I’ll admit I’m kind of a latecomer as far as Mad Men is concerned.
Heard about it now and again for a while, but didn’t start watching it until about 6 months ago. Caught up through Season 4 on Netflix, and then waited, and waited, . . . and waited. . . . . . . for Season 5. Just noticed a couple of weeks ago that it was available, I believe the day before Season 6 started airing on AMC, so have been playing a frantic game of catch-up.
Some of it is a bit overblown, although I wonder if it seems overblown in the “enlightened” two-thousand-teens compared to what it was really like in the 60s. (ha!) I fear that maybe it’s not overblown at all. I do especially love the depiction of Peggy and Joan in their efforts to be taken seriously as professional (women) while not really wanting to give up actually being perceived as actual women. Unfortunately some of their battles don’t seem all that different from battles still being fought.
But except for Henry, all of the men are pleasepardonmyFrench assholes. And of course, Henry, not being an asshole, is married to a woman who is so bored she’s gained 30 pounds. (Of course, within 2 episodes, she’s lost it all, despite the “half pound a week” or “maintaining” progress noted during her Weight Watcher’s meetings.)(No one said it was a true story.)
But Don. What’s to be done about Don.
The writers do a good job of, just when you have decided that Don has no redeeming qualities at all, re-humanizing him. He displayed great sympathy (albeit in retrospect) for Peggy when she unexpectedly – to her and everyone else (really? she didn’t know she was pregnant? this is a reasonably smart woman, how would you not know you were pregnant?) — had a baby, gave it up for adoption, and suffered some kind of breakdown afterwards. He displayed great empathy when he went to Joan to tell her not to sleep with a potential deal-maker-or-breaker for a new ad campaign (too late, but he didn’t know that at the time).
We get to see him wrestle with his demons — his dead-too-soon prostitute mother, his resentful, dishonest father, his disillusionment with his chosen career despite his virtuosity at it, his need to be taken care of and his refusal to be vulnerable. But he is newly married to a stunning woman, Megan, (who adores him), and still needs (?) to have an affair with the doctor’s wife downstairs. This is the wife of a doctor he has befriended; a woman who has offered understanding and sympathy to Megan despite the fact that she is SLEEPING WITH HER HUSBAND, and then humbly admits that she has no right to be jealous.
The fact that Don was faithful while Megan was working at the agency with him, and still when she was basically staying at home while pursuing an acting career at which he had no faith in her ever succeeding reveals his vulnerability. The fact that the day she acted in her first professional role he apparently (it was only implied) resumed his previous role as a five-star cheating sleazeball is also probably supposed to reveal this vulnerability. I wonder if it is the writer’s goal that this also seems to reveal his complete lack of maturity and character. Probably. Maybe this is the kind of nuance that keeps me watching. Or maybe I’m making more of it than there is.
I will also admit that I am still completely puzzled by the bizarre scene when Megan was upset with Don because he was unhappy about her throwing him a surprise party, so she begins cleaning up the apartment in her black, lacy bra and panties while scolding Don like a shrew. Don was oddly turned on, apparently as much by the scolding as by the attire. What he actually needs is his mother?
The depiction of the struggle of women to find their place both professionally and in the home is compellingly told. Many of the wives seem to know that their husbands are unfaithful — how could they not, really? — but don’t mind as long as they’re discrete. (Pete’s busted as of last night. What a whining sycophant he is. I still can’t figure out why Don brought him along when they began their new agency. He clearly loathes him, as do we all, and as we should, although he displayed a bit of humanity toward one of the women he had an affair with, but that hardly counts. I guess he’s good at what the agency needs him for — to be a sycophant.)
Joan could gain more of my sympathy if she didn’t use her feminine (ahem) qualities so blatantly — could her dress be any tighter? Could she sway her hips any more when she walks? She is a partner now (albeit for nefarious reasons, see paragraph 6 above), does she still have to wear that pen around her neck so it dangles right there between her quite ample bosoms? It reminds me of my post once about this “professional” outfit in Victoria’s Secret:
I do love that she is a full-bodied, fearless, ambitious woman playing the role of a real person, living comfortably and happily in her skin and not wishing she were a stick. Maybe we should just focus on that.
All part of the idiom I guess.
And I can’t stop watching.