Mad Men Mondays is dead. But never fear, your Mad Men Midweek Fix is here! The Feministing crew has decided to be more realistic about our schedules this year, so now you can jump back into your Mad Men geeking out with us midweek!
During the fourth season of Mad Men Feministing writers will offer some of our thoughts on feminist moments, scenes, and themes in the new episodes in order to start a discussion about these topics in our community. *WARNING: Lots of spoilers follow.
And now, our thoughts on the season premiere!
Bikinis and modesty.
Footnotes of Mad Men reminded me that 1964 was the year that designer Rudi Gernreich debuted the “topless bikini” — which was really more of a high-fashion art piece than something that took off as a style trend, but was hailed as a sign that “family values” and modesty were on the decline. – Ann
I loved that Don just could not be bothered to cater to the hypocrisy of these “modest” bikini peddlers, even when he could really use the business . Also interesting that the act of kicking them out was treated as the beginning of his return to a true Don Draper-like state of manhood, immediately preceding the scene where he does a new interview, this time with the WSJ, and this time with his “game face on” and swagger in hand. It’s almost like he had to expunge the faux-wholesomess from his life (including his own seemingly picture perfect nuclear family) to really hit his stride and find himself. It also seems to be a metaphor for the era, as Ann gets at above. – Lori
Pete Campbell, on the actresses they’re hiring for the PR stunt: “I can put them on my expense account if I say they’re whores.”
Presented without comment. – Chloe
I found it interesting how 1. Peggy seemed to become the scapegoat for the scam her and Pete pulled, and how 2. she was chastised by Don for potentially tarnishing the company’s image after his news interview was a complete flop. But it was pretty typical of her and Don’s dynamic; he uses his sexist assholery to take his shit out on her. The good thing that came out of it was her ability to defend herself in this kind of demand to be respected as an equal; she seems to take less and less bullshit from him as the show progresses. Love Peggy. – Vanessa
Sally and Betty’s dynamic.
Some serious “Are You There, God? It’s Me Sally” moments in this episode, foreshadowing the explosive pre-teen and teen years, I’m sure. I can’t wait for Sally to rebel and become part of the counter-culture. – Ann
Don goes on a date.
We’ve seen forced and fake behavior on this show before, but damn. Bethany’s line delivery literally seemed like she was reading off the date script, and all of Don’s behavior, from checking his hair in the mirror to getting “a little grabby in the car” felt like an attempt to be the young boy dating again. Does Don want to do the whole wife and kids fake life thing again? - Jos
I think he does, Jos! Everything about his interaction with Bethany (aka Betty 2.0) seemed designed to give viewers the sense that Don is just destined to repeat his mistakes. But when she stops his grabby advances, the clear message is that we’re in a new era for Don — turns out that being married was part of his appeal to women. I know he’s going to try to keep officially dating young, blonde, “Mt. Holyoke types,” but he should really be pursuing beatnik babes who are more laid-back about dating divorced dudes. Or call up Rachel Menken! Except Rachel probably won’t have him anymore, either. No wonder he’s depressed. - Ann
In almost every interaction we’ve seen Don have with a woman, he has been completely assured of his own ability to extract from her whatever he wants, whether it’s through force or through charm. On this date, he seemed to be lacking – in enthusiasm, yes, but most of all he seemed to lack a sense of what he wanted. What’s the point in being able to get whatever you want if you don’t know what that is? - Chloe
Don gets smacked during sex.
Sex that he paid for! That fact was more notable to me than his bedroom behavior. I am not 100 percent sure, but I don’t think we’ve seen Don pay for sex before. Kind of ironic that now that he’s free to sleep with whomever he likes, he somehow seems much more limited. As for the slapping, both in this scene and in previous glimpses we’ve had of Don’s sex life, it doesn’t seem like he’s actually all that into S&M play. He looks more… sad than turned on. – Ann
I was struck both that this is the first time we’ve seen Don pay for sex (I’m fairly sure) and that we saw him take a submissive role. Don usually likes to display his power through sex (probably never more clear or disturbing than when he stuck his hand up Bobby Barret’s dress). I think there’s a lot going on here — Don wants to feel something, sure, and of course he’s got reason to punish himself, but this and other details like that Don’s not eating make me wonder about how much he’s privately unravelling. - Jos
Agreed, Jos. The whole point of this episode, I think, was to offer us a glimpse of what Don looks like when you take away the Don Draper persona – when he can no longer answer the question “who is Don Draper?” Even though the answer to that question’s always been a lie, he’s always been able to tell it, easily and compellingly. Now, it seems, he’s too apathetic, or as you say Jos, he’s unravelling too much, to assert himself or even define himself. Then again, based on his performance in the second interview, at the end of the episode, the persona didn’t leave him for long. – Chloe
I thought this scene was kinda hot. The end. – Lori
Betty and Henry’s relationship
This is really the first time we’ve seen the two of them interact as a couple, and it’s pretty apparent that once the newness wears off, Betty isn’t going to be too much happier in this arrangement than she was with Don. One of the reasons Henry’s mothers comments bother her so much is that she is echoing what Betty feels inside. Even after going through with the divorce, Betty’s a by-the-rules type, traditional-families-are-best, etc. Despite the front she puts up with Don and her kids, I don’t think she’s completely confident in or happy with her decision. – Ann
I agree, and think that the fact that she doesn’t want to move out of the house is somewhat of an indicator of that. And the two intimate scenes between them was the first one in bed, where Henry seems to be turned off from Sally and Betty’s argument (a reality he’ll have to deal with on the regs), and then seemingly turned on immediately after seeing Betty’s argument with Don. Does Henry like being the other man more than just the man in Betty’s life? A part of me feels like neither of them are going to stay happy in this arrangement very long. – Vanessa
Childish behavior mirrored in Don and Betty’s episode arcs
Betty gets a lot of shit from viewers for her childish behavior (even though it’s obviously a central part of her character). So I enjoyed seeing Betty immaturity mirrored in Don’s; while Betty lost her temper at Sally, Don lost his at potential clients. When Betty was stubborn about the house, Don was stubborn about doing press. Both tried to play the role of the parent, especially for Don in the final bikini meeting where he scolded clients, and both came off as whining children. Don’s always displayed this sort of behavior, but not all piled on at once. It made me think of the series premiere, when we didn’t know Don had a wife and kids at home. Seems to me as distant as he was from his family, just having them there gave Don some stability in his made up life. I’m curious to see the effects of the divorce on this obviously destroyed man over the course of the season – how much peace of mind did a man get just from knowing he had the American dream all set up in his perfect suburban house, even if it was all surface? Who is Don Draper indeed. The show’s always had a theme of creating your own story – I’m curious to see the person Don builds himself into this season. – Jos
What Jos said. So true. – Vanessa
The new offices and Peggy’s hair!
As a whiskey-drinking lady (yes, sometimes even at the office), I loved the scene of Peggy and the new guy (I forget his name already) drinking Jameson during their creative meeting. Although nothing can top the “I’m Peggy Olson and I’d like to smoke some marijuana” scene from last season. Oh, and her hair? Meh. – Ann
I’m seriously impressed by how far Peggy has come, how much she’s grown up. Just to be sure I wasn’t given her undue credit, I went back and watch a few episodes from Season 1, and it’s remarkable how self-assured she’s become, how much more comfortable with conflict. This time when Don reprimanded her, she took it with a small smile and held her ground. She called him out when she thought he was being spiteful, and she spoke her mind the first time, instead of taking several episodes to come out and voice her grievances they way she used to. In short, she’s an adult now, and I dig it. – Chloe
I know they’re small and cramped but I love the new offices. They’ve got such a fun 60s vibe. I feel like the opening of The Apartment was shot in the Sterling Cooper offices but the filmmakers were working out of the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Price. With public opposition to the war in Vietnam growing and the signing of the civil rights act 1964 is for real what gets thought of as the 60s. Hell, divorce is already starting to feel commonplace for some of our characters. I’m looking forward to seeing this new world explored a lot more this season. – Jos