Mad Men Midweek Friday Fix: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

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.

“This Selma thing sure isn’t going away.”
It is really interesting to have them talking about the civil rights movement in this way. Since I have done nothing but read about civil rights history it is interesting to see how people were that weren’t effected by it. I think I had always assumed everyone was consumed by it, but thank you Mad Men for reminding me that privileged people always sucked. -Samhita

I feel like the show’s creators are kind of cutting corners by only addressing race/civil rights in this way. I get that it would have been but a blip on the screen of a Don Draper or Pete Campbell, but the show follows multiple characters and there could be some that are more involved in the movement. I’ve been waiting for 4 seasons now for the show to get into the nitty gritties of race and I’m starting to fear it will never go there in a substantive way, in which case I will definitely be disappointed. -Lori


I definitely agree with you Lori. I’ve always wondered about the racial characteristics of this show. It’s clearly a lily-white world and I get that there is some intentionality behind that… But I’m really starting to wonder what that intention is. If they’re doing it to highlight racial disparities and have us unpack whiteness in this specific time and place, they’re falling short, and like you said, cutting corners. Can we PLEASE have more perspective from Carla at least?- Anna

There was so much about race in the US in this episode just below the surface (let’s not forget the Japan storyline is about race too). So it felt bizarre and painful to have Carla be the only black character in the episode, and she didn’t even have any lines! I sure hope they’re building to something real about race, because this is either intentionally frustrating or yet another “feminist” show created by a white man that completely fails on race (see: Buffy). -Jos

Roger on Honda and Volkswagen.
Yeah, I mean what can you say really? Roger’s sentiment is a common one, he obviously has PTSD and acts like a child anyway, so this is how it is coming out. He hates teh Japonese!!!! Also, currently similar attitude about hating Muslims spawns from this similar sense of “us v them,” “we’re gonna win,” attitude. -Samhita

I literally cringed when he said the line about how “They won’t know it’s over until you drop the big one. Twice.” So so wrong. -Lori

This is Mad Men trying to touch on race. Not surprising. Conventional. We get it. The war made people messed up in the head and made a lot of people hate Japanese people (and Asians in general). This is, like, sooooo wrong! Kudos Mad Men. Totally just scratching the surface on something that could have really made us think. ::Rolls eyes:: - Anna

Totally agree Anna. Cross cultural communication is an easy way to get a problematic laugh, and Mad Men’s certainly been great at the funny lately, but that’s about as far as it went. -Jos

“I know that the man pees inside the woman.”
Ha, so classic. When I was little, I used to think that’s what sex was, too! -Lori

I gotta say, Sally’s understanding of sex is a lot closer to accurate than that of many young people today! -Jos

Don goes on a date while his children are over, learns to use chopsticks.
Off topic, but Bethany is totally Sarah Newlin from True Blood. Just looked it up. Hah. - Anna

Sally cuts her hair, Betty slaps Sally.

And the worst mother of the year award goes to….-Samhita

Yeah, what the hell! I get that Betty comes from a period where women are expected to look perfect in the conventional sense (long, pretty blond hair), but she has short hair herself…? Maybe I’m missing something but since when does long flowy hair define a child? – Anna

“How does she not fall over?”
Ugh, so humiliating. Can’t believe women had to put up with this BS on the regs. -Lori

Sally Draper masturbates.
This is all pretty straight forward. Masturbation is evil, shameful and women shouldn’t do it. Also, they lead up to this scene with Betty and Henry about to get it on, which is interesting. Like Betty just has no fleshed out understand of sexuality. Her sexual desire is something separate from how she judges the world around her.-Samhita

I don’t blame Sally. That scene was hot. Nice choice, kid. -Lori

Sally rocks. That’s all I have to say. - Anna

Betty blames Don for Sally’s masturbating.
I thought it was so interesting that Don asks if Sally was masturbating with a boy or girl, and Betty asks why it matters. It’s like she doesn’t even stop to consider the masturbation as a sexual act- it’s just about Sally “trying to embarrass her to get back at her for the divorce.” How self-centered and out-of-touch can you be? -Lori

Ditto. When she said that to the psychiatrist I just wanted to scream at her. It didn’t even make sense. That whole phone conversation though between Betty and Don made me smile. They are messed up in so many ways these days, I love it. Adds so much more complexity to their relationship and characters while at the same time making them entirely more relatable. - Anna

Don and Faye. “Why does everybody need to talk about everything?” Faye’s fake husband, Don talks about his children.
Cringe. I’m so afraid Faye is going to be another notch on his belt. - Anna

Betty sees Dr. Edna, a child psychiatrist.

OK, so the “Betty is a child” thing has been around on the show for a while, but I found this just insulting. The scene between Betty and another mother where they both basically revealed they had no idea how to parent their daughters through puberty? That seemed to me like a smart, nuanced approach to Betty’s unpreparedness to parent. But Henry basically fathering Betty and then Betty jumping into therapy mode with Dr. Edna was, to my mind, the writers pushing this too far, responding to audience reaction, and making Betty much more of a childish stereotype than I’ve ever thought she was before. -Jos

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One Comment

  1. Posted August 28, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I love Mad Men so much this season that I almost want to believe it can do no wrong, but I was definitely pressing down feelings of disappointment on how they’ve been covering the civil rights movement and how Betty is being portrayed. At the end of last season, I wanted this to be Betty’s chance to grow up and make her own decisions and be the kind of person who takes responsibility. In my opinion, glazing over these oppotunities so we can watch Don continue to offend women and Rodger act like a prima donna is just lazy writing.

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