Mad Men Midweek Fix: The Rejected

Mad Men Midweek FixDuring 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. This year we’ll help you get through the middle (ok more like end this week) of the week wait for the next episode. *WARNING: Lots of spoilers follow.

Harry on Puerto Rican women.
When even Pete’s not in the mood to hear about it, you know you’re being an asshole. -Ann

Its like that awful feeling I got in high school where I was partly excited that the white boys noticed who I was, while being equally reviled in their attention. -Samhita

Peggy meets Joyce, sees some nudes.
I love that in a very traditional Mad Men episode (basically a clone of a season one episode) we’ve got Peggy making a female professional friend (or perhaps “friend”?) in the elevator. This wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago, and now there are at least two young women who aren’t secretaries in one building. -Jos

Joyce is amazing. Secretary: “She’s so arrogant….” Peggy looking dreamily: ”I know…”-Samhita

Faye’s focus group.
Yes, Faye’s brilliant at her job. It’s just sad that this means making herself seem less smart and qualified than she is. This episode had a lot of class dynamics between women – we’ve now got professional women and female secretaries in the same space, and that’s bringing up a lot of complications (Joyce and her friends’ field trip to look at the front desk secretary was just sad). In this case Faye has to act like she hasn’t had success in order to be accepted. I got a vibe of superiority from both Faye and Peggy when it came to the secretaries, but also a lot more understanding than Don or Freddy would ever offer. -Jos

I really appreciate the complexity that Faye is bringing to the dynamic, since we don’t totally know her history, but she is confident and good at her job. And Don can’t get her in bed! -Samhita

Allison and Don.
I get that Don’s an asshole and I get that Don treats women like objects. But in this particular instance, I didn’t get what the big deal was. Of course he made a mistake and her feelings were hurt when he didn’t acknowledge it afterwards. He tells her that she is free to do whatever she feels more comfortable with (stay or leave) and even offers her the best letter of recommendation– one she can write herself and he signs off on. I might be missing something, but I’m not sure what the hell else Don was supposed to do. What did she want from him? -Anna

She’s his secretary. That power dynamic brings so much with it, and Don used to know better. Yes, they both made a mistake, but Don was completely unwilling to engage in any sort of discussion. A few seasons ago this wouldn’t be expected, but now characters are starting to actually talk about things. I think Allison at least expected him to be a person about it, instead of cold and professional. Yes, letting her write her own recommendation is a great business offer, but I think it’s an asshole way to deal with sleeping together.

Also, this is hilarious. -Jos

Yeah, I think Don was such an asshole, but I really appreciated someone completely bugging out on him instead of just accepting his cold ways. Don is slowly breaking down, you can tell he feels bad, but doesn’t really know how to express that. -Samhita

Peggy goes to a party with Joyce.
Last week we got dick jokes. This week we got, “He doesn’t own your vagina!” “No but he’s renting it!” Win! Of course the show gets us all excited with Joyce coming out and then throws Peggy in a closet with miscellaneous guy person. If Peggy actually goes gay Mad Men is officially tied with Buffy for most awesomest TV show ever! -Jos

Random FYI: I totally went to high school with closet boy. -Vanessa

Look at those fucking hipsters!! Seriously, though I now have my hopes up: I want Peggy to leave her icky boyfriend for Vanessa’s high-school classmate, the closet-kisser. Or Joyce. Swoon. -Ann

Closet kisser was a hunk. What’s his number V??? And I love Joyce or any pot-smoking, film going, underground partying, bohemian lesbian that uses words like “swellegant.” -Samhita

Don’s almost apology letter to Allison.
Don was almost a person for a second there and then, nope, not so much. -Jos

It was so pathetic. And I felt bad for him. Which, in a nutshell, explains many of my dating travails. Haha. -Samhita

Peggy finds out about Pete and Trudy’s pregnancy. Peggy and Pete’s moment.
animated gif of Peggy and Pete looking at each other through the glass door
I don’t know why, but I totally want Peggy and Pete to be together. Pete is definitely a gross sleazeball at times and Peggy can do better but I sorta feel like they’re the messed up Joey-Pacey couple of the show. I’m rooting for them for some reason. So this moment was really touching for me, especially the moment where she comes to Pete in person to congratulate him. And then again when they share that uber-long stare from the lobbies. Sigh. -Anna

Wow. Three seasons worth of an incredibly complex dynamic led to this deeply charged, deeply affecting moment. There’s so much going on here – Peggy moving forward into a new social sphere, Pete trying to rise up the old ranks. No doubt having a child is a chance to move on from his first child for Pete, but also brings back all those memories and feelings. Some part of Peggy must still want that life with Pete, but she really is so far beyond that now. I think it was really smart to start 1965 with the two young characters we’ve seen grow up over the course of the show so far. It’s their world now, as the last episode made incredibly clear (though Don’s still going to manage to commercialize that – young people control so much of the economy for a reason!). -Jos

Their moment (and this episode in general) was also symbolic of the shift happening in the 60s in America, towards more movement-building and progressive thought (Peggy’s new friends) challenging the traditional and conventionality of the 50s (Pete and fam). -Vanessa

Peggy is really all over the place in this episode — trying on Faye’s wedding ring and thinking about what might have been with Pete… but also hanging out with her fellow career gals and smoking weed and making out with strangers in closets. Something about this felt really modern to me — more so than any other character at any other point in this series, her desires and struggles seemed to pretty closely mirror what the young women I know are going through. Societal pressures versus personal desires. Can’t wait to see what else happens with Peggy this season. -Ann

Yeah, I appreciate the complexity they are giving Peggy. And that look with Pete. So pregnant, for lack of a better word. It almost made me tear and I am not totally sure why. I hate Pete Campbell, LOL. -Samhita

Don rejects Faye’s marriage-related ad pitch. “Hello 1925. You stick your finger in people’s brains, and they just start talking.”
Right, we’re supposed to be rooting for Don because he’s totally progressive! ::Rolls eyes:: -Anna

For serious! It’s almost like he’s saying something progressive, but it’s only to make a buck, and he still doesn’t see these women as people. -Jos

Look, I won’t defend Don’s character. But I do think this exchange was fascinating to anyone who’s ever critiqued the way advertisers appeal to women. It’s because of research like this that, to this day, advertisers choose to stoke women’s fears that they are not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not appealing enough to men. On some level I agree with Don that if you asked women, “would you rather be told you are strong and beautiful, or told you need to find a husband?” even most women in 1965 would choose the former. Yet if you just let them talk in a women-only environment, their insecurities will emerge instead. They will return some version of the message they’ve heard all their lives, which is that their worth is correlated with how men see them. -Ann

I think part of Don’s anger here is because of his own failed marriage and feelings of loneliness and pathetic-ness without a woman as of late. He is getting there is something wrong with the system of marriage and the pressure to be coupled, even though he is on the beneficial end of it. -Samhita

The assassination of Malcolm X.
Well that barely got a mention. -Jos

Yeah, for all of Peggy’s participation in the “counter-culture,” she is painfully clueless. Even for bowtie Joey, Malcolm X’s death is a news item, not a core-shaking event. Maybe Peggy’s former coworker Kinsey is a bit more tuned in, wherever he is these days, but somehow I doubt it. All of this is a really stark reminder of what white people were actually paying attention to in 1965. And for me, it’s yet another reminder of how little has changed. How many white people are paying close attention to the major civil rights and justice issues of today?  -Ann

This made me really upset. It was intense. -Samhita

“Did you get pears?” “We’ll discuss it inside.”

Fucking brilliant. -Vanessa

Don is going to die alone. -Ann

So fucking alone. -Samhita

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

Read more about Jos

Join the Conversation

  • Mighty Ponygirl

    This was an amazing, wonderful episode. We’re getting into the season!

    Re: Anna’s response to Allison and Don–the problem was, like the Christmas episode, Allison was looking for very specific validation from Don that she can’t articulate without being seen as “throwing herself at him.” When Don gave her the bonus, Don was thinking “ok, we’ve just had sex which was a mistake, and she’s probably thinking I’m going to sack her now, so I just want her to be reassured that I value her at her job, and what happened won’t change that.” And all Allison sees her boss handing her a big wad of money after fucking her.

    When Allison asked Don to write her a letter of recommendation, she was asking Don to validate her. She was asking him to say something nice about her, and describe how he values her beyond just the secretary he had sex with and paid off. Don didn’t get this, all Don heard was “I need to leave and find a better position and I need your help” so he figures he’ll be good and make sure she has exactly what she needs and he’ll sign it. But that’s not what she wanted.

    Regarding Pete and Peggy — I don’t know if they’re meant to be together or if this is just our expectations based on so many Niles/Daphne Jim/Pam narratives. Peggy completely rejected Pete at the end of the 2nd season when she told him that she could have had him but didn’t want him. That part of her life is behind her now. I think there’s still a lot of story and drama to mine there (particularly if Trudi’s pregnancy doesn’t go well), but I can’t believe that they’re setting up some sort of wonderful against-all-odds union between Pete and Peggy.

  • hypatia

    I didn’t get the pear comment?

    And I thought it was clear that Don’s somewhat unfounded annoyance w/ Faye’s ad pitch had everything to do with the whole Allison drama. (After all, he was almost exposed by her crying) Especially when he critisizes her for poking her nose in other people’s lives and that “it was no one’s business”, you can tell that its his Allison affair, not Faye’s ideas, that are on his mind. He’s lived his whole life in secrecy, and he’s still not comfortable with openness and dialogue yet, as shown by his unfinished apology letter. Advertising is all about lies, according to Don, and he doesn’t care much for Faye’s “truthful” approach.

  • Rosa

    …in this particular instance, I didn’t get what the big deal was. Of course he made a mistake and her feelings were hurt when he didn’t acknowledge it afterwards. He tells her that she is free to do whatever she feels more comfortable with (stay or leave) and even offers her the best letter of recommendation– one she can write herself and he signs off on. I might be missing something, but I’m not sure what the hell else Don was supposed to do. What did she want from him?

    Co-sign everything Mighty_Ponygirl said. Also, remember that Allison initially said no to sex with Don. He had to use a lot of persuasion to get her to say yes. Considering the power differential, did Allison really feel like she could say no? Did she have sex with him because she was seduced by his dashing hotness, or because he wouldn’t let up and she didn’t want to potentially alienate her boss? It might be both; it really wasn’t clear. (I think it’s very significant that she didn’t want to work for a man anymore. It indicates some level of trauma.)

    Also, Allison is a product of her time. She grew up in an era where good girls aren’t supposed to “let men have sex with them” before they’re married. She’s not as tough as Joan or Peggy, having more in common with the secretaries in the focus group goal-wise. Don wasn’t living up to her expectations. She wanted him to either start a romance, or go the paternal route where he apologizes, affirms his regard for her, and takes care to make sure she is okay (and potentially give her a promotion, like Peggy?). Instead he went the “this never happened” route, and Allison had no idea how to deal with that. And to pass the responsibility of writing the recommendation letter to her was just cold. It showed that didn’t even want to spend ten minutes thinking of good things to say about her. I’m sure he thought he was being considerate, but in reality he was trying to avoid reflecting on how badly he fucked up.

    …I really appreciated someone completely bugging out on him instead of just accepting his cold ways.

    Me too. A season or two ago, his secretary would have just meekly gone back to work. This season, the women appear to be taking less shit. It’s a good thing.

  • littlelaurenny

    I think Alison really wanted Don to tell her why he valued her. I think she knew very well that she wasn’t going to be his new girlfriend, but she expected to be treated fondly from that point on. After they slept together, when they returned to work, he treated her more coldly than he did before. His “this was all a big mistake” speech was very cold. That was what had hurt her. Alison wanted to quit, but she asked him to write a recommendation more because she wanted to hear straight from his mouth that she was of value to him. And he couldn’t be bothered.

    One of the most important things that anyone ever said about Don was when Roger Sterling told him “You’re not good at relationships because you don’t value them.” I think this is how everyone in Don’s life feels. Like he doesn’t value them.

    I also need a better explanation of the “pears” scene. It seemed to be symbolic of a lot more than Don dying alone, though I did get that part. I think maybe there was some significance of the elderly in this episode. So if anyone has a good take on that I would really love some insight.

  • Rosa

    Regarding the pears: this was Brian Moylan’s take over at Gawker (emphasis is mine)

    The strange thing about Don is that he’s not standing on one side of the glass in the lobby like new school Peggy or old school Pete. He’s somewhere in the middle. He’s the man with the cutting edge ideas who also wants the Better Homes and Gardens life. And he wants it to be private. He thinks all this mumbo jumbo about lying and secrets and talking about your life is “nobody’s business.”

    What he wants is something akin the final scene of the program. His next door neighbor, an old woman, is returning from the market with a cart full of groceries and her husband keeps asking, “Did you get pears?” It’s obvious that they’ve been together for a million years and that they each have someone who understands them who they can grow old with. When she gets closer to him, she tells her husband, “We’ll discuss this inside.” She has the discretion to keep the details of their life behind closed doors, away from the neighbors. And that’s what Don wants too. Someone to understand him, someone who will accept him for his true identity and not muddle up his life with their own desires, someone who will give herself over to him completely. He wants to sit in an apartment with her, eating pears, a pair forever.

    Brian’s been doing a really great job with the recaps. If you aren’t all ready aware, I highly recommend them.