After 18 long months, Mad Men returned last night with a two-hour episode, bringing plenty of cocktails, office power plays, and surprise-party dance numbers along with it:
Don't let my fake laugh deceive you—I'm so pissed right now." - Don
Andi, Annalee, and I will be recapping Mad Men this season (just like we did with Project Runway All Stars). However, since we assume you watch the show too—and since there are plenty of summary recaps out there—we'll be picking and choosing parts we find most interesting to talk about each week. Be sure to join in in the comments!
Those of you who've seen both AMC's Mad Men and NBC's soon-to-be-cancelledThe Playboy Club have probably noticed a similarity between the two shows. No, it's not the guy on The Playboy Club who's doing his best Don Draper impression, it's Naturi Naughton, America's favorite "chocolate" Playboy bunny (yes, she is referred to as a chocolate bunny in both shows. Ugh).
Mad Men's fourth season, which finished this past Sunday night, had a dualistic quality, it seemed to me. On the one hand, the season had some of the strongest episodes of the entire series—particularly "The Suitcase," which I wrote about in this space before. On the other, it had easily the worst, most blunt, least moving finale of all four seasons. It also signaled a sort of repetition in storytelling that I think may show that the writers are running out of juice. I'm not sure how many times, for example, I can worry about Sterling Cooper in crisis, or tolerate Don unloading all his familial responsibilities on another wife he'll undoubtedly tire of.
The one consistency, it seemed to me, was that the show had a lot more trouble than usual writing its women this season. Much of the best writing centered around Peggy, which I've covered in past posts here, and who barely appeared in last night's finale, so let's talk about the other female characters.
I've been following the discussion about the representativeness of The Social Network, about whether it accurately depicts women and "toxic masculinity" in technology particularly—a conversation which, as I said last week, I've been sort of surprised we're even having. Such a jaded feminist have I become, I guess, since I'm now actively surprised when people actually care about how women are depicted in this culture, but I digress. Personally, I thought the movie was sufficiently infused with internal comment on the misogyny of its characters that I wasn't as upset as I might have been by it's flat depiction of femininity.
I'm hardly the first to observe this sort of thing, of course, but I am, lately, obsessed with this question of how you reconcile your politics to your art. Rather than wade into the discussion on The Social Network particularly, though, since I'm only supposed to be blogging about television here, let's just situate some of these issues in that context.
When I last wrote about Mad Men two weeks ago I mentioned the affinity I had for Peggy, and a commenter noted that they'd never really understood Peggy's appeal, that she seemed entitled to them, and "embodies the kind of "feminism" that places the needs of white, cisgendered, straight, able bodied women at the center of the universe." As if on cue, this week Mad Men provided an episode in which proto-feminist Peggy is invited to comment directly on the civil rights movement and what she said was jarring.
Set up at a bar by her new friend Joyce (Zosia Mamet—yep, of those Mamets, hence the flat affect), Peggy got thrown for a loop when young (white) radical Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) decided to start lecturing her about the moral compromises of her career path. Pointing out that one of her clients was currently under a boycott for refusing to hire African Americans, Abe made fun of her work. "Civil rights isn't a situation to be fixed with some PR campaign," he said, snottily. Thus backed into a corner, Peggy noted, somewhat non sequitur-ishly, that she, as a woman, cannot do many of the things African Americans are also barred from doing. And then comes
the kicker. When Abe notes (incorrectly, both historically and in the show's own context) that there are no African American copywriters, Peggy says: "I'm sure they could have fought their way in like I did; believe me, nobody wanted me there." Abe snorts: "Alright Peggy, we'll have a, uh, civil rights march for women." Peggy picks up her purse.
Most people with a finger on the pulse of pop culture (and I'm guessing that includes you if you're reading this) know that the new season of AMC's Mad Men premiered on Sunday. Now, for those of you who are waiting for it to come out on DVD, fear not: This is our weekly advertising forum, so no plot spoilers will be revealed here. I want to talk instead about the ways in which advertising is being dealt with within the show so far. (If you're interested in a plot discussion though, I like Slate's TV Club. Good stuff.) Now, on to the advertising!