Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mad Hoc: Christmas Comes But Once A Year

RMJ and Coca Colo will be discussing Mad Men from here on out every week. Last week, we discussed racial politics and Peggy. This week: Peggy, virgnity, Glenn and Sally, stalking and abuse, Allison, consent, Don. 
RMJ: Let's start with Peggy.  Is she engaged?

Coca Colo: No, I don't think so, the boyfriend just made that up last time, 
and this episode, she said "I have a boyfriend"

RMJ: But I thought there was a ring at the end?

Coca Colo: I actually thought it was interesting, because Freddy told her at the end that if she wanted to marry him, she shouldn't put out
, and I thought her choosing to sleep with him was her making the decision she didn't want to marry him.  But I didn't see a ring! 
Was she wearing it in the last scene?
 
RMJ: Screencap is in order:
Image description: Screenshot of Peggy's hand on a man's chest. There is a ring on her ring finger.
 
Coca Colo: Oh, goodness, I didn't notice that detail! Is that her left hand?
RMJ: I can't tell - I'm a little screwy about right/left :). The viewer is clearly supposed to see it, they wouldn't just have it there for no good reason...
 
Coca Colo:  I hope she's not marrying him...
 It doesn't seem to me that she respects him, nor that she's willing to let him see "real Peggy."  Like is she as smart, funny, interested, conflicted, etc. when he's around?
RMJ: I think that she does show him the real Peggy to a certain extent - her work covers her bed - and he doesn't like it.
 I'm interested to see what her mother and sister have to say about the dude.
 They are probably pushing for her marriage to him
 .
Coca Colo: What does it mean if our career spitfire Peggy gets into an unfulfilling relationship herself?
  Does that make her truly one of the boys?
RMJ: Yeah, it seemed like it could very well be imitating Don, as she so often does - rushing into an unsatisfying relationship for the sake of having a relationship
.
Coca Colo: Well, first of all, I am hoping she's not engaged, and that the last scene was her choosing sex over marriage, for now
, like I thought.  But, given that you're absolutely right, the hand-on-chest shot seems significant, I'm hoping she comes to her senses before going through with it!
 
RMJ: Me too!  
ME TOO.
  I wanted her to have a little office thing in which she has the upper hand.
 
Coca Colo: I know she wants companionship just like anyone else, I know she doesn't want to be alone on New Year's, but she deserves better.
 What I love, though, is that she's not a "type"
the creators have done a really good job making her complex and real
.
This episode really showed an interesting tension in Peggy's life, that we still deal with today.  
She wants a fulfilling work life and a fulfilling personal life, and she doesn't feel as though she should have to choose
.  Freddy thought he had insulted her by suggesting she wanted to get married
.  But she does want to get married. She just doesn't want to be threatened with spinsterhood if she forgoes Pond's cold cream and instead spreads out her work on her bed. 
RMJ: I also think it's interesting how it showed her having to appease and make compromises in both areas - she's clearly better at her job than Freddy, but he ignores her attempts to assert her authority and competence.
 And it didn't seem like the dude was a good match for her, but she wants to get married, and she had to negotiate what sex and respect meant for them in that relationship.
 
Coca Colo: the whole virgin ruse was indicative of that.

RMJ: I agree. Speaking of the fake virginity thing though, it also reminded me of Joan pretending to be a virgin with Greg.
 
Coca Colo: YES. And, likely, everyone else in that era
.  Which is so funny, because the men were having sex with somebody
. The math doesn't work for them to be having all this extra-marital/pre-marital sex, and for all the women to be virgins!

RMJ: Right? So you throw a little deception in there, and everyone's cool
.  How long do you think Freddy will stick around? I can't imagine long. I also didn't think Peggy was too mean - he was ignoring and belittling her ideas and she flipped the script on him.

Coca Colo: I think you're right, it's been pointed out on several of the blogs that he's a huge mismatch with the new "upstart" vibe of the agency. I think Peggy felt bad because she realizes that the world is passing Freddy by a little bit, and that he's as hurt by it as anyone else.
  She was frustrated about him not listening, but instead of criticizing his behavior, she (rightly, but meanly) criticized his talent/copyrighting skills
.  I think she felt bad about that, not about standing up for herself.
RMJ: And I guess that's fair, seeing as she owes him a huge professional debt.

Coca Colo: And that she thinks, personally, he's a good guy. He's just outdated, and that's a little sad.
 
I love when she says "I don't understand your list"
 to Freddy about the old actresses.  Her facial expressions are fantastic! 
RMJ: Yes, I love her!  Her lines are so great sometimes: "You're never going to get me to do anything Swedish people do."  Elisabeth Moss is awesome.
Coca Colo: One thing I love about the character, is how she can go from super-competent to adorably awkward and out of place from one scene to the next.  
That's one thing Mad Men does fantastically well.
And we saw that with Don this week.
He's gone from the super suave sex machine to an awkward, grasping, overgrown frat boy
.
RMJ: Bravo segue!  Yeah. He has definitely... fallen far.
  The letter from Sally was HEARTBREAKING.
 
Coca Colo: Yes. She can be so weird sometime, but that letter really made me love her and feel for her.
  The fact that she was protecting her brother, and she was so quietly mature about her dad not being there on Christmas...
It looks like they're making Sally a character this season, which wil be interesting to watch.
RMJ: Yes. I'm interested to see where Creepy Glenn goes
.  I think they're going to develop how she is/is not reacting to her mother's programming.
Things could go very, very badly there, I'm afraid.
  He's clearly targeting Sally for abuse and intimidation, likely sexual
. The secretness of "Stanley", 
yhe destruction of her personal property...
He's training her for abuse.
Coca Colo: Yes, she's pleased by his gesture, but gestures like that, that involve violence and destruction, generally indicate severely unhealthy relationships--leading to an "you owe me" mentality, stalking, etc.
RMJ: Exactly. It's what Betty taught her to appreciate.
  I think it's going to go beyond just unhealthy into abuse and assault.
Coca Colo: Mad Men is interesting, though, because sometimes they step back from the edge with things like this. Instead of following them through. So we'll see whether they just plant that idea in our heads
Or actually run with it.

RMJ:   Interesting, too, how much Glenn's styling resembles Don, and of course Sally looks just like Betty.

Coca Colo:   
This piece basically argues that Glenn's violence, Lee's bullying, and Don's entitlement are all sides of the same coin.  We saw throughout the whole episode the level of entitlement he feels toward women
. 

RMJ: Yeah, I'm not totally sure how to react to it. It's a continuation of a theme.
It's interesting that he finally went into the office sexually
, because if you'll remember in the pilot, he rejected Peggy's advances.  And we've always seen him avoiding office romance in most cases.

Coca Colo: Yes, and I think he hates himself for it. As do I, a little. I groaned when he reached for Allison
.
RMJ: I know.
  Did she consent?
Coca Colo: Well, the piece I linked to points out that she says "no" when he first reaches for her, 
but then he tries to kiss her again and she lets him
 .
RMJ: She said "don't" actually.
 
And after he goes in the second time, she grabs him. 
And seemed to enjoy it.
 Coca Colo: But, I didn't feel like it was non-consensual, I felt like she was excited, because he's DON DRAPER.  

RMJ: I think that there was enthusiastic consent, but it was... I guess it's like with Peggy's fake virginity. Women are taught to offer resistance sexually.
  Also, I think that the purpose of the scene with the nurse neighbor was to show that Allison did have a way out. Yes, it's her boss, but she could have left and he wouldn't have stopped her.
Coca Colo: Yes, I think you're right. But she wanted it, because of what she thought it stood for. But it was actually just his desperation.
 And then to be handed an envelope of money the next day? Like, wrong time to hand out the Christmas bonus, Don!  And, also, sex tip, if you can have intercourse without anyone's clothes coming off, it's very rarely going to be satisfying for her
 
RMJ: Ha. Yes.
  But she seemed hopeful and interested in progressing with a relationship.  After all, he is eligible for marriage.
 The whole episode was about the STATUS of sex, and its negotiation.
 And it wasn't pretty.
Coca Colo: I don't think she thought it was a relationship, necessarily, since she left afterward to still meet her friends, I think she thought it at least meant that he WANTED her, and that made her feel hot. To be wanted by Don Draper
Coca Colo: But then the next morning, it made her feel so unwanted
, so discarded.
RMJ: Yeah, I can see that.  
"Should I close the door?"
 
Coca Colo:  Oh, poor girl. Her acting was great, too.
 When she said "Excuse me?"
 Oh my goodness.  
It's one thing to have random sex. It's another thing to have random sex and be treated like a nobody afterward, like it didn't happen, and you can be so easily erased and forgotten.
  Yuck.
 

RMJ: And paid off from his personal account, Christ almighty.  

I wonder if Don will see the Betty lookalike professionally
, as a psychologist. It would be a nice allusion to his deception of Betty in the first season.   Dude needs help, and it would be an interesting relationship professionally, particualarly with the sexual tension.  Like Rachel, but unconsummated.
Coca Colo: I like that she's got some meat going professionally. That would be a big step out of the gutter he's in. But his first act is still to try to reduce her to a sexual object.
 "I thought you came to flirt."  Of course you did, Don, because you see women as sexual objects
.  Unless they're not pretty

RMJ: Well, he doesn't treat Joan as an object

Coca Colo: Joan and Peggy somehow both get to be treated with respect.  But he tried oh so hard to make the psychologist lady feel sma
ll.  To make her act like a "woman" and not like a colleague questioning his methods
.
RMJ: Maybe it's that he has to automatically reduce outside partners?
 

Coca Colo: Yes, maybe when they're on his side they don't have to be objects
.  Unless he's drunk.
So one last thought, did you catch how when they're grousing about integration at the Christmas party, 
someone says "If they pass medicare it won't be long before they outlaw private property"?  And they complain about the country becoming socialist
?  
The more things change the more they stay the same...
 I thought it was so funny to hear those sentiments then, when everyone acts like it's new now.  Like the tea party is so original!
RMJ: With the segregation talk, it was another nod to Civil Rights without a serious discussion - just tossed in there like the Beatles 45s
. Just how we were talking last week, about how racial politics get acknowledgement without serious consideration
.
Coca Colo:  You're absolutely right.  The racial politics are informing the script
without being integrated into it.  And that can't be sustainable. You can't use integration and racism as a period detail to prove authenticity, like a Beatles album.  
It's a whole lot more than that to a lot of people
.
RMJ: Exactly.
  So I guess we'll see if they eventually address it head on this season...

Tune in next week, and join the conversation in the comments!

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