Crew of ABC's Pan Am Grounds Claims of Glamorized Sexism, Mad Men Mimicry

There are two things the cast and producers of Pan Am would like potential viewers of ABC’s new fall drama to know before buckling up for the premiere (on Sunday, Sept. 25): This show is not sexist, nor is it simply riding on the coattails that other ’60s-centric hit, Mad Men.

Pan Am centers on the onetime airline giant’s jet-setting stewardesses and their male counterparts in the cockpit. It’s what series creator/executive producer Jack Orman calls “sweeping and epic,” and all about “wish-fulfillment.” But at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour on Sunday, reporters targeted the sexism on display in the pilot (as evidenced by, for example, the ladies’ wearing of girdles and being subjected to weigh-ins).

“Sexism on Pan Am is a misconception, and unraveling that is actually what drew me to the role,” explains Christina Ricci (who plays head stewardess Maggie). “[Air travel] is something that’s exciting for these women. We’re as excited as the passengers are.”

Ricci adds, “As soon as anyone sees 10 minutes of this show, the misconception [of sexism] will be gone. It’s really a great message for young girls and women.”

Exec producer Nancy Holt Ganis — who herself was a Pan Am stewardess during the era depicted in the show — explains that this is what life was actually like for these women, who were admirably regarded as “hostesses at a dinner party… a movable feast.”

“Part of the irony of the profession [is] these are college-educated women who [often] spoke multiple languages,” says Corman, and yet they we still subjected to physical scrutiny to land the job. Says EP Thomas Schlamme, “For me, the show could be called The Best Years of Our Lives, because for those people, at that moment, that what this is. And that’s what the show’s about.”

In addition to defending Pan Am‘s portrayal of women, the producers poked at another instance of critical pigeonholing: The idea that simply because this and Mad Men are set in the same era, they are in fact the same.

“All I can really say is that this show has nothing to do with Mad Men,” a half-exasperated Schlamme defended. “We just hope our show is executed in a wonderful way. One [show] has nothing to do with the other — it just happens to be that they’re both set in the ’60s.”

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32 Comments
  1. Keena says:

    Won’t last long. Looks boring.

  2. Jim says:

    This likes it will be a huge hit.

  3. rod says:

    so bored by this show already, we dont need another 60´s show, cant believe they canceled Brothers and Sisters for this MadMen rip off !!

    • ellen says:

      You can’t do a show set in the 60s and NOT be sexist or male-centric. So by its very nature it will be a MadMen clone. While I adored MadMen its first season, by the second I was getting bored, and now it’s not on my MUST SEE list. So call me narrow minded, but PAN AM is going to have to take off without me.

    • Bill says:

      Because that drivel (Brothers and Sisters) was such a sophisticated and original masterpiece…right? Seriously?

  4. Julie says:

    Swingtown never should have been cancelled!

    • Nicole says:

      I second that statement. I’m sometimes quick to judge when it comes to tv shows, but I never once thought of this as a Mad Men ripoff. Pan Am looks interesting, and I’m a sucker for anything set in the 60’s, or 70’s, or anything pre-21st century, so I’m in.

    • Delon says:

      Swingtown was the best!

  5. Sam says:

    I guess any show set in the 60s is a ripoff of Mad Men. Just like every sci-fi show is a rip-off of Lost, or any dramedy is just a copy of Desperate Housewives. Idiots.
    Oh, and this is a bit off-topic, but I applaud whoever gave Christina Ricci her big break. She is very talented, but not at all Hollywood-looking.

    • chris says:

      I agree. Its ridiculous how this and the Playboy Club are being called Mad Men ripoffs just because they are also set in the 60s. Mad Men is boring. Im hoping this show is interesting and more exciting than dull Mad Men. Christina Ricci is a plus!

  6. Erin says:

    Saw the pilot about a month ago…this one is going to be a hit. I expected not to like it and was pleasantly surprised.

  7. Julie says:

    Pan Am’s pilot was great, unlike most of the others I’ve watched over the past few weeks. It’s a shame if people think it’s just a Mad Men rip-off….

  8. Herb Finn says:

    This and THE PLAYBOY CLUB WOULD NOT have been green-lit by the networks if they were NOT trying to coat-tail off the success of MAD MEN and the 1960’s era!

    While “Not” MAD MEN, they owe A LOT to MAD MEN.

    No different when Dr.NO became a hit and spies and secret agents became the rage! THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E was NOT James Bond, but owed a lot to it, GET SMART was a different take (Spoof) and THE WILD WILD WEST (“Steampunk” Secret Agents!) But without James Bond, they would not have been green-lit!

  9. Kate says:

    Is that Erica Durance in the picture with Christina Ricci?

  10. Douglas says:

    I hope it is sexist. It would reflect the actual job that occured in the industry at the time. I don’t watch a period show to see 2011 in 1970. I watch it to see 1970 in 1970. The airlines used to only treat their employees like crap. Now they treat everyone like crap.

  11. Kat says:

    Seems like they stole the concept from an old memoir written by two stewardesses called “Coffee, Tea or Me” which was actually funny though I’m sure the TV show won’t be as cute.

  12. Amber says:

    My mom was a flight attendant throughout the 90s up until the year 2005. I got news for ya. Life for flight attendants wasn’t only like that in the 60s. It’s still like that in modern times. She was expected to stay under a certain weight and adhere to a very strict dress code that included having perfectly manicured nails, wearing pantyhose, high heels, and they even have some strict guidelines about how you wear your makeup. You can’t even apply for that job if you have a problem with acne or crooked teeth. And it’s so competitive to apply for…my mom had to really sex herself up and amp up her femininity and glamour to get that job. Again…this is all modern time attitudes for flight attendants. Next to stripping, it’s the most sexist profession out there.

  13. Caro says:

    The promo’s looked promising. I have watched a part of Mad Men but I didn’t like it, so I’d be happy if this show turned out to be totally different. But it seems to be, so I will watch it and see if it’s any good.

  14. Raymond Ludwin says:

    Girdles…. White Gloves… Multi-Lingual… Very few U.S. ‘stews’ (because of the language requirements)… and did I say very attractive.

    I hope they bring forward the close association of the U.S. gov’t… When they needed ‘certain’ help … they did call on the Pan Am crews.

    I know … I was there.

  15. Sylvia Scott says:

    This show is definitely not sexist-by the way PAN AM was going strong in the 70’s so it’s not really about the 60’s. In fact being a PAN AM stewardess was really a goal for many college women once they graduated. I had a roommate that flew for PAN AM in 1975. The stories I could tell about she and her friends-there was nothing sexist about their lives or their work-she loved the travel, the men and all she got from being a PAN AM stewardess.

  16. Eileen says:

    ABC should never have cancelled Men in Trees or Dirty Sexy Money and the biggest mistake daytimes All My Children, after 41 yrs, for a cooking show(Huh), and One Life to Live, after 43 yes for yet TBA, another reality gimme a break show. ABC has lost it’s smarts. Only sorry Pan AM is on ABC, it may b the next great show to be cancelled.

  17. ag says:

    Pan Am has nothing to do with Mad Men, yet… the execution, the visuals, tone, and core content all seem to swim in a palette the Mad Men creators made their own. Mad Men portrays the 60s in a signature style that is, by now, almost a brand in its consistency. Pan Am is aping a very similar style, a style that would shine through whether the show was all about stewardesses, traveling salesmen, astronauts, or anything else of this era. They can claim originality, but I don’t really buy it. They should just own up to the homage! I’ll still watch the show, either way.

  18. pawleyslady says:

    Madmen for Dummies. I’m old enough to remember when a woman only had a choice of secretary,nurse, teacher or stewardess. Whatever, you were always taking care of someone else. I do like Christina Ricci, she was wonderful in “The Ice Storm.” This show, however, looks like it could fix a broken gag reflex.

  19. Steve says:

    I can’t wait to see it. I grew up flying Pan Am.

  20. cathy says:

    I loved mad men and am excites about pan am. I also love anything
    g set in the 50/60’s and cannot wait to see this show. how do I view the pilot? I didn’t know it aired.

  21. bamiller says:

    Kudos to Nancy Holt Ganis for getting it almost 100% right! You portrayed us, as we were, from small towns, college educated, bi-lingual, adhering to strict dress regulations! And yes, it was an adventure, and a wonderful experience of a life-time! Fly high PAN AM…for so many of us….we called it home!

  22. smartman says:

    They may be trying to distance themselves from Mad Men
    but that doesn’t mean they weren’t inspired by it. Mad Men did well and they saw that people liked that show so they sent our their own test run, by putting it in the same era.