You may have seen some news this week about a new line of Mad Men Barbie dolls. Not surprisingly, the dolls are lacking in the body diversity department, even though they are supposed to be doll versions of actual women. This is annoying, and a certain LOLcat is not going to stand for it anymore:
If I hear another blogger/author/interviewer comment on Christina Hendricks' weight I might lose it. As if her body (omg BOOBS) wasn't enough of a focus already, now she is being picked apart for her appearance at the Golden Globes the other night. As you may have seen by now, Cathy Horyn fromThe New York Times claimed that "You don't put a big girl in a big dress" and ran this (distorted) photo of Hendricks:
Sorry for so much Mad Men, but as my blogging stint approaches its end, I wanted to complete my little triad on the women of Mad Men - and I'm a little worried lately about Joan.
I'm worried because the last time we saw her she was no longer wearing that hairpiece and her walk was more tentative than usual. I'm worried because she married that frat boy douchebag which everybody says is so 60s of her except, I don't know about you, I seem to know a lot of otherwise redeemable women who married fratboy douchebag. (Some of them even had humanities degrees!) Most of all, I'm worried because Mad Men has tucked her away into some kind of "lost causes" sock drawer in terms of both screen time and character development.
Now, let me be clear: I have a difficult relationship with Joan, and more particularly with the way the show holds her up for us to fetishize. She's sooooo curvy! Look at her red hair! She wiggles so elegantly! I hate that the show uses her to do a lot of ass shots that, uprooted and placed in the context of a Gossip Girl or a Desperate Housewives, we would simply call gratuitous and let it be a day. I hate that Mad Men gets a pass on them because Christina Hendricks is gorgeous. I mean, she is gorgeous, but even though she is not a stick figure and there is value in having a woman like that be extremely sexual on the small screen, it still saddens me that she gets pigeonholed as the "bombshell" who is there for contrast with "plain" Peggy. The show, in other words, more or less leers at her, all the time and unapologetically - much like Roger does!
Yesterday, my bf emailed me an article from the consistently obnoxious and terrible men's site askmen.com. Apparently, the hard-hitting journalists working over there were interested in determining the Most Influential Man of 2009, and the winner (chosen through a reader poll) was Mad Men's fictional philanderer Don Draper. You know, because television characters should really be the most influential people in our lives.
At any rate, my beau found the news of Draper winning this award even more ridiculous and upsetting than I did, so I asked him to write a brief response to the article from The Male Perspective. Read it after the jump!
Pete Campbell is a rapist. On Sunday night's episode, he met a young au pair living in his building and helped her out of a difficult situation with her employers. He propositioned her; she refused. Later that evening, undeterred, he knocked on her door, forced her to let him in to avoid a scene, followed her into her bedroom, closed the door, and kissed her, leading her towards the bed. Apparently, for some people, this wasn't clearly a rape. I'm here to tell them: it was.
Pete Campbell is a rapist. I've heard some people say that Mad Men is a show about nuance, shades of grey, and therefore Pete Campbell Cannot Be A Rapist. (As if there was no such thing as a rapist in serious, well-developed drama.) I think these people are doing a very superficial read of Mad Men. I don't think the writer or director of this episode was the least bit confused. The au pair is slightly afraid of Pete throughout. She doesn't want him in the apartment. She recoils when he kisses her. That she submits, ultimately, is irrelevant to the question of whether Pete rapes her. She didn't want to sleep with him; she made it clear; he didn't care. He wanted to have sex, and she was there, and she owed him, in his mind. So he raped her. End of story.
Pete Campbell is a rapist. What Mad Men is being subtle about, when it shows us an episode in which a character rapes someone for no reason better than boredom, is the fact rape doesn't just happen in alleys. It doesn't just come from total strangers who leap from bushes. It doesn't involve kicking and screaming and clawing his eyeballs out, because that would only get you in even more trouble.
In a world where feminism means a zillion different things to a zillion different people, there is really only one thing that it seems we feminists can agree on these days. That thing? That Mad Men is f#@$ing awesome. We love it. Feminist blogs that typically have nothing to do with television are falling all over themselves to review each episode, and this feminist right here sets aside each Sunday night for a little quality time with Sterling & Cooper. (You do too, right?)
That being said, in the midst of all that Mad Men love, there is a burning question that remains: How on earth do the employees at Sterling Cooper drink so much during the workday? Did people really used to do that? Well, the staff at Slate's Double X decided to find out what happens when completely sane and sober women drink like Mad Men. Check out the video results:
Betty is enslaved, while also being the slave master. This is what I hate about her. She wants freedom and agency when it is convenient. She wants to come down off the pedestal, but she seems unwilling, at least at this point in the narrative, to give up the privilege that comes with being idealized.
I, too, have been bristling at Betty's bad behaviour for some time. I don't think I'm alone in that; there has been something altogether vicious about the way the show has been writing her character of late, something biting and mean about every word that comes out of her mouth. Until about the middle of season two, I could have chalked this up to what I personally felt were the subpar talents of January Jones, but she has grown into Betty's shoes. And in that context I'm starting to blame both the viewers and the writers for all the vitriol hurled Betty's way.
I haven't been writing about Mad Men too much because I am trying to let it simmer for a while before I make any pronouncements of quality. I will say that I'm still waiting for the good stuff, and that while I'm moderately optimistic that it's coming, this has, thus far, been a strange season for Mad Men's women.
Take Peggy, for example. You already know that I have a fondness for awkward young women on television. It comes from a sense of solidarity with the future name-taker who hasn't yet seen just how many asses she'll be able to kick someday. So it will come as no surprise, I think, when I tell you that I'm on Team Peggy in the Mad Men universe, hoping that she will ultimately triumph over the men who decided what she was before she had the chance to discover it herself. I have always preferred her awkward ambitiousness to Joan's swagger and tart remarks - there was a sense of the outsider to the former, and a refreshing sort of self-awareness.
Did anyone else notice the bizarre sexism during the commercial breaks on last night's episode of Mad Men? I can accept that a healthy dose of douchiness comes with the territory when I decide to watch currently airing episodes of a show instead of waiting for it to come out on DVD, but I honestly felt creeped out by how skewed all of last night's ads were toward a male (and sexist) audience. Could it be that, because the show itself portrays a stylized hypermasculinity, advertisers are missing the context and coming up with campaigns to try and match Mad Men's outdated sexism?
I saw ads for (and this is just what I can remember): Lipitor, Viagra, NFL Sunday Ticket, and more, all aimed at middle-aged men who I didn't think were following Peggy Olsen's rise to the top all that closely. Oh, and let us not forget this gem, from Clorox:
Because, you know, sometimes even MEN do the laundry! And Clorox apparently dragged that ad out of its archives (here is a Feministing post on it from two years ago) just for Mad Men. WTF?
I can't say that this first episode of the third season of Mad Men wowed me, but I suppose it was inevitable, amidst all the hype, that the episode would disappoint at least one person in its audience. And indeed, it was something of a shaky start. Don's reminisicing - or, really, more accurately, reimagining, since he can't possibly remember - the circumstances of his own birth made for a rather confusing opener. Not only did there seem to be, literally, a dick joke in it (not a particularly clever one IMHO), it was an oddly sentimental moment for a character whose trademark is emotional opacity. Don has never been the kind of man who much interests himself with the inner lives of women, or more particularly someone attached to the notion of mothers and origin. He is, as the old saying goes, the epitome of a self-made man, constructed entirely of the things he thinks he wants to be, however disappointed he may be when he gets them.
These scenes seemed designed to tell us that Don is newly recommitted to his life at home with Betty and the kids (who are soon to number three). But we swiftly learn that he is still a womanizer. But there's something new about his taste. One of the things that has always rescued Don from the "complete tool on the subject of women" column has always been his interest in what used to be called "difficult" women - sexually-free, bohemian Midge; reluctant adulterer Rachel; ambitious Bobbie; mysterious Joy. Whatever might be said of Don's philandering, in short, at least the man had taste. But this time, Don is after an airline stewardess (played broadly by Sunny Mabrey with an irritating accent) for whom mystery and subtlety are foreign concepts. And, for the love of God, she's a blonde - very much what Betty might have been had her modelling career tapered off (the
stewardess coyly offers that she is asked all the time whether she, herself, is a model) and she had never gotten married.