Mad Men on CP Time: Take It. Break It. Share It. Love It.


On this week’s ep, DonDick is still out west being all weird and shabbily dressed, Peggy is even more the shit than before, Pete is even more of a shit than before, and Joan…poor Joan. (UPDATED.)

My friend Rakia and I were having an argument over Peggy’s career advancement. She thinks that Peggy’s worked hard to get where she is. I don’t deny that — she’s damn good — but I think Peggy’s rapid ascent at Sterling Cooper is starting to strain credibility. This is the early 60’s, and we’ve seen nary a real protest from any of her male colleagues? (Roger approved her taking the office, but he has completely checked out of the building.) What about the clients? No weirdness there? Rakia argues that she’s smart and they respect her; I think that may have been true up until she got Fred Rumsen’s office. They may not care about Peggy doing all the heavy lifting, but they may care when she starts wielding the spoils of her labor.

Hell’s bells, Trudy! Pete, on the other hand, is Peggy’s photo negative: he’s been given every conceivable advantage in the world, and his attempts at moving up at Sterling Cooper are thwarted by his complete lack of shrewdness. He knows Don’s secret, which results in a blackmail attempt that went disastrously awry. (He was on some real 8-year-old shit. Give me a raise or I’m telling on you!) He must be really good at his job, because that boneheaded pissing contest he got into with Trudy’s dad* should cost him his job. If the higher-ups at Sterling Cooper weren’t all distracted by their annoying navel-gazing, they would shitcan his ass. (Here’s hoping.)

I’d wondered about the logistics of Don assuming, um, Don’s identity. So now we know that he’s been paying a munificent ‘ex-wife’ to allow him to remain in that identity. I have no idea where this storyline is going. Dude clearly doesn’t want to go home to Betty, his son, and his nicotine-addict daughter.**

I won’t say anything about that scene, outside of noting that Christina Hendricks is a tremendous actress. I hadn’t really appreciated it before.

What say y’all?

*He’ll always be Clarissa’s dad to me.

**Who learned it by watching you!

Ta-Nehisi on Peggy and Joan:

Anyway, I thought the rape of Joan was one of the must agonizing scenes I’ve watched in recent memory–agonizing in a great way. Kenyatta on the other hand was extremely disturbed by it–in a bad way. Something about it really bothered her–she feels like they’re actively punishing Joan. I would be more sympathetic to that if there weren’t other women on the show, and other women who were sexual. I think they’re saying something about the limits of sex as power. I can’t help but to juxtapose Joan (and to some extent Bobby) with Peggy, who has grown in stature and is on the brink of passing all the junior people in the office.

It’s like in the past women were limited in how they could show power–limited to ways that basically affirmed what a men were comfortable with. Joan is threatening to men in a way that can be squelched–as we regrettably saw. But Peggy scares–or is starting to scare–the hell out of the men in the office, and they have no idea what to do about it. How can they stop her, short of killing her? Isn’t this about the limits of an “old” sort of power as compared with a “new” power that women have access to? And yet what gives Peggy her foot in the door is her insights as women–remember Belle Jolie?


A lot of this is me just talking. I’d love to hear from some women fans of the show. I could be off my rocker. But I do love the show. This will not be popular, but I think it’s first two seasons are as good as the first two seasons of The Wire.

Muhfuckah, what you say about my moms?

12 thoughts on “Mad Men on CP Time: Take It. Break It. Share It. Love It.

  1. quadmoniker October 21, 2008 at 10:04 am Reply

    I think Peggy’s rise is completely realistic. By the 50s, there was kind of one woman who defied all the odds, and quickly, in the vacuum left by sexism. I think it was partly because they were women. They were the exceptions that, in everyone’s mind, proved the rule. The character of Lois Lane exists for a reason.

    But I do think that her getting Frank’s office is going to lead to some problems with the boys. It’s part of the reason Peggy is so successful, though, I think. She hasn’t had the same rules to follow as the men have but now realizes that she has the same title, so if she wants an office, it wouldn’t occur to her not to just ask for it.

    I have decided that Joan is actually the most interesting character, because she embodies that crossroads. She is sexually aware but she can’t break free from sex being used against her. She is a working woman but she has confined herself to a pretty proscribed roll in the office. She wants to snag the good husband but already seems painfully aware of what a constraint that will be. Peggy is the woman of the past we like to look up to, but Joan started the revolution.

  2. rakia October 21, 2008 at 11:10 am Reply

    G.D. — Peggy’s ascension is totally believable. (Glad you agree, QM.) She knows how to handle herself in a way that’s the exact opposite of, say, Joan. And it plays to Peggy’s strengths, not to mention the cultural changes of the times.

    Peggy’s playing a different game. She’s not using her sexuality. She’s using her talent. And she’s become quite savvy too; something she’s undoubtedly picked up from Don. Despite the hazing she had to endure in her early days, she doesn’t flinch about going to strip clubs to close a deal. And she doesn’t whine.

    She’s also proven time and again that she is not as delicate as she appears, and the guys know this now. Her cheeky comment this week to Pete — “I’m sleeping with Don Draper now. It’s really working out.” — is indicative of how she’ll continue to handle the boys. It’s also worth noting that Pete seemed genuinely happy for her and not the least bit envious or troubled.

    Note: she practically landed the popsicle account single-handedly. I think the men are used to her now. If another woman tried to rise in the ranks right now, I think they’d be ruffled. But for them, Peggy’s different.

  3. ladyfresshh October 21, 2008 at 11:58 am Reply

    I’ll chime in again (i find myself late to these things darn it)with Rakia and QM.

    Peggy has slipped under the radar until now. This is not a wholesale rise of all women in the company but one quirky individual which the dudes love to humor and add their work load to. It’s been a bemused audience she has had until now because her ambitions were still lower than theirs…until now with this office. Now the real battle begins and these men now have to see competition coming from an unexpected direction and a possible real threat to their possible positions and goals.

    man o man Don’s past is getting filled in a bit more and i’m loving it. we are again faced with the innocent and nicer side of Don and the reveal that he does have someone he confides in and surprise surprise it’s a woman

  4. G.D. October 21, 2008 at 3:18 pm Reply

    Qm and rakia: i’m glad you guys brought up the different paths that peggy and joan have taken. For all Joan’s sexuality — and there’s a lot of it — it’s a real hindrance for her. The scene in which Peggy takes freddy’s office is a complete subversion of their initial relationship, where joan was the mother hen. I was trying to figure out if joan’s congratulations were the kind of malicious politeness that she is so uniquely skilled at.

    I don’t think it was. But here’s a question for you both: what’s peggy’s ceiling? With Don, who is her rabbi (to use some “Wire” slang) out of the picture, and Duck about to surreptitiously assume the reins, do you think she’ll climb even higher? i’m doubtful.

  5. rakia October 21, 2008 at 4:39 pm Reply

    It’s hard to say what Peggy’s ceiling will be. There are so many variables. If Don comes back and is working under Duck, I think Peggy will be Don’s ally in some way.

    Piggybacking off of something QM mentioned, in most male-dominated industries during this period, there is usually one woman who somehow made it high up the totem pole. She almost always started out as a secretary or receptionist or some such underling before becoming a pitch hitter for the company, which would in turn turn into a full fledged career. (See Sherry Lansing for a kinda sorta example.) In the Mad men story, I think that’s Peggy.

  6. quadmoniker October 21, 2008 at 5:51 pm Reply

    G.D. I have a hard time imaging Peggy will be either fired or be made partner. She will be a solid employee hovering near the top for the rest of her life (like a certain favorite editor of ours, who started out as, i think, a secretary on the ad side). She has probably hit her ceiling, and is probably aware of it.

    Well, I should say, a real life Peggy would be those things. Who knows what will happen if MadMen moves to a new network, or they try to grab more viewers, or Weiner gets drunk on his own awesomeness.

  7. quadmoniker October 21, 2008 at 5:52 pm Reply

    Also, Rakia, I think you are right. Peggy is going to have to start advocating for Don in some way. It’s going to make some sort of cosmic sense.

  8. universeexpanding October 21, 2008 at 6:21 pm Reply

    I think Peggy getting the office may open the door for friction between her and the men. Up until this point she has been a novelty, and the men have been viewing her work in a vaguely amused fashion. Remember where this all started with the market testing for Belle Jolie? When she made those remarks about “a basket of kisses” and “not wanting to be one of a hundred colours in a box” Rumsen marveled that it was “like watching a dog play piano”. Now that she’s *competing* I don’t think they’re still going to see it as some kind of benign parlour trick.

    Clearly there are no limits to how big of a jackass Pete can be.

    Wow @ Joan. I’m going to agree with QM and say that Joan is extremely interesting…I’m actually concerned about what happens to her eventually than Peggy.

    Am I the only one frustrated by this whole Roger and Jane thing? I meant to write about this with regards to last week’s episode too. She writes poetry? In bed??? *sigh* It’s especially not convincing when you can see the tension that still exists between Roger and Joan.

    I have no clue where this Don thing is going. It’s wholly bizarre.

    How come no-one mentioned Betty though? I know G.D. isn’t crazy about her but this business with her friend and the young man from the riding club is intriguing. I remember the episode where she basically set them up on a lunch date, one that was supposed to be a threesome but she stayed home and took the phone off the hook. Her friend was right in saying she wanted him for herself, but I find it strange that she took no vicarious pleasure in knowing her friend slept with him, opting instead to moralize: “Why would you do such a stupid thing?”. Or maybe she didn’t want him for herself…maybe what she really wanted was to manipulate something…anything. I’m not too sure.

  9. ladyfresshh October 22, 2008 at 10:47 am Reply

    @ UE – i’m with you on the need to manipulate… something. she’s really not used to wielding that kind of control over situations and watching her husband do it… i think she flexed purposefully but does not want the blame associated with the results hence her moralizing

    @ quad – peggy has been advocating for Don literally watching his back but now in a small position of power i wonder if she will be more visible in the role which would only anger/irritate pete who thinks she is in his corner (which she is as long as it does not interfere with her connection with Don)

  10. G.D. October 22, 2008 at 3:08 pm Reply

    UE: “Am I the only one frustrated by this whole Roger and Jane thing? I meant to write about this with regards to last week’s episode too. She writes poetry? In bed??? *sigh* It’s especially not convincing when you can see the tension that still exists between Roger and Joan.”

    The Roger and Jane thing seems like it’s being set up specifically so it can fail. Do we know if she’s still working there?

  11. universeexpanding October 22, 2008 at 3:43 pm Reply

    I was reading the comments over on TNC’s blog and its interesting the different ways in which people read the rape scene. Some people say they couldn’t see a punishment angle…but I definitely could. I saw it as two things: territory marking and re-establishing power. Did you notice Joan’s fiance’s face when Roger made that comment about her not liking French food? He didn’t like that intimation at all. He did what he did in the office to remind her who she “belongs” to and who is “in control”. He’s threatened by her sexuality (look at how he didn’t want her in the driver’s seat in bed) and he doesn’t like that she has a past either.

    G.D.: Roger still wants Joan. He talks all this mess about being in love with Jane but he *loves* Joan. Jane is nothing but a placeholder, which why their relationship seems ersatz.

  12. Cydney October 22, 2008 at 7:49 pm Reply

    On Joan’s rape: I think we can compare this to a couple of other scenes this season. First let’s take Don forcibly finger-f***ing Bobbie at the restaurant to maintain his dominance over her. Or when Don left Bobbie tied to the hotel bed. Finally, let’s look at Don’s negative reaction to Betty’s bikini (following his witnessing of her conversation with the man from her riding club).

    In the first two situations, when Don is made uncomfortable by a woman, he dominates them physically to regain control. In the last situation with the bikini, Don is disturbed to find that the mother of his children could be the object of another man’s desire, so he tears her down verbally. This is what the men on this show do when women step out of their place– they tear them down physically or emotionally.

    Their wives are keepers of the home, mothers, and their bodies belong only to them. Their mistresses are there for comfort and sex. If either type of woman steps beyond the boundaries of those proscribed roles, the men react. Violently.

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