I did not sleep at all last night and I'm embarrassed to admit it was actually because I was apparently annoyed by watching this show before bed. When I did fall asleep I kept waking up to bad dreams about the show! Not literally about the show, like starring Don Draper, but dreams that made me feel the same way. I don't even really know how I feel about it, so this might be incoherent as I try to sort through it.

I was trying to think of why the ep made me feel like crap when I pretty much predicted what happened in it. I seemed to feel exactly the way Peggy seemed to feel when Don announced his engagement. Like she was trying to be happy for Don, but had just taken a bite out of shit sandwich.

Was that the point? Well, there was plenty of evidence that it was, I guess. This ep, interestingly, had female characters sounding more modern and feminist than ever before (except for Betty and Megan, Betty because Betty is going to cling to what she knows until they pry it from her cold, dead hands and Megan because Don had no need for feminist sentiments in a woman so why would she have them?). But the four other women we're more used to admiring all had moments of being fed up and saying so.

Carla, whose race is a bigger issue for obvious reasons, told her female boss off when she fired her on a spiteful whim and withheld a letter of recommendation. Faye refused to meet Don for coffee she would have to drink after he dumped her and reminded him that it is she, not Megan, who actually knows him as, among other things, a guy who only likes the beginning of things. Peggy and Joan had a rare bonding moment not over a specific pov, but imo over the same vague feeling of humiliation I was feeling, culminating with Joan's typically old-fashioned claim to find her satisfaction outside of the office and Peggy's awesome response that "That's bullshit."

Megan came from the same mold of young, pretty, mother types that gave us Suzanne last season. Suzanne, who like Megan had people speculating about dark depths I think because unlike the other women on the show, they both seem created not out of their own motivations but out of the reactions Don’s supposed to have to them. Megan perhaps goes a step further. Remember that focus group where only Megan didn’t give the old-fashioned answers about what women wanted? If someone did a group about What Men Want I think they’d come up with Megan.

Don tries to sell Megan to Peggy by saying she admires Peggy and reminds him of her--she's got Peggy's spark! The subtext being, as someone else put it so well: "She's got your spark--but she's hot!" I would add: "She's got your spark, but none of your independence or personal demands. She's all about me!" Iow, she actually doesn't have Peggy's spark. What Megan has is a glow, which is a very different thing. A spark might shock or burn you. A glow is pretty to look at and bathes you in warmth.

It's not that Peggy wants Don for herself, but as she put it in "The Suitcase," she's all too aware that she's not considered good enough for him. She's not the girl that guys look at on the street. "Do you want that?" Don asks. Peggy really doesn't. But that doesn't stop her being annoyed when she's reminded that she’s still judged by that criteria. It’s humiliating for Peggy and Joan to wonder if Megan is going to be made a copywriter for the same talents that got her the job of fiancée.

Matt Weiner and others had said about the finale that it represented the answer to the season's question of "who is Don Draper?" That the answer might surprise us and him. That Don’s choosing between the reality of himself now and the person he could be in the future, who he’s becoming. That this ep should make it clear the "journey" that Don has been on this year.

So apparently the answer to "who is Don Draper?" and who he is becoming is that Don Draper is a guy who would love to have a girl who looks like a model and whose entire relationship to him consists of telling him he is right and good, and taking care of the menial tasks that he has no interest in that keep his life running smoothly.

That's a surprise? That required a journey? Isn’t that the default starting off place for every guy on the show? For a lot of guys in 2010 as well? It's like you might as well have had Don find a bottle in California with a genie in it who would fulfill his every wish and call it a surprise that Don thought this sounded like a good deal that he earned through all that introspection.

In a season on the show, all Megan’s dialogue about Don (and she had precious little not about him) broke down into 3 categories: spontaneous bursts of personal information that were charming and non-threatening; giving Don what he needed when he needed it; and expressions of concern that she wasn't doing the second one enough. Like the girl in the romance comic, she adored Don from nearby, fulfilling his every need while keeping well-groomed, and finally having him realize that he loves her. After all, isn’t she what a man really wants? Especially in a wife?

She has cultural interests that mark her as refined but aren’t so serious as to make her brainy or bohemian (ick!). She's naturally maternal, but focuses on Don first, kids second. She's strikingly beautiful but with a charming flaw that gives Don something to reassure her about--reminding me of that great conversation between Peggy and Ken in season 2 when Ken explains that as a proto-Barney Stinson he knows that pretty girls are usually the least confident and so they are the ones you go after, like targeting the weakest of the herd. The few times she's come close to revealing a personal ambition besides Don it was a way to get to Don.

I can see how the engagement fit into the theme of people mourning their lost childhoods rather than facing their future because they were afraid to die. But in the end Megan reminds me of Joey’s sexist drawing earlier in the season. Joan said no matter how much power you have, they can always make another cartoon. Megan as a character seems to say that no matter how interesting and accomplished a woman you are, they really want that. And this cartoon wasn’t drawn by Joey.
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

IMO one of 2 things is going on:

1) This engagement is an impulse and the marriage is unlikely to actually materialise because Don doesn't know what he wants right now;

2) Don has realised that he needs to get married again to someone who can deal with his kids because Betty is a fruitloop (I'm sorry, she's more and more like my own mother in every episode), and he knows that Faye is really uncomfortable with that role. Now that Betty's fired Carla, the only way he can be sure he can provide them with any security or even respite is to get married, again, to someone that Betty can't fire, because Henry is appalled by Betty's treatment of her kids but doesn't seem to actually be willing to do anything about it. I'm not sure that Don has realised this consciously but I think it has to be in the back of his mind somewhere, even if he doesn't know it--and I won't be surprised if the kids end up living with him eventually next season.

I think Faye could handle it, but I think Don thinks that it isn't what she wants to do, and he's probably right.
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

I actually liked Betty in the first couple seasons, but she has really lost it, and I don't buy that Don having hidden the truth from her about his past completely excuses it (there are people in fandom who think any bad behaviour on the part of a man completely excuses total batshittery on the part of a female character, but there's no rule that says you have to respond to weirdness or dishonesty with complete batshittery, and these are the same people who think Jim/Bobbi in Profit is hot, despite the fact that if the genders were reversed they'd scream about it and rightly so).

I wonder if there's something wrong with her genetically given that her father was pretty batshit toward the end. There was really very little understanding of brain chemistry at this point in time and most medication for mood disorders was only given to people who were dangerous to themselves or others without it because of the horrible side-effects. I feel a little sorry for her, but she is also damn close to triggery for me sometimes--the only character on TV who bothers me more was Sylar's mom on Heroes.

Anyhow, I started thinking along these lines when Don's first response to the whole Carla thing was to ask Megan to go on that trip. Megan is someone that he can trust to take care of things that need to be taken care of, and the sexism of this era cut both ways.

If a man in Don's position didn't have someone he could trust to do these things for him (and someone who could entertain for him if need be), and had to take care of them himself, and this impacted his work in any way at all, he would be viewed very poorly in the workplace. This both served to keep a lot of unhappy people married to each other and also fuelled the trend of men marrying their secretaries because a good secretary (who presumably would rather be married) had usually proven that she could handle this kind of thing.

I remember the way my crazy mother could always pull it together to take care of business entertainments--and she had been a secretary, though not my dad's. It was a very different era, and in some respects a little fairer (in the "it sucks, but it sucks for everyone" way) than immediately post-Sexual Revolution, when women hadn't yet gained equal rights and were expected to be universally sexually available, but men were not constrained at all by the requirement to have and maintain a family and particularly a wife who could by virtue of not "having to work" work to advance his interests by making sure that he didn't have to think about his family responsibilities. This lifestyle that they live where they are at the office till all hours, can stay out late drinking and smoking with clients, can entertain and go to night time events for their work and are always available when needed, is absolutely dependent upon wives who "don't work" and secretaries who are pretty much the pool for the next wife should the first one move on.

I think it's something that a lot of people who didn't live through the era even as small children (like me) are bound to miss, because the thought process wasn't made explicit--probably because these things were so much a part of the culture that it wouldn't have been.

My guess is that Don's sudden burst of mad passionate love is actually gratitude. Even if he doesn't consciously think about those kids all the time, we've been seeing since S1 that he thinks Betty is too harsh with them and that he worries about them--but having Sally show up in the office all the time and actually taking the time to raise them himself would seriously undercut his ability to support them financially in the style to which he wants them to be accustomed. Now that Megan is there and is willing and happy to deal with these issues (rather than fearful of them like Faye) he's got to be completely and utterly relieved. Combine that with a fierce shot of oxytocin and dopamine from having sex with her all weekend and you get sudden declarations of marriage. Of course he wants to wake up next to her every morning. He knows that as long as she's there, he can concentrate on the things that he needs to concentrate on and be secure in the knowledge that he's got support in these other areas.
Edited (clarity) Date: 2010-10-19 03:25 pm (UTC)
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

Faye/Don seems more like the kind of relationship I'd want, but it would depend on Betty keeping the kids, because the pressure not to have one's life ruled by one's domestic affairs that was placed on men was placed double on career women--if THEY couldn't keep their children's needs from impacting their work life, it was taken as a sign that they needed to go home and forget about this career stuff. And even if Faye weren't uncomfortable with and uninterested in raising children, she would still be subject to that problem.

Faye has made it really kind of explicitly clear that she doesn't want to be a wife and mother and she chose the path she chose because she likes her work. This was also an era in which you could be a committed career woman (and childfree) or a housewife (unless you were poor, in which case you still had to do it all without support) but really not both. And if you were in a middle class professional job and you were female and you did have responsibility for children, you could not allow it to affect your work life any more than Don could without suffering the penalty--only double, because you were a woman and you were supposed to be at home, so the helpful thing to do would be to cut you loose at work. There were no allowances made for female employees' domestic needs because once they had domestic needs they were supposed to go home and stay there. Secretaries were assumed to be working until they got married and professional women were either supposed to hire help or not marry.

So really even if Faye did want to marry Don and take care of his kids, she'd have to give up a lot of things to do it that she doesn't want to give up. Things that Megan apparently is willing to give up. Although since Megan has voiced a certain amount of artistic ambition and career interest, if not feminist ideals, I'm wondering how well that will work out for her. I think that is part of why Don initially liked her--part of Don's tragedy, if you look at all his mistresses, especially Rachel and Midge, is that the women he really genuinely LIKES aren't the happy housewife type at all.
Edited Date: 2010-10-19 06:02 pm (UTC)
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

I wonder if part of Betty's problem is that she doesn't really want or need to be married at all. She met Henry while she was trying to develop outside interests and he more or less stopped treating her as an equal when she showed sexual interest in him, which has to have stung. Of course now he treats her very much like a child, part of which is sexism and part of which is his attempt to deal with her batshittery.

She has decompensated a lot since they married and I wonder if it's not because she thought getting married to someone else would fix everything and it didn't--because what she really needs is a fucking life.

I see a lot of my mom in Betty and part of this may just be projection but one of the things about my mother was that she got married in 1952 because that was what you did (and it was a way out of her own family which was effed up) and didn't have children until 1964 because she was infertile (I'm adopted, so's my brother). I have always thought she secretly didn't want kids, though, except in the sense of as a part of the perfect life she was supposed to want. She didn't enjoy spending time with children, she hated the fact that children made messes and had emotional needs and thoughts and feelings of their own; she wanted her children to be perfect children and to want the things she wanted for them in her fantasy, and to look and act a certain way. And she got me, which made her crazier. She wasn't good at teaching children things, and was always hateful to me about things I didn't learn by osmosis, like how to do housework. Basically she wanted perfect children in a perfect home and was always really frustrated that nothing messes up a perfect home like kids.

Anyhow, she loved the theatre and had been really active in local theatre and dance until we finally came along, and she liked her work, which she went back to once we were old enough (ostensibly because she knew dad would leave her, but she liked her job much more than she ever liked me and that shows). I think she didn't let herself know how much she resented it, but I sure knew.

Also she had some of the same weirdnesses about sex that Betty has. Betty and Sally remind me a lot of our relationship.
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

Also I think the batshit in Roger/Jane is very different from Don/Megan because Jane is a replacement for Joan and Roger still really wants Joan.

Don at least THINKS Megan is what he really wants, and he's not latched on to Megan because someone else rejected him. (I find Roger very baby-like and Don very adult; Don is someone who I think would be happier in our world, where he wouldn't have to have a traditional marriage to get ahead in his work, could be involved in his children's lives and could be poly.) I really think Don wanted to be a single man and have a non-traditional relationship with a career woman--which is not what Roger wants at all--but he's realised at least unconsciously that he cannot have it, because if he moves in with Faye and they have this glorious adult careerist life together he's thrown his children under the bus. Or Faye. Or both. Faye will survive. His kids won't.
Edited Date: 2010-10-19 06:17 pm (UTC)
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

I think that Don believes, based on the fact that Megan comes from the office and things Megan has said and done (not being a drama queen but rather very business like about how he needs to break up with Faye, sleeping with him before when she has to have known he was in that relationship) that Megan just understands how things are. I don't think he has thought about it, but I also don't think he believes deep down inside that she will expect 100% fidelity. A lot of women didn't at the time--what they expected was rather that the illusion of fidelity would be maintained so that they did not lose face.

Roger's affair wasn't a cardinal social sin. It was leaving his wife and marrying Jane that brought censure upon him. If he had just continued to sleep with younger women, and they had been willing to go along with it until they found husbands of their own, nobody would have said or done or thought a whole lot about any of it. It was sort of a given at the time, particularly given the lack of sexual harassment law, that most working women would either find ways to manipulate the men they worked with so that they wouldn't have to agree to have sex with them, or that there would be sex (this is why Joan hired an elderly woman to be Don's secretary following the colossal fuckup with the previous one)--and if there were problems because of it--either because of the sex or because of the refusal--guess who got fired?

Jealousy between wives and secretaries was often a problem even when nothing was going on, because even if something had been it would have had to be kept buried. The show hasn't done too much with this, although the whole situation in which Peggy got pregnant sort of came close.
six_of_one: (Joker)

From: [personal profile] six_of_one

I don't actually watch this show, for a number of reasons. I've tried to watch it, but it never grabbed me. However, hoping to distract myself from the Giants' loss, and knowing that it's the only television program Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about and it therefore must be good, if not important, I watched it last night. This was essentially the only time I watched the whole program, however.

I thought they really laid on thick the whole Don Draper makes the easy choice and he's fooling himself storyline. If his behavior and meaningful pauses weren't enough, several seemingly reliable characters even told me what to think about it! I felt it was so obvious that I was a little offended.

The two women bonding at the end over cigarettes, the brittle ex-wife who fires her housekeeper in a fit of pique... it all seemed remarkably unsubtle to this inexperienced viewer.

Anyway... I don't mean to be crabby. I must just be missing something.

From: [personal profile] six_of_one

Thank you for your gracious reply, and please forgive my coming into your journal all grumpy!

The Coates thread is interesting on this episode, if you haven't read it: http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/10/mad-men-talk/64712.

tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

It was unsubtle, but part of the reason the characters seem so extreme is that you haven't been watching them go from Point A to Point B. Betty started out only a little unstable and has gone completely nuts over the course of several seasons, and Joan and Peggy actually being respectful of one another is kind of a victory. I mean I love it that Peggy can finally call bullshit on Joan and have Joan acknowledge that.
go_back_chief: (Default)

From: [personal profile] go_back_chief

Say what you will about the ep, but that scene rocked. I could probably watch an edited version of the show with only the Peggy and Joan interaction.
tiferet: cute girl in pink dress captioned "not all bad girls wear black" (Default)

From: [personal profile] tiferet

[personal profile] tiferet likes this.
Edited Date: 2010-10-19 11:16 pm (UTC)


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