Out of My Mind

The Musings of a Woman Who Thinks Too Much

Nelle Engoron

Nelle Engoron
Location
California,
Birthday
May 01
Bio
You can email me at "nengoron@gmaildotcom" & follow @NelleEngoron on Twitter. My archived radio shows on last season's Mad Men are available (for free!) at: www.blogtalkradio.com/madmentalk **My "Mad Men" commentary for Season 5 is on Salon rather than here -- go to http://www.salon.com/writer/ nelle_engoron/ to find all my Salon articles. **My book, "Mad Men Unmasked: Decoding Season 4," is available on Amazon in both e-book and print versions.** I'm a writer/editor/consultant who lives in the SF Bay Area. I write about all kinds of things, but am particularly intrigued by movies, relationships, gender issues, belief systems and "Mad Men." (Scroll down left sidebar for links to a selection of my blog posts.) I'm working on a novel and a memoir, neither of which is about Mad Men!

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Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 20, 2010 7:08AM

The Beautiful Girls: Mad Men Season 4 Episode 9 (Commentary)

Rate: 23 Flag

 

the women 

 

It’s like men are this vegetable soup and you can’t put them on a plate or put them on a counter. Women are the pot. They hold them. They contain them. Who wants to be a pot? Who says we’re not soup?

~ Joyce on gender relations

 

Most episodes of Mad Men are a banquet, but some are like pots of soup, and “The Beautiful Girls” is like the vegetable soup in Joyce’s worst metaphor of the (20th) century: Thin, with a few nourishing bits floating in it that don’t require much chewing to digest. What a disappointment from an episode that’s obviously meant to propel the sociopolitical storylines of both civil rights and feminism, which Peggy links for a clueless Abe Drexler by explaining that most of the things Negroes can’t do, she can’t either, as a woman, but nobody seems to care.

But she says this while sitting in a bar (one at which the bartender listens to her, and not Abe) not while seated at a lunch counter that has refused to serve her (or outside which a mob waits to beat her). And while she’s right that she can’t enter the men’s clubs that her male peers use to conduct business deals (unless she’s there to pop out of a cake), Abe’s equally right to point out that “there are no Negro copywriters.”  Peggy argues that there could be, if they only tried hard enough, since no one wanted her but she found her way in, thus conveniently forgetting (or omitting for the sake of argument) that Freddy Rumsen gave her the initial opportunity, Don Draper has continued to give her more and more of them, and even sexist old Roger gave her Freddy’s office. Nobody’s done that for any of the black men we’ve glimpsed on the show – hell, they just started hiring Jewish copywriters at SCDP!

Beyond the alphabet soup simplicity of this storyline, which includes such head-smackers as Abe’s snigger “All right, Peggy, we ‘ll have a civil rights march for women,” (oh right, that’s exactly what feminists did later!), what’s truly irritating about “The Beautiful Girls” is that it takes nasty anti-feminist stereotypes of the 60’s and 70’s and presents them as fact: That lesbians were behind the women’s movement and that it focused on the needs of middle class, professional white women rather than addressing the greater problems of less affluent and minority women.

Joyce, the show’s token lesbian, is Peggy’s guide to feminist thought while Peggy – the young woman who is so bright that it’s suggested she’s not just the next Don Draper but an ad woman for the new media and culture that is rising up – Peggy is so out of touch that she’s not even aware one of her clients is being boycotted for racial discrimination, despite arguing with Abe that her job is precisely to help her clients with their public problems. And while we’ve seen her experience a constant stream of sexism at work (not to mention in her personal life with the likes of Pete and Duck), she needs a wise young lesbian to explain it to her, in what seems the intended payoff for Joyce’s character being on the show.  (Joyce’s relegation to social translator reminds me of the “wise Negro” trope that’s been hung on films like “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” in which a black man appears to help a white man, rather than living out his own story.)  Peggy may be the one who actually gets involved with men, but she’s portrayed as utterly lacking in understanding of the gender until Joyce explains why Pete Campbell’s soup was not mm-mm good for her after all.

Of course, despite the fact that she’s the rare woman who is succeeding in a traditionally male job, a highly coveted job at that, Peggy needs feminism. Or does she?  She’s being sexually harassed at work, but her male boss actually lets fire her harasser, a development that screams “anachronism” (yes, indeedy, that’s what bosses did in those days – let women fire men who harassed them). And while they do harass her, her male peers also listen to and accept her ideas, especially when she presents them confidently. (Because, oh, that’s right, all women had to do was persist and speak confidently and men in the mid-60’s listened to them.) Just as she argued about “the Negroes" simply needing to assert themselves (thus denying the need for a civil rights movement), it’s suggested that Peggy was able to overcome sexism on her own, without any need for that pesky feminist movement still to come.

And yet she will benefit from it, shoring up her position as a professional and moving even more smoothly into that executive role that we know she’s destined for no matter what social changes occur. By making feminism optional for Peggy and for Dr. Faye Miller (who has a PhD and a thriving professional consultancy when both were quite rare for women), we’re left with the suggestion that the feminist movement was a discretionary advancement that plumped the lives of already thriving women, rather than a social revolution that dramatically changed both working and personal lives for both genders.

Underscoring this weakness is the fact that the main drama of “The Beautiful Girls” (note the diminutive) is focused on the women’s private lives, in which they each make choices that limit our sympathies:

Peggy’s being pursued by lefty journalist Abe Drexler, and even though she rightly labels his anti-corporate harangues and horror at what she does for a living as a criticism of her, and even though he endangers her job by penning an article, “Nuremberg on Madison Avenue” that attacks SCDP clients in a way that would point to her, at the end of the episode, she admits to Joyce that she might be “lovesick” as much as angry. (Guess that Campbell’s soup tasted better than we thought if she’s hoping for a helping of Abe’s stew of self-righteousness.)

In the junior division of female discontent, Sally (I guess that’s why the title is “girls”) runs away from home and begs Don to take her in permanently, not simply because she truly loves her daddy but because her mother’s character has devolved from a deceived woman understandably conflicted in her feelings about her lying and philandering husband to a shrill harpy who emotionally abuses her daughter and thus utterly repels our sympathy. As the portrayal of Betty continues to ill-represent the very real dilemmas of housewives in that era, so too does Sally’s behavior, which comes across largely as bratty, smug and manipulative, thus contradicting and undermining the pain we’ve seen her character endure earlier this season.

Meanwhile Joan’s sad and angry that her husband’s been called up to Vietnam immediately after basic training, a development that along with a cliched mugging, drives her not only into weak-kneed speechlessness that doesn’t fit the Joan we know, but also into a predictable relapse with Roger, who proves he’s a stand-up guy, but not in a moral sort of way.  Stripped of her wedding rings as well as her purse (that symbolic stand-in for the female genitals), Joan seems unprecedentedly vulnerable, unmoored from her feminine power and social position, making Roger’s reassurances that “everything can be replaced” and “you’re fine” sound hollow to us as well as to her.

Most disappointingly, we find out that Don apparently discarded the newfound self-awareness and sexual sobriety that had him trying to pace himself with Faye and is nipping off to his bachelor pad for nooners with her (and pointedly finding himself speechless when he tries to write in the journal that he’d addressed so eloquently last week).  In another predictable plot development, he asks Faye to take care of the wayward Sally, and to our utter lack of shock, we find out that Faye is Not Good With Children. (Haven’t you heard? Successful career women aren’t.) Angry but also worried that she’s been put to a test by Don and failed it, Faye defends her right to be a childless professional woman in yet another excruciatingly obvious bit of dialogue, “I love children but I chose to be where I am, and I don’t view it as failure.”

Don reassures her that it doesn't matter, but meanwhile we see the next plot twist coming: Megan, who I’ve previously called a Jane Siegel doppelganger, is already warming up in the bull pen to become her parallel, the second Mrs. Draper, after proving her mettle both by dealing with the final sail of Ida Blankenship as well as comforting Sally in a convincingly maternal way. And who wouldn’t wish that the sweet traditionally subservient Megan take care of Sally instead of that literally cold blonde take-charge gal Faye, whose cool leg Don has found refreshing but whose arms he seems ambivalent about after seeing she can’t handle his little girl?

Miss Blankenship, you’re not missing anything. ~ Roger  

And then there’s Ida Blankenship. What can you say about an old girl who died? That she loved crossword puzzles, wearing wigs, and speaking bluntly? That she believed being a secretary means never having to say you’re sorry? (As well as never having to lower your voice, even when you use words like “toilet” or “psychiatrist.”)  Ida, we hardly knew ye, but we aren’t the only ones at a loss for words at your sudden demise. Roger and Bert, at least one of whom knew you intimately, can’t manage to write even a single word of your obituary and have to call in the ever-resourceful Joan, who makes sure you’re identified as not just a secretary but an executive one (a distinction as important in her world as rank in the military). Hearing you thus labeled, Bert finally finds his voice and gives you a fitting lift-off to that secretarial pool in the sky, even if it’s not fit to print:  “She was born in a barn in 1899 and died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She’s an astronaut.”

But Ida’s posthumous promotion to what was in 1965 the uber-male job is an elevation in name only. As Roger wryly notes, “She died like she lived -- answering other people’s phones.”  We’re meant to take the sailing of the good Blankenship into the hereafter as the end of an era for women, when even smart cookies like her were limited to supporting roles in the drama of business. Blankenship begrudgingly says of Faye, “She’s pushy, that one; I guess that’s what it takes” -- suggesting that even in 1965 all it took was chutzpah for a woman to succeed. But Ida was pushy, too, and never got past the exalted post of executive secretary. And while it seems at first a sly reference to her past as “the queen of perversions,” when she tells Peggy after Don’s blown her off, “It’s a business of sadists and masochists and you know which one you are,” she’s actually senselessly blaming Peggy for not being powerful enough to tell her older male boss to do her bidding.

Ida has been portrayed as confused and out-of-touch, but her sly flashes of wisdom make her foghorn cluelessness seem suspiciously like a put-on, a classic way for the less powerful to assert themselves while avoiding punishment. Even her death is an Ida special, embarrassing and horrifying the SCDP staff as they frantically try to wheel her body out literally behind the backs of the Fillmore Auto Parts clients, symbolically covering her in the conventionally feminine by throwing the afghan that Harry’s mother made over her lifeless form.

It’s a complicated idea, but in advertising we don’t really judge people. We try to help them out of these situations. ~ Peggy

Meanwhile the SCDP staff try to talk those “perfectly nice for racists” Fillmore clients into marketing auto parts to average suburban men, who by using them to repair their cars can thus prove their manhood both to themselves and to women, who (as a purring Dr. Faye assures them) all “love a man who is good with his hands.”  When the Fillmore brothers are concerned that they’ll lose their existing professional mechanic customers by marketing to the “suit and tie” crowd, Ken suggests a slogan that will straddle both worlds – “Where the pros go and everyone’s welcome.” -- which echoes Peggy’s complaint that she’s not allowed where men are. Don complains this is not one but two strategies, glued together with an “and,” reflecting the uneasiness that most men in that era had with the idea that the two genders could mingle freely and equally in all situations, both professional and private. (Tellingly, Don curtly says, ”You can’t do that,” while the younger generation as represented by Ken blithely replies, “Sure you can.”)  By the time Don returns from directing the disposal of Blankenship’s body (that symbolic burial of the traditional woman), the team has come up with the slogan, “For the mechanic in every man,” thus keeping a traditional gender balance in which men can find any ability at all within themselves -- and women aren’t mentioned at all.

I’m really sorry. I’m much better on paper. ~ Abe to Peggy in the bar. 

But being ignored may not be the worst case scenario for women.  After having admitted at the bar that he’d thought of showing up at both her office and her home but instead had finagled the fake-spontaneous meeting with Joyce at the bar, Abe shows up uninvited at Peggy’s office, insisting that she has to read what she’s inspired him to write, despite her protestations that she’s busy, simply “because I came all the way up here” as if that effort on his part trumps her own legitimate work.  Having behaved like a child demanding his mother’s attention right now (the mirror of Sally’s behavior with Don), he badgers Peggy into complying, only to behave even worse upon hearing her response of horror and fear at what he’s written. 

First he tries dictating her emotional response (“You’re not supposed to be insulted, you’re supposed to be flattered.”) but failing at that, he rejects her for not living up to his fantasy of her. “I guess I read you wrong. You looked so earnest,” he says, crestfallen that she’s rejected his love-note-cum-manifesto and chosen not to throw her career to the winds after a mere ten minutes of fraught conversation in a bar that he’s built up into a froth of freedom fighting. He’s tried to enlighten her and convert her and woo her, all on spec. Having failed to sell his manuscript to her, we can only fear that he’ll sell it to someone else – and Peggy down the river in the bargain. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” goes the old saying, but rejected men are the ones who are truly dangerous. Peggy has earlier confessed to Joyce that she fears the male copywriters she needs to hire because the better they are, the more her job is in danger.  Now male words threaten her job from the outside as well, without her having done anything to deserve their sting besides catch the romantic fancy of an ideologue.

You don’t want this to get worse, believe me. ~ Don 

In the end, we see four women exit the offices of SCDP in a decidedly deliberate fashion:  Joyce walks directly into an elevator by herself and departs, while moments later Faye and Joan do an about-face to board a different car that opens up behind them, an image of reversal to the past. Before they can depart, Peggy calls out and Joan holds the door until she boards, allowing her to join them in their downward descent.

 

Look down. Everything’s going to be fine. ~ Roger to Joan

 

 

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Well, I'm first this morning! I feel chastised in my enthusiasm for this episode (I've been spanked on big Salon all weekend for my Franzen-love, as well), but I will register a couple of disagreements here. First off, I thought the episode worked, and that Sally -- and Don's burgeoning fatherhood -- was at the center of it. I wish we had been allowed to see even a little of his trip to the zoo (or the dinosaur museum) with his daughter, but the growing, somewhat conspiratorial, bond was obvious. I didn't feel Sally was a manipulative brat -- just a desperately unhappy little girl -- a wild, Woodstock- mudbath hippy in the making. She's desperate, and I think it's the separation of her parents, the divorce itself, that's wounding her. Betty seems no worse than usual. Her cold "I was worried about you" seems as sincere and irrelevant as always. As for Peggy, we're watching her wake up -- she brought up the race issue with Don, only to get slapped down for it. I like watching her slow and halting progress. And I think (have always thought) that Joan and Roger belong together. Both of them have idiotic pointless marriages to clearly tedious and inferior people. The feeling between them is real, Roger is right about that, and I'm rooting for them.

I went to an elite private high school in those days and knew many women like Joyce -- high powered career women. My step-mother was one: Constance Baker Motley and Betty Friedan were Dalton parents. And I dispute Joyce's own verdict on herself. Just below the awkwardness, I think she made a real connection with Sally. I'm glad Don as someone like an equal to spar with. I hope your wrong about the new secretary! And I will miss Blankenship.
I think this episode was the most difficult thus far. I agree with you that the characterizations of women were off. In 1965 it was a rare woman who would have known what Peggy verbalized in the bar about being a woman, and as I recall from personal experience, male political activists did not have any visionary ideas for the role of women. Peggy, and any professional woman in the mid-sixties would have been as alone with her observations as Peggy had been in the elevator after having stuck up for Joan. It will be interesting to see how her awareness develops.

Thanks for doing this Nelle. It really felt like a different set of writers snuck in and mucked it up tonight.
Yes, this episode is uncomfortable. Sally is such a strange concoction --how old is she supposed to be, anyway? She reminds me sometimes of her mother. Sitting in Don's chair as the old order literally dies outside the office (born in the previous century we are reminded) that is a symbolism we cannot escape. Being of that era I do think that the Civil Rights Movement and The Beatles influence are being short-changed here for the Women's Movement, which didn't come along in full force until a bit later.
The slapstick removal of Ida's body was darkly humorous, just another piece of furniture being hauled off by Joan as the work went on in the office. The lack of emotion on Don's part was not unexpected.
I agree that this episode was not satisfying, yet kind of pivotal. And Dr. Faye, watch your back. Megan is being set up as a dark horse. She reminds me of the teacher from a previous episode who could deal with Sally, and whom Don fell for.
I'm still ruminating about this episode but I have to get something off my chest before I start work.

Full disclosure: I am probably the youngest (at least one of the youngest) posters on this site. I am 25 years old but work in a male dominated industry. Strangely, my department is female dominated.

I absolutely loved Dr. Faye's comment about being a career woman. I may not have said that to my (female) bosses but I have at least thought it very loudly at them. I have a female middle bosses who derides the fact that our (female) big boss has no children. I guess full success means that we are able to say the things to each other that men use to say to us.

I didn't take Ida's death as being the death of old "womanhood" but as the death of the old guard. That was a very pivotal scene. The Fillamore brothers have their back to the window (let's not forget here that both the Fillamore business and Ida are rather racists). So while they are sitting there very much rearranging the deck chairs on the Titannic with their ad campaign, the old world is being removed. And they soooo cannot see it.

Also, the last scene was just amazing. Yes, Joyce maybe very cliched (but cliches come from somewhere). But having her go into the right elevator while all the more feminine women go down on the left was very powerful. Then in the left elevator, I saw that the women ordered themselves: Joan - the one who uses her feminine wiles for power - note she was wearing a very feminine dress(very left), Dr. Faye - the one who uses her brain and credentials (very right) - wearing that awful blue dress (you will respect me as a professional she was shouting). And Peggy in the middle - still trying to parse together the best of both.

And the Betty scene. Here is a woman who (technically) has all the time in the world to be with her children but cannot be bothered. And here are all these "career women" (whatever that really meant in 1966) who in various degrees reject motherhood. The career women took time out of their professional day to deal with this obviously hurting child while her mother (the one who should care the most) cannot.

I have more thoughts but they haven't solidified yet.
Hi Nelle. I was wondering if I was out of sorts watching last night's episode as it didn't seem too flow as organically as usual. For me it was the series of shocks in the story line - Blankenship dying, the mugging and Sally's escapade. It was too arbitrary, too forced and too formulaic.

I'll add a second comment later about your take on the portrayal of 60s feminism. It struck me that you were being a little hard on Peggy. No surprise she doesn't read The Village Voice and isn't it plausible that the main stream papers might not have covered a boycott of a medium-sized unglamorous company?

But I have to get to the office now so hasta luego and thanks again for your post.
I was disappointed as well that Don and Faye consummated their tryst so quickly. He seems , having conquered, to be discarding her already, even while using her.

Betty continues to be the worst mother ever. No wonder Sally is a disaster (and I agree that she is).

Normally, I love Peggy and Joan centric episodes, but this one left me unsatisfied. more "tell" than "show" with the awkward exposition. I hope its the launching pad for more interesting developments.
re Sally and Don, I completely agree with Steven Axelrod. I've always found their relationship, which I think is echoed in his with Peggy, genuine in that beneath the obvious differences in "rank" and role playing, there is an unequivocal acceptance between the two pairs that allows Don to show his worst and best selves without the terror of revelation that obviously haunts his other "Don Draper" relationships.
It is a challenging episode. I really enjoyed it, and I don't think I hit it at the same angles. The weakness to me was in the heavyhanded nature of the metaphors. Mad Men loves its subtext, but the subtext in this episode was not that 'sub'!

But in a way, that made it kind of good, and very thought provoking. We see all these ways people are trying to break out of the molds that society has try to cast them with... and in a lot of ways, the main women characters ARE moving forward in spite of society - they're just either playing the old rules to their advantages (Joan), playing the man's game (Faye) or trying to play the man's game but still looking for a way not to go that far (Peggy). Even Betty challenges her role - a little at least - by telling Don to suck it up and be a real dad. All of these things are represented in Sally, who cajoles, charms, complains, pleads, rebels, then gives up, all in view of the women of the episode. - And heavy handed as it is, I don't write Sally off as "given up" I think because she's a child, the future is yet unwritten as to how she will either: give in a be what is expected of her - or more fully rebel as is common in that decade. (I suspect the latter) Either way, we see that Sally has learned a big sad truth, one that we see in the women there that watch her stumble. It was blatant symbolism, which was what was kind of hard to swallow with this episode. And once that final elevator scene started, it was easy to predict who was getting on when and where.

You know, you labeled Megan Jane Siegel 2.0, and while at first 4-5 eps ago, I would have agreed, I am thinking now that's too flip. We see these interesting little moments from Megan, some that paint her as this statuesque female, maybe the prototypical secretary - looks like a model, holds herself together when stressed, deals well with others (it seems that even with her looks and all, everyone seems to really like her - she's not snobby) & hey, she's up front because it makes the firm look good - but she has these shades of warmth to her that I suspect make her a more interesting character. She definitely does not seem frivolous. The way she admires Peggy, the way she dealt with Joyce (kind of flattered, a little intimidated maybe), the way she handled Miss Blankenship's passing, etc... To me, it's very fitting that she is the one that provided actual comfort to Sally at the end. All of these women standing there who have fought in various ways to move ahead and yet they can't help Sally. It's the one who rolls with the role expected of her as a young woman that can relate to Sally the best. And like I suggested above that Sally's future is yet to be written, that maybe goes for Megan as well. Maybe for all the progressive attitudes of the women of this show, they're all having to give up parts of themselves to move ahead. Maybe they're the outer fringes of the bell curve of feminism. The vanguards who made it easier for every one else. The real majority may more likely be with those like Megan, those who are to come after.
It was a wonderful, complex episode. perhaps you had to have lived during that time as I did. I am exactly Sally's age..... I thought it beautiful, true, well done, superb. Hmmmm.
I am with Stephen. I think you missed the mark on this one.....
I love your after Mad Men posts!! So much to look forward to in character development. I think they crammed a little too much into this episode. I prefer the powerful intimate moments on episodes with just one or two of all these wonderful characters. But last nite we saw a little bit of everyone and it was exhausting.

That Peggy is darn cute. When her lesbian friend licked her on the face I was a little aghast. However I remember meeting lesbians in those days and they were like a different species. They weren't really acknowledged to exist and yet there they were. I like how she is Peggy's friend because it makes Peggy more human and fun. I wish her only love and tenderness but she seems to be pushing it away in favor of her principals. She needs someone who loves her and appreciates her cuteness.

The idea that all women did not need to be baby machines was a big change in this time. I was raised with Cinderella. The prince was all you needed and they lived happily ever after. I don't see any princes in Mad Men. The guys are mostly jerks. Women had to run things because the men were letting them down.

It is easy to criticize Don Draper for not showing enough emotion but that was what men were raised to do in that era. A man never cried and always handled things. When the feminist movement came along I think they were glad to see the women step up to the plate and take over some of the stress of business and money. For a man to admit he loved his little girl or that he was sad about the death of a great old dame was unthinkable. Draper can't show emotion and yet it is welling up constantly inside that big hunk of a body. Oh that first scene in bed showed me why there is an animal magnetism to that guy. What a hunk!

The mugging scene was interesting. Look down, give him everything and then kiss madly after the adrenaline rush. Is that the way a robbery takes place ? My boyfriend would have hauled off and hit that guy. But a gun in a poor neighborhood where rich people are foolishly walking around at nite is a powerful thing. And of course the robber was very very black. I wonder if Mad Men writers will ever bring in a confident polished black character. Because black was not seen in corporate America in those days. Only in the bad neighborhoods at nite did they have power.

The script reads like a play. I can see the characters on a stage with props and an audience. Im so happy to be a fan and Im a fan of Nelle too. Thank you Thank you for this place to come and share the feelings that this amazing tv show brings up in me. It seems to make the history of my own life more clear. I was that little girl Sally. I like the commentator who said she was a Hippie in the making. A rebel flower child. Feminine and confused and wild.
Like a lot of you I'm still thinking about this episode. I was immensely engrossed in the sexiness of Mad Men until Miss Sally Draper showed up. I was Sally Draper, in a sense, my parents divorced when I was two. I was reared by my mother on the "other" side of town in her parents home. There was always this class warfare going on between my Father and my Mother's family. I was sometimes literally tossed around. Eventually, I gave in and sided with my mother's family, but all the while I just wanted "my" Daddy. Who was a blue collar Don Draper. He was an electrician and amateur race car driver. His weekends where the best until I got a little older and overhead a phone conversation in which he said, " I can't I'm babysitting this weekend". Even at six years old I understood I was in the way just as Sally was to her Father. Her appearance seemed more of a nuisance to him and Dr. Faye. What I felt for Sally was that same little six year old who knew she was in the way of something. What that something was, wasn't clear. Sally feels unwanted by both her mother and her father, that was expressed as Megan held her in the hallway after she fell. The fall being a metaphor for her failed attempt to gain her father's attention. She tells Megan that it won't be all right, and she is correct. If Don or Betty had just given her a long comforting hug with the understanding of why she had to remain with her mother and step father she might have been ok. However, they both just ignored her obvious pain. Sally's lack of nurturing and the other womens' inability to comfort a "Young Woman" are just as inept as the men in this episode. This episode looks like change but it still shows everyone reaching for the status quo and what's comfortable. None of the characters had the ability to not let a good crisis go to waste.
I wanted to scream at Don to reassure Sally that she is a "good girl" and that that has nothing to do with her not living with him. Damn Betty and her abuse of Sally!

There was a HUGE lesbian influence in the early days of NOW and feminism. I think Joyce is perfectly appropriate as a catalyst for Peggy. I relate perfectly to Peggy's frustration that womens' rights had to wait until after Black civil rights played out. At the time we women thought if we worked for and supported Black civil rights they would return the favor and support us. It didn't happen of course. I'm not saying the 2 efforts were equivalent but at the time it felt like women had to wait AGAIN for rights given to men.

Abe is wrong, women did die for the right to vote. They were imprisoned, brutalized, went on hunger strikes and were force fed (often with disasterous results) -- even the ones not on the front lines were ridiculed by their husbands and brothers and sometimes the men of the time still tried to control their vote -- and for women in the 60's like Peggy these women were our mother's and grandmother's generation so we heard these stories first hand so they are part of us.

I also related to Faye and her fear that not being good with children was some test. Maybe it wasn't Don's test but I'm sure her failure with Sally was noted by some of the women in the office and she would be shamed by that.

Thanks for all your hard work on getting this commentary up so early! I look forward to it every Monday.
Weiner ended the third trilogy of the season with Don and Peggy having both feet on the ground and ready to go. My hunch is that Don, Peggy and SCDP will be hit with some kind of nuclear bomb that gives them the opportunity to put their newfound strength to good use.
Over the past three episodes, we have watched Don as he begins to deal with the issues that have been holding him back personally and professionally; first his drinking problem and then his divorce. Last night we see him finally addressing, head-on, the fact that he is a divorced dad. No, he has not fully resolved all of these issues, but he is taking them on. He also develops a realistic relationship with Faye. Yes, he fumbles in fits and spurts with Faye and Sally. Ultimately, he accepts the challenge of conforming his life to meet their needs. He is not perfect, but he is giving it his best shot.
Peggy is doing the same. She is addressing her gender role in the workplace: first by stripping, then firing a jerk. Simultaneously, she has jettisoned Mark, Duck and her family, all of whom were pigeonholing her into a stereotypical gender role. Last night, she finally connects with Abe on her terms. Yes, they have their own fits and starts, but it because they are both challenging each other to be more than the status quo. In the final shot, we see Peggy perfectly positioned between Joan and Faye, a perfect symbol of modern woman who wants to have it all.
I was struck by one scene in particular, the one of Sally in the reception area after falling. We see Sally halfway between Betty and Don. Betty is a woman with all the time and money in the world but has no desire to be a mother. Don wants to be a good father, but his hands are tied by the demands of his job and the conventions of the day. In many ways, Don is as tied by gender conventions, as is Peggy. The symbolism was further elevated by the presence of Megan, Joan and Peggy who act as a silent Greek chorus (if there is such a thing) to familial tragedy. Sally is surrounded by various gender types of 1965. Sally is the one female in the program who will grow up with a sense of feminism, not Peggy. Peggy is a pioneer,
Sorry Nelle, but I just don’t see these characters being portrayed the way you assert. Faye doesn’t back down on what she wants from life, and Don does not begin discounting her. Quite the opposite, he apologizes and accepts her on her terms. Peggy is a pioneer. So, she is struggling with all of this, as her character should. It would be truly false if she was spot-on every step of the way. Don didn’t tell Peggy to fire the jerk because he was sexist. He told her to do it because he wants to build up the one person at SCDP who he trusts to have his back. Ms. Blankenship was always designed to a broad character, much like the fools in Shakespeare. She was a symbol of the old way, among other things. She died, and no one even noticed. I found it to be laugh out loud funny.
At the end of last season, Weiner bombed his show. This season he has been rebuilding it. This is a totally different show than the one we first started watching. Now that he has finished rebuilding, get ready for next week’s explosion.
Great analysis Nelle, although I don't always agree with everything you say, I love the discussion that takes place in the Comments to your blog.
One thing that struck me regards Peggy's reaction to Abe: she puts up with heaps of sexism from the staff at SCDP including demeaning remarks from people that report to her, but she was able to stand up to Abe when he attempted similar behavior in a social setting. I see this as indicative of her growing awareness that while she has to accept sexism at the office to keep her career on track but she no longer needs to allow such behavior in the romance department. I wonder if she'll ever find an appropriate partner or if she'll decide she doesn't need or want one. (But then I also have a similar question about Don.)
Did anyone catch that Miss B. was already dead when Don made that last pass by her desk giving an order that silently sailed over the desk?

(You'd only catch it on 2nd watch, knowing what comes next; maybe this is why the programming dept has put the show on the air with an encore? so we can enjoy the 1st time and analyze the 2nd...)

Her removal behind the backs of a group of men from a company that was also dying with the times was about the only scene that was fun to 'analyze' this week. On the whole, the show seemed to be in my face in such an obvious way that some of the usual pleasure was taken out of watching. (I didn't check the writer's credits, maybe I should have - the 'voices' were off this week).
Look down. Everything’s going to be fine. ~ Roger to Joan

I look forward to your recaps because they're deeper, more nuanced, more thorough, and more informative than any I've read elsewhere.

Your cited observation was the right starting point but, I fear, you lost your way.

MadMen isn't a feminist morality play. The authors may have copy to write, but they're more interested in the dynamics of male/female -- in the workplace, at home, in the culture -- than in espousing an ideology. It is a painting rather than an essay.

Comments seem to reflect some dissatisfaction with this episode because the women appear uncharacteristically dependent and lost. Whether Faye or Megan, Betsy or Peggy, not one seems to offer hope (a role model) for Sally. When Megan comforts Sally "It will be alright", Sally spits out, "No. It won't."

A desperate child, growing inevitably into another version of her mother, runs away. She's grabbed by a privileged matriarch who cannot help herself. She must blame Don for Sally's impetuous attempt to escape from an emotional hell.

It's that hell that convinces her life with Don would be better -- and even, relatively (in her mind) a paradise. Arriving she falls immediately into the manipulative behavior that (she has seen) rewards Betsy with superficial comfort and privilege. She hates her mother (as does the audience) because her mother cannot give her anything more than her absent father gives her. Neither parent can nurture her.

Yet what choice does she have but to believe -- unrealistically -- that it will be better living with Don than Betsy? She understands sooner than the rest (the three "girls" in the elevator, including a smug Peggy) that it won't be okay.

As Don struggles to keep the Filmore Brothers and Sally unaware of a disquieting reality (Mrs. Blankenship's sudden death) we see the truly corrosive nature of Madison Avenue. This is the Manmen's forte. They remake reality in exchange for privilege and power.

But she says this while sitting in a bar (one at which the bartender listens to her, and not Abe) not while seated at a lunch counter that has refused to serve her (or outside which a mob waits to beat her). And while she’s right that she can’t enter the men’s clubs that her male peers use to conduct business deals (unless she’s there to pop out of a cake), Abe’s equally right to point out that “there are no Negro copywriters.”

This excellent observation implies the question.

Can social justice co-exist with enormous privilege and pleasantly sculpted fantasies?
I'm somewhat nonplussed at your first 3 paragraphs, and frustrated that so many continue to demand that Mad Men represent their politics exactly. I'm not even a bit surprised Peggy doesn't understand her own disconnect between women and African American. She's a fallible human, not the single, solitary torch bearer for 21st century political correctness.

I read commentary about Mad Men on many websites, and I hear the same statements made over and over. Why doesn't Joan divorce her rapist husband, why are blacks invisible, why is Don such a cad, why is Betty a bad mom? Do you want Matt Weiner to step in and fix every injustice so that we can have a sanitized version of the 1960's? That's not a story at all, that's just propaganda. The show does not suffer from improper tone, you suffer from misunderstanding the purpose of story telling. It's not to make you feel better about the way things were.
I wasn't quite as disappointed in this episode, though it does seem that the show is getting less and less subtle.

I think the comments about Betty are the crux of the problem here. I remember watching the pilot and predicting that one of the show's central arcs would be Betty reading The Feminine Mystique and asserting an identity outside of her stifled life as a housewife. Instead, it turned out that Betty is a very damaged complex and damaged woman whose issues go far deeper than merely being stifled by '60s suburban womanhood.

On the one hand, it's far more fascinating this way; on the other hand, Mad Men isn't really telling that story of housewife awakening at all. The tension is whether this is a show about '60s America or a show about its own unique characters in that world. They've clearly chosen the latter path, and I think that's largely for the good, but it does mean you end up with unsympathetic Betty or oft-confused Peggy instead of strong feminist role models.
Wow, when I watched the show last night I didn’t think that it would be this thought provoking. There was something odd in the timing of the show. As I was watching it I felt unsatisfied and wasn’t surprised by Nelle’s post. The cadence…something I couldn’t put my finger on. I know something of being in the middle of a social change but being unable to fully see it and step out of your self defined world. I sold cigarettes for 15 years and it spanned the “smoking everywhere to smokers relegated to the back door on snowy days” time. I loved the excitement and jazz of my job, but it became increasingly hard to justify. I saw myself in Peggy, justifying her firm, just as I justified mine…”We didn’t make people smoke…it’s legal, etc”. So, each of these female characters (as are the men) are traveling through this time trying their best to understand what is happening and fitting it into their little view of the world. Sally is definitely a future attendee at Woodstack …
They did seem to gloss over things a bit with this episode. A little too much fusion of issues. Of course, the robbery scene, one of the few story lines to include a minority, must portray the black male as predator. Such is life, or imitation of life. Another good analysis. Thanks.
Hi Nelle,
Your postings never disappoint, and while I enjoyed last night's episode, it was more uneven and less satisfying than the others.
First a slight correction: Blankenship was (according to Cooper) born in 1898- which still would have made her only 67 in 1965.
But she looked closer to 90 (We did age faster then and the 'forever Young" ideology had not yet consumed us) but they sure did kill her off very quickly.
Her comment to Peggy about being either a sadist or a masochist ("you know which you are") was akin to a sayonara-like warning.
As for Abe/Peggy (the leads do seem to be gravitating to Jews: Roger to Jane, Don to Faye, Peggy to Abe), he did get her thinking- as she suggested Harry Belafonte for a jingle and talked about the client not hiring Negroes after he made her aware of it).
And Faye's clutziness with Sally seemed to speak of a disconnect within independent of her professional achievements. You either have compassion for kids (and people) or you don't.
I was sad that Don didn't even hear Sally out as to why she was so miserable- I guess I expected more of him at this point. But it was interesting to see so many of the women in his office in direct contact with his daughter and ex-wife, as if to imply an integration of his two worlds (at least there's some integration happening somewhere in the show -- can racial integration be far behind?)
And finally, I hope we're not being set up with a Megan/Don scenario, it would be so retro. But I do wonder, will this season end with the famous NYC blackout in November 1965, with selected characters stuck in the elevator overnight- or till next July?
Nelle, I love your posts about Mad Men. It is the first analysis I read each Monday morning. Your insight and analysis is brilliant.
That is why this post saddened me so. Nelle, Nelle, Nelle, why the negativity this week?

I found the episode hilarious at points and tremendously sad at points. I liked everything about it.

The saddest part has to be poor Sally. My heart aches for her. She will exact her revenge, though, and Betty will deservedly get the brunt of it.

I will miss Miss Blankenship. She had the best lines. No more will we get to hear her ask Don loudly if he is going to the toilet.
I haven't seen this episode, but the only thing I keep thinking here is "can't they be both"? "Mad Men" isn't a medieval morality play, in which every character stands as the representative of a virtue or a vice. Peggy, Betty, Sally, Faye, Joan, etc. are supposed to come off as real people--and real people are often contradictory and complicated and behave unlikeably and have giant hulking blind spots.
This one viewed like an Elvis movie from the times; I wonder if the writers let the interns loose. Exceptional analysis from Nelle, of course. And great comments.
To Drinkwater:
You are absolutely right- Mad Men is not supposed to make us feel better about the past, but some shows have more integrity and dare I say, better writing and possibly editing than last night's episode did.
Mad Men excels in many ways, not the least of which is in its extremely well-thought out and highly integrated development of all of the characters.
Last night's installment didn't quite measure up.
I may have heard it wrong, but i thought Abe said to Peggy, "you seemed so HONEST" (not 'earnest"). Did anyone else hear that word too?
At the risk of seeming to "pile on" (I suspect an awful lot of our comments this week are going to sound a note of "Sorry, Nelle, we love you but . . . "), I have to say I think you missed the mark on this one.

Some may have felt as if they slipped in a different bunch of writers this week, I feel like someone slipped in a different Nelle! Where is your usual joy and fun? This is NOT the column so many of us have come to anticipate with an eagerness rivalling that with which we await each new episode!

Much as I hate to say it, your typically brilliant analysis has, this week, turned bristling--and is so edged with anger that it seems to have dulled all your sharper instincts.

I'm afraid that, this time around, you let your own personal views and experience hamper your ability to deliver your usually incisive and spot-on analysis.

Guess this is one time where we'll just have to agree to respectfully disagree! :-)
I agree, there were discontinuities that caused me to pull back from the drama and notice I was on my own sofa in my own living room in 2010 instead of inside the mid-sixties storyline. I am the age that Sally would be now, and was, like all of "the beautiful girls" in this episode, steeped in the female conditioning of the time. While that doesn't make me an expert on the symbolism of "Mad Men," it is the source of my sense of what is out of balance in some of the episodes. Megan's gorgeous subservience seems overdrawn, but since this is truly drama, maybe that makes sense. Joan's regal sluttiness seems brilliant to me, a complex character who plays strength and vulnerability like a bonded fabric. Too of my mother's friends were exactly this, and I couldn't take my eyes off of them. I think as a young woman just entering puberty, I wondered briefly if this was the way to "sneak" a sense of competence past men who would be blinded by the facade of feminity. But, alas! I looked like a tomboy, so couldn't possibly have pulled it off!

I also knew many Ida's, who seized on the only freedom they had--i.e., to become raunchy caricatures of the stereotypes of that era--the dried up old crone--who through her ability to show up as a cartoon, can nonetheless put the real thought bubbles out in the open.

Men had a meanness in those days that "Mad Men" truly captures. My experience of this was from male teachers in high school, who routinely made fun of young women in front of everyone in a classroom, for any comment that reflected idealism, logic or principle. It burns to look at this aimed at Peggy, in this episode. It brings back the memories of hot tears, suppressed. It also conveys the ubiquity of sexism; it was truly institutional, seen as "normal." We women didn't utter a word of comfort to each other; just a knowing silence. The trip down the elevator is a perfect visual image.

I marvel at how much they get right, these Mad Men writers and directors. But I agree with one of the writers here that the real emerging music and its aftershocks within that time (the Beatles) seems almost entirely missing. It was revolutionary, and like many rumblings of the sixties, it shook us, and the ground under us. the music symbolized the many shifts that were felt eventually by almost anyone who was not in a coma. Also missing is the intensity of the pain of the war. I guess we're supposed to feel it through Joan, but having lived that time, to me it's not quite enough to convey even the early years of the sense of deepening shame. But maybe that outrage is down the road, and we'll feel it in the next episodes. It won't work if only one of the characters is chosen to feel it.

I'm wondering if the discomfort that many feel with this episode isn't from mistakes the writers made, but is actually right on target to where the writers want to go...this was one of those years in the sixties when things began to feel restless. This episode felt twitchy, troubled, on edge. Maybe it wasn't just the apparent discontinuities and the sudden seemingly overdone movement of sub-text to the foreground. Maybe it is intentional.
What did you think of the revelation that there's no office set aside for Bert Cooper? He still comes into the office but has to sit in reception or with the secretaries. Talk about demeaning.
"I found myself wondering, last night, if a leitmotif for this season is going to be sadism/masochism. " This is a quote from episode two. Sometimes I think the writers get their material from all that is written.
Okay Nelle, I'm with you on the idea that this was not MM's best-written episode. I think someone else said that it seemed as though it was written by committee, and I'll have to go back to the writing credits to see how many fingers were in this pie.

But I'm not so sure about your view as all the women being sexist stereotypes. This was 1965 -- the civil rights movement had really only hit the national imagination about 2 years earlier; there wasn't much of an anti-war movement except possibly in some of the more elite schools on the coasts, and I'm not sure if the term sexism had even been coined yet. The women in MM are of their time, and the women at SCDP are people, who work in a very specific setting.

As to the writing flaws, one of the most frustrating for me was that we saw no development leading to Dr. Faye and Don's nooner. For us, it's only a week later, but we're given no hint as to how much time as passed in MM-land. And I'm not sure that Faye is a particularly well-written character; we'd need a little more backstory to figure out why she wasn't simply pissed at Don for foisting Sally in crisis off on her, rather than being pissed that he'd asked her to deal with Sally as a test. Why does she crumple so easily? We've seen nothing so far to have this seem believable. Of course I'm not that charmed by Dr. Faye; sure she's well educated, but all of her education seems to be directed toward manipulation. Albert Schweitzer she ain't.

On the other hand, Peggy's confused reaction to Abe seems just about right. Remember, Peggy never went to college; she's smart as hell, but all of her intelligence has been used to get ahead in business. Most of her ideas of social justice are nascent at best, but she does have them, and Abe (spoiled wannabe radical that he is) would probably be somewhat exotic as well as threatening to her.

And Joan, well, Joan has been a sort of stereotype from the beginning. Only her way of being, which used to work so well for her, doesn't jive with the capable and probably well-educated (in the first season, we learned that she'd been to college) person, she is. She's lonely and isolated, and as much of a shell of a man as Roger can be, there's genuine affection between the two of them. They both just witnessed a death -- it's not so surprising that sex follows.

I thought the tableau of the SCDP women watching Sally fall was very touching, and as others have said here, I think you're being too hard on Meagan -- she seems quite capable, was genuinely touched by Ms. Blankenship's death, and I thought that Sally's fall stirred something in her.

As Tennessee said, Don is as much a prisoner of sex roles as any of the women. Sure he pawns Sally off on Faye, because he's always expected that women will be better caretakers to children (Betty being strong evidence to the contrary). And he seems truly happy to be spending time with Sally, whom he obviously loves. He's incapable of considering that the kids could live with him. Then there's the alienation; here's a guy, who's spent the better part of his life being completely alienated from his true identity. The thing about alienation is, you can't recognize your own pain, so you find it almost impossible to recognize the pain of others. As we've all said, poor Sally is in for a rough ride. I've been saying for awhile that I'm disappointed in the very formulaic "Betty is parenting her daughter the way her mother parented her" stuff. In this, I'd agree that Weiner & Co. have fallen back on stereotypes.

I'm with Seajane about Joyce. Lesbians were a vital part of the early feminist movement, and back in those days, there weren't a lot of lipstick lesbians. Just as I saw Carla as sort of a Greek chorus last season, I kind of see Joyce as this season's Greek chorus, at least (and however awkwardly written)as far as societal issues are concerned.

Thank-you again for letting us all get together. This week, though I may not have completely agreed with your POV, Nelle, it and all of the comments have been extremely thought provoking. I'd love to have you all over, open some wine (or make some old fashioneds) and have this conversation in person.

I close with a little tidbit from my own life. It was 1967, and I was at an SDS meeting; there were about equal numbers of men and women, and one of the guys, as part of some harangue, ended with, "It takes balls to be a revolutionary." Not one woman spoke up -- even on the left, at least in the midwest, it took some time for feminist consciousness to be raised.
Sorry but Joyce is not a "Magic Lesbian"

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-ehrenstein19mar19,0,5335087.story?coll=la-opinion-center

She wants to get into Peggy's pants and that's the long and the short of it. Nothign altruistic about her.

Very sorry to see Miss Blankenship go. She was starting to grow on me.
The 60s were arguably the most complex decade that modern society will ever know with regard to transition. Why, then, would we expect this show to address the particular issues of every race, creed, and color? In the end, it's still a very narrow window into the broadest of panoramas, and can only do so much in addressing the issues that it does manage to elaborate on. I continue to be absolutely amazed at the breadth and depth with which the show addresses the times. I would concur with those posters who say the show is not about completely focusing on the social, political, and other issues of the time, but rather about the character development of some very flawed characters from that time.

One thing is for certain: I've learned to enjoy the show for the ride it has taken me own. Like others, I certainly find I have my personal "expectations" for what will or should be done. However, the most marvelous thing of all about this show is that my "expectations" are rarely realized! So I will just continue to enjoy it for what it is, and remind us of a few great lines....

"I'm taking the most interesting part with me" says Don as he zips up his pants

"Hey, my mother made that!" complains Harry as they wrap Ida in his afghan

The unspoken hilarity of an awkward Pete Campbell trying to help move the "dead weight" of Ida

I could obviously go on, but this was one VERY entertaining episode .....
I agree with others that you missed the mark on this one. And in a disturbing way. It seems as if you expect the writers to instruct their audience on the morally and politically correct point of view rather than to portray the complexities of people and of the times. This is a familiar and frustrating side of criticism that I haven't seen from you in the past. It leaves little room for alternative interpretations or for appreciation of nuance. For example, you say to note use of the diminutive "girls" in the title as if it were evidence of the writers' disregard for the women's movement as true social revolution. I interpreted it in the exact opposite way. This is 1965: women WERE girls to men, no matter what was going on on the inside (or in Faye's and Peggy's cases, the outside). The writers, if anything, show a sense of dramatic irony, not support for the status quo, with this title. Similarly, your declaration that Sally sought out her father as much because her mother has turned into a total bitch (my words) as because she "truly loves" him puts the focus on Betty as another poorly drawn female character, instead of the beautifully and subtlyl portrayed anguish of Sally as she struggles to escape a selfish, immature, fantasy-ridden and -driven mother (and none of these qualities necessarily derives from the social and psychological oppression of housewives in the 50s and 60s) and find security, warmth, and yes, a female role, in life with her father. I could go on, but I'll hope that I've made my point and stop here.
Re: Don's passing off of Sally onto the women in the office...this sort of unthinking sexism ("of course women are naturally good with children!") still exists. And since it is meant as a compliment (even if it is extremely patronizing), it's one of the hardest parts of sexism to fight against.

It would be interesting to see a sort of anti-Betty on this show. I'm with others in agreeing that her coldness isn't entirely caused by "the problem that has no name." It would be interesting to see a woman on this show who really DID enjoy being a stay-at-home-mother and who was a natural with children (they aren't unicorns! some of them did and do exist!)...and to see what Don's reaction to that would be.
I think Nelle was simply showing her disappointment at how things seemed to go backward in this episode, something that I, too, was disappointed by. The last two episodes were stellar in terms of Don seeming to grow, but in this one he took those "two steps back"--into bed with Faye, etc. It seemed a bit uneven in the storytelling to me, too, but it won't stop me from tuning in next week. Perhaps if Nelle had had more time to reflect, rather than having to rush her blog entry out to us, her adoring fans, she might have written a few things a bit differently.

I'll miss Miss Blankenship because we won't get to know more of her story than we've been shown. Her dying at 67 and looking as she did doesn't surprise me in the least, given what few things we know about her. First, she had no family except a niece, so she had few connections outside of work. She was likely still working at 67 because a) she couldn't afford to retire and b) she probably wouldn't know what to do with herself if she did. If she really was a party girl in her younger days, as we've been led to believe from Roger's memoirs, then she looked just right for the long-term effects of that lifestyle. Remember, the health consciousness we have now wasn't there in those days. Everyone smoked and drank, and a lot of the hard partiers looked like the way they described ill-treated horses: Rode hard, and put away wet.

I'm also not surprised that Don didn't hear out Sally about why she was unhappy. First of all, it probably didn't even occur to him to ask. In those days it was uncommon to look beneath the surface, but even if he thought that far, what would he expect to find? From his own experiences, he doesn't know what a good mother is supposed to look like, and he already knows what Betty is like. Second, if he had asked, and if he'd gotten an answer that might have made him want to do something about it, he wouldn't have been able to anyway. In those days, children of divorce always went with the mothers unless the mother was a prostitute or in jail. Even if Don had wanted custody, he'd never have gotten it, and Betty would never have let him have Sally willingly. It would have made her look bad to society, and she wouldn't risk that. It was bad enough to be divorced, but to give up her kids, too?

While the Beatles and the counterculture were starting to take hold, it takes quite awhile for those things to work their way up the social levels. That revolution did not start at the top, and society was more insular then, so I'm not surprised it hasn't hit Madison Avenue by 1965.

I hope they make it to the blackout in this season--that would be interesting to see what happens at the office. For all we know, it will end before that, and we'll jump ahead in time again for next season.
I'm with Stephen and Lisa. It's like we watched a different show. Maybe it's because I was close to Sally's age, and my mother was starting a career at the time. But it really resonated with me. I felt like I was sitting there in my Lily Pulitzer dress having unfocussed tantrums in a world that I didn't understand.

I'm not sure how you expect Mad men to bring in the feminist movement of 1965. They would have to travel way outside that office. As I remember it, advertising and feminism didn't really start to clash until Ms. magazine, around '71. And I thought the picture of women trying to muddle their way through this time without the solidarity and ideology that feminism would soon start to provide for them later, as it became more mainstream, very poignant and true.
"Having failed to sell his manuscript to her, we can only fear that he’ll sell it to someone else – and Peggy down the river in the bargain."

Seriously? We can "only" fear that? Based on what evidence regarding the character? Didn't he expressly say she had no cause to worry and that he wouldn't bother her again?

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” goes the old saying, but rejected men are the ones who are truly dangerous."

What the heck are you going on about? OK, what's the gag? Where's the real Nelle? Instead we have rantin from some person who must have dumped some folk who acted like idiots to her as a result? Only thing I can figure because in this show I do not recall any scripting to support this assertion. Now maybe you are such the social critic, oh imposter Nelle, that you can peg all real men in the real world, though if indeed you are, you are no better than the oppressive masculine culture you rail against, but please, if you are commenting on this entertainment called "Mad Men," an entertainment with a primarily female writing staff, please demonstrate where in the series the theory is supported?

"Peggy has earlier confessed to Joyce that she fears the male copywriters she needs to hire because the better they are, the more her job is in danger. Now male words threaten her job from the outside as well, without her having done anything to deserve their sting besides catch the romantic fancy of an ideologue."

And yet, in the context of the actual show, Don is making it increasingly clear that he values Peggy's work more and more and they all exist in a dog eat dog world where everyone is expendable.

Everyweek I wait with excitement to read your analysis, not only because you are often so insightful but because normally you are so perceptive, pointing out interplays and character moments that I missed as followed one particular story line or theme or another. This week, I feel like we either watched two very different shows, or you came to the episode with a mad on from somewhere else, or the episode triggered unresolved personal issues that unleashed a rage perhaps better directed toward the real actors of your own personal drama.

Forgive me if completely misunderstand your week's review. Perhaps it would help me to understand what you are driving at if you were to describe how the show "should" have played out in the theater of yoru mind?
I apologize if I seem flip, and I certainly apologize for the missing and misspelled words. For some reason the site is clipping some words. The spelling errors are my own big bad. I don't mean to be flip, nor to focus so much on individual comments, but there were so many unsubstantiated assertions and that paragraph seemed the most offensive to me.

I really like your writing, even dug through and read with enjoyment so many of your posts unrelated to "Mad Men," but this week's comments were off, read like screed.
Because so many people had a similar reaction to my commentary, I’m going to post a general response and address specific comments later if I have time. I wasn’t surprised that many disagreed with what I wrote, and even misunderstood what I tried to express (but may have failed to articulate well, given as always, I was writing in the middle of the night), and I’m not sure if this will help, but let me respond to what seem to be the main points of contention:

First, loving a show doesn’t mean you love every episode or every moment! That’s like saying that couples who are really in love never disagree or fight. I love MM and (as any reader of my blog knows) highly praise and appreciate it the vast majority of the time, but sometimes find it disappointing. I’m truly mystified that people find that hard to understand or accept. No work of art is perfect. I would hope that my praise of the show would carry more weight because I also sometimes criticize it, which proves I’m not just a mindless fan.

Second, I assume people are smart enough to know that I’m always giving my very subjective reactions. It would be tedious to constantly indicate that (“to me it seems like what this means is…”) so I usually write it if it were fact (just as other commentators elsewhere do). But when people suggest that there is only one interpretation of art – or that I think there is – I am over here chuckling, because I am the queen of believing that life is entirely about subjective experience. I don’t think there is one right way to see/experience/view/interpret MM or any work of art, much less that I have that one right way!

Third, and this is the most complex part to address, because it involves a degree of interpretation and analysis that may or may not interest people, but I am trying to point to the ways in which MM, like all works of art, constructs and presents its material. That presentation involves numerous small and large choices, and all those choices add up to a message that we viewers react to and carry away, both consciously and unconsciously. What I’m trying to do is put my finger on what I think that message is.

I wrote at some length on Salon about how I felt that (as of the end of last season) the women’s roles were both subtly and obviously written to blame the women for their own fates, thus undercutting the stated intention of the show’s creators to reveal the toll of sexism. I also feel (as I hinted again in this post) that one of the worst failings of the show is that the only housewife figure portrayed in other than glancing terms is Betty, and she is far from typical (I know because I grew up surrounded by these women as a kid in that era). Her specific characterization, especially as it’s evolved into an intensely unlikable character, severely undercuts the real sufferings of the women confined to that role.

Yes, there were women like Betty. But when she’s the only housewife shown in any detail, the message is that all housewives and mothers were like her (because we aren’t shown any other flavors of that role). Given far more women were housewives than copywriters or secretaries at that time, that’s a real failing in a show that is touted (by its creator, mind you) as wanting to address the history of women’s experience in the 60’s as one of its major themes. While working women are better represented on the show, the main focus has always been Peggy and (to a lesser extent) Joan (and this season, Faye to some degree). We’re thus left to take them not just as individual dramatic characters (which they’re wonderful as) but emblems of working women. And we’re given a bit more of a choice to consider that experience than we are with housewives, but it’s still quite limited.

It might help if I step away from the issue of women and bring up a parallel, something that only Readwillet mentioned in her comments, but which was a point I’d had in this post and then deleted in the final edit (because the sentence was too convoluted). It bothered me, too, that the mugger was black -- because we’ve seen black people on the show only in the roles of maid, elevator operator, grocery checker (Paul’s girlfriend) and now thief. While you can argue that is realistic – those are the roles that racism and poverty largely confined them to – it is also unrealistic (even then, there were many black professionals, business people, entertainers, athletes, millionaires, etc. - - and plenty of criminals who were white). We’ve yet to see a story told about a black person’s experience on the show. We’ve seen the most of Carla but she is a cipher and even a stereotype (the wise, loving black maid who mothers the motherless white children – in short, a mammy figure).

Just as gay people argued for years when the depictions of them in movies were restricted to that of either flamboyant queens or serial killers, reducing a huge spectrum of human experience to a very limited view might meet a technical standard of truth (yes, there are people like that) but that very limitation creates an untruth because it constricts a vast reality that was far more diverse and nuanced. In a show like MM in which female characters are developed in greater depth than usual by very talented writers and actors, it is that much more notable when there are recurring patterns of how the characters are circumcribed. Amazingly enough, I’ve had many people tell me that “well, women were just like that in the 60’s” – including that “all housewives were vapid like Betty.” Oy vey, as Harry would quote his Hollywood friends as saying.

Discrimination limited what people could do, but it didn’t change their humanity, which remained endlessly variable and deep. Suggesting that women – or blacks or gays – suddenly became utterly different creatures due to the civil rights or feminist movement is a strange and troubling point for people to make. It suggests that “those people” had nothing inside them, no agency, no depth, that seeped out in many ways and even found full expression in the hands of the courageous, even when times were worst. You don’t just flick a social switch and change people. What really changed was how people were seen, not how they were.

My specific critique of this episode was that it played into vociferous stereotypes of the women’s movement as it unfolded in the 60’s and 70’s. Most stereotypes have some relationship to fact (so, yes, I know there were lesbians in the women’s movement) but again what’s notable is when stereotypes are the sole representation (per points I just made above). Who do we have as the first feminist mouthpiece on the show? A lesbian. One who happens to enlighten the straight woman. Perhaps it requires having lived through that era, and knowing how critics (which included the majority of both men and women) labeled feminism a movement of lesbians, thus denying that straight women could possibly have had anything to complain about, to understand why that dramatic choice was so notable and problematic.

Finally, there is no way that I think the show "should" have played out! In my role as commentator, I'm reacting to the way that it DID play out, and giving my honest thoughts on that. It's fascinating that people assume I have a specific script in mind that I think should be on screen when I do that. Again, I'm genuinely puzzled that criticizing the show in any terms leads to that sort of response.

I personally welcome ALL views here, including the many who disagree with me (as someone always does, and not just this week!). I think sharing our extremely varying points of view and reactions is what's so fascinating. And I think the fact that we do all have those variations of reaction shows exactly how rich and provocative this show is. If we all agreed about every aspect of it, it would mean it was a simplistic, mindless cartoon.

So please keep those diverse opinions coming, and thank you as always for listening to mine. I apologize that this comment has become blog post length! But I hope that it helps explain my point of view a bit better.
The 60's was indeed a tumultuous decade, that hasn't been properly understood. I'm 63 and those were some of my best years: High School from 61-64, and the start of my writing career a year later. "Mad Men" has set itself the very high bar of writing an entertaining show and representing an era we THINK we understand, but largely don't. So much of what went on in terms of big events -- the deaths of JFK and Marilyn Monroe to name two the series has touched on so far -- have been so culturally "overdetermined" that their next to impossible to talk about in any rational way. So Weiner is commended for brishing against them glancingly.

As for feminism its in the minds of we the viewers -- not them the characters. Watching Joan, Peggy and Betty we raid our mental Rodexes for the things that might "explain" them and/or show "where they went wrong." Inevitably they fall shot in one way or another as Weiner (despite his best efforts in this reagrd) is not God.

Lesbians were very much in the vanguard of feminism -- which is why Betty Freidan attacked them so vociferously. But while Joyce "refrerences" that fact she demonstrates little in the way of feminsit insight. That comes from Peggy -- who would be surprised to hearing herself called a feminist. Of course that may change donw the line -- which is one of the mahy reasosn the show is so fascinating to watch.

But you've got to admit the women we see here are more than a tad brighter than the "career gals" of "The Best of Everything."
"Yes, there were women like Betty. But when she’s the only housewife shown in any detail, the message is that all housewives and mothers were like her (because we aren’t shown any other flavors of that role). "

Says who? This is a common fallback by critics. It's a logical fallacy. Betty is a housewife. Betty is the only housewife. Ergo, all housewives are only Betty. The writers have done nothing to indicate that the show should be read as a series of tropes and types to be construed as representative of all (fill in the blanks).

The assumption underlying this argument, that the show is representative of all of America at that time, is the additional fallacy that ruins criticisms of what roles blacks or Jews or what-have-you play in this story. It is not a story of all America but a specific set of stories about some white folks in Amercia and the world they saw, the actions they did, and the desires and issues they encountered. That we can draw more juice from that is a testament to the quality of writing and the vision, the research that has gone into its making, but that's it. We see of the black person or the Jew what these people see, and that is on purpose. The writers are showing us the limitations as well as the aspirations of the characters and their environs. No crime in that.

But in your critique you did invite people to wonder how you thought it "should" have played out because in addition to obviously reacting to the millieu, you riticized the writing this time, the very construction of the characters. So if you can criticize their construction, it's only logical for us to assume that you have an idea of what would make that writing, those constructions immune to your criticism.

That you are "...genuinely puzzled that criticizing the show in any terms leads to that sort of response" is puzzling in and of itself. This "sort of response" is not of "any" critique, on any "term," but only of this critique. In the past you are able to seperate your critique of millieu from your assessment of the craft of the show. This week you assert that the craft makes the same mistakes that history, and in so many ways, that men, make. Please, as before, explain how the writing was to have avoided this supposed calamity.

I feel differently, a little about history and millieu--but that's a whle different debate--a lot about the craft of this show and the women, as well as the men, who write it.
Illovox, I'm going to respond to your point (and in doing so, I apologize for not responding to others at this time) because your response that MM can't represent all types is not unique to you.

Of course not. But that response is itself illogical (I'll use that term since you use it towards me) -- you're saying that because a work of art can't represent all types of women, men, secretaries, housewives, gays, etc that the types it does represent are meaningless except in terms of enjoying the particular story/narrative/plot.

I'm arguing that they do in fact have meaning, and that every artist makes choices in what they represent in their art, and that those choices affect us on many levels as consumers of that art --which is their very intent. But it's not exactly uncommon for that effect to be other than the artist intended.

Perhaps this reflects a difference in how we see something like MM -- I do see it as art, and I believe art has enormous impact on people. Actually I think even mindless entertainment often does, too. (I also think the choices we make in how we communicate and act as individuals have stronger effects on others than many people do.)

I'm not arguing that MM has to represent everything. I'm arguing that what it chooses to represent has an effect on the viewer. The creators of MM have stated that they wish to do precisely that, and they've been clear about wanting to represent a historical period with as much accuracy as possible, especially the experiences of women. If some people (like me) feel they are falling short of their stated intention, why is it a problem to state that? I'm not the one who has imposed that intention on them -- they have taken it on themselves.
I also felt this episode was heavy-handed, so much so that I thought I'd wait for you all to explain it to me differently in the morning. It bothered me that Don conforted Faye (who seemed a bit too much like Betty) rather than comforting his own daughter.

I was also raised during those times and they're not good memories so I kept trying to clear my mental pallette (sp?) and not project.

I was caught by the fact that the bartender could hear Peggy but not Abe. And I was impressed that Peggy had the gumption to tell Abe he was being demeaning and leave. I've known so many women who put up with soooo much because they don't want to lose a man's attention.

Sally looked much older to me in this episode, especially at her father's. My father used to pawn me off on the girlfriend of the moment. I can remember these women with bubble hairdos and made up faces, just the kind of woman my dad could never turn my eccentric mother into.

Men throughout the ages have assumed that women had some natural knowhow with children. I thought Faye would be better even despite not being a child psychologist. Still, Don conforts her, not Sally in the ending.

I used to attend feminist things in the late 70's and I was one of the few straight women. During a painful-he-cheated-on-me breakup, I ran off to a weekend workshop and marveled at how many woman actually looked like men. Except they were nice to me. Now when I attend women in business or whatever else, I'm not the only straight woman and labeling it women isn't a code for anything the way it was often seen in those days. (And this was Los Angeles)

Sorry to run on so long. This may be my therapy, putting these pieces together. I like that they keep us guessing. I'll miss Miss Blankenship, of course. I guess Selma Diamond and Thelma Ritter are no longer living. Maybe the closest "wise-cracking friend" these days is Wanda Sykes.

I wish they'd go back to the 50's, which mean less to me, or not move at such a fast clip through the 60's. I loved the line about Blankenship dying as she lived, surrounded by the people she made phone calls for.

Nelle, always loved your analyses and relish the comments here. One last thing, I remember my cousin's wife's daughter moved to Manhattan in the 60's and they were always talking about muggings. She said she constantly crossed the street to provide a kind of moving target.

I had trouble believing that scene last night, though it certainly had you're about to be mugged written all over it.

I still vote for elections I would rather skip because I've seen pictures of what women endured to give me the right to be blase. Historically, hasn't the women's movement always emerged out of the racial one? I believe women in the 1800's realized that they were not allowed to be seated as equals in the civil rights movement where they were actually diligent and key members. Same thing happened in the 60's, or that's what my Women In History teacher taught us in 1980.
Watching Sally, I was impressed with how much worked for her this week. She didn't get sent home. She got pizza. (Did you see her smile as she curled up on the couch?) She got her dad to stay in with her and actually talk to her. And the next day she really got the prize, his whole day. Don gave in to her request to go to ONE place, though not two, and said they would have to be back at the office by noon. But they came in at five minutes to five, just minutes before her mother shows up. Sally ends up having to go home, and is terribly unhappy about that, but I think she knew it would end that way, and she has had an excellent adventure. Sadly, we see the effort that goes into her getting what she wants because no one has her back as a little girl. Given that bad (and dangerous) behavior works better than the begging she has done before, I expect she'll do doing more of the former. I would, wouldn't you?

Sally looked like a broken bird when she left, flushed and messy. But I think she's already planning her next trick. She is her mother's daughter and only knows her ways with Don.
p.s.: Maybe it's the unmothered child in me, the inner "girl" with a heart, or the Jungian occasionally wanna-be, but I like Megan. I can't tell people apart so she does look just like Jane or someone, but she seems to have substance. I'll call it the positive feminine, esp in how she reacts to Sally. Betty is certainly the negative feminine and I don't know who Peggy will turn out to be.

When Don didn't reach out to Sally, I kept picturing him in the episode where he was walking with the hobos and learning their language, learning what signs they painted on his father's gate.

That boy seemed compassionate and still open and for some reason, I thought Sally's plight might awaken him. Most people didn't "get" to live with their fathers in those days, no matter what.
A couple of thoughts:

1. I agree that the episode was worse than others. It was like they tried to boil the ocean.

2. The central plot, Sally Draper's escapade -- struck me as needed. That is, the children seem an afterthought in the Draper divorce, but they don't just disappear. They act out. Children deserve attention, and they will demand it.

3. How do you deal with behavior that is unacceptable, as Don put it? Reward it or punish it, or as it played out, a little of both. Don was unable to resist Sally's overtures. It is a particularly difficult situation, since Sally is acting in an emotionally appropriate manner.

4. Dr. Faye had her chance and was unable to leverage the situation. She is history. I had hoped she would have used her time with Sally to listen and to come up with some sort of zenish parable to clarify the situation. Sally is at an age where she needs to still be allowed to feel comfortable behaving as a child. Instead, she is trying to grow up too fast to escape an emotionally difficult situation. Faye seems to have a firm grasp on the notion that what people say they want isn't necessarily (or usually) what they want.

As far as the robbery scene -- Roger seemed a little too cool about it. And, in fact, he was shown as being in control. That is, he immediately sized up the situation, gave up all his money, rings, as well as ordering Joan to surrender hers. He didn't even wait for the robber to ask. Roger realized that he had broken the unwritten rules -- a wealthy guy walking through a bad neighborhood -- and that is just the way the world works. The problem for me was simply that Roger made it look too easy.
I'll probably be in the minority here, but I really liked Megan also. I know some of you seem to view her as little more than an unenlightened throwback--but she seems like the full package to me! She's a physically beautiful woman, clearly a competent professional able to take charge of and juggle difficult situations, and shows great compassion and sensitivity to the elderly (as in Miss Blankenship's death), children (in her touching interaction with Sally) and men (did you notice her gently touching Don's arm?). If it's not in the cards for Betty to turn over a new leaf and the two of them to get back together, then Don could do a lot worse than Megan as a second Mrs. Draper. In fact, I'm not certain he could do better! ;-)
I don’t think this episode is any less rich than the others. I may be naive to do so, but I basically regard each season of Mad Men, and indeed the whole series, as one long movie/book/play of a basically consistent value. Certain episodes may be a bit more entertaining than others, but the ideas are always intricate and never outside the context of everything that has previously occurred.

Mad Men has rewarded my inquiries so many times that I have trouble dismissing it. Indeed I feel I must dig until I reach a treasure, and though perhaps in the end it is I that supply a treasure that was not actually there, nonetheless is has value for me. There is a great deal that could be said about this episode, and I found I’ve had to round off my thoughts and cut out many of the intricacies lest I leave you with the length of a bible here.

Whereas Nelle seems to approach the show through the lens of feminist idealism, I see it as about political matters, but not politicized: it seems more about describing a kind of ongoing power negotiation rather than suggesting the value of such relationships.

“The Beautiful Girls” has male-female relationships as its principle focus: Sally and Don, Don and Faye, Roger and Joan, Peggy and Abe, Ida and Burt. It describes the messy, difficult, and transforming relationship between men and women, and the equally untidy intersection of personal and professional lives. The relationship between the two genders, then as now, is hopelessly tangled and complex, but fruitful of so much beautiful transformation, and I think this episode does a good job of bringing to the fore some of those complexities. Don says to Faye, comforting her towards the end: “Jesus, what a mess.” But she responds to him: “part of it’s good, right?”. Despite all the frustrations, there is something worthwhile coming out of it all.

Sally’s relationship with Don is the most important of these relationships, not only because her young mind is the template that suggests the future, but because Weiner wants to focus our attention on the transformation from a state of innocence to a feigned role of femininity. We see that she is consumed by a desire to be with Don always, but frustrated in her attempts to hold on to that attention and protection. She is preternaturally matured here, acting like a young wife as she makes Don’s breakfast and dutifully sits next to him to watch him eat. She is learning how to act the role of perfect femininity as it was conceived of by men at the time, thinking that it is what will enable her to win Don’s affection; (indeed, the power of men to define the proper role and behavior of women is the largest elephant in the room throughout the entire series).

When Don tells her it’s time to go back with her mother, she rebels forcefully because all her attempts to be a “woman” and secure Don have been thwarted. She acts anything but how a prim and proper young lady is supposed to act when she storms down the office and falls on her face. Her rebellion is understandable as her emotional ties to Don are being threatened, and Don himself is in part rejecting her. This is undoubtedly sad, but it hints at a generational break with the patriarchal culture, which is undoubtedly good, at least according to common wisdom in our post-feminist era. Sally ducking train conductors as she rides the train by herself penniless, just wanting to be with her father, is a sad but compelling image of the individuality that is emerging in someone whose deepest wishes for love and thus conformity and obedience are being thwarted.

In the storylines involving Roger and Joan, and Peggy and Abe, we see a different kind of male/female relationship. Here, it is the men that pursue, desperate to own the beauty that aches their heart, while the women are able to dictate many of the terms. One of the key things to remember about beautiful girls is that they have unrivaled power to stir men’s souls to greatness. Whether that greatness be defined as rich and genteel, as Roger is, or idealistic and rebellious, as Abe is, the motivation is the same: to win the love of a pretty girl.

Roger thinks he can win back Joan’s affections with an expensive massage, but he cannot break though the calcified structure of their relationship that easily. His gift is somewhat resented by Joan after she realizes that there is an implied quid pro quo, but in Roger’s mind, he just wants to get close to her any way possible and doesn’t see his gift as any kind of bribery. He’s unable to break through her guard until the frightening experience of robbery demands the atavistic recurrence of the man as the guardian of the vulnerable woman. Just after that experience in which Joan wants to “scream”, they have passionate sex, in public no less. There is a primordial emotional role that each craves in this instance: the man to be protector, the woman to be protected. The emergence of fear and its relief through this relationship is powerful enough to break down the moral strictures that repress the kind of connection Joan and Roger desire. But the world being created is one of less and less fear, and it’s clear this relationship will never solidify: the next day at the office, Joan tells Roger she regrets nothing but is married.

I think that Abe is similar to Roger here, but as he cannot win the girl with gifts, he must win her with his mind. Similar to Roger, he wants a relationship that he can’t have because of the basic structural differences between his and his desired’s life. Abe has developed a kind of naively pedantic rebelliousness that sees evil and instability at the very heart of the modern system. Despite his radicalism, (soon to become mainstream), he is wise to point out to Peggy that despite her not being a “political person”, she is political. He is pejorative towards Peggy’s line of work, though Mad Men has suggested often, and indeed in this very episode, how strongly business can ameliorate social relationships and create peace and equality where before there was distrust and dominance. (Peggy and Faye’s positions testify to that, as do the relationship with the Japanese shown a few episodes back.) The hilarious irony of Abe is that his affected intellectualism, though non disingenuous, seems a ploy to win over Peggy through an appeal to her romanticism, but ends up insulting and alienating her.

It’s very interesting that Abe says that he was defending Peggy in his essay by casting her as the “congregate” not the “priest” in the dominant American religion: business. Essentially, he is trying to absolve her by saying she is powerless. He means this as a compliment but of course Peggy is not going to take kindly to being told that she is a small sheep amidst an evil flock. Abe traces all the evil in the world to the ethos of business, but Mad Men goes out of its way to show that business intends no evil, but is merely indifferent to morality. In certain ways, business helps culture develop along more fair lines, a point I mentioned earlier.

But that indifference to morality sure can have an ugly face to it. It’s a painful scene to see Ida Blankenship, a women who gave her entire life to answering men’s phones, pass away and the agency doesn’t miss a beat. She’s carried out surreptitiously as the meeting doesn’t even notice, and the attitude in the office certainly seems unaffected, Harry making corny Irish jokes to enthusiastic laughter not long after she is wheeled out like trash. What does it mean to die in an office where nobody even stops to mourn you? The only reason her corpse is handled with a modicum of respect is because Cooper demands it, no doubt out of reverence for the memories he has of her as the “queen of perversions”. Her insistence to him that “emu” is the correct answer to his crossword puzzle over his objections suggests that she had formed over the years a comfortable relationship that lied somewhat outside the normal power dynamic. But the fact that he can think of nothing to say about her is telling, and he himself comments that it is “an insult to her”. They must rely on Joan to whitewash what was really a relationship of “sadists and masochists”, essentially powerful men forcing women to do their bidding, into a rosy picture of heartwarming relationships: Ida was a “devoted caretaker”, etc. Burt is able to assuage his guilt by thinking that he made her an "astronaut", that he somehow enabled her in a way that her poor farm upbringing never would have, and perhaps he did. But that still would not excuse his treatment of her.

When the body must be taken away, Joan says to Megan, “get a man”. Removal of heavy dead bodies is still the natural role of men, but when something is to be said about the dead that will affirm everyone’s value, it is a woman that is needed. And without that woman to make the men feel better about the passing of a virtual slave, there would be a serious crisis, because the real value of the relationships that occurred would be exposed.

Mad Men shows business as the central hub of activity in a network of relationships that are all being transformed, and where there are pockets of light and hope in certain relationships, there is also a great deal of evil and ugliness that permeates the network. Equality has not been achieved; sacrifices have to be made to restructure relationships; the true desires for closeness between males and females go unsatisfied.

Yet what beautiful women, what interesting, emotional, strong, vibrant women we see trapped in a closing elevator to whisk them back to their personal lives. They seem so noble, so alluring, but somewhat sad and haggard, all facing outward without exchanging a word. What a weakness, a subservience to the powers that be; and yet, what a reservoir of crucial emotions - what a great power lies there to remake the world.
Excellent points, Ryan -- especially about Bert Cooper's reaction to Ida Blankenship's death.

They were the Roger and Joan of their day.
Funny, I didn't think of the parallel between Roger/Joan and Burt/Ida but it is definitely relevant and pregnant with meaning.

Good catch David!
I feel thoroughly ruminated. :)

There is one other comment I wish to make. When the women brings in Sally, she says (and I badly paraphrase), "The men never know what's going on." She says this in front of Abe who is pointed pulling back the curtain for Peggy.

And (of course) it has two meanings, in most families during this time, the "family" is the woman's domain. It's "acceptable" for the fathers not to know what is going on in their childrens life. That's the boring interpretation.

Man has two interpretations - one gender and the other "The Man" aka the establishment. Very frequently in this episode we saw more pointedly that the world is passing by the establishment. Peggy has no clue about her client (Fillamore). We are able to sit here and say soon they will have to go through the Summer of Love, the Equal Rights act, the Second Civil Rights Act. But they don't know that. So it's easy for us to say, but they should be acting like XXX but they have no reason too.

And again, I'm a young one who is just obsessed with this show (I have to ask my father for enough background to understand) so I don't know what the make up of the early feminist movement was. But who is more likely to introduce me to the racism faced by Asian, my Asian boyfriend or my white best friend? Who is more likely to be involved in gender equality, someone deeply entrenched in the mainstream (Peggy) or someone marginalized on the fringe (Joyce).
I was a fan of this episode. It was overloaded but after the slow start to the season perhaps the speed up was necessary. The Sally storyline was devastating. An eleven year old child needs to come to terms with the loss of her father as she knew him and is left in the care of an unfeeling, completely uninvested mother. I too thought the most pathetic part of this program was Don comforting his latest bedmate rather than his traumatized daughter.

As I predicted last week, Faye is deeply flawed despite her training and is incredibly high maintenance. She's a great woman to date but not to live with.

Joan is a goddess. Her brief period of insecurity at the office seems to have dissipated and she is back in form. Her outfits even looked crisp although not as au courant as the younger ladies.

Peggy is starting to bore me. Elizabeth Moss seems to have a cold edge to her that prevents her from getting under our skin as I am sure the writers would like. I wasn't feeling her newfound concern for civil rights. Her best moment for me was when Blankenship died and she ran into Don's office and finds Sally there and says is a harsh but warm tone "don't come out". Most authentic Peggy moment last night, and the only directive Sally listened too! Her frustration with her limitations as a woman in her field were well delivered, but the dialogue with Abe over Filmore Auto Parts seemed like so many other 60's themed things that have already been done. Joyce's awesome analogy of men as vegetable soup seemed lost on Moss.

Betty crossed the line to irredeemable monster last night. Her character is turning into the weakest part of the series and it is sad that January Jones has been reduced to this.

Don is a cold fish as well. His detached parenting was revolting and man will he deserve what he is going to get at her hands in a decade or so!
This is fun.

Several years ago at Thanksgiving, David Letterman had a segment about holiday cards we really want . The best was "(front) 'We're Home For The Holidays! ... (inside) Let The Bickering Begin!!!'".

It is a testament to how much we have invested into Mad Men and into Nelle's commentary that so many emotional and lengthy opinions have been expressed in response to one episode and one review, It escapes how the art of this episode could ever be considered a dud. The same goes for Nelle's review.

It is safe to say that we are all fully invested in Mad Men and in Nelle's commentary. After today's exchanges, I am guessing we are now fully invested in each other. Last year I commented that this site is like the best book club - EVAH!
Georgia Pecan Pi, loved your "man" "The Man" rumination; it pleased my ancient heart. It's funny, I was very political in the late 60's, when I was in college, but my political involvements had much more to do wth Civil Rights and The Vietnam War. And I worked in traditionally female occupations, first as a teacher, then as a social worker. I was, on reflection, pretty marginally involved with the Womens' Movement. I marched for reproductive rights and the ERA and gave money to NOW whenever I could, but the people I worked with on a daily basis were so much worse off than I was that gender politics didn't interest me until somewhat later.

This week's discussion has been particularly interesting, with all of the divergent views, including invocations of Jung. Thank-you for that, Nelle; we don't always disagree, but the disagreements and different approaches to viewing MM make for a helluva good read.

And Ryan, thank-you. I THOUGHT that Miss Blankenship was Bert Cooper's Queen of Perversions, not Rogers.

On a completely irreverent note, I saw that Alan Sepinwall ,on Hitfix, called his MM recap "Blankenship Down."
Well Nelle, I hope you appreciate that the commenters taking issue with you this week are doing so only because your posts for so many of us have become an integral part of the MM experience.

Re Peggy, while her comments comparing women's plight with that of "the Negroes" seemed a little too prescient, I didn't find it that unlikely. As someone else pointed out, she hadn't been to university and she's gradually picking up on the bigger issues of her time. Her being excluded from all sorts of business talk makes it credible that she wouldn't have been aware of the boycott and as I said earlier, she wasn't the type that read the Village Voice back in those days.

Others of have covered the remaining points I was going to say and in any case I wouldn't want to turn this into a remora-like blog.

An unusual week where the show was rightly criticized (though I liked your comment about not needing to love every episode) and where several folks saw it differently than you. Please don't let that get you down; indifference would be worse.
I was reading the "Men never know" comment and realized that what I was thinking went a little further. Activist men, such as Abe, at the time didn't know any more than their conservative brethren, nor did they have any inclusive or empowering vision for the role of women.

What respect did Abe have for Peggy really, since he was still trying to school her the way that most of the men in this show do the women in their lives. She could be his muse or his sexual object but her point of view was something he dismissed or attempted to improve, and he did so without her request, which says he doesn't see her as an equal.

The years dull my remembrance of those days, but geeze, there is nothing much more enlightening than finding out that your 'radical" boyfriend really just wants someone to screw, cook, feed his ego, and then disregard. Nothing more, or different, than other men.
I read at least four blogs on MM after each week's episode, and I particularly enjoy this one because of Nelle and all of you commenters. I really appreciate everyone here who has lived through this time period, can recall the flavor of the times, and elucidate / expand upon the actions and possible motivations of these characters.

The one thing bothering me about this week's recap, and I've seen this elsewhere, is the disappointment some feel that characters are not behaving "properly" according to their story arc /how we know history has actually played out. This show is set to "unfolding" on the tempo dial, and the characters are written/played as humans who do not follow a straight path toward their personal conclusion. No one (or it's a rare human who is) only a feminist / rake / behind the times / progressive / mommy / career-focused / drunk / etc. We are many things, contradict ourselves daily (although I'd argue it's not contradiction, simply complexity revealing itself). We start and stop and redo and rethink, we are flawed and evolving. Therefore it's hard to resonate with commentary that speaks of how these characters are derailing, or sliding back to old habits, or rigidly represent X and cause confusion when they behave as Y.

I have a mother who is a feminist but does not know it. She will actually sneer at the feminist movement verbally, but her behavior screams that she takes charge and does not think about what her "role" should be in any given situation. If she were a character on this show, bloggers would talk about what false notes she's hitting, how the writers can't seem to decide who she should be. We are not that contained. Everyone knows this from personal experience. I think what's great about this show is that these characters represent those blurry lines. When Don abstains from drinking, he's not a hero/angel. When he slugs back a drink, he's not a villain/drunk. Rare is the cold turkey abstainer. We're watching him evolve.

That this show has taken some new turns / tones this season is interesting to me - I am as uncomfortable with some of the new approaches to writing / set designs / etc. as the actual characters might feel when living in this changed scenario (1965, new offices, new business concerns) - and I like that!

And, I agree with most of you who disagree with this week's analysis, AND that it was a more literal episode lacking a tinge of finesse here and there. I especially did not like the elevator scene: to me it was trite, and Dr. Faye looked like she was acting as she simply stood there, a very false note to me. Then again, I have a particular dislike for her character; I feel like she's barely containing some ugly truths and behavior behind what to me is a plastic, canned exterior - like someone who is trying to "pass" in a prescribed environment.
Re Lesbian Feminism, Jill Johnston just died. This NYT obit

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/arts/21johnston.html?ref=arts

touches on her pivotal importance to the movement -- and shows that Joyce is no Jill.
I thought it was a potent episode. (I"m going to hate it when this season is over)

In preWoodstock 60s the Voice was a very select newspaper, read by the hip and downtown locals.. My recollection of it, was that it was like the alternate liberal newspaper you get outside the supermarkets and didn't really come into it's own until the Stonewall riots in the late 60s. So Peggy, being Brooklyn Irish Catholic and decidedly non hip (or only recently wading into hip by way of her new villagey lesbian friend who would read it) wouldn't be very familiar with it or be expected to read it at that time. The Daily News was the Brooklyn paper one read on the subway. Or the Journal American.

I'm loving Sally because Sally is a lot like I was, only a whole lot more privileged so there's a personal satisfaction in watching this character evolve.Her psychiatrist is empowering her and she's speaking up for herself, desperately. Sally is a straight shooter. She's telling everyone around her, from schools to shrinks to families of friends, "I'm in trouble. Get me away from my mother." There's nothing wrong with HER. It's a simple request that is impossible for caregiving adults of that period to understand, so immersed were they in a culture that could not comprehend a mother who does not or possibly could not mother her own child. I see private boarding school in her future but I hope not. I hope Don decides a half assed parent that loves his kids is better than a half assed parent who doesn't.

Blankenship was one of my favorite characters. I'm sorry they knocked her off so early on (for her). I would have liked to see her around for this season and maybe next. Don was just starting to enjoy her droll wisecracking I thought. I certainly was.

I want Joan and Roger to find their way to each other permanently. I think they're being set up for this although his talk about dying made me worry they're going to give him another heart attack soon. I do not understand how he could have divorced his wife for his second wife, when he had the glorious Joan for that many years. That said, new wife with substance abuse issues skidaddling out to the Hamptons on a Weds suggests youthful fun without Roger. I'm going to guess there's going to come a point when she doesn't even bother coming home. They're not even bothering to put her on the show so that's a hopeful sign.

Now I'm going to read the comments, which is as much fun as reading your Mad Men posts. Thanks Nelle for doing them.
@ Ryan Fischer

I don't see Betty reading Feminine Mystique. I see her reading Marilyn French's The Woman's Room in the mid 70's and proceeding from there. (by then Sally will either be at Berkeley or Columbia).

There may be hope for Betty. MAYBE.

I also see her as The Typical Political Wife. From the perfectly coiffed hair (and coiffed is precisely the word) she is the woman behind the man, the smooth blond standing behind her man during victory speeches or sitting behind him at Congressional Hearings, the wronged wife allowed finally to stand next to him while he publically apologizes for visiting prostititutess. Pampered, complicit, self silenced.
I think you are reading this episode all wrong. You seem to be doing what you accuse the ep of doing: presenting stock caricatures of "types" of women in the 1960s. You just give the opposite meaning for the caricature from the one you argue that the writers put forth. For instance, Betty can be read in more ways than just the representative housewife of the show: we know enough about her history to realize she is complex and not representative. Indeed, she is cruel, petulant, shallow and many other nasty things, but it never strikes me that she is all of those things simply because she was prevented by sexism from becoming a self-actualized individual. Indeed, that certainly has something to do with it, but then as now, there are parents who are cruel, and whose cruelty cannot be solely attributed to their own proscribed upbringing.
Also, you are simply incorrect when you assert that the 2nd Wave women's movement was not started by affluent white women. In its official iteration, it was. Sure, there were other women arguing for more inclusion, but they were rebuffed for a long time. Also, it seems entirely realistic that Peggy would not be able to understand that her situation was really not the same as African-Americans. It is true to her character (a person who isn't really political, and isn't really intellectual), to not see the differences fully. I believe she will come to see the difference over time, but this seems like a quite accurate reading for a young, provincial, focused-on-business woman to have. And while she isn't being shot at, she is certainly being shat on at almost every turn, which does matter. Her response seems like an accurate depiction of the rift in understanding between feminists and the black civil rights movement, a rift that is still being argued about today, and seems to have no politically satisfying conclusion.
Hi all, thanks for carrying on without me. I'm sorry I haven't been here to do my usual response to each and every comment but only the 2 more general ones addressing the consensus disagreement with my post. It's not you, it's me -- real life cutting way into time I can be online since posting this early Monday AM. And now I'm way behind here -- I've been trying to at least read all the comments but responding to all of them would take me more time than I can manage right now. Hope to get back to them, though. In the meantime, glad the conversation continues without me!!
to Illovox:
“It is not a story of all America but a specific set of stories about some white folks in America and the world they saw, the actions they did, and the desires and issues they encountered. …We see of the black person or the Jew what these people see, and that is on purpose.”

I had a blizzard of thoughts when I read this, and sinking emotions. Do we know that this was “on purpose,” or just a mistake? If the writers are trying to create a drama that will engage all of us in 2010, I’d argue it was…a mistake. In fact, a flaw.

To me, it is frightening to think that we would be asked as viewers in 2010 to see everything through the eyes of the privileged white folks in 1965 (privileged relative to black people, Jews, etc.) on the cast. It disturbs me to think that your meaning is that this is why it makes sense to present stick figure versions of black people and Jews, because that’s how the white folks saw them in those days.

Part of me agrees with some part of this, the part of me that knows that each viewer chooses whom they identify with. But some of us are going to naturally identify with the characters that are black people and Jews, the moment that character comes on the screen. I’m guessing that some of the old John Wayne westerns were showing women as John Wayne viewed them, but guess what? Everyone else during that era viewed them that way as well. Now, in 2010, I think I expect a retro drama depicting the stresses and strains of a much earlier era (the era in which I came of age) to depict the complexity of that era. Because the fact is, all the people from black to white to Jew and beyond were complex then, and all of them are complex now. If the writers want us to see and feel the “reality” of the white folks, good acting between believable, dramatic characters is the way to do it.

I’d much rather believe that the writers of this episode simply made a mistake in drawing the character of Sally’s “nanny” in earlier episodes, and of the black mugger as they did, and even in deciding the mugger would be black. To believe the writers of MM want to show us a cartoon figure each time they introduce a black or a Jew among the white people is disappointing, at best.
Nelle, can I offer an alternative context in which to consider Peggy? Rather than measuring our young heroine up to an idealized standard of who Peggy "might" have been with the benefit of our hindsight, maybe we should just view Peggy as one important, unique story of a thousand stories of women in the workforce in the 1960's, all facing the headwind of the gender discrimination of the time. That gender barrier was not broken in a single moment in time by a wall of self-identifying feminist women consciously joined in a single purpose. It was a thousand hungry Peggys over the course of a decade or more - many perhaps completely ignorant of the intellectual pursuit of equality being sought contemporaneously by proto-feminist thinkers and civil rights activists - working women, each making some of the choices that Peggy made that broke down that wall. Some thinking that they needed to choose work over marriage, and consciously doing so. Some accepting that they would need to act like 'one of the boys' for a time to get ahead. Some, like Peggy, actually asking for that office. Some being lucky enough to be offered a few opportunities by the men who controlled her fate at work and then running with them. Some making the judgment to hitch her prospects to a Don Draper-type who saw the talent and wanted to use it and ultimately repaid loyalty and hard work with trust and advancement. Perhaps there is nothing romantic or representative about Peggy's journey...but it seems like a real journey. We, on the outside, can see that Peggy is not perfect or ideal, especially knowing what we know now about what it took to truly knock down the wall. But Peggy is without that conscious context. She is on her own, scrapping to make it. It makes her point of view about 'negros' just needing to try harder understandable.

I think its generally one of the things that makes MM so enjoyable - that we all have the benefit of hindsight, and the characters do not. So, when Peggy or Joan or Don says something that we know to be false in the fullness of time, or shows a lack of understand of a wider context, or is particularly ironical due to lack of reflection....its for us to know now, and for them to learn at some later date when they get wise.

Anyway, thank you for sharing your intellect, week after week. I am ready to put this one behind us. I look forward to your take on next week's episode!!
Nelle, I logged in today because of my curiosity over how you would respond to our "assault" on you. LOL. Much as I suspected, you answered with class and with respect.

Many in this "best book club evah - T. Catfish" seemed to be immensely disturbed by what they perceived as too sharp a turn, or just plain poor writing in this episode (I, for one, find it impossible to believe that this is a "weak" episode - I think everything as with every other episode is deeply and well thought out and conveyed). More interesting, perhaps, and more personal to all of the regular commenters (sp?) is that so many of us (myself included) seem equally disturbed because Nelle seemed to diverge from what we might "normally" expect. Bravo to this as well, I say.

I begin to look forward to many of the regular commenters almost as much as I do to Nelle's analysis, especially Ryan. Thanks to all of you for sharing your insights and emotions, and thanks especially to everyone for doing it in a fairly respectful manner, even when Nelle is under "assault".
Such a great club! I enjoy this as much as the show.

What happened to MM's art direction expertise? The set design for the mugging scene looked like a cheesy backlot. Couldn't they borrow a set from Law and Order? Yikes.

Weiner likes to keep us guessing, so I think he's due to take Betty's character in an unexpected direction. She's not what Henry was hoping for, so something will give way sooner or later. What fun! Can't wait till next sunday!

Thanks Nelle, you've created a wonderful post-game atmosphere.
This stuff is going to get me disliking all the women on this show. Sally and Joyce are the only ones I found likable in this episode. (Yeah, I suppose Megan, but I'm structually compelled to resent anyone that thin.)

On my own blog (and in the only post there so far), I called this a "plight-of" show, with the violins playing for all these women. I mean, point taken, but geez, do we need half a dozen story lines to all make the point? It seems, as it goes on, that "Mad Men" is driving home its subtle points with a sledgehammer.

Joan is now weak, friendless, husbandless, and back to pointless sex with Roger? I'd rather we had left her in the department store. Peggy's just going to get mad at every man she talks to? Ida dies so a Keystone Komedy can play behind the Car X guys? Faye's as much a jumble of nerves as the switchboard women who were to the bathroom to cry three seasons back?

Joyce, I like, even after the actress finds herself plucking at stuff on Peggy's desk when she takes her hands out of her pockets, and even after she comes out with "a woman without a man is like a soup without a plate." (What the flying spaghetti monster was that?!) I love her being self-amused all the time, and love to Peggy for taking the lick.

(BTW Nelle, that's a new one to me, that a purse is "that symbolic stand-in for the female genitals." I don't want to even start to try to figure that out.)

Sally is beautifully acted and written. Her feeling that Faye or Bethany are competition to her, her cooking for dad, her mixing daughter and wife roles to get dad to let her live with him, just wonderful.

Hmm, Faye may have felt crappy that she couldn't take care of Sally, but her second thought might be to reconsider the lummox who tried to shove his daughter off onto someone else to console.
Most commenters seem to take it as a given that Joan’s husband, Greg, will meet his demise in Vietnam. I was guilty of the same as soon as he mentioned the possibility of Vietnam being one of the options for him upon joining the army. Should we think Matt Weiner would make it that easy since it is what we are all expecting? Greg may come back to her paralyzed or severely injured in some other way. He may be back, but altered in some way that she won’t be able to cope with. I envision a resulting pregnancy from Joan and Roger’s ‘after near death experience’ experience! Remember, she went to the ob/gyn to get the A-OK for trying to get pregnant before Greg was sent off. She may not have gotten back to taking precautions yet. I'm just thinking ahead...
To Nelle and all who post...Thanks! This is the coolest group, evah! The level of discourse and tone is something not found very often. I love that we can agree...disagree...write with passion and enjoy every line. Best book I have ever been in...
That's book club...darn it...book club! I never seem to be able to post without one mistake!

Fran
i have to say, your comments are much snarkier than heathers. and mean-spirited! and don't agree with anything you have to say.are you a bitter dyke?
Is it just me or did anyone else think that "snarky" comment at first sounded like a compliment?:)
Macmckinstry,

You seem to have stumbled upon onur gathering by mistake. So, I assume you are lost. May I help you find the door and help you get directions to where you want to be?
"Illovox, I'm going to respond to your point (and in doing so, I apologize for not responding to others at this time) because your response that MM can't represent all types is not unique to you.

"Of course not. But that response is itself illogical (I'll use that term since you use it towards me) -- you're saying that because a work of art can't represent all types of women, men, secretaries, housewives, gays, etc that the types it does represent are meaningless except in terms of enjoying the particular story/narrative/plot."

So, you are saying that the characters of Mad Men or any story can represent all the characters you want them to represent. Only possible if you project your desires and needs upon them, which is the natural relationship of any art to its audience, but the problem in your review that I (and others) point to is that you are disappointed by what you find as you engage in that projection. You take issue with the writers for this disappointment, and I feel that it is illogical to do so, that in fact the cause of this disappointment is in the ill-chosen projection or schema you are trying to fit over the work. I made a good case for that notion, by selecting scenes and elements that contradict your assertions, and I point out that there are little to no events or moments in the work to support your assertions. Pretty logical to me. Now, instead of showing me support for your theses, you launch an anthemic philisophical position regarding what you think art can or can not do. Admirable, but disconnected from the argument at hand.

"I'm arguing that they do in fact have meaning, and that every artist makes choices in what they represent in their art, and that those choices affect us on many levels as consumers of that art --which is their very intent. But it's not exactly uncommon for that effect to be other than the artist intended."

Of course, completely common, because as viewers we bring our desires and preconceptions and hopes to the table. A good review discloses those and moves forward. Normally, in very subtle ways, you do that, but not this last week. This last post, you make assertions without supporting evidence and you express frustrations without taking your own expectations into account, then you blame the artists of the work for your feeling of disappointment.

"Perhaps this reflects a difference in how we see something like MM -- I do see it as art, and I believe art has enormous impact on people. Actually I think even mindless entertainment often does, too. (I also think the choices we make in how we communicate and act as individuals have stronger effects on others than many people do.)"

A difference as evidenced by what, and how would you know how I view art or communication or the effects of either, and why in the world would you assume my definitions are anything but dynamic? This last statement is, parden the vernacular, snooty, as in "I am justified in not having to support my arguments because of this foundational way I view things, which, by the way, is likely better than the way you view them because I am right and you are not, but I will not actually support my arguments."

"I'm not arguing that MM has to represent everything. I'm arguing that what it chooses to represent has an effect on the viewer."

But that is not the problem I point out. The problem is not that you want it to represent everything, but that you want it to reflect what you want.

"The creators of MM have stated that they wish to do precisely that, and they've been clear about wanting to represent a historical period with as much accuracy as possible, especially the experiences of women. If some people (like me) feel they are falling short of their stated intention, why is it a problem to state that? I'm not the one who has imposed that intention on them -- they have taken it on themselves."

You haven't made a good case that they fell short of any of that this week. You just expressed your own stereotypes and your disappointment that Mad Men failed to model those stereotypes.

"to Illovox:
“It is not a story of all America but a specific set of stories about some white folks in America and the world they saw, the actions they did, and the desires and issues they encountered. …We see of the black person or the Jew what these people see, and that is on purpose.”

"I had a blizzard of thoughts when I read this, and sinking emotions. Do we know that this was “on purpose,” or just a mistake?"

We know it is on purpose because Wiener et al have clearly stated such intentions and perameters in several commentaries. That such a self-imposed limitation leaves you disappointed is not a failing of the intention, nor, arguably, of the work itself. Clearly millions of viewers and the Emmy committees agree.

"If the writers are trying to create a drama that will engage all of us in 2010, I’d argue it was…a mistake. In fact, a flaw."

But they are not trying to engage "all" of us, only those of us who are engaged by what they are doing. To see work that expresses what you want to see, either write your own stories with those characters or seek other work. Certainly that all we see of minor characters is limited is also a function of their being minor characters. For example, we know as little of Megan's life as of the Elevator Mans life in the earlier episodes. The same is true in life--we can not know all people fully--there just is not enough time in the world to fulfill such an expectation. That is not a failing, bigotry, or even "sad," it's just the nature of life.

"To me, it is frightening to think that we would be asked as viewers in 2010 to see everything through the eyes of the privileged white folks in 1965 (privileged relative to black people, Jews, etc.) on the cast."

Well, then I guess you are to be frightened, but not because they are asking you to see "everything." The show, and indedd, any work, does not ask you to see everything, just what is presented. The rest you bring.

"It disturbs me to think that your meaning is that this is why it makes sense to present stick figure versions of black people and Jews, because that’s how the white folks saw them in those days."

Now you're putting words in my mouth. Firstly, there is a difference between "stick" figures and minor characters. Works of drama have them, such is a fact of life--to rail against the limitation of minor characters is to pen "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead." Stoppard brought a sense of humor to the effort and he doesn't make disparaging remarks about Shakespeare in the process, so please, don't call me names for pointing out the obvious. Im pretty sure that as the primary characters experience more of the world than their sheltered limitations can hold, the more we will see ethnic characters emerge with more body and time.

"Part of me agrees with some part of this, the part of me that knows that each viewer chooses whom they identify with. But some of us are going to naturally identify with the characters that are black people and Jews, the moment that character comes on the screen. I’m guessing that some of the old John Wayne westerns were showing women as John Wayne viewed them, but guess what? Everyone else during that era viewed them that way as well. Now, in 2010, I think I expect a retro drama depicting the stresses and strains of a much earlier era (the era in which I came of age) to depict the complexity of that era. Because the fact is, all the people from black to white to Jew and beyond were complex then, and all of them are complex now."

All this goes without saying, I think. That real people are complex is true, and I don't need a reminder, thank you, but the show has less than 60 minutes a week to tell its story. It centeres on Don and his supporting cast at the agency and at home. If you want to see a show of ethnic characters in the same time and space, create the show and pitch it to AMC. I would watch it. I want a story about Jews...I read "Kavalier and Clay" and I want more, so I start writing my own...that's the way of the world. Time is limited. Can only do so much. Ask any cancer patient. Oh wait, I'm a cancer patient. Ask me... ;)

"If the writers want us to see and feel the “reality” of the white folks, good acting between believable, dramatic characters is the way to do it."

And I feel that's exactly what they are doing. Please prove otherwise.

"I’d much rather believe that the writers of this episode simply made a mistake in drawing the character of Sally’s “nanny” in earlier episodes, and of the black mugger as they did, and even in deciding the mugger would be black. To believe the writers of MM want to show us a cartoon figure each time they introduce a black or a Jew among the white people is disappointing, at best.

"Teyuna"

You're choosing to believe that, and it seems, based on poor evidence, or at least, you have not made a good case to me that they made a mistake or failed in any way.

I like these characters, and no less because I know there are also blacks and Jews and other women and other men whose stories are not being told in this show. I just wish there more writers of the caliber that jot this one down, covering all those other folks we see too little of on the screen, but then I tune to BET and see what I can find. And if I can't find it on TV, I remember I can walk to the neighborhood pub and strike up a conversation with whoever I might want to and hear another story right there. That's life in these United States.