“MAD MEN” Observations: (3.09) “Wee Small Hours”

After my recent viewing of the Season Three ”MAD MEN” episode called (3.09) “Wee Small Hours”, I came up with the following observations:

“MAD MEN” OBSERVATIONS: (3.09) “Wee Small Hours”

*I think that from the moment Lee Garner Jr. tried and failed to seduce Sal Romano, the latter was screwed no matter what. Even if Harry Crane had immediately informed Roger or Don about Garner’s demand; or if Sal had acted professionally and told not only Don, but Roger on what happened, he was screwed. The client came first. Especially clients like Lee Garner and Conrad Hilton, who were too powerful to ignore. As I recall that back in Season One, even Don had to apologize to Rachel Menken for his outburst, despite the fact that she had yet to become an official client. Even worse, I doubt that Roger Sterling, Bert Cooper or the firm’s British owners would have been tolerant of Sal’s sexual orientation.

*I have read a few posts on Betty’s aborted affair with Henry Francis. I find it interesting that so many were disappointed that she did not go ahead with the affair. In fact, they had harshly criticized her . . . which I found rather odd. Even more interesting was that some of the fans were demanding to know what she really wanted. Henry also seemed to be wondering. Judging from her disappointment with her marriage to Don and the belief that Henry simply wanted an affair, I suspected that what Betty really wanted was a meaningful relationship with someone. That would explain the letters she had exchanged with Henry, her anger at Don for keeping her in the dark about his contract problems, and her tears following the dinner with the Barretts in Season Two of (2.03) “The Benefactor”. And when she visited Henry’s office, she began to suspect that she was never going to receive one from him, anymore than she was ever going to receive one from Don.

*Despite Betty’s remark about civil rights, Carla was one lucky woman. At least in Season Three. She could have easily found herself in the same situation as Sal by the episode’s end. All Betty had to do was fire her and lie to Don about her reasons for firing Carla. Unless she feared that Carla would retaliate by telling Don about Betty’s meeting with Henry Francis. That is the only reason I could find why Carla remained employed.

*I also find it interesting that fans and the media lobbied criticisms at Betty for her remark about the Civil Rights Movement. I found it interesting and a little hypocritical. One, of course Betty would make such a remark. She was a white female from a privileged background. She was also a conservative, although a moderate one. She had called Carla “girl” when referring to the latter during a phone call with Henry. What did those fans expect? Yet, many fans made excuse after excuse for Joan’s unnecessary and racist remarks to Sheila White back in Season Two’s (2.02) “Flight”.

*After this last viewing, it seemed to me that Peggy look slightly smug after Connie Hilton made it clear that he disapproved of Don’s presentation. Mind you, I was not that impressed by it, either. It seemed a bit too simple and infantile for my tastes. And it failed to invoke the glamour of travel, while maintaining the message of American values. Well . . . at least to me.

*How many times did Don assume an aggressive stand when a client failed to be impressed by his work? Why did he do this? Was this Don’s way of intimidating a client into accepting his work? I still recall him pulling this stunt with Rachel Menken back in Season One’s (3.08) “The Hobo Code”, which angered her in the process. He also pulled this stunt with the client from Belle Jolie and succeeded. Then he tried it with Conrad Hilton and failed. The fans ended up expressing anger at Hilton. I found myself feeling slightly sympathetic toward him. After all, he was the client. If he did not like Don’s presentation, he did not like it. Don’s slight temper tantrum seemed a bit uncalled for.

*Pete hacking up a storm after taking a puff on a Lucky Strikes cigarette struck me as hysterical. So did the scene in which Betty threw the money box at Henry.

*Despite the British ownership of Sterling Cooper, it seemed obvious that Roger was still a force at the firm. But considering how the British regard him, I wonder how long this would have lasted if he, Don, Lane Pryce and Bert Cooper had not created their own firm at the end of Season Three.

*Don and Suzanne – to this day, I failed to see the chemistry. In fact, Miss Farrell seemed like a second-rate version of Rachel Mencken, but with a less stable personality. I realize that Don also wanted a meaningful relationship in his life . . . but Suzanne Farrell? Someone who had recently been his daughter’s teacher? What made Don’s affair with Suzanne even more troubling was that he seemed to be using her as some kind of drug. He had suffered rejection from a man he was beginning to view as a parent figure and turned to Suzanne for comfort.

*When I first saw this episode, I wondered if it would mean the end of Sal Romano on ”MAD MEN”. Sadly, I was right. It was.

Five Favorite “MAD MEN” Season Three (2009) Episodes

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Below is a list of my top five (5) favorite episodes from Season Three (2009) of “MAD MEN”. Created by Matthew Weiner, the series stars Jon Hamm:

FIVE FAVORITE “MAD MEN” SEASON THREE (2009) Episodes

1 - 3.11 The Gypsy and the Hobo

1. (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo” – Don’s past finally catches up with him when Betty confronts him about his identity theft. Roger Sterling meets a former client/lover who wishes to rekindle their affair. And Joan discovers that her husband, Greg Harris, has joined the Army after failing to start a medical career in New York.

2 - 3.12 The Grown Ups

2. (3.12) “The Grown Ups” – The assassination of President John Kennedy serves as the backdrop of the wedding for Roger’s daughter and the final breakup of the Draper marriage.

3 - 3.07 Seven Twenty-Three

3. (3.07) “Seven Twenty-Three” – Don’s attempts to land the Conrad Hilton account leads to him being blackmailed by Bert Cooper to sign a three-year contract with Sterling Cooper. Peggy begins an affair with former Sterling-Cooper Accounts Head, Duck Phillips. And Betty expresses interest in the Governor’s aide, Henry Francis, when she becomes involved in civic politics.

4 - 3.06 Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency

4. (3.06) “Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency” – A visit by the British owners of the Sterling Cooper agency and an account involving a motorized lawn motor results in mishap and bloodshed.

5 - 3.09 Wee Small Hours

5. (3.09) “Wee Small Hours” – An executive from Sterling Cooper’s client, Lucky Strikes, demands that the agency fire art director Sal Romano after the latter rejects the executive’s sexual advances. Betty grows closer to Henry Francis and Don begins an affair with Sally’s teacher, Suzanne Farrell.

Top Five Favorite “MAD MEN” Season Two (2008) Episodes

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Below is a list of my top five favorite Season Two episodes of AMC’s “MAD MEN”:

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “MAD MEN” SEASON TWO (2008) Episodes

1 - 2.08 A Night to Remember

1. (2.08) “A Night to Remember” – During this game-changing episode, copywriter Peggy Olson agrees to help a friendly priest named Father Gill create a promotion for a Church-sponsored dance. Office manager Joan Holloway helps Television Advertiser Harry Crane read new television scripts and discovers that she likes the job. Still reeling from comedian Jimmy Barrett’s revelation of Don Draper’s infidelity, Betty Draper helps her husband with an important business dinner, before she later confronts him about his affair with Bobbie Barrett.

2 - 2.05 The New Girl

2. (2.05) “The New Girl” – Don and Bobbie heads out of the city for a night together, before getting into a traffic accident. Don recruits Peggy to help him cover up the incident. Meanwhile, a new Sterling-Cooper secretary named Jane Siegel begins working for Don.

3 - 2.04 Three Sundays

3. (2.04) “Three Sundays” – Over the Easter holidays, Don and Betty clash over the discipline of their son Bobby. Peggy meets the new family priest, Father Gill. And Head of Advertising Duck Phillips recruits the agency in an effort to win over American Airlines as a new client.

4 - 2.07 The Gold Violin

4. (2.07) “The Gold Violin” – Art director Sal Romano develops a case of unrequited attraction for Accounts man Ken Cosgrove. Joan and Jane clash over an incident regarding a new painting in owner Bert Cooper’s office. And Betty learns about Don’s affair with Bobbie Barrett at a media party, thanks to her husband Jimmy.

5 - 2.09 Six Month Leave

5. (2.09) “Six Month Leave” – Owner Roger Sterling leaves his wife for Jane Siegel. Senior copy Freddie Rumsen’s alcoholism spirals out of control. And the death of Marilyn Monroe has an impact upon the firm’s female employees.

Top Five Favorite “MAD MEN” Season One (2007) Episodes

Below is a list of my top five favorite Season One episodes of AMC’s “MAD MEN”:

 

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “MAD MEN” SEASON ONE (2007) Episodes

1 - 1.12 Nixon vs. Kennedy

1. (1.12) “Nixon vs. Kennedy” – In this superb episode, Sterling-Cooper’s employees have an all-night party to watch the results of the 1960 Presidential Election. Also, Pete Campbell discovers that Don Draper’s real name is Dick Whitman, who had been officially declared dead during the Korean War.

2 - 1.10 The Long Weekend

2. (1.10) “The Long Weekend” – During the Labor Day weekend, Roger Sterling decides to cheer up Don over the loss of a client by arranging a double date with twins. During the date, he suffers a heart attack. Meanwhile, Joan Holloway has a double date with her roommate and two out-of-town businessmen.

3 - 1.05 5G

3. (1.05) “5G” – In this poignant episode, Don receives an unwelcome visitor in the form of his half-brother, Adam Whitman, whom he had not seen since the Korean War. And when Ken Cosgrove gets his short story published in a magazine, a jealous Pete asks wife Trudy to convince an old boyfriend to publish his story.

4 - 1.01 Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

4. (1.01) “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – The series’ pilot episode introduces Manhattan advertisement executive Don Draper and his co-workers at the Sterling-Cooper agency, as he struggles to maintain Lucky Strike as a client for the agency.

5 - 1.09 Shoot

5. (1.09) “Shoot” – A larger ad agency tries to lure Don from Sterling-Cooper by hiring wife Betty Draper for a modeling job. Meanwhile, Pete devises a strategy to help the Nixon campaign.

“MAD MEN”: “Wanted or Not – An ‘Emancipated’ Divorcee”

I wrote this article not long after the end of Season Three of “MAD MEN”:
“MAD MEN”: “Wanted or Not – An ‘Emancipated’ Divorcee”

One of the events of the Season Three finale of ”MAD MEN”(3.13) “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” turned out to be Betty Draper’s decision to file a divorce from the series’ main protagonist, Don Draper. Acting as Betty’s main supporter throughout this upheaval was her almost paramour Henry Francis.

Betty had first met the aide to New York’s Republican governor, Nelson Rockefeller, in the third episode, (3.03) “My Old Kentucky Home”. In the episode, Henry he had asked to touched her belly, while she was still pregnant with young Eugene. Betty gave him permission and a silent spark of attraction ignited between the two. They met for the second time in (3.07) “Seven Twenty-Three”, when Betty was asked by her colleagues in her local Junior League to seek his help in preventing the installation of a huge water tank that will drain the scenic local reservoir and mar the landscape. Henry managed to briefly come to her aid in the following episode, (3.08) “Souvenirs”. By the ninth episode, (3.09) “Wee Small Hours”, the pair was ready to have an affair. Until Betty realized that she did not want to engage in a tawdry affair that involved sex in hotel rooms or behind the closed doors of Henry’s office. When they had met at the wedding reception for Roger Sterling’s daughter, Margaret, in (3.12) “The Grown Ups”; it was apparent that the two had remained attracted with one another.

When Betty finally decided to seek a divorce from Don in the season finale, many noticed that Henry was by her side when she visited a divorce lawyer and when she flew to Reno, Nevada for a divorce. The hostility toward Henry’s presence was strong amongst the fans. It was not long before assumptions about the relationship between Betty and Henry appeared on various blogs and message boards about ”MAD MEN”. Many fans insulted Henry with a variety of names. Others insulted Betty. Fans expressed belief that Henry would end up treating her as a trophy wife, just as Don had during the past decade. More importantly, many accused Betty of being nothing more than a spoiled Daddy’s girl who turned to Henry, because she needed a ”father figure” to dictate her life. The fact that Henry had been seen at her side during a meeting with a divorce lawyer, and during the flight to Reno seemed to be solid evidence to them. And Henry’s advice that Betty dismiss any divorce settlement from Don in order to keep him out her life was another piece of evidence in their eyes. But I wonder. Do any of these fans really know what Betty wants? Or were they merely expressing their disappointment that she had failed to follow a path that they had desired? Is their hostility based upon their disappointment that she did not become a single divorcee like Helen Bishop . . . or that she had failed to reconcile with Don and try to repair their heavily damaged marriage?

I find it interesting that fans had heaped a great deal of disappointment and hostility upon Betty for failing to become the epitome of the new “independent” woman. No one had complained when Joan Hollway had married her doctor fiancé, Greg Harris, after he had raped her in (2.12) “The Mountain King”. Nor did they bash Joan’s character when she finally left Sterling Cooper to become a wife only in (3.06) “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” The ironic thing is that Joan had expressed a desire for a life with kids and a husband in the suburbs since the series began. She wanted to be a pampered housewife adored by her husband. Instead, she ended up with Greg Harris, who turned out to be a less than talented surgeon. Worse, he was incapable of kick starting a career in psychiatry after failing a job interview. Now, Joan is now forced to become a career woman, again. In (2.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”, Greg had decided to continue his career in surgery . . . as a U.S. Army officer. And there is a chance that he might end up in Vietnam. Although Joan expressed relief that she managed to find a permanent job again, with the newly formed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Agency, I cannot help but wonder how she feels about her failure to become a suburban housewife of a successful careerist. Perhaps deep down, Joan had always wanted to remain a career woman. But she had allowed society to dictate her wants, just as Betty has. What will the future bring for Joan? Will she still desire the life that Betty had with Don? Or will she finally wise up and realize that that living the Suburban Dream was never really for her . . . with any man?

And what about Betty? It seemed unrealistic to expect her to become the “liberated” woman so soon after her breakup with Don. Considering Betty’s upper class background and non-conformist personality, I do not see that happening this soon in the series. After all, Season Three has just ended. Personally, I suspect that Betty might still be too scared to consider a life independent of men, or have a man in her life and at the same time, create her own lifestyle. Perhaps it will take the Women’s Movement in the 1970s for Betty to become that woman. Perhaps she will end up as another Betty Ford, an activist who managed to have a lasting marriage with a Republican politician. Then again, I do not even know if Betty will ever become the type of “liberated” woman that many seem to demand that she become. But I refuse to make any assumption on how Betty’s life will turn out. That would take a great deal of arrogance or hope on my part.

And I believe there is nothing wrong with wanting another man in one’s life. Of all the divorced or separated female characters on the show managed to move on with new men in their lives. Helen Bishop’s new paramour ended up creating resentment within her son, Glen. Mona Sterling had already found someone new by (3.02) “Love Among the Ruins”. Last season’s (2.06) “Maidenform” revealed that Duck Phillips’ ex-wife was about to remarry.

That Betty would hook up with Henry Francis does not seem all that surprising, considering their history in Season Three. The question remains on whether Henry will prove to be another Don Draper who ends up treating her as a trophy wife. Some fans seem to assume that will happen. Frankly, I have no idea. In some ways, Henry seems a lot like Don. In other ways, he seems different from Don. In the end, I believe that only Matt Weiner knows how this relationship will turn out.

“MAD MEN”: “The Times They Are A-Changin'”

“There’s a battle outside; And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.” – “The Times They Are A-Changin”
(recorded by Bob Dylan on October 24, 1963)

“MAD MEN”: “The Times They Are A-Changin'”

Not long after I had watched the Season Three episode of “MAD MEN” called (3.12) “The Grown Ups”, I walked into a pizza eatery and heard a song being played on the jukebox. To my surprise, it was an old Bob Dylan song called “The Times They Are A-Changin'”. I could not help but feel that it could have been an appropriate song for this particular episode.

Although series creator Matthew Weiner had claimed he wanted to avoid airing an episode about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963; I never saw how he could avoid the topic in the first place. Not only was the Kennedy assassination one of the major events of the 1960s, but one in this country’s history. And one of the series’ major themes is supposed to be the changing social mores of 1960s America.

The interesting thing about ”The Grown Ups” – at least for me – was how certain characters reacted to the assassination. Someone on one of the ”MAD MEN” websites had brought up a comment that the series lead character, Don Draper aka Dick Whitman, had made about a funeral in which he had participated in the Season One episode, (1.10) “The Long Weekend”:

”I remember the first time I was a pallbearer. I’d seen dead bodies before. I must have been fifteen. My aunt. I remember thinking, ‘They’re letting me carry the box, they’re letting me be this close to it, they’re not hiding anything from me now.’ And then I looked over and I saw all the old people waiting together by the grave and I remember thinking I, I just moved up a notch.”

Judging from the above comments, Don seemed to view his participation in this funeral as a sign that the adults in his life considered him mature enough to accept death and the changes it brings in the lives of many. His comments also made me wonder how the characters and the title of last Sunday’s episode. Who exactly were ”the grownups”? Were they characters like Don, Roger Sterling, Mona Sterling, Peggy Olson and Joan Harris; who seemed the least shaken by Kennedy’s assassination? Or were they characters like Pete and Trudy Campbell, Betty Draper, Jane Sterling and Bert Cooper, who not only seemed profoundly shaken by Kennedy’s death, but aware that the event might be a sign of the social upheavals to come?

JFK’s assassination seemed to have a very interesting impact upon many of the series’ characters. For Pete Campbell, the assassination encouraged both him and Trudy to realize that he was wasting his time at Sterling Cooper. Earlier in the episode, Lane Pryce had informed him that Ken Cosgrove had won the battle for the position of Sterling Cooper’s Head of Accounts. Although he managed to keep his disappointment in check in front of the Englishman, Pete allowed his feelings to finally pour out in front of Trudy. When he informed that he plans to take up Duck Phillips’ offer for a position at Grey’s, Trudy informed him to hold back on that decision and remain at Sterling Cooper. Then came the assassination. Both of the Campbells were not only shocked by the event, Pete saw it as a sign that society was about to change. In his odd way, Pete has had a talent for realizing that the world is changing. He was the one who saw Kennedy as a potential head of state. And he was the one who was willing to view African-Americans as consumers to be targeted – a concept that that the old-fashioned Sterling Cooper executives had frowned upon. When he and Trudy learned that the Sterlings planned to go ahead with Margaret Sterling’s wedding on the following day, the couple found the whole thing distasteful and decided not to attend the wedding. More importantly, Trudy encouraged Pete to go ahead and consider leaving the firm. Perhaps they had both finally realize that Pete could no longer pretend that nothing has changed.

I believe that other ”MAD MEN” characters were aware of the possible impact of John Kennedy’s assassination. But whereas some wanted to pretend that nothing will really change, others seemed certain that changes are in the air. During Margaret Sterling wedding reception, her stepmother Jane Sterling and Bert Cooper seemed pivoted to the hotel kitchen’s television set during the media’s coverage of the assassination and its immediate aftermath. Cooper seemed to have become increasingly aware of the changes that were affecting the country. I believe it had began with the sale of Sterling Cooper to the Putnam Powell and Lowe, a British firm in the Season Two finale, (2.13) “Mediations on an Emergency”. It continued with him facing the death of a former colleague and Sterling Cooper’s 40th anniversary in (3.10) “The Color Blue”. While watching him remain glued to the television set during the wedding reception, I wonder if the assassination might prove to be the last straw for Bert Cooper. And how will he react in the months and years to come? Will he wither away, longing for the days when he was younger and social values were different? Or being the pragmatic man he has shown to be in the past, will he learn to go with the flow?

Many fans have commented that Jane Sterling, nee Siegal, is too young for Roger Sterling. Perhaps. However, I find this sentiment rather interesting, considering that many viewers have been fans of the Roger Sterling/Joan Holloway affair . . . and Joan is at least two decades younger than Roger. But Jane was barely 20 years old when she first met Roger in (2.05) “The New Girl” and 21 years old, this season. As she had pointed out, she was not old enough to vote for Kennedy back in 1960. So far, she has been portrayed as a young and immature trophy wife for Roger. And he seemed to treat her more as a child than his spouse, as his reaction to her attempt to befriend Margaret proved. But like Cooper, Jane’s attention became glued to the hotel kitchen’s television. Many fans accused her of using the assassination news to ignore Margaret’s reception. I disagree. I believe that Jane was not watching the news just to ignore the wedding celebrations. The assassination had made an impact upon her, just as it has obviously made an impact upon Bert Cooper. Once more, Roger treated her as a child and tried to pull her away and shield her from the media coverage . . . just as Don tried to do the same to Betty, Sally and Bobby. Jane refused to allow Roger to pull her away. The assassination bothered her and she was being honest about it. I am not saying that Jane is a fully mature character. After all, she is only 21 years old. But considering her reaction to Roger trying to pull her away from one of the hotel’s TVs, I suspect that sooner or later, Roger will no longer have a child bride on his hands. And I cannot help but wonder how long Jane will remain with him.

Duck Phillips had an interesting reaction to the assassination. After calling Peggy Olson for an assignation at a hotel room, he heard the news of the events in Dallas on the television. Duck expressed silent shock before ripping the television’s extension cord from the wall. Then Peggy appeared. Many fans saw this as a sign of Duck using Peggy for his own nefarious means. When their affair had first started in (3.07) “Seven Twenty-Three”, fans were claiming that Duck was using Peggy to get even with Don for his termination from Sterling Cooper last season. Considering that Peggy has not left Sterling Cooper, fans are now claiming that Duck is using Peggy as some kind of addiction. Frankly, I no longer care. I am getting tired of these bigoted remarks about Duck. I realize that he is not perfect. But he is no more or less flawed than the other characters. I also get the feeling that fans have not forgiven him for abandoning his dog in (2.06) “Maidenform” and continue to view him as some kind of slimy villain. As for his actions regarding the hotel room’s television, I believe that the assassination had upset him so much that he tried to turn away from it and continue his assignation with Peggy. But even after they had sex, he realized that he could not run away from it. Duck told Peggy what he had done and turned the TV back on. The interesting result to all of this is that he – quite rightly – thought about his kids and wanted to check on them. On the other hand, I found Peggy’s reaction to the assassination rather interesting. She seemed a little put out by her family’s reaction to the news and went to the office to hide from the media coverage by working. This reminded me of her reaction to Marilyn Monroe’s death. I wonder if Peggy is slowly becoming a Don Draper. If not, good. But if she is, I cannot view this as a good thing.

For the Drapers, I think the assassination made Betty realize that the world is changing and that it was useless to pretend otherwise. Don tried to shield his family from the bad news and pretend that everything was going to be okay. Even Joan Harris had pointed this out to Roger Sterling during a telephone conversation that the world will continue, despite traumatic events like the assassination. And in a way, both Don and Joan were right. Life will continue. But the two characters also failed to see the long term affect that the assassination would have on American society. Betty seemed to feel that life as she had known it will change. Which would explain why she had no qualms about Sally and Bobby watching the news about JFK’s death. As she had pointed out to Don, what was the purpose of trying to shield them from the news. And I think the assassination made her confront that she no longer has a marriage. Or perhaps she never had one.

I have always suspected that Don and Betty never really loved each other when they first got married. Both had married each the other for superficial reasons. Betty tried to maintain the marriage by pretending to be the perfect housewife and making attempts to emotionally connect with Don. She also fooled herself into believing that a third child might finally improve their marriage. Don simply tried to maintain the status quo as successful professional man and suburban husband/father. Whenever things went wrong with Betty – her discovery of his communications with her psychiatrist, her discovery of his affair with Bobbie Barrett, her kicking him out of the house and finally her discovery of his identity as Dick Whitman – Don tried to be the perfect husband/father and pretend that all is right with the world. I found myself recalling his comment in (2.08) “A Night to Remember”, when he told Betty that he doesn’t want to lose “this”, following her confrontation about Bobbie Barrett. There is a good chance that he might be in love with Suzanne Farrell. But I suspect that he harbored doubts that she could be the perfect social wife that he feels Betty can be. But the assassination and other events of the year, like her discovery of Don’s true identity may have finally made Betty realize that her marriage is a lie. I suspect that Don’s attempts to placate her over the assassination may have been the last straw. Even Sally had failed to buy Don’s reassurances that everything is going to be all right, by a strange look she had given him. I feel that Betty is tired of living the lie. I feel that she is tired of being a“housecat”. Her dream in (3.05) “The Fog” made me wonder if she would ever start to reject that role. I think her confession to Don that she no longer loved him made me suspect that she has had enough. When will Don realize that he has only loved the idea of Betty and not the woman, herself?

I might as well say it. I believe that ”The Grown Ups”, like the previous episode, (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”, is one of the best episodes from the first three seasons of ”MAD MEN”. Some believed that showing the assassination on the series was pointless. They suspected Weiner would allow Don and Betty’s marriage as it did in the past and everything else would continue without any true change. Weiner proved them wrong. Because in the end, ”The Grown Ups” and other episodes from late Season Three proved to be the catalyst for more changes when the series moved deeper into the 1960s.

“MAD MEN” Season Three Quibbles

Although I consider Season Two of AMC-TV’s “MAD MEN” slightly better, I ended up enjoying Season Three very much. It also brought about some drastic changes into the lives of the characters. But I am not here to discuss what I had liked about Season Three. I am here to discuss the quibbles I had with this latest season. Some of the problems I had with Season Three had to do with creator Matthew Weiner’s story. And some of the problems I had were with the fans. Perhaps I will start with the fans.

 

”MAD MEN” Season Three Quibbles

Fan Reactions

Betty Draper – I get the feeling that many fans of ”MAD MEN” have this great desire to brand certain characters as the villain or villainess of the season. Both Herman “Duck” Phillips and Bobbie Barrett were castigated by many fans as the “bad guys” of Season Two, despite the fact that they were no better or worse than the rest of the major characters. This season, it became Betty Draper’s turn to attract the fans’ ire. For an entire season, I came across comments and articles that branded Betty as a cold wife and an even colder and abusive mother. The fans dumped their shit on poor Betty’s head so much that they managed to ignore the fallible of other characters – especially Don’s lack of parental skills. Every time Betty scolded her children, the fans labeled her as abusive, cold or the worst mother in television history. I do not believe that Betty is a wonderful mother. Then again, she is not a terrible mother. She is not very demonstrative or warm. But compare to Don, she is usually there for her children.

The only two times she was not available happened when her father, Gene Hofstadt died in (3.04) “The Arrangement”. Dealing with her father’s death and a grieving daughter screaming in her face that she did not care caused Betty to order said daughter to her room. Fans dumped a lot of shit on Betty for that act. Yet, at the same time, many of them failed to notice that Don seemed more concerned about Betty than Sally. In the season finale, (3.13) “Shut the Door. Have a Seat”, she left New York with baby Eugene and new beau, Henry Francis, to get a quickie divorce in Reno, Nevada. Fans castigated her for leaving Sally and Bobby behind in New York with the Drapers’ maid, Carla. And yet . . . no one speculated on why Don was not keeping an eye on the kids, during her absence. So much shit has been dished out about Betty that I found myself coming to her defense in two essays. Two. And Betty is not even my favorite character.

 

Peggy Olson’s Romance With Duck Phillips – I never understood the reaction to this romance. Then again, I never understood the fans’ aversion to Duck Phillips. In (3.05) “The Fog, Duck Phillips had approached Peggy Olson and Pete Campbell in an attempt to recruit them for the agency he worked for – Grey’s. Pete, who had not forgiven Peggy for her revelations about their son, left before Duck could begin his recruitment speech. Peggy heard the speech, but rejected Duck’s offer out of some misplaced (in my opinion) loyalty toward Don and Sterling Cooper. When Don had chewed her out for asking him to work on the Hilton account, Peggy arrived at the hotel suite that Duck was working at to return a gift . . . and began an affair with him. The reaction to this affair was unbelievable. Critics like Matt Maul began spouting this view of Peggy as this naïve woman being sexually and emotionally exploited by Duck. All because most of the fans disapproved of Duck abandoning his lousy dog into the streets of Manhattan in last year’s (2.06) “Maidenform”. The ironic thing is that Peggy and Duck’s relationship did not bring about any personal catastrophe for Peggy. She simply had a healthy, sexual relationship with an older man with no strings attached. And for some reason, many fans could not deal with this. Especially when the man in question was Duck Phillips.

 

The Adulation of Joan Harris née Holloway – By the end of Season Three, I found myself wondering if I had developed a dislike or even hatred of former Office Manager, Joan Harris. Why? I have noticed that in the eyes of many fans, Joan cannot do any wrong. And I found this attitude annoying. It was bad enough when fans defended or excused her racist remark to Paul Kinsey’s ex-girlfriend, Sheila White, last season. Sometime between Greg Harris’ rape of her in (2.12) “The Mountain King” and the Season Three premiere, (3.01) “Out of Town”, Joan married him. She married the fiancé who had raped her. On a certain level, I understood why Joan did it. She internalized this belief that being married to a successful professional with kids and a house in the suburbs was an ideal life. She had internalized this belief to the point that she upped and married her rapist, instead of dumping his ass and search for another potential husband. And instead of criticizing Joan for this incredibly stupid act, many fans came to her rescue and created all sorts of excuses for her action. One of the Lipp sisters on the ”Basket of Kisses” site even accused this woman of stating that it was Joan’s fault that Greg had raped her. That was one of the most stupid accusations I have ever come across. In (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”, Greg whined about his failed job interview for a position as a psychiatrist. In a fit of anger, Joan took a vase and slammed it against his head. And many fans cheered. That is correct. Fans cheered over an act of domestic violence. Why? Because they disliked Greg for raping Joan, last season. Which is understandable. I also disliked Greg. But these same fans believed that because Greg had raped Joan last season, she had every time to bash him over the head in a fit of temper. What can I say? I would have cheered if Joan had been defending herself. But self-defense did not seemed to be Joan’s aim. Instead, she committed an act of mindless violence to express her anger and frustration at her loser husband. Yet, her act garnered cheers, much to my disgust. Every time Joan’s name was mentioned, a slew of complimentary adjectives followed. By the time the season ended, the woman seemed to be on a damn pedestal. Yep, I do believe I am in danger of developing a deep dislike toward Joan. And it is not even her fault.

 

Don Draper . . . Father of the Year – Pardon me, while I take some time out to control my laughter over this. I am going to make this short. I agree that Don is a warmer parent than Betty. He knows how to be friends with their kids. And I had applauded his decision to take that dead German soldier’s helmet away from his son, who had received it from Granpa Gene Hofstadt. But that is the best I can say about Don as a father. Being a warm parent only tells me that he knows how to be a pal to his kids. But I still believe that he is a lousy parent. Why? He is hardly there for Betty and his kids. A heavily drugged Betty had complained about Don’s unreliability, as she was about to give birth in ”The Fog”. And in the season finale, Sally pointed out that Don was rarely at home with his family. This was certainly the case during his affair with Sally’s teacher, Suzanne Farrell. Following Gene Hofstadt’s death, Don consoled a grieving Betty and failed to show any concern for a grieving Sally, until the last moment – while she was asleep. And when Carla had confronted both Betty and Don about Sally’s infraction against Bobby in (3.08) “The Souvenir”, Don sneaked away in an effort to avoid responsibility in dealing with his daughter. I believe that Betty Draper is a mediocre parent. As for her warm and friendly husband, he is a lousy one.

 

Season Three Story

Suzanne Farrell – I understand that Matt Weiner wanted the fans to believe that Don had fallen in love with Sally’s schoolteacher. And although I managed to accept this by (3.10) “The Color Blue”, I thought the storyline surrounding the Don/Suzanne romance was one of the worst to be featured on the show. I had a problem with it on two major counts:

a) Actress Abigail Spencer (who portrayed Miss Farrell) had NO chemistry with Jon Hamm. Many fans have claimed that Hamm is one of those actors who can create chemistry with just about anyone. I think that his interactions with Ms. Spencer had disproved this theory.

b) The Don/Abigail romance ended with a whimper in ”The Gypsy and the Hobo”. Don and Abigail had plans for a trip to Connecticut, while Betty and the kids were out of town. But when his family returned unexpectedly and Betty confronted Don about his false identity and the items found in his study, Don left Abigail sitting in his car and waiting for hours. She eventually slinked away back to her little home. The following morning, Don informed her that their affair was over . . . for the moment. A rather lame ending to a rather disappointing affair.

 

The British Invasion – Nothing really came from Putnam, Powell, and Lowe’s purchase of Sterling Cooper. Well . . . Lane Pryce, the parent company’s financial officer for Sterling Cooper, was responsible for the dismissal of several staff members by the time ”Out of Town” aired. In that particular episode, he fired someone named Burt Peterson, who had succeeded Duck Phillips as Head of Accounts. At PP&L’s orders, he set Pete Campbell and Ken Cosgrove against each other for the position of Head of Accounts. Sterling Cooper nearly ended up with Guy Kendricks, a PP&L executive, to helm Sterling Cooper in (3.06) “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”. But Kendricks’ encounter with Lois Sadler at the wheel of a John Deere lawnmower severed his foot and his budding career as an ad man. In ”The Color Blue”, Lane Pryce learned that PP&L planned to sell Sterling Cooper and revealed the news in ”Shut the Door. Have a Seat”. This led to Pryce, Bert Cooper, Roger Sterling and Don Draper raiding some of Sterling Cooper’s talent to form their own agency. And that is it. Weiner failed to develop a steady storyline regarding PP&L’s ownership of Sterling Cooper and the so-called British Invasion ended without any real drama between the season premiere and the finale.

 

Gene Hofstad and Sally Draper – I understand that Sally had been devastated by the death of her maternal grandfather, Gene Hofstadt. But I found myself unable to empathize wholeheartedly with her. Perhaps that was due to my belief that Weiner and his writers had failed to engage in any prolonged exploration of their relationship (which was only covered in two episodes) before the old man’s death.

 

Betty Draper’s Pregnancy and Gene Draper’s Birth – According to Matt Weiner, he had decided to set Season Three nearly six months after the end of Season Two because he wanted to depict the effect of Betty’s pregnancy and young Eugene’s birth upon the Draper family. I hate to say this, but he failed. Baby Eugene was barely focused upon, following his birth.

 

Carla – I am certain that many fans of the show are relieved that Matt Weiner has allowed the role of Carla, the Drapers’ maid to have a bigger role, this season. And so am I. But . . . once again, Weiner proved himself incapable of creating an interesting and complex African-American character. What is my beef? Many fans have praised Carla for being “dignified and sympathetic”. Unfortunately, these traits simply made her another Hollywood stereotype – the dignified black servant. In other words, Carla is boring.

There are no imperfections in Carla’s character at all. In fact, there seemed to be nothing wrong with Carla. I realize that as a servant, she has to maintain a facade in front of her employers, but . . . good grief! If the secretaries and minor employees can show their warts when their bosses are not around, why not Carla? Why not allow her to interact in a more interesting way with other servants in the Drapers’ Ossing neighborhood? Why dump her with a stereotype that has been around since the 1950s?

 

Peggy Olson and Duck Phillips’ Affair – I can only wonder if Weiner plans to explore Peggy and Duck’s affair in Season Four. He certainly failed to do so in Season Three. Fans had been prophesying disaster for Peggy ever since it started in”Seven Twenty-Three”. Instead, nothing really came of it. No real disaster struck in regard to Peggy and Duck’s affair.  Instead, she simply grew tired of him in Season Four and reacted badly to her rejection . . . by getting drunk.  That is all.  It seemed a shame that in the end, this story arc was created . . . for nothing.

A Few Observations of “MAD MEN”: (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”

After viewing the SeasonThree episode of ”MAD MEN” called (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”, I came up with the following observations: 

 

A Few Observations of “MAD MEN”: (3.11) “The Gypsy and the Hobo”

*Ever since his affair with Suzanne Farrell began in (3.09) “Wee Small Hours”, Don Draper has been increasingly dismissive of Betty’s presence. In some ways, he seemed to be in a great hurry to get her and the kids out of the house. And that is understandable, considering that he had proposed to Suzanne, a trip to Mystic, Connecticut during Betty’s absence in order to continue their romantic interlude.

*The scene in which Betty asked Don for more money before her departure reminded me at how women were (and probably still are) regarded as children by their husband. I could not help but wonder if the $200 dollars in Betty’s bank account is regarded as nothing more than allowance by both of them.

*Annabelle Mathis seems to be the first woman since Mona Sterling who seemed to have a romantic connection to Roger. She must have hurt him a great deal when she dumped him to marry another man to run her father’s dog food company, Caldecott Farms. Some fans have suggested that Annabelle’s earlier rejection of him may have led to his cavalier attitude toward women. I have no answer in regard to that suggestion. But I could sense that the attraction between them had remained strong.

*Like many of the series’ fans and Don in (3.03) “My Kentucky Home”, Annabelle seemed dismissive of Roger’s marriage to the 20-something Jane. Whether they are right or wrong remains to be seen. Judging from his conversation with Joan Harris over her request to find additional work, it is obvious that Roger still have feelings for the red-haired former office manager. But he had rejected Annabelle’s overtures on Jane’s behalf.

*I am a little confused over the situation regarding Gene Hofstadt’s house. Correct me if I am wrong, but did he give 50/50 ownership of the house to both Betty and William? What are the exact terms regarding the inheritance? Does anyone know?

*I never had any idea that the divorce laws for New York State were so stringent that the Hofstadts’ attorney, Milton Lowell, would advise Betty to remain married to Don. Was this only the case for women? Or did men who longed for a divorce from their wives also faced difficulties?

*I find it interesting that Annabelle Mathis seemed very reluctant to follow Don and Roger’s advice about changing the brand name of her product. Are they right? After all, Caldecott Farms is one of the companies reeling from the horse meat/dog food expose. If Don had been the only one advising Annabelle to do this, I would have sympathized more with her. I might as well be honest. Don has a history of not only following this advice himself – a tactic he had used to escape from Korea – but he had advised Peggy to forget the reason why she had ended up in the hospital in November/December 1960. Perhaps Don’s past history in this particular area may have led me to be a little prejudiced against his advice. But Roger had offered the same advice. And considering that the topic is dog food, I really do not see why Annabelle would ignore such advice.

*How did Joan Harris’ husband, Greg, expect to transfer from the field of medical surgery to psychiatry so easily? Would that have required his return to school . . . even in 1963?

*After Joan’s encounter with Sally Draper in Season Two’s (2.04) “Three Sundays”, I had believed that she was not the maternal type. I changed my mind. Watching Joan help Greg practice with his job interview, I realized that she is the maternal type . . . but with grown men.

*I might as well be frank. I found nothing to cheer about Joan’s assault upon Greg. I found it childish and violent. I realize that Joan was weary of Greg’s self-pity act and childish whining. But Joan proved that she could be just as violent and childish as her husband, when she struck him on the head with that vase, out of her own frustration and anger. And Greg’s reaction to Joan’s assault was similar to Joan’s reaction to Greg’s rape. As Joan had done last season, Greg caved in and begged her forgiveness for being whiny. I found it just as disgusting, as I had found Joan’s decision to go ahead with the marriage. But what really disgusted me was how many fans had condoned Joan’s violent act.

*When the Suzanne Farrell character first appeared, I did not like her. I did not like the idea of Sally Draper’s teacher having an affair with Don. Mind you, I do not dislike Suzanne any more. Actually, I feel rather sorry for her. Despite her past experience with married man, meeting Don had led her to drop her guard and risk encountering further heartache. Watching her climb out of Don’s car and slink away from the Draper residence was rather sad.

*On the other hand, I do not feel that Jon Hamm (who portrays Don) and Abigail Spencer (who portrays Suzanne) have any screen chemistry. I simply do not see the magic. Perhaps that is the main reason I found it difficult to buy the Don/Suzanne affair.

*The expression on Don’s face when he realized that Sally, Bobby and Betty had returned from Philadelphia a lot sooner was priceless. He looked as if someone had pulled a rug from underneath him. Actually, this is exactly what Betty was about to do.

*Jon Hamm and January Jones were superb in this episode. Honestly. Both did an excellent job of conveying this moment of truth in the Draper marriage. Watching Hamm convey Don’s transformation from “Master of the Universe” Don Draper to the frightened Dick Whitman was amazing. The man not only deserves an Emmy nomination, he deserves to win the award . . . unless someone else can do better. It took me a while to get over the Emmys’ failure to nominate January Jones for a Best Actress award for last season. After her performance in this episode, it would be downright criminal if they fail to nominate her.

*There was an episode in late Season One, in which Betty was visiting her psychiatrist, Dr. Wayne. He had said something that obviously annoyed her. And she reacted by sitting up and giving him a dark look. That look told me that regardless of any personality flaws that she possessed, Betty might prove to be a formidable woman. Kicking Don out of the house at the end (2.08) “A Night to Remember” and her confrontation with him in this episode has proven me right.

*So . . . Greg upped and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a surgeon/officer. He claimed that since he will acquire the rank of captain, Joan would not have to work. Whether he is right or not, I suspect that Joan is not the type to sit around the apartment and collect Greg’s checks. Unless Matt Weiner proves otherwise. Some fans see Greg’s entry into the Army as an opportunity for his character to end up in Vietnam . . . and dead. And a widowed Joan will be able to seek solace with Roger Sterling. Hmmm. Last year, many had assumed that Joan would not go ahead with her marriage to Greg after the rape. Weiner proved them wrong. Perhaps Greg will end up dead. Then again . . . perhaps not.

*I was relieved that Don finally told Betty the truth about his background. However, I was surprised that he had described his stepfather – Uncle Mac – as being kind to him. Yet, in (1.10) “The Long Weekend”, Don had described his stepfather to Rachel Mencken in a different way:

””You told me your mother died in childbirth. Mine did too. She was a prostitute. I don’t know what my father paid her, but when she died they brought me to him, and his wife. And when I was ten years old he died. He was a drunk who got kicked in the face by a horse. She buried him and took up with some other man, and I was raised by…those two sorry people.”

Don did not have any kind words to say about his father Archie, his stepmother Abigail or his stepfather Mac. Yet in this episode, he had kind words for Mac. To whom had he told the truth – Rachel or Betty?

*Speaking of Don’s half-truths, I noticed that he had put a twist on his story about how he had left Korea. Audiences know that Dick Whitman had accidentally killed the real Don Draper by accidentally dropping a lit match into gasoline. Audiences also know that he had deliberately switched dog tags with the officer. Yet, he told Betty that that the real Draper was simply killed and that the Army had mistakenly switched their identities. Even in confession, Don Draper aka Dick Whitman cannot be completely truthful.

“MAD MEN”: Sex and Bobbie Barrett

The fans’ reactions to the character of Bobbie Barrett during Season Two of “MAD MEN” have always intrigued me. In this day and age – namely the early 21st century – I never understood why they had held her in such a low regard. Let me explain:

“MAD MEN”: Sex and Bobbie Barrett

I enjoyed Season Two of “MAD MEN” very much. In fact, I would say that I found it even more interesting than Season One. Many fans have commented that the female characters seemed to have developed a lot more in this past season than they did in the first season. And yet . . . when Season Two aired during the summer of 2008, many fans – both male and female – expressed a great deal of hostility toward one of the new characters – namely Bobbie Barrett. My first question is . . . why?

Why had there been such a great deal of hostility toward Bobbie? What was it about her that made her hated by many of series’ fans? As we all know, Bobbie is the wife and manager of insult comedian, Jimmy Barrett. The Barretts were first introduced in the episode (2.03) “The Benefactor”, when a drunken Jimmy, who had been hired as a spokesperson for Utz Potato Chips, insulted the owner’s wife. Sterling/Cooper’s own Don Draper had to meet with Bobbie to arrange for Jimmy to apologize to the Schillings, the owners of Utz. Don and Bobbie’s meeting eventually resulted in both of them having sex inside somebody’s car. Later, Bobbie tried to get more money from Don (in a hallway of the restaurant they and Schillings are at for the apology) in exchange for the pay-or-play contract of her husband’s. Don manhandled Bobbie and threatened to ruin Jimmy. And Bobbie appeared to enjoy the attention. She later convinced Jimmy to apologize.

Despite this violent encounter, Don and Bobbie’s affair continued in the following episode, (2.04) “Three Sundays”. After meeting at Sardi’s for cocktails in order to celebrate Jimmy’s new television series in (2.05) “The New Girl”, the pair encountered Don’s former mistress, Rachel Mencken, who got married. They eventually left Sardi’s and ended up in a car accident, on their way to the Barretts’ beach house in Stony Brook. The affair finally ended in (2.06) “Maidenform” when Don learned from Bobbie that he had developed a reputation for his sexual prowess amongst Manhattan’s career women . . . before leaving her tied up during another sexual encounter. Bobbie was last seen in (2.07) “The Gold Violin”, during a party held at the Stork Club, celebrating Jimmy’s new show.

I have to ask . . . why was Bobbie hated so much by most of the fans? The owner of one blog continued to call her ”the Odious Bobbie” in reviews for nearly episode in which Bobbie appeared. Others have called her sick, twisted, perverse, a skank, a whore, evil and God knows what else. When Bobbie gave Peggy Olson the ”be a woman” advice in how to deal with Don and other professional colleagues, many fans came to the conclusion that she was advising Peggy to use sex to get ahead professionally. In fact, many assumed that Bobbie also used sex to get ahead as a talent agent. And yet, the series has never hinted that Bobbie actually did this. What crime did Bobbie commit to produce such hatred?

One would point out that Bobbie has engaged in extramarital sex. Her affair with Don lasted at least four episodes – from “The Benefactor” to“Maidenform”. Yet, Bobbie is not the only female on the show guilty of this:

*Peggy Olson – Sterling-Cooper secretary turned copywriter, who had sex with junior executive Pete Campbell after knowing him for less than 24 hours in Season One’s (1.01) “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”. Pete, I might add, had plans to get married the following day and told Peggy before they had sex. Seven episodes later in (1.08) “The Hobo Code”, Peggy and a now married Pete had sex again, inside his office. Peggy gave birth to their son, in the Season One finale, (1.13) “The Wheel”.

*Midge Daniels – an art illustrator who was engaged in an affair with the very married Don Draper between “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” and “The Hobo Code”. In fact, Midge and Don’s affair had been going on for five years by Season One. Don finally ended the affair when he realized that Midge was in love with someone else.

*Joan Holloway – Sterling-Cooper’s office manager who was engaged with the very married Roger Sterling, one of the firm’s owners, during Season One. When the affair began, the series has not yet revealed. Their affair was already on-going when revealed in (1.06) “Babylon”.

*Rachel Mencken – the head of a department store, who hired Sterling-Cooper to revamp her store’s image. Although both she and Don became attracted to one another in “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, their affair began in(1.10) “Long Weekend” and ended in (1.12) “Nixon vs. Kennedy”, when Don suggested they run off together for the West Coast and Rachel realized that he did not want to run away with her, he just wanted to run away . . . from some problem. She called him a coward and ended the affair. Later, she married a man named Tilden Katz.

*Hildy – Pete Campbell’s secretary who had a one night stand with married Sterling-Cooper junior executive Harry Crane, during an election night party held at the firm’s offices in “Nixon vs. Kennedy”.

*Jane Siegel – introduced as Don’s new secretary in Season Two’s (2.05) “The New Girl”. After Joan threatened to fire her in “The Gold Violin” for encouraging some of the junior executives to take a peek at owner Betram Cooper’s new painting inside his office, she turned to Roger Sterling to intervene on her behalf. They eventually began an affair and Roger eventually left his wife, Mona, for her.

*Betty Draper – Don Draper’s ex-model wife, who eventually learned of his affair with Bobbie. She kicked him out of the house for a while. But after discovering that she was pregnant, she had a one-night stand with a stranger at a bar before reconciling with Don.

Well, apparently Bobbie was not the only female guilty of extramarital sex. Hell, she is not the only character guilty of extramarital sex. So, what was wrong with her? Some have complained about her aggressive nature. Which struck me as irrelevant, considering that she was not the only aggressive character in the series. Bobbie might be the only aggressive female in the series. So was that it? Men were allowed to be aggressive, but not women?

Bobbie was also a sexually aggressive woman who happens to like kinky sex. She had made that quite clear in the way she wrestled with Don inside his car, and when she failed to be put off by Don’s aggressive manhandling of her in“The Benefactor”. She also revealed to Don that when she learned about his sexual prowess, she set out to seduce him in order to have sex with him.  Was it possible that Bobbie’s sexual aggressiveness turned off most fans? Would they have preferred if Bobbie was sexually submissive . . . allowing men to seduce her or make the first move? Would they have preferred if Bobbie had limited her sexual preferences to the Missionary position or bent over, positions considered submissive for women? Or would they have preferred if Bobbie was a man?

Not only did male fans condemned Bobbie’s characters, but so did a good number of women. The blogger who had nicked named Mrs. Barrett – “Odious Bobbie” was a woman. Even Matt Weiner had joined the act in his interview with critic Alan Sepinwall about Season Two:

“People were upset about Bobbie Barrett, that she wasn’t Rachel Menken, and I’m like, she’s not Rachel Menken, and he’s not in love with her, and he says no. But he should never have slept with that woman.”

I am still a little perplexed by Weiner’s statement. One, he had called Bobbie “that woman” – something I do not recall him naming any of the series’ other female characters. And two, he stated that Don should have never slept with her. On one level, I agree with him. After all, both Don and Bobbie were married to other people. But why did he say this about Bobbie? Why not about the other women with whom Don had cuckolded Betty? Why not say the same about Midge Daniels, Rachel Mencken, Joy or any of the other women Don had sex with during his marriage to Betty? Why Bobbie?

Bobbie Barrett’s reputation with “MAD MEN” has improved since Season Two ended nearly two years ago. Many fans have complimented Melinda McGraw for her superb performance of the memorable Bobbie. There have been fans who have finally understood the meaning behind Bobbie’s advice to Peggy in “The New Girl”. And there have been fans who view both Bobbie and Jimmy Barrett as metaphors used to reveal more of Don’s true nature.

But a good number of Bobbie detractors remained. She was also the only one of Don’s known mistresses who had received such a strong level of hostility. And I can only wonder if any of this negativity might be a sign that despite the fact that we are now in the 21st century, society still demands that women adhere to some its ideal view on feminine behavior – in both real life and fiction?

“MAD MEN: Joan Holloway and the Art of Imagery”

“MAD MEN:  Joan Holloway and the Art of Imagery”

After reading some of the message boards and articles about ”MAD MEN”, it is quite clear to me that the character, Joan Holloway, is very popular to many of the series’ fans. They view her as a mature, stylish woman who knows how to use her sexuality to control her life. However, I disagree. I have finally realized that my opinion of Joan is not as positive as those of her fans. 

One might get the impression from my opening statement that I dislike Joan. Trust me, I do not. I do not harbor any love for Joan, but I do believe that she is one of the many fascinating characters on ”MAD MEN”. But I cannot put her on a pedestal the way many other fans have done. In some ways, Joan reminds me of the Creative Director at Sterling Cooper, Don Draper. Both of them seemed to have mastered the art of projecting the illusion of people who have mature and stable personalities. Because the series’ viewers are very familiar with Draper’s background, we are aware of the fact that Don is far from being the mature man that projects. But many fans seem incapable of realizing that Joan is no more together than Don or any of the other major characters.

You want to know what really irritates me about a lot of fans in regard to Joan? They go through such lengths to defend her actions on the show. Actions that I have personally found to be questionable. It is one thing to be a fan of a certain character. It is another to deliberately blind oneself to that character’s flaws. And Joan is the one character that most fans refuse to criticize . . . to a point that I find very annoying. I do not want to dislike Joan. But if this adulation and tendency to ignore her flaws keep up, I might find myself nearly hating her. And I think it would be a waste of time to express hated for a fictional character.

In the Season Two episode, (2.02) “Flight 1”, Joan met copywriter Paul Kinsey’s girlfriend at the time – an African-American woman named Sheila White at a party held at his apartment in Montclair, New Jersey. Joan and Paul, who had been lovers in the past, were discussing various wines and liquors, when Sheila walked up to introduce herself. When Paul found himself distracted by another guest, Joan made this remark to Sheila:

”When Paul and I were together, the last thing I would have taken him for was open-minded.”

It had been a vicious and catty remark. And not surprisingly, a good number of fans believed that Joan reacted in a subtle, yet racist manner. Yet, it did not take long for Miss Holloway’s fans came to her rescue. Many of them claimed that Joan tried to point out Paul’s pretentious behavior, stating that he was dating Sheila in order to appear as a “liberal”. But according to actor Michael Gladis, Paul was genuinely attracted to Sheila. This made sense, considering that the pair dated for nearly a year. The fans refused to believe this. They used Paul’s personality to make excuses for Joan’s remark. None of them stopped to wonder why Joan had even bother to make such a remark in the first place, considering that she and Paul were in the middle of a friendly conversation before she met Sheila. Come to think of it, many failed to remember that during her argument with Paul, Joan had dismissed Sheila as a check-out cashier, despite the fact that Sheila told her that she was a grocery store manager. But in the fans’ eyes, Joan could do no wrong. I believe that the blogger of ”What Tami Said” had put it best:

”Poseur Paul introduces Joan Hollowell, head of the steno pool, to his (surprise) black girlfriend, Sheila, the manager of a local supermarket. When the ladies are left to talk, Joan first patronizes Sheila, intoning that maybe one day she’ll be able to “pull up in a station wagon” and shop at the supermarket, as well as work there. When Sheila points out that she has already shopped there, as she grew up in the suburb, Joan turns more nasty: (paraphrasing) It’s great that you and Paul are together. When we were together I wouldn’t have thought he would be so broad-minded. It’s left to the viewers’ imaginations what else Joan may have said, but later in the office Paul confronts her and she accuses him of dating Sheila merely to seem “interesting.”.

Now, it is clear to me that Paul certainly is a showy, pompous ass and just the type to think hanging with Negroes is proof of sophistication. It is also clear that Joan is a Queen Bee sort who doesn’t take kindly to female competition or being left behind by a former paramour. But it is also more than clear, given Joan’s insistence on putting Sheila in “her place,” that Joan is particularly offended by a former beau moving on to a black woman. She digs with the “maybe one day you’ll be able to shop there” and “he wasn’t that broad minded” thing and takes care to insult Sheila out of Paul’s hearing.

The meaning of the interaction between Joan and Sheila seems obvious to me, especially given the early 60s time frame. The Civil Rights Act had not been signed. There had been no Freedom Summer. Blacks in about 11 states could not vote. Is it such a surprise that the average American held racially biased beliefs? To me, it is no more surprising than the sexism that runs rampant in the show. But many of the comments on “Mad Men” forums are ambivalent about the racism in the show’s recent episode.

Joan is not a racist, see, just a little bitchy. Part of the problem is that the character, with her pneumatic body and take-no-prisoners attitude is sort of a riot grrl favorite of the show’s fans. No one wants to brand someone they like a racist. It’s more comfortable to find other explanations for bad behavior toward people of color”

However, Joan’s remarks to Sheila White was nothing in compare to her next faux pas. Well, I would not exactly call it afaux pas. I would call it a mistake of major proportions. In the Season Two episode, (2.05) “The New Girl”, the Sterling Cooper employees and fans of the series discovered that Joan had become engaged to her doctor boyfriend. In (2.12) “The Mountain King”, we discovered that said fiancé’s name was Greg Harris. And in the same episode, he learned that Joan had been Sterling Cooper executive Roger Sterling’s former lover. Being the temperamental and insecure bastard that he was, Greg raped Joan inside Don Draper’s office in a show of power. Many fans speculated that after such a heinous act, Joan might dump said fiancé. However, it was confirmed in the early Season Three episode, (3.03) “My Old Kentucky Home”that Joan eventually married the brutish Greg. Fans also learned that Greg was also a loser, who proved to be an untalented surgeon.

The reaction to the news of Joan’s marriage was interesting. Many fans speculated on when Joan would finally dump her loser/rapist husband. Or if he would end up in Vietnam, where he could experience a convenient death. Or they had pointed out his childish behavior when he informed Joan about the end of his career as a surgeon in (3.06) “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”. Yet, whenever I posted a question about why Joan would bother to marry Greg after what he had done to her, I would receive answers like the following:

”People were not brought up in those days to think of rape the way we do today. Greg didn’t use a gun or a knife, or threaten Joan in any way. Men were brought up to think that if a woman was wearing sexy clothes, or was on a date with a guy, or willingly went into a room with a man alone, she’d already said yes to sex with him on a certain level. She’d already forfeited her right to say no, especially if she had accepted any sort of gifts from him. Men believed a woman wouldn’t do any of that stuff unless she really wanted it anyway. And men were expected to take control, like Rhett Butler and John Wayne.

Women, on the other hand, even though they knew that none of those things mean a woman wants sex per se, believed that men simply could not control themselves, and so a woman who let herself be alone in a room with a man really was asking for it.

Joan probably just figures Greg got too hungry to wait for dinner, figuratively speaking. She probably dismisses her own feelings of violation as an overreaction, and just doesn’t think about it anymore. It doesn’t make her love him less. She never expected him to be perfect. She expected him to be a successful doctor who owed a hefty chunk of his success to her.”

Now, unless I had misread the above statement, I got the feeling that many of Joan’s fans were excusing Joan’s decision to marry her rapist/fiancé on the grounds that as a woman of the 1950s and 1960s, she was either unaware that she had been raped, or that she simply dismissed the incident as inconsequential. I really cannot imagine any woman or man dismissing an act of rape against them as an overreaction on her/his part. Frankly, I found such an excuse rather disturbing. Was it really that important not to criticize Joan for marrying Greg after what he had done to her? Was it really that important to insult the intelligence of many grown women of the 1950s and 60s in an effort to avoid any criticism of Joan? Whenever I see the following photograph, I feel certain that Joan was quite aware of what had happened to her:

To assume that a thirty-one year-old woman with vast sexual experience would be unaware that she had been raped or that it did not really bother her . . . you know what? I do not know what to say about that. Actually, I do. What I find really disturbing about such excuses is that most of them were made by other women. That was truly disturbing. So, why did Joan marry Greg, despite the rape? I came across this theory in a response to an article about Joan:

“Rape was probably believed to be something that happens between strangers, and that it was the fault of a women or girl for being a) pretty/sexy, b) out late, c) alone, d) wearing something feminine and/or revealing, and e) you know, alive. Hell, beliefs about rape are still shockingly backward, as both the discussions about Roman Polanski and Pete’s actions in “Souvenir” prove.”

I am tired of this excuse that women of Joan’s generation were ignorant about rape. I believe Joan knew damn well that she had been raped. I believe that she had allowed some desperate need to get married to overcome any revulsion she may have harbored for Greg. And if Joan had such a desperate need for a wedding ring that she would marry her rapist, it did not reflect very well upon her. Joan has no one to blame but herself for becoming Mrs. Greg Harris. There was no real reason for her to marry this rapist. Unless for some perverse reason, she was actually in love with him. But judging from the manner in which she had crowed over receiving her engagement ring in “The New Girl”, I have doubts that she felt this way about him. Judging from said mentioned scene, I suspect that Joan saw Greg as a trophy husband.

If Peggy had the will to overcome social expectations and pursue a career in advertising, why did Joan fail to do the same? Remember her stint as Harry Crane’s assistant in (2.08) “A Night to Remember”? Joan was briefly given additional responsibilities at Sterling Cooper, by reading soap-opera scripts to determine ad placement. Joan discovered that she likes reading soap-opera scripts to determine ad placement, and that she had a knack with charming the clients. After a few days, Harry Crane hired a young, somewhat clueless man to take over the ad placement job from Joan. Joan was clearly disappointed (especially when all but asked by Harry to train the new man), but quietly gave in. Why did Joan fail to stick up for herself by offering herself as a permanent script reader? Some fans would probably argue that Harry or her former lover, Roger Sterling, would have rejected her because she was a woman engaged to be married. Regardless of whether Harry or Roger would have rejected her for the position, Joan could have made the effort to say something. But she did not.

Several months later, Joan passively surrendered herself to becoming the wife of Dr. Greg Harris. Did Joan ever consider that a) she is not cut out to be a wife/mother; and b) marrying one’s rapist was not a good idea? I still recall her reaction to Sally Draper’s presence, when the latter appeared at the offices of Sterling Cooper with Don Draper in (2.04) “Three Sundays”. Joan did not strike me as the maternal type in that one scene. And judging from the manner in which Joan had flinched when a drunken Greg lost his temper in ”Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”, I could only wonder if she ever found herself regretting that she had married Greg.

A member of the TELEVISION WITHOUT PITY forum defended Joan’s decision to marry Greg in the following passage:

”That wasn’t true for a lot of women in the past: Marriage wasn’t just something that they would have liked to have but could live a full life without it. The failure to “marry well” meant to someone like Joan (and the vast majority of women before the 1970s) would not get anything they wanted in life — no children, no family, precious few friends or confidantes, no role in society, and very significantly, the very real probability of living out a life of diminished financial means, or even poverty. Not being married to Joan wasn’t just the prospect of not having Dr. Husband to show off on her arm to the rest of the girls, but the prospect of not being a full member of society and living a life in poverty.”

I understand that society demanded that women consider marriage and motherhood over a career for women. I also understand that there is nothing wrong with a woman leaving the workforce to become a full time housewife. But there were already professional women in advertising and other professions during that period. I cannot help but feel that the above passage was an exaggerated excuse on Joan’s behalf. Before Season Two, Joan had ascended to the position of Sterling Cooper’s office manager and head of the secretarial pool. She had received several marriage proposals in the past, and witnessed Peggy’s ascent from newly hired secretary to a senior copywriter (with her own office) by ”The Mountain King”. I am sorry, but the only excuse I can find for Joan’s decision to marry Greg is that she loved him. Sincerely. As I had stated earlier, I have trouble believing that Joan loved him that much.

The past several seasons of ”MAD MEN” has revealed one aspect of Joan’s personality. Image means a great deal to her. Frankly, I could say the same about all of the series’ major characters. However, I have rarely come across any criticism or comments about Joan’s penchant for shallow projection. Many of Joan’s advice to Peggy in the first two seasons – especially Season One – seemed to revolve around image. When former roommate Carol, revealed feelings for the red-haired Joan in (1.10) “The Long Weekend”, the latter icily ignored Carol’s revelation and insisted that they go ahead with their dates with two middle-aged businessmen. I understood that Joan did not share Carol’s feelings, but I suspect that it was more important to her to maintain the illusion that her roommate never made that revelation in the first place. Although many fans believe that Joan’s outburst to Sheila White was simply motivated by her disgust at what she perceived as Paul using his former girlfriend to project the image of the open-minded liberal. I believe that Joan’s outburst had more to do with her own personal humiliation at the idea of a former boyfriend moving on with a woman who would be considered a social inferior. She failed to speak up for herself following her stint as a script reader for Harry Crane and married Greg Harris after he had raped her in order to achieve what she believed was the ideal life for a woman – marriage to an upwardly mobile husband and a house in the suburbs.

It is easy to see that Joan had sacrificed a great deal – sacrifices that led to her no longer being employed by Sterling Cooper and married to the insecure, and brutish Greg Harris. One could claim that Joan had been a victim of society . . . that she had no choice but to dismiss the idea of another career at Sterling Cooper or marry the fiancé who had raped her, in order to survive as a woman in 1960s America. I find that difficult to accept. Despite the limitations women had in the 1960s, they still had choices. Characters like Peggy Olson and real life women who managed to carve out careers before the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s are proof that even Joan had choices. I suspect that mindful of her self image, Joan had internalized that she wanted a life as an upper middle-class suburban housewife and ended up making some very serious mistakes in her life.