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Mad Men blogging with foot notes

In comments last night, one arseidman writes:

Michael, I, like the rest of the world, am definitely going to need some disability-studies related analysis of the extremely dark yet undeniably hilarious turning point in the latest Mad Men episode.

Hilarious?  You think that’s funny, you must be some kind of weirdo sicko freak.  Now, Roger’s response ("Somewhere in this business, this has happened before”), and Joan’s perfectly delivered “that’s life—one minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running over your foot with a lawn mower”—that’s funny.  Unfortunately, that line left Joan and Don giggling helplessly (and have we ever seen Don laugh like that?  ever?) just as the Brits arrive, and Don and Joan exchange a long Meaningful Look that says “OMG did they just hear us laughing”—as well as many other things.

Well, Mr. Arseidman, the disability-studies-related analysis goes like this.  Open your copy of Erving Goffman’s Stigma (1963, ahem), folks, and begin checking off the various stigmatized identities whose marginal or despised social positions have provided Mad Men’s writers with material:

__ people of color
__ Jews
__ divorced women
__ unwed mothers
__ prostitutes
__ children of prostitutes
__ unmarried women over 30
__ bohemians
__ homosexuals

Is anything missing here?  Why, yes, curiously—people with disabilities.  Peggy’s post-partum depression/hospitalization has to be covered up, of course, and Don’s willingness to cover for her (and visit her in the hospital!) is very much a point in his favor.  But until now, that’s as close as this series has come to dealing with mental illness.  (For his part, Don manages to find some empathy for just about every kind of stigmatized person, being such an outsider himself: he feels sorry for the first black man hired at a rival agency, he has a serious thing for Rachel Mencken, he keeps Sal’s secret secret.)

So Janet wagered, a few weeks ago, that Betty’s baby would have a DES-induced disability.  It was a good wager, I thought, but nope, it didn’t happen.  (1963 is just a bit too late for thalidomide, if any of you were thinking that.) I was of two minds about this: on the one hand, it would be TV-groundbreaking and very interesting.  On the other, it would be très melodramatic, and to its credit, this series has largely steered clear of melodrama.

Instead, we got a whole nother kind of melodrama: Guy MacKendrick, a dashing young executive, losing a foot in a bizarre, blood-spraying office-party lawn-mowing accident.  Nothing runs like a Deere, indeed.  And his senior colleagues immediately pronounce his career to be over: though he’s been a prodigy up to this point, and was about to take over the Sterling Cooper office, suddenly he’s finished as an accounts man. Don, as ever, responds wisely*: “that’s not necessarily true,” he says, puzzled, whereupon the Brits have to explain to him that the guy can’t walk, he can’t play golf any more, his professional life is over. I believe Goffman covers this on pages 28-29, where he discusses the advertising executive who lost his foot in a bizarre gardening accident.**

It’s not about the disability, people.  It’s about the stigma.  The executives from Admiral don’t want it known that their product is purchased by Negroes; the executives from PPL don’t want to be represented by a man without a foot.  It’s similar, only different.

Now, I have a question of my own.  Why was Don so off his game in that meeting with Conrad Hilton?  (And hey, everybody was right—the old guy at the bar was Conrad Hilton!  There’s a life lesson there: those who so disgusted by old-school racism as to absent themselves from the blackface spectacle get to meet Connie Hilton.) First he almost refuses to give Hilton some much-needed advice on those terrible print ads,*** then he merely asks for the Hilton account and has to be told to aim higher, at which point he suggests he doesn’t want to be one of those snakes that go for months without eating and then suffocate themselves on a huge meal.  Ew!  This is just after he’s suggested to Hilton (rightly) that no one wants to think of mice in a hotel.  Who wants to think about snakes and ad execs?  And is Don really that hungry?  Sure, he’s disappointed that he’s not getting the London-NY gig that Bert Cooper fantasized for him, but he’s a pretty well-fed snake as such creatures go.  So I’m left to think that Don was uncharacteristically nervous and discombobulated at that meeting—and perhaps more than a little abashed that he spoke about his humble, back-country origins to a person so high on the Bourdieuian Cultural-Capital Scale as Conrad Hilton.  Thoughts?


* In the Goffman sense of “wise,” of course: “wise persons are the marginal men before whom the individual with a fault need feel no shame nor exert self-control, knowing that in spite of his failing he will be seen as an ordinary other....  Gentile employees in delicatessens are often wise, as are straight bartenders in homosexual bars, and the maids of Mayfair prostitutes” (28-29).  And maybe advertising executives in bohemian performance-art cafes.

** I made this part up.  For what’s really on pages 28-29, see the preceding note, right up there above this one.

*** I’m sorry, but saying “I think you wouldn’t be in the presidential suite right now if you worked for free” to Conrad Hilton borders on the downright rude.  Why not something like, “I’ll need to look them over a moment—why don’t we set up a meeting early next week, and in the meantime I’ll see if I can’t improve on these?” That way you can find out if Connie is willing to consider giving you the account without abjectly saying “I’d love a chance at your business” a few moments later.  As for the mice:  it’s not merely that the mice in those ads raise the hygenic question Don mentions in his grudgingly-offered one-sentence critique.  It’s also that it makes no damn sense to pitch the Waldorf Astoria to people by inviting them to imagine themselves as a country mouse in overalls.

Oh, almost forgot: in calling Mr. Arseidman a “weirdo sicko freak,” I did not intend to stigmatize him in any way, except to suggest that he is not fit for decent society.

Posted by on 09/21 at 11:12 AM
  1. Don had to be wondering why the Conrad Hilton had tracked him down, what grand purpose was at hand? Sharing an anonymous moment at an unmemorable event had obviously made an impression on the great man. Surely Connie wasn’t just looking for some free advice, was he? Snakes everywhere this episode.

    BTW I used a John Deere much like the model in last night’s episode to mow the lawn of a large factory in the late 1960s. IIRC the mowing blade was belt driven and the unit would plug up if the grass was too wet or too tall. Ankle amputation was probably beyond its power.

    Posted by  on  09/21  at  02:30 PM
  2. and to its credit, this series has largely steered clear of melodrama.

    Um, I am given to hazily understand that the Don Draper character is really the “Don Draper” character, which would seem to be straight-up soapy melodrama.  Wait, you did write “largely,” didn’t you?  Never mind.

    Ankle amputation was probably beyond its power.

    Unless you’re Guy MacKendrick, with his feet of clay.  Those Mad Men writers can really wield the allegorical trowel.

    except to suggest that he is not fit for decent society.

    But then again, who is?

    (Yup, gibberish of an insane person.  But what’s to do, with no cable television and insufficient motivation to purchase costly boxed sets of DVDs?  Illegal filesharing activities, just to be able to follow these Mad Men posts at a blog that currently draws a quarter of its pre-hiatus readership?  No, thank you.)

    Posted by  on  09/21  at  02:47 PM
  3. Yes, but it’s a better quarter of readers, mds—we got rid of all the weirdo sicko freaks in ‘06.

    Posted by  on  09/21  at  04:06 PM
  4. My more detailed response is coming, I am sure… but for the moment I’m filled with such a variety of emotions it’s difficult for me to gather my thoughts.

    On the one hand, I am honored to be quoted on the blog at all.

    On the other hand, when I now type the words, “weirdo, sicko, freak… unfit for society” into google, this blog entry is the first thing to pop up.

    If this whole internet thing catches on, my reputation could be in some trouble.

    Posted by  on  09/21  at  05:01 PM
  5. Hmmm ... I wonder what Goffman would say about this.  Thankfully, a quick check of the Google shows that “weirdo, sicko, freak” turns up this blog only when accompanied by “arseidman.” So perhaps a simple name change is in order.

    Posted by  on  09/21  at  05:59 PM
  6. If I may plug myself, my theory on the high drama foot shredding is that it’s the JFK assassination in the miniature.

    Posted by Amanda Marcotte  on  09/21  at  06:39 PM
  7. Yep, Amanda, I totally agree—Joanie might just as well have been wearing a pillbox hat for that scene.  Some people have been noticing all the slicing and dicing in this episode, from Roger’s father’s arm to that kiss-and-make-up shaving date Bert arranges for Don and Roger.  And need one add that the spray of blood occurs only half an hour after someone has mentioned “Vietnam” and “the draft” in the same sentence?

    The times, they are about to be a-changin.’ Oh, and don’t forget what day Roger’s daughter is planning to get married.

    Posted by  on  09/21  at  06:56 PM
  8. The Iwo Jima reference, too.  Every generation gets a war, it seems, and it’s time for the young people of Sterling Cooper to face theirs.  There’s been a lot more war talk, with Grandpa Gene and the German helmet from WWI, too.  That about covers all of them.

    Posted by Amanda Marcotte  on  09/21  at  10:12 PM
  9. Great catch on the Iwo Jima reference.  Goddamn, Amanda, you got ‘em all—even that dead man’s hat—except Korea.  But I think Don knows something about Korea.  Or Dick does.

    Posted by  on  09/21  at  10:53 PM
  10. Certainly, the explosion of gore is an ushering in of the 60s.  The Pax Romana comment was absolutely not accidentally.  The peace is ending, as far as these characters are concerned.  It’s such an addicting show, I think, because now there’s an audience who has struggled against the same kind of invasion of politics into our real lives.

    Posted by Amanda Marcotte  on  09/21  at  11:49 PM
  11. When is this season supposed to be taking place?  They seem to be all over the map from the very late 50s to early 60s.  A lawn tractor that was invented in 1963, meets a Hilton who is too young to be Senior and too old to be Jr., and clothes from the mid-50s to late 80s---anachronism is like a virus spreading across these sets (US first installed “trained observers” into Vietnam in 1956, first US service men were killed in 1959, and we began using Agent Orange in 1962--yet very, very, few were paying attention even to the Diem coup, until the Tonkin Incident) and upped the ante in suspension in disbelief.

    Oh wait, i am supposed to listen to the dialog right??

    Posted by  on  09/22  at  02:27 AM
  12. I’m a weird sicko too beause I found myself laughing and TIVO-pausing through the John Deere British overlord amputation scene myself. Actually, the scene was really all about Joan who is the most interesting character in the whole show, and her possible disappearance from the series was enough to send me into a serious tailspin. I was thrilled when she turned out to be Cherry Ames, Corporate Nurse. (And if you don’t know the Cherry Ames series, it’s time to do some serious cultural research on Google.)

    Posted by sfmike  on  09/22  at  02:40 AM
  13. You can listen to the dialogue, spyder, or you can check out the July 19, 1963 cover of Time magazine.  I’ve tried to catch the series in anachronisms, and so far I’m oh-for-seven.

    Posted by  on  09/22  at  06:46 AM
  14. anachronism is like a virus

    I’m stealing this one.

    Indeed, anachronism is the ever-lurking hobgoblin of all historical fiction.  It ranges from the absurd (the episode of The Roy Rogers Show where they gabbled about plutonium and the atom bomb) to the nitpicky ("Aha!  Western Europe wasn’t importing jute yet!").  I feel sorry for all those future time-travelers whose preparatory material will have let them down, leading them to expect all blogging to be done from hot-air balloons while wearing capes and goggles.

    If this whole internet thing catches on, my reputation could be in some trouble.

    Well, that assumes… No, no, arseidman has been unfairly picked on too much already.

    Yes, but it’s a better quarter of readers, mds—we got rid of all the weirdo sicko freaks in ‘06.

    At least until I figured out how to get around the banning.

    Certainly, the explosion of gore is an ushering in of the 60s.

    Those Mad Men writers can really wield the allegorical trowel.  Alas, anachronism spreads like a virus.

    Posted by  on  09/22  at  08:40 AM
  15. Certainly, the explosion of gore is an ushering in of the 60s.

    If the writers can stick around for thirty-some odd years, then an implosion of Gore can usher in the 2000s.

    Also, a graph of the number of comments per post since the disemvowelment of Ezra H. would look something like a stock market chart around the time of the Lehman meltdown. Not that correlation implies causation or anything.

    Finally, I apologize in advance for both of these observations.

    Posted by  on  09/22  at  11:12 AM
  16. If the writers can stick around for thirty-some odd years, then an implosion of Gore can usher in the 2000s.

    Here. Have an internet. You’ve earned it.

    Posted by Jason B.  on  09/22  at  04:08 PM
  17. Finally, I apologize in advance

    Oh, you card, you.*

    *Alternatively, The Venerable Ed is one of those time travelers and his verb
    tense is showing.  Whatever you’ve heard, it wasn’t actually my
    fault, TVE.**

    **Unless you’re thinking in particular of the extinction of all carbon-based
    life on Earth in 2163.  Mea culpa.  In my defense, it was dark; I was
    drunk; and the unlicensed molecular nanotechnology was delicious.

    Posted by  on  09/22  at  06:59 PM
  18. Geez, in 2006 you only had to deprive an ad exec of his toe to get attention; now it’s a whole foot; what next?

    Posted by  on  09/22  at  09:37 PM
  19. Nicky Conrad Jr in 1950... Perhaps living with her really aged him???  hehehehee..
    Then we agree that this season takes place in 1963?  Maybe my memory is clogged with nostalgia and novelty playing off one another much like the new Beatles’ soundtrack to LOVE, but something about the clothes, the sets, the feeling, that just doesn’t match the imprint i think i have for that period.  I was in high school in 1963 (a junior) and had watched a great deal of live television beginning in the 50s.  I guess my SoCal environs missed the appropriate NYC sensibilities that fit the sets and settings of the show.

    Posted by  on  09/23  at  04:29 AM
  20. Posted by  on  09/23  at  04:36 AM
  21. This episode took place very close to June 18, 1963 which is the date Hilton was on the cover of TIME.

    A high-level job with Hilton was there for Don at the asking, but almost certainly would have involved a lot of traveling, and this season Don is devoted to his family. Last season’s episode in Palm Springs was the ghost of (separated) Don’s future, while the in the next he exorcised the ghosts of his past. And then went home.

    I can’t emphasize the importance of the “Jet Set” episode enough, especially now that Don and his family are rich($500k in 1963 dollars is stinking). Ew, Sally could become the poolgirl. The father with young children. The squabbling couple. “Jet Set”, ironically, was all about family.

    There is a lot of other indications that Don has opted for responsibility, stability and security. Don is skeptical and suspicious of the changes at the office.

    Anyway, this may explain some of Don’t interplay with Hilton. He wanted the account, but not a job.

    Posted by  on  09/23  at  10:45 AM
  22. Ok, further and more direct.

    1) The meeting with Hilton is in the suite rather than a bar or restaurant. Don knew as he was hanging up the phone that Connie was going to offer him a job.

    2) Conrad asks for a freebie, Don refuses. Connie is trying to get Don to act unprofessionally and as an free-agent, not as a representative of SC. Don’s refusal set the parameters, so Connie’s repeated demand pretty much guarantees that SC has the account.

    3) Then Connie says Don could have asked for more. Connie isn’t as smart as Don, and was offensive. The message should have been received, so Don comes up with a snake story. Don is not into betrayal this year.

    PS:This season started on this tone. In Baltimore, yes, Don “saw” Sal, but Sal also saw Don with the stewardess, and Don realized that he had put his own family in jeopardy. The following conversation on the plane was not only tolerant. It included a threat. Check Sal’s face, he is not comforted.

    Posted by  on  09/23  at  11:07 AM
  23. True dat about the “Jet Set” episode—in which Don (I think this is Amanda’s reading) rebaptizes himself in the Pacific and decides finally to be Don Draper (after a visit to the real Mrs. Draper).  Two small things:  the episode explicitly takes place on July 2-3, and yes, Don sleeps on a bed made of money—the $500k is huge, but even his last salary negotiation to $45K put him over $300K/yr in 2009 dollars.

    I didn’t think Don would suggest that Connie needed a new high-level executive—he’s still thinking about that promotion he thought he had in the bag, and he knows that if he comes back to work w/the Hilton account, he’ll be a very happy snake indeed.  And with no dangerous lawn mowers in tow.

    Posted by  on  09/23  at  11:15 AM
  24. The following conversation on the plane was not only tolerant. It included a threat. Check Sal’s face, he is not comforted.

    Hmmm, I will have to check Sal’s face.  Good one.

    Posted by  on  09/23  at  11:16 AM
  25. Structuralistically speaking, aren’t all foot injuries associated with either “denial” or “persistence” of “the autochthonous origins of man”?  While you’re checking your Goffman, check your Levi-Strauss too, and bricolage with brio.

    Posted by  on  09/23  at  07:02 PM
  26. I didn’t see Don as off his game in that meeting with Connie Hilton—as bob mcmanus says, one of Don’s good characteristics is his loyalty to Sterling Cooper, and I certainly picked up on that in this scene. But I also think that almost anything Don does is ipso facto right; exactly what “his game” is must always remain mysterious, because he’s basically the Magic Advertising Man. If Don had a formula that we could identify, we wouldn’t be so fascinated by him.

    Here’s the source of Don’s mystique: the writers put down something colorful, anything colorful, and then they add the stage direction “The client looks reluctantly impressed.”

    Posted by Amanda French  on  09/27  at  11:24 PM
  27. I am more confident now that the issue of anachronism is an East Coast/West Coast dichotomy.  We (including most of my parents generation and their parents, as well as across the diverse socio-economic spectrum) on the West Coast didn’t dress, look, or act like these people.  For example, the plaids were pure Madras not pastel, and we wore Pendletons over white teeshirts most of the time (a ‘we’ that includes Mad Men generation people versus what i find in my photo albums and year books).  What is interesting is the home scenes of the Draper family, the house, the fixtures, and the overall ambiance that is the familiar and recognizable.

    Posted by  on  09/28  at  01:41 AM
  28. Hi,
    I am a man who love woman’s feet. I love the toes and the soles of the feet. I don’t like toe sucking but I do love smelling a woman’s foot, tickling it, and massaging it. My question is are there any women who feel the same way of a man’s foot.


    Posted by Keratosis  on  08/26  at  11:27 PM
  29. What will you do when a mad man hold a loaded gun on you? A mad man is totally mad.but he said “freeze”, how long will you freeze?

    Posted by Viagra  on  09/06  at  02:12 AM
  30. Okay that in not so funny about mice in a a hotel, or snakes.  I was in the deep south during a tornado warning and had to take cover at the nearest building, well since it was late and the storms near, the town I was in had only one room left at the only hotel in town which had just been fumigated,for what I didnt ask.  The power had gone out in the town, so I walk into black room and fell fast asleep.  I remember hearing snapping going off that woke me several times.  I woke up to 21 mouse traps and 7 dead mice.  I puked, asked for a refund and reported them to the town safety board that happened to be next to the Ihop I ate at.  In IHOP There were 2 electronic mouse traps there in the bathroom and one near the cash register. No one beleives me when I tell them the name of the town was Rodanthe.  I know its not rodante, but it was close enough.

    Posted by get rid of mice  on  02/22  at  02:57 AM
  31. After long since I have been reading Mad Men blogging with foot notes! All that means Hilarious and I think that’s funny and real proposal as always. Thanks! smile

    Posted by  on  08/13  at  04:55 AM





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