Mad Men Midweek Fix: The Suitcase

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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. This year we’ll help you get through the middle of the week wait for the next episode. *WARNING: Lots of spoilers follow.

The Ali/Liston fight. Everyone at SCDP says “Cassius Clay.” Don’s take on Muhammad Ali.
RE: Don’s secretary’s comment “If I wanted to watch two Negroes fight, I’d throw a dollar out my window”. Wow. Too. Much. Racism. Cannot. Compute. Also, all kinds of foreshadowing of Don’s imminent downfall here, both in his bet on the losing Liston as well as his parallel loss to Duck in their drunken wrestling match. Don’s sheepish uncle surrendered more than that fight, or even his pride. I think it marked the beginning of a new, humbler Don, who is perhaps beginning to realize the frailty of his position on top, or at least the extent to which he’s reached rock bottom. But the success of his Samsonite idea shows that he is still capable of capitalizing off of the culturally significant events. For now. -Lori

Everyone at SCDP saying “Clay” instead of “Ali” was, to me, the most extreme example yet of this season’s take on race in America so far. We’re getting it through the eyes of people who aren’t just disengaged from the civil rights movement, they’re deliberately ignoring it, and feel downright hostile toward it when the topic dares to force its way into their minds. -Jos


Peggy and Trudy talk in the bathroom.

Firstly, the class differences between them was pretty stark here. Trudy’s privilege is obvious, as well as her condescension towards Peggy because of it. I hate how after the previous woman in the bathroom tells Peggy she’s pretty much kicking ass at the firm with the position she has at her age, Trudy’s reminder to Peggy that 26 is still “very young” makes me want to vomit. Mostly because I’m no stranger to that kind of comment either. -Vanessa

Don shouts at Peggy about getting credit for Glo-Coat.
In many ways, I agree with Don here. Working as part of a team behind the scenes — on projects that may incorporate lots of ideas from different people — means that you are not always going to get credit, whereas your boss probably will. Deal with it. That said, the dynamic between Peggy and the men on the creative team is incredibly frustrating. Unlike the first season, where all the women are in the secretarial pool and all the men are actually working, this season’s scenes with the creative team don’t feel so different from the modern workplace. Women work twice as hard, are more on top of their shit, and get the same amount or less credit than their male colleagues. In some ways, we haven’t made much progress on this front. -Ann

Agree with Ann on all counts. -Vanessa

This was interesting to me because of Peggy’s gender, but also because of her youth. I can identify with feeling frustrated that the rules of the “adult” workplace are so drastically different from those of our youth, where in school we were assigned individual grades, even for group projects, and were always told that our ideas were worthy of personal recognition. I saw this as an interesting scene where Peggy’s identity transcended gender, and I wonder if a lot of young working men identified with her in this scene as I did. -Lori

Peggy misses her birthday dinner.
This, too, felt super modern: very overt work/life tension. However, I gotta agree with Peggy that this guy didn’t “get” her at all. I mean, inviting her mom to her birthday dinner? Fail. -Ann

Total fail. When I saw him trying to convince her to come with her family in the background, I just thought, “Jesus, I hope she doesn’t go.” -Vanessa

Don vomits, gets in a fight with Duck.
At this point, Duck is almost functioning as a warning to Don: If he doesn’t curtail his drinking and get his life under control, Don is going to end up disgraced, unemployed and threatening to poop in former colleagues’ offices. -Ann

That scene made me wonder if this is the rock bottom we’ve been anticipating from Don this season. particularly after the closing scene when he asks Peggy to leave his door open. Does that mean he’s officially getting his shit together? Or just more symbolic of their bonding experience? -Vanessa

Duck’s fart = gross. Seriously, ew. -Lori

Don and Peggy talk about their childhoods, Peggy’s baby and relationship with Don.
Wow. Not only did they talk about the baby that “never happened,” Don told Peggy more details about his past than he’s told anyone but Betty (or of course Anna) at one time. Seems like he’s moving toward finding some balance between his up until now very divided personas. -Jos

Anna Draper dies. Don sees Anna’s ghost, finally makes the call to California.
I feel like this entire episode — with such obvious bonding between Peggy and Don and with Anna’s death — is setting up Peggy as the new Anna. She is the only woman in Don’s life who is not sexualized somehow (despite their deep mutual affection), who knows him and whom he treats as more or less an equal. -Ann

I thought that too by the end of the episode, although I think they’ll always have that quarrelling boss/employee relationship rather than the doting relationship Don had with Anna. -Vanessa

I don’t think anyone can really fill Anna’s shoes for Don, and he knew it when he broke down crying. Probably the most intimate moment with Don anyone (except, again, Anna) has ever seen. Peggy’s right, someone does know him, but Peggy can never totally replace Anna. -Lori

I was really impressed by the storytelling high wire act here – we had an intense, often hilarious episode built on the motif of a fight, but all this was on top of a deeply sad story just below the surface. Really beautifully done, I thought. -Jos

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3 Comments

  1. Posted September 9, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I can easily say that this episode has been my favorite of the season. Hands down. I have enjoyed how the majority of this season has been dedicated to Peggy and Don, however they have been kept relatively seperate (besides Don berating Peggy). The two very different spheres of the show finally came together and I could not have been happier with the results. There were so many perfect moments in this one, I was quite fond of Don and Peggy holding hands, which to me mirrored when Don and Joan held hands at the award show. The two women in the office Don doesn’t have romantic feelings towards and respects. I just hope that from now on Don will back Peggy up infront of the rest of the creative team. God how I hate the new art director. I miss Sal.

  2. Posted September 9, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Ok and I must add… the person who plays Anna’s niece is the worst actor I’ve seen in my life! Oh my god, just look at her when she’s calling Don to tell him about Anna’s death. The most blatantly forced/trying too hard acting EVER. Ugh!

  3. Posted September 10, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    @Jos. It wasn’t uncommon for people to strugggle with Ali’s name change. Very few reporters within the United States referred to Ali by his name immediately after the fight, and it took the boxing community a few years to catch up. That persists in some form or another until the Ernie Terrell fight.

    Sorry, I’m a sports writer focussing on sports fighting. It’s hard for me to look at it outside of the context, which (in my opinion) was attached more to the ignorance of media than to a detachment of casual fans. Still, the overt racism in the episode was definitely troubling.

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