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.
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From: [identity profile] tofty.livejournal.com


For the most part, I do like Megan. I mean, what's not to like? She's pretty, she's educated, she's got an absolutely charming way with children, and she's got a laid-back ease to her that most people are hardwired to appreciate.

In the end, I think that's my biggest objection to the Megan-Don alliance: that he's once again taking the path of least resistance, failing for about the hundredth time to come to terms with his past, and being allowed to get away with that.

The thing I found most interesting (and objectionable) about his conversation with Peggy wasn't that he was essentially saying "she's you, only better-looking" to Peggy -- although he indubitably was saying that -- it was that when I stopped to really think about Megan and Peggy, I realized that they weren't much alike at all, and that the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the person Megan really reminds me of is Anna, who has that same laid-back graciousness to her. So in my mind, that she's-you-only-hotter exchange wasn't even really addressed to Peggy, it was addressed to Anna (and none the less offensive for that, especially since he hypersymbolically gave Anna's ring to Megan in the end). Jesus Christ, Don, just when I thought you might actually be growing into something a little less smack-worthy.
ext_6866: (Hadn't thought of that)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


Yeah, I honestly don't feel any ill-will towards Megan. In a way I feel offended for her since she's been characterized so completely as being what Don would most like to hear and see at any given time.

She is totally much more like Anna, especially in that way. And I was reading someone else talking about that "she reminds me of you" speech too and they pointed out that it's such an insult in so many ways. It's just like...what on earth is the sweet secretary have in common with scrappy Peggy here? It's not an insult because there's anything wrong with Megan, but more that easy comparison to flatter Peggy's vanity.

From: [identity profile] tofty.livejournal.com


more that easy comparison to flatter Peggy's vanity

Yes! And it says something about how clueless Don is that he'd think that what he said was an attempt to flatter Peg's vanity, when in reality what he said to her really offended her, and if he'd known Peggy at all, he'd have known that.

From: [identity profile] go-back-chief.livejournal.com


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!"


Hahaha! I couldn't put into words why that "she's got your spark" line kind of creeped me out, and yeah, I think you've nailed it right there.

That's a great summary about Megan and Don's "journey". I think he did make a journey this season, though, and he almost took the final step on it, but then he chickened out and took the fairytale, instead. I predicted something almost exactly like this since that episode where he told Faye who he was, because of course, that was too much of opening himself up to someone else, he'd want to escape again, because that's who he is (and there's what, three seasons left?) There's the choice between reality and commercial and this season he's been close to looking reality in the face more times than before, probably, but he'll pick the glossy ad in the end, anyway. And deep down I bet he knows it was the wrong choice.

I have to say, I did not make any Megan-Anna connection (although obviously Don did, giving her the ring and everything), rather I made the connection between Anna and Faye, they look a bit alike, both being blond and more Don's age, and both had more equal relationships with Don, where they knew more about him than most people, and he knew at least a bit about them, too.

He knows nothing about Megan, has never seemed interested in finding out anything either. That's why I cringed when he said he was in love with her. You don't have to know the person you fall in love with, but you should at least want to know them, you know, be interested in finding out more things about them. Otherwise that's something else, IMO, nothing to do with love.
ext_6866: (Hadn't thought of that)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


I was reading more discussion of that whole exchange and it is really so humiliating to Peggy. She's worked so hard at her job and finally proved herself and he's reduced it to some vague "spark" that she shares with the secretary he wants to marry.

It does seem like he took a journey and then ran back to the starting gate or something. But yeah, you could see it coming as soon as he'd confessed to Faye. Others have thought the ep really hammered on the idea that he'd made the wrong choice. Or at least a bad choice.

The whole thing is so very based on "I know you NOW" meaning "I don't know you at all, really, but I enjoy being with you." It sounds like such a disaster!

From: [identity profile] go-back-chief.livejournal.com


It sounds like such a disaster!

And it probably will be. We don't know how Don and Betty started out, but what are the odds of it being something veeery similar to this? Pretty high, I'd say. I bet the only difference was that Don knew even less about her, because she'd never worked for him or taken care of his kids, so he couldn't know she'd fail to cater to almost all his needs. In his eyes, Megan is an improvement, because she can be a trophy wife and take care of all the things he can't be bothered with himself, but they'll have their own issues as soon as Megan shows that she's her own person, too, no matter what that person turns out to be like. Because how long can she stay a glossy ad once they marry? She might be nice, but she'll still have her own will, dreams, hopes, background, personality and no matter what they turn out to be, he'll be disappointed, because he never wanted anything other than the nurturing dream-girl who seemed to have him, rather than herself, as the centre of her universe.

From: [identity profile] ali-wildgoose.livejournal.com


I completely understand what you're saying, and feel pretty much exactly the same way.

I have to limit how much time I spend thinking about the ways in which I'm constantly being judged by criteria that are largely out of my control and have little to do with my actual strengths as a person. I literally can't step outside my apartment without dudes informing me of whether or not they consider me attractive, as if I gave half a shit about the opinions of strangers on the street. If I think about it too much -- the ways in which being skinner, prettier, more put-together, even younger despite the fact that I'm not even 30 would all make some things a lot easier for me -- it's impossibly crazy-making. Therefore I try NOT to think about it, however much it's a inescapable reality of the world we currently live in.

So watching the latter half of this season of Mad Men, as Don Draper cast aside a really fantastic (and age-appropriate, although still very thin and conventionally attractive) lady for his 25-year-old secretary of "French extraction" whose intelligence is mostly used to ensure that the compliments she pays him are eloquent and apt ones....yeah, watching this season has made me pretty angry. To the point where I just started fastforwarding through any scene in which Don and Megan were kissing, because it made me furious to watch them.

I've commented to some folks recently that I feel like I'm continually making the decision to keep watching Mad Men -- like I'm one or two really tough episodes away from giving up on it as too upsetting to deal with. If next season ends up cohering into a narrative in which Copywriter!Megan is outshining Peggy through her charm and good looks, I will not be able to sit through it. I may not even start watching the season at all until someone can inform me as to whether or not my fears are playing out. Because Peggy is the character I admire most on that show, by FAR, and the storyline described above is pretty much my personal worst nightmare.
Edited Date: 2010-10-19 04:36 pm (UTC)
ext_6866: (Huffy)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


So watching the latter half of this season of Mad Men, as Don Draper cast aside a really fantastic (and age-appropriate, although still very thin and conventionally attractive) lady for his 25-year-old secretary of "French extraction" whose intelligence is mostly used to ensure that the compliments she pays him are eloquent and apt ones....yeah, watching this season has made me pretty angry. To the point where I just started fastforwarding through any scene in which Don and Megan were kissing, because it made me furious to watch them.

This! I feel like you just put it in a nutshell what I was trying so hard to put into words. I'm used to them showing us sexism on the show, but the creation of this creature plus the rewards she's given within the universe for it seem like just sexism coming from the outside of the universe. I even read someone say that Megan represented a step forward for Don because she wasn't physical "perfection" like Betty. Because of her teeth.

She's the standard you're always presented with. Where women are encouraged to like all different men who are flawed and to value their accomplishments but that's not given back to them. The standard for men is still often much lower--don't be smart, don't have interests other than me, conform to the things I value in a woman which is youth and beauty. And still on TV today we've got the pudgy guy who must be married to a beautiful woman (and it's not even presented as unusual, because she's only that pretty because a woman whose looks were on the level of the guy's wouldn't be acceptable as anything but a joke). The most Don's ever had to give this woman is cutesy assurance that he likes her teeth.

I know that on this show what Matt Weiner says about things, especially romances, doesn't always mean the story's going to pan out the way he talks about it. But I'm not so sure he sees Megan as anything other than a nice girl. I think Matt Weiner said something about Betty like "If she wasn't this pretty people would be more forgiving" or something. And someone in the comments said, correctly, that if she wasn't that pretty she wouldn't have been forgiven at all. I thought it showed that same creepy (usually male) take on things, the urge to defend pretty women and see them as the victims of jealousy while actually privileging them over other people who have every reason to object to it.

The person who was saying Peggy and Joan were jealous did not seem to get the way the two of them were expected to almost defer to Megan now because of her husband. If Don wanted to make her a copywriter he could and he might.
Edited Date: 2010-10-19 06:28 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] matitablu.livejournal.com


I think Matt Weiner said something about Betty like "If she wasn't this pretty people would be more forgiving" or something.

Ugh, I'm starting to think that Weiner should let the show speak for itself and keep the commentary to a minimum. I don't know if he has just his own way of being ironic, but that comment about Betty has a WTF factor similar to this one (http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/matthew-weiner-closes-the-books-on-season-4-of-mad-men/?src=me&ref=general):

Q. We’re now well into 1965 on the show, and there are no major black characters, no characters who are any kind of racial minority -

A.Do Jews count as racial minorities? Because there have been a lot of Jews on the show.


I sincerely hope that Megan proves to be something else other than Don's own Jane or new!Anna, because I believe she's truly nice and has no secret agenda as some are speculating; but at the same time, I wonder if her overall niceness depends on the writers being aware that pairing her with Don this way didn't put her in a likable position, so they were careful to make her likable in pretty much every other department. Which doesn't make anyting better, as it's the first time that I'm feeling a character in Mad Men might be an artificial construct rather than the description of a real person weaved into the story. I hope S5 proves me wrong.
ext_6866: (Default)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


I think the quote's from the same article-and yeah, wtf on the comment about black characters. Ouch. I think he not only says that Betty wouldn't get so much hate if she wasn't so pretty, but he makes a comment about how 'we all' were raised by women like Betty. Seriously Mommy issues much?

The fictional construct thing is what reminds me of Suzanne. She, also, to me sort of seemed like somebody created to mean something but I'm just not getting her yet.

From: [identity profile] matitablu.livejournal.com


Hahaha, I keep forgetting about Suzanne, I guess that I found her so obnoxious that I blocked her out, lol. But yeah, you're right that she was another one we only saw through Don's PoV and that was it. He basically goes back and forth between assertive women he ends up feeling challenged by, and... his fangirls? I bet he felt adored by Betty too, back at the beginning of their relationship :|

And yeah, the fact that Betty is the only prominent mother figure so far and she performs badly in that department is rather fishy at this point. Also, way to generalize, Weiner, I know my mother - and my grandmother, which is more generationally accurate - are nothing like Betty, thank you :P

From: [identity profile] salty-catfish.livejournal.com


The way the episode was filmed made me consider that it was a House-S4-finale-style LSD induced hallucination for about two seconds. That was wishful thinking of course, but plays well with Don's choosing the ad-life over reality. I felt increasingly disconnected from this episode and everything that happened was just so very surreal. After the "Did Joan have the abortion?" episode I've seen the opinion that her not having it would make fo the more interesting story, but I really would have liked to see how her story played out if she had remained childless.
Thing is, that for the first time I'm wondering if the degree of alienation is even in the frame of how the audience is expected to react. It's not that I don't get this season's arc (disappointing for all the reasons you gave) but Don's sudden regression was still very sudden and hard to watch.
ext_6866: (Cute)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


Yeah, it does seem like they must know how that comes across given the reactions of other characters. Elisabeth Moss said that Peggy's reaction was basically that he'd come so far, he'd almost become a better person, and then he just slid back.

And I admit that almost everyone I've heard saying that Megan is a "good match" for Don seems to kind of like the idea of the woman's job being to be perfectly lovely and therefore effortlessly change her man into the good guy he wants to be.

I have no idea where they'll go on the Joan story. The baby is for all intents and purposes her husband's but Roger can always get sentimental about it. And I guess since she seemed to firmly move on from Roger this season it gives her a way to not quite be able to do that.

From: [identity profile] salty-catfish.livejournal.com


Elisabeth Moss said that Peggy's reaction was basically that he'd come so far, he'd almost become a better person, and then he just slid back.
Yes, yes exactly.
So there are people that were not completely weirded out by Don's declaration of love and Megan actually saying yes to the proposal (I was staring bug-eyed at the screen there).
I was so glad when Joan finally broke up with Roger but it seems there will be further entanglement now, yeah.
.

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