creative directors’ work as well as attendant moral dilemmas, drawing out the ways in which characters describe good work and those who perform this work. We note three themes that construct a hierarchy of meaningful work, foreground the narrative practices of work, and articulate the processes whereby meaningful work discourses can be used to navigate workplace politics. In doing so, we depict the intersections of popular culture, work, and professionalism. Finally, we uncover reasons for this drama's popularity and fascination with creative directors’ work.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Western Journal of Communication, v. 77, issue 1, p. 54-71