‘Mad’ Women: Joan and Peggy take stands

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This week’s episode of Mad Men sees Joan and Peggy negotiating to get what they want, with some bittersweet results. But before we get to that, let’s quickly catch up with Don and that all-too-real Diana character.

Don’s first meeting at McCann is a nightmare for someone who spent their entire life trying to not be a faceless cog in the machine. The lead creative drones on and on about the ideal Miller drinker and it’s like a sad SNL parody of the early days of Mad Men when Don was killing it at his job. It’s a speech devoid of any flair and without Don’s stellar storytelling skills, but the kernel of it is there, and it’s being regurgitated for a sea of men in shirtsleeves. Unsurprisingly, Don gets the hell out of there and does what he always does when his identity is threatened: gets in his car and drives. He ends up in Racine, Wisconsin to track down Diana, and eventually finds her husband, who tells Don she’s long gone. “You think you’re the only one to end up here?” he sneers. Of course Don did. His tenuous thread on his own happiness hinges entirely on the assumption that he is the Only One.

Say what you will about Don’s first day, but at least he gets an office, which the head honchos at McCann have failed to provide Peggy, assuming she’s a secretary. An incensed Peggy decides to work out of the abandoned SC&P office until she gets her own. It’s a sad ghost town, complete with its own creepy organ music … being played by a sad, drunk Roger.

It’s great to see Peggy and Roger get drunk and reminisce together, especially since they don’t appear in scenes together all that frequently. When they do, though, it’s apparent Roger, probably more than Don, sees Peggy as an equal. He doesn’t patronize or talk down to her. Roger is as blunt and irreverent with Peggy as much as he is with anyone else, and respects both her skills as well, as her self-propelled rise through the company. He offers her Burt Cooper’s famed painting of ancient Japanese tentacle porn, and when Peggy says she’s trying to not scare off men, Roger counters with a wonderful “Why not?”

In another great surrealist Mad Men scene, Peggy roller-skates around the empty building while Roger plays a jaunty organ tune. The next day, she saunters into the McCann office with her sunglasses and tentacle porn, cigarette hanging out her mouth like she truly does not give a fuck.

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Credit: AMC via The Cut

Joan’s adjustment to her new company is much less triumphant. Echoing her comment to Pete last episode, there truly is nothing for her at McCann. She’s faced from all sides by gross, bumbling sexism. The female copywriters at McCann are content to, in their words, “just bitch” about the workplace instead of actually doing anything about it. When one of her new account men screws up a call and insults an Avon client, Joan is rightfully upset, but is told that she actually doesn’t have that right. She’s supposed to be “fun.”

When Joan complains to Dennis’ superior, she’s met with more patronizing and assured that he’ll take care of her “business,” with the overtone being “the business of trying to get in your pants.” Joan has had enough, and just like Peggy, takes a stand, although I’m not sure if it’s the stand we always wanted.

Joan takes it all the way to the head of McCann and threatens to sue the shit out of them for rampant sexual harassment, promising she’ll never let them forget about it. Jim Hobart is stiff and unmoving, offering to settle her lawsuit for a paltry 250 k (half of what she’s owed as a partner) if she packs it up and leaves. Rather than let this lawsuit drag on forever and ruin her life, Roger advises her to suck it up and take the money. He’s right, but it feels like he’s letting her down and that she’s giving up. It’s worth it to never see these assholes again, but it still feels like a failure, and the ultimate downfall of the elegant, tough-as-balls woman we’ve loved since the first season.

Stray observations:

  • “Advertising is not a comfortable place for everyone,” Shirley says as she quits. As much as advertising is an uncomfortable game for women, it’s even worse for women of colour.
  • The ghost of Bert Cooper is back, and he’s continuing to offer sage advice to Don. I feel like he’d be cool with Peggy as the new owner of his tentacle porn.
  • Betty is stoked to be starting her master’s degree, and it’s pretty fitting she’s reading all about hysteria.
  • Still disappointed Diana is a real person.
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