August 3, 2010

Mad Women: You're The Kind Of Man Who Doesn't Want To Take The Test

Filed under: Gender,Media — Tags: — Rachel @ 8:33 pm

While most recaps focus on the entire aspect of a show, this one’s going to be a little bit different.  As this is a feminist blog deconstructing images and portrayals of women in pop culture, why spend an entire post rambling on about the men of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price.  Instead, these recaps will focus on the women of Mad Men – the main ladies: Peggy, Joan, and Betty, and any new additions or guest stars – hence the title “Mad Women.”

This week’s episode of Mad Men had a large focus on the women of the show – both regulars and new-comers.  We saw the return of Trudy, Jane, and Carla, and much of the episode focused on Peggy, Sally, and the new characters of Don’s neighbor and secretary.

This week seemed to confirm that Don Draper’s relationship to women has been reversed – they are now the ones who call the shots, aren’t afraid of holding back their thoughts, and get up and leave once they’re done with him.

Joan was back to her role as the always-got-it-together office manager.  There was some slight flirtation with Roger which was nice, and we found out Mr. Asshole is “saving lives” – I found her reaction to being asked about him, that she addressed the question as almost an afterthought, quite interesting.  It was good to see her and Roger interacting in the office again, and despite the fact that they’re no longer together, he obviously still feels protective of her, a sentiment that she didn’t seem to mind.  She understands her expected role in the office, and plays it perfectly (flirting with the head of Lucky Strike, even though they’re aware of the Sal situation, wearing the dress, turning the party “from convalescent home to roman orgy” at Roger’s request.)

The most fascinating story line last night was definitely Peggy’s.  We saw her anti-beauty ideal opinions on advertising, and her offense at the idea of using “marriage!” as a means to sell moisturizer.  Despite her laid-back, free love, pot smoking attitude of last season, we saw, (like with Don’s divorce), the problems of stepping outside of the “traditional roles” of the time.  Her boyfriend thinks she’s a virgin, and her previous relationship with Pete and the resulting child are still a secret.  It is being treated as Don told her to at the end of season one: “This never happened.  It will shock you how much it never happened.”  The baby is never mentioned, and she is shown moving on with her life.  I’m curious to see where her relationship with her new boyfriend is headed, and to get some insight in her decision to be with him – possibly a realization that she’s already dealt with the worst outcomes of sex outside of marriage during the time, and feeling there’s no going back to the way things were before?  Or was she just tired of the pressure and as she said, didn’t want to be alone on New Years Eve?  Once again at work we saw her right alongside the guys, working on copy for a big new account, and contributing to the Sugarberry meeting with Don and Pete.  Hopefully another promotion is in her future soon.  Oh, and was it just me or was Trudy making some serious bitch-face at Peggy at the office party?

Not a lot of thoughts for Betty from this week, she wasn’t really a big part of this episode.  It was good to see her going out with the whole family though – most of the time she was married to Don, we only saw her in the household, constantly waiting for him to come home.

Sally, Secretaries, Nurse Phobe, and Dr. Faye
This episode gave us a personal view into Sally Draper’s feelings on all the changes that have happened semi-recently – namely that she hates her house, and misses her dad more than anything.  (I was hoping the final shot of Don leaving the office, would cut to him showing up at the house with the presents, and totally making Sally’s Christmas.)  When Glen broke into the Draper house, my initial reaction was “what a little turd” but after seeing that he left her room untouched, and gave her his twine lanyard, I realized he was likely doing it for Sally’s benefit – hoping that by making the house seems “dangerous” Betty and Henry would move the family.  I’m curious what Sally thinks of him, possibly she has a little bit of a crush?  She was forced to confront possible realities via Glen – Betty and Henry will get married, they’ll have a baby, they’re “doing it” – but it was difficult to get a read on how she felt about Henry and their new life, beyond just missing Don.

So at first I thought the secretary was going to leave when Don initially kissed her, but I was even more surprised when she just got up and left afterward.  I can’t tell if Don realized what an asshole he was being to her the morning after, or that, from her face, and the series of events, he was treating her like a prostitute.  I thought she was writing a letter of resignantion when she returned to her desk after receiving her “bonus”, but next weeks preview shows her still at the office.  I won’t be surprised if she leaves the company soemtime in the near future though.

I was surprised to see a woman at the head of the table during a client meeting, and even more shocked to realize she was someone who was in charge, and a doctor no less.  I feel like we’re beginning to see the progression of women throughout the decade, but in indirect ways.  (And I appreciate that they portray progressions along with the stigmas that still existed – virginity, divorce, etc.)  Joan’s face when her colleague mentioned that Dr. Faye was the woman who came up with advertising for feminine hygiene products was priceless.  Don struck out once again when he asked her out to dinner after the Christmas party.  She told him exactly what she thought of him, something I don’t think Don hears very often, especially from women.

There was the introduction of another new character – Don’s neighbor, Nurse Phoebe.  He turned down another invitation to be with people during the holidays (last week he opted to spend Thanksgiving with a prostitute instead of the girl he went on a date with, this week he said no to a Christmas party.)  Phoebe is nice, but doesn’t seem very interested in Don.  Like Dr. Faye, I think she sees him clearly, as a man going through a rough time, and while she will help him as she can, she doesn’t have any interest in getting involved with him in any way.  But, when it comes to Don Draper, you never know.

Leave your thoughts on Glen’s break in, the way women now interact with Don, and Peggy’s new relationship in the comments.

1 Comment »

  1. thanks so much for breaking down the women’s story lines!

    Mad Men is one of the few shows that has a female writing team but you hardly ever hear about them (my blog post on that here: so to see the female-only recap gives perspective on where the writers are taking the show, now that it’s a “New Era”. Unfortunately, it seems like this New Era environment for women changed over night, with little struggle or nod to the movement happening during the time. (Last session, at least Paul Kinsey protested segregation in the south to root the story in a historical movement.)

    Great contributions to the topic, as always!

    Comment by Elisa — August 4, 2010 @ 5:51 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment