Home | Away

About that TV show

OK, so let me see if I’ve got this straight.  Pete rapes the au pair down the hall, and we’re led to believe that his marriage is going to get stronger as a result.  (Though not before he’s had that humiliating exchange with his neighbor, who tells him to stop bullshitting about the au pair and—wink wink—to take that extracurricular business outside the building.  Vile on every level.) Meanwhile, our cad Don does the right marital thing for once: he takes Betty to Rome where they have a short—but sweet!—little honeymoon, with Don turned on by the fact that Italian men fall for Betty while Betty’s kinda turned on by the fact that Conrad Hilton fell for Don.  Why, Don even has Connie send Betty a souvenir.  How thoughtful!  And ... their marriage takes a body blow as a result.  It just doesn’t seem fair, somehow.

Not that one can blame Betty.  She’s not putting her anthropology major—or her fluent Italian—to much use in the wilds of Ossining.  And can I just point out that in 1961-63, living in Ossining was like living in Ultima Thule?  I mean, people are talking about Don and Betty living in “the suburbs.” Actually, Scarsdale and Dobbs Ferry were suburbs back then.  Ossining (35 miles from midtown Manhattan) is a hyper-exurb, a bit further away from the action than those wealthy Connecticut bedroom communities, Greenwich and Cos Cob.

And under the heading of I Are A Complete Numbskull, I actually said to Janet, as Pete handed the young woman the replacement dress, “it’s kind of nice to see Pete do something altruistic for a change.”

Posted by on 10/06 at 02:49 PM
  1. "Actually, Scarsdale and Dobbs Ferry were suburbs back then.  Ossining (35 miles from midtown Manhattan) is a hyper-exurb,”

    Bloody well right, that.  Even Rob Petrie thought he was in the boondocks--and he was in New Rochelle.

    Posted by Ken Houghton  on  10/06  at  04:19 PM
  2. This better come home to roost for Pete in some big way.  He doesn’t have to get arrested (which one could barely expect in 2009, much less 1963), but I just can’t be expected to forgive him and go on thinking of him as Pete Campbell:  Flawed But Loveable Anti-Villian after that.  I have a hard time believing that this is a show that uses rape as nothing more than a plot device to help a major character have a realization about his own capacity for evil and thereby become a more honest, humble husband, but they need to prove that with a quickness.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  04:24 PM
  3. of course the au pair will become pregnant. I think that’s a rule about that time period.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  04:54 PM
  4. I am still waiting for the shoe to drop on the rape last season--Joan’s fiance/husband.  That bastard needs to be punished, and not by a career change. Ugh, Pete.  Such a weasel, and now ever so much worse. 

    Has anyone been following the Slate dialogue about Mad Men?  A recent post compared Pete and Betty, calling both “loathsome.” This, because Betty is not a very good mother, according to them. Yet I keep going back, because . . . I hate their discourse about Mad Men, but I need it.  I need it!

    Posted by Lisa Bickmore  on  10/06  at  05:41 PM
  5. @ Elliot: The au pair has to become pregnant because that underscores the similarities between how Pete showed up at her door and how he showed up at Peggy’s in the pilot episode.  The question is, did Pete rape Peggy?  And if Pete raped Peggy, why did Peggy respond by deciding that she must really like him, while the au pair responds by tattling?  What’s wrong with Peggy that she is able to frame the sex with Pete as something that she wanted?  Yes, I said that - because that’s the question throughout the series - what’s wrong with Peggy that she didn’t recognize she was pregnant?  What’s wrong with Peggy that she isn’t content to be a secretary?  What’s wrong with Peggy that she vies for an office that doesn’t include a copy machine, and how dare she ask for a raise?  And, most recently, what’s wrong with Peggy that she wants to cruise bars to pick up strangers to do “everything but” with?  What kind of girl is she?

    Interesting about the neighbor in the scene after Pete raping the au pair is that it operates pretty much identically to the way that Don’s scene with Peggy does after she gives birth.  Both swoop in as father figures who tell the person who has gotten himself/herself “into trouble” to go on as if nothing’s happened.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  05:53 PM
  6. Ken @ 1:  Even Rob Petrie thought he was in the boondocks--and he was in New Rochelle.

    Whereas now New Rochelle is practically Washington Heights.  And New Paltz is the new New Rochelle.

    Ashley @ 2:  I have a hard time believing that this is a show that uses rape as nothing more than a plot device to help a major character have a realization about his own capacity for evil and thereby become a more honest, humble husband, but they need to prove that with a quickness.

    And Lisa @ 4:  I am still waiting for the shoe to drop on the rape last season--Joan’s fiance/husband.  That bastard needs to be punished, and not by a career change.

    I wouldn’t say the show uses rape as nothing more than a plot device.  It’s also one of the things that disrupts what would otherwise become neo-retro-nostalgia (of the kind the marketing of the series trades in anyway) for that pre-JFK, pre-Vietnam era of “innocence” we’ve heard about ad nauseam.  Because if there’s one thing that marks the Mad Men world as utterly alien, even more than racial segregation and smoking-while-pregnant, it’s that culture’s assumptions about what counts as “rape” and what counts as “consequences.” That aspect of the sexual revolution dates from 1969-70 at the earliest, and the show’s writers aren’t sparing us—or their female characters, major and minor.  Pete’s punishment will be that humiliation by the neighbor, nothing more—a “humiliation” that says “boys will be boys, especially in August when the cat’s away” from icky beginning to icky end.  And Joan’s lummox-rapist-husband, with no brains in his hands or his head, has already received his punishment—he’ll become a psychiatrist.  (I’m still trying on that thought.  Good god.)

    Will the au pair become pregnant?  That would be interesting.  And what kind of girl is Peggy?  A most interesting girl, all ‘round.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  06:27 PM
  7. And New Paltz is the new New Rochelle.

    And New Lebanon (and thereabouts) is the new New Paltz.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  06:43 PM
  8. I hear you, Michael.  I don’t expect Pete to be “brought to justice” in any straightforward way.  Greg never was, and I still think that was a progressive portrayal of rape, but I don’t think we’ve been asked to sympathize with Greg in the way we’re asked to sympathize with Pete.  Maybe I’m reading the Pete character wrong.  He’s certainly always been a creep, but he always has these redemptive moments.  I’m still trying to figure out whether or not we as the audience were sort of being asked to “forgive” him in that final scene, which would bother me just a little bit.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  07:14 PM
  9. Predictions of things either to make the edit or to be left out:

    Back in them thar days, August and September were the season of the big autoshows, premiering the 1964 models of those great murkin motor machines.  Being at that perfect car age, my buddies and i were daily visitors of the great Pan Pacific Auto Show in LA (and yes LA was the home of murkin car culture).  That year’s show (1963) brought the dawn of the infamous “American Muscle Car” with lines of great new dinosaur beasts: Chevelle, GTO, Mustang, Olds 442, Fairlane 421, Rambler 440, Impala 409 SS, etc.  So will we see the tremendous push of advertising generated by this change in strategy on the part of automakers and the expanded Interstate highways that were being fully opened??

    Likewise, the notion of suburbs and exurbs, coupled with the beginning of the development of smaller jet commuter planes (only the larger commercial ones had been in development 707, DC-8, first 747), like the 727 and DC-9, changed the nation’s travel habits and zones of comfort.  This opened up travel to more and more people (planes still had smoking sections), helping create the expansion of the tour business concepts.  We even had numerous stupid movies about traveling from Paducah to Padua (cinerama dome thrillers included), with families.  This change was part and parcel of the Hilton and Sheraton plans to develop many more properties across larger landscapes of the planet.  Will we get stories of that swell in travel advertising leading up to those fateful days in November????

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  07:49 PM
  10. I don’t think we’ve been asked to sympathize with Greg in the way we’re asked to sympathize with Pete.

    Hmmmm, you might be right.  Me, I’ve been reading Pete as a whiny, weaselly, dangerous little SOB with an enormous sense of entitlement and the worst gender politics of the bunch (the scene in which he objects to Peggy’s dancing was the tipoff for me).  But you’re right that this ending leaves open the possibility of saying, “well, at least he feels some remorse.” Though I think what he feels remorse about is that humiliation scene, more than the rape itself.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  08:03 PM
  11. I -uh- sorry, just popped by to see how things were going, uh, y’all go ahead and “watch your story”—as my grandmother usta say.

    maybe if the heading hadn’t been so literal, i wouldn’t of thought it was about health care or putin or, you know, the olympics.

    excuse me…

    Posted by neill  on  10/06  at  08:08 PM
  12. And under the heading of I Are A Complete Numbskull, I actually said to Janet, as Pete handed the young woman the replacement dress, “it’s kind of nice to see Pete do something altruistic for a change.”

    That made me laugh out loud (and admire you for your confessional courage). I had the same thought for a fleeting moment, before a scornful inner voice said, “What, are you kidding? He’s going to think she owes him.”

    Posted by Nell  on  10/06  at  08:41 PM
  13. I’m with you, Michael. I’ve always found it pretty hard to sympathize with Pete and this last episode did nothing to help his case. While he may certainly be a more complex person than Greg, I think the most reprehensible aspects of both their characters are born from the same place.

    But of course, with all this talk of Pete and Joan, we’re forgetting that other story of forced romance. How about young Sally kissing the boy in the bathtub? I thought Betty’s line about all your later kisses “being a shadow of that first one” was a rather nice touch in a season that seems to be all about repetition with a difference. Between Eugene Sr. and Eugene Jr., the “she’s not Ann Margaret”, and Pete Campbell’s propensity for showing up on women’s doorsteps to make his sexual advances, it’s a Kantian-Freudian-Deleuzean field-day (which, with those three men participating, would definitely involve one of the strangest relay races ever) of repeat-but-with-difference moments

    With regards to suburbia vs. hyper-exburbia, I was recently watching that ole Cary Grant gem “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House”. Despite falling into the madcap comedy genre, there are some striking Mad Men parallels there, if you’ve never seen it.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  08:49 PM
  14. Between Eugene Sr. and Eugene Jr., the “she’s not Ann Margaret”, and Pete Campbell’s propensity for showing up on women’s doorsteps to make his sexual advances, it’s a Kantian-Freudian-Deleuzean field-day (which, with those three men participating, would definitely involve one of the strangest relay races ever) of repeat-but-with-difference moments.

    Mr. Seidman, Mr. Seidman.  You are aware, are you not, that this blog frowns on “theoretical” interpretations of popular culture?

    Um, nice catch on the doubled Eugenes and Ann Margarets.  Also, Pete and Trudy’s one pleasant moment:  doing the neo-Charleston.  The hitchhikers as the scruffy East Coast counterpart to the jet set on the West Coast.  Or Grey Duck:  like Duck, only Duckier.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  09:15 PM
  15. This is simplistic. I don’t think the au pair business is a rape. It’s transactional sex, just like Betty and Henry Francis’ kiss, and it’s slightly offensive to categorize such things as having occurred “then” when we’re oh-so-enlightened “now.”

    The more important parallel is the ongoing one between Betty and Pete: they’re both not-fully-formed-adults, both experimenting with their personae, and both have become more skillful since the first season.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  10:05 PM
  16. It’s transactional sex, just like Betty and Henry Francis’ kiss

    OK, I just don’t see it that way.  Unlike Betty, the au pair has done precisely zero flirting, and has asked for absolutely nothing.  So I don’t see the transaction in the transactional sex.  And unlike Henry, who merely insinuates himself halfway into Betty’s car to deliver that first kiss, Pete shows up drunk at the door, late at night, and fucks an obviously unwilling woman.  As I noted above, in 1963 this wouldn’t have been considered rape, and clearly the man of the house from 14C thinks it merits nothing more than a personal reprimand and a suggestion that Pete should be smart and keep it out of the building.  But I think it’s OK to use 2009-speak, entre nous, in 2009.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  10:15 PM
  17. Unlike Betty, the au pair has done precisely zero flirting, and has asked for absolutely nothing.  So I don’t see the transaction in the transactional sex.

    The transaction is getting to keep her job but having to submit to the creep next door. It’s disgusting and it’s not a nice transaction with two people who have outside options bargaining across a conference table, but it’s life. Nowadays, one hopes, the woman (and indeed all the women in Mad Men) would get a bigger slice of the pie than she did in 1963, but the nature of things is no different.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  10:33 PM
  18. Now Marshall, you are thinking about the David Letterman escapades are you, when you talk about slices of million dollar pies???

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  10:54 PM
  19. This is one of the last places I would expect to see someone split hairs over whether a man forcing his way into an apartment that isn’t his by threatening the livelihood and possibly even the personal safety of a woman who has clearly refused his sexual advances, forcibly shutting a door on her when she hesitates, and pushing her up against a wall is rape. 

    Honestly, I’m not even sure she had the option to refuse his help with the dress in the first place.  Speaking from experience, I can tell you that when faced with the nice-but-creepy dude alone in the hallway (even in 2009), you pretty much just want to get out of the situation without giving him any reason to get belligerent, lest he, you know, physically assault you.  We’re socialized to think that way even now.  That seems pretty darn clear-cut to me. 

    And to respond to Michael’s earlier response, I think your reading is totally valid, and how you read Pete’s “redemption” in this case probably depends on how sympathetic you find Pete to be in general.  I’ve heard men say that they identify with Pete in some ways, which is sort of scary.  It also didn’t occur to me that the reconciliation with Trudy occurred sans the most crucial information.

    Posted by  on  10/06  at  11:35 PM
  20. seriously, guys, where’s the breaking bad thread?

    Posted by skippy  on  10/06  at  11:36 PM
  21. skippy,

    just wait. the new season hasn’t started.

    Posted by  on  10/07  at  12:16 AM
  22. I actually said to Janet, as Pete handed the young woman the replacement dress, “it’s kind of nice to see Pete do something altruistic for a change.”

    Sucker!

    Sheesh, get a brain, moran!

    Posted by  on  10/07  at  01:35 AM
  23. The only small contribution I have to this thread is that I read this plot development re Pete as a reminder not to get too fond of the bastard. And I thought the moment with Trudy wasn’t so much Pete having a realization about himself and resolving to be better, not something we’re supposed to sympathize with; I thought it was yet another example of Pete being a bastard. He as good as blames Trudy—asks her not to leave town again and so forth.

    Today I actually read David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man. It wasn’t nearly as interesting as I’d thought it would be, being not a tale of drunkenness and debauchery, but rather a hortatory and extremely specific and even moralistic advice manual on how to make it in the advertising world ("Do everything I did"). It did contain this sexual politics gem disguised as a nugget of folk wisdom: “When a company boasts about its integrity, or a woman of her virtue, avoid the former and cultivate the latter.”

    Posted by Amanda French  on  10/07  at  03:07 AM
  24. Also, couldn’t agree more with the analysis in comment 6.

    Posted by Amanda French  on  10/07  at  03:13 AM
  25. I’m an episode or two behind you all, being forced to rely on ethically questionable means to get my American TV fix, but I have to argue with an earlier made assertation that Pete has some redeeming feature other than his ability to dance the charleston. That evil little shit has yet to display any redeeming features as far as I can see.
    I keep thinking about the rifle in his closet and wondering how much longer it will be before he either tries to shoot Don in a drunken rage, shoot Peggy doing a William Burroughs/William Tell trick or sticks the barrel in his mouth and does the world a favor.

    Posted by rev.paperboy  on  10/07  at  04:51 AM
  26. Me, I’ve been reading Pete as a whiny, weaselly, dangerous little SOB with an enormous sense of entitlement and the worst gender politics of the bunch (the scene in which he objects to Peggy’s dancing was the tipoff for me).

    Ditto. That scene made me think that Pete was just a drink or three from finding himself cast as the star of this (probably apocryphal) scene from The Jackson Pollock Story. As I’ve heard it, the story goes like this: Pollock, who had (surprise, surprise) been drinking heavily, was at a party at Peggy Guggenheim’s, sitting on a sofa with some other people, among whom was a young woman. The woman must have taken off her shoes, one of which Pollock picked up and began to twist between his hands while occasionally muttering, “I love women.”

    [captcha: “paper,” as in “the real and only fucking is done on paper..."]

    Posted by  on  10/07  at  08:05 AM
  27. Found it! Perhaps it’s not so apocryphal after all. I had a detail or two wrong though; it wasn’t at Guggenheim’s house but at Pollock’s studio and Lee Krasner was present for this sordid scene. The story appears in William Phillips’ A Partisan View, some of which you can read online here.

    [captcha: “evidence"] this thing really does have a brain!

    Posted by  on  10/07  at  08:31 AM
  28. Ashley:  This is one of the last places I would expect to see someone split hairs over whether a man forcing his way into an apartment that isn’t his by threatening the livelihood and possibly even the personal safety of a woman who has clearly refused his sexual advances, forcibly shutting a door on her when she hesitates, and pushing her up against a wall is rape.

    Well, to be fair, there’s always a.man.forcing.his.way.into.someone’s.apartment.and.threatening.the.livelihood. and.possibly.even.the.personal.safety.of.a.woman.who.has.clearly.refused.his.sexual.advances. is.rape.blogspot.com, which is even clearer about this question than is this humble blog.  But otherwise, Ashley, yeah, this seems pretty unambiguous to me.

    I’ve heard men say that they identify with Pete in some ways, which is sort of scary.

    I think I would ask “um ... how exactly” while checking quickly for the nearest available exits.  Is the resentment they like?  The entitlement?  The throwing the dinner off the balcony?

    It also didn’t occur to me that the reconciliation with Trudy occurred sans the most crucial information.

    Hey! this didn’t occur to me either.

    O. Girl:  Sheesh, get a brain, moran!

    I guess I had this coming.

    Amanda:  I thought the moment with Trudy wasn’t so much Pete having a realization about himself and resolving to be better, not something we’re supposed to sympathize with; I thought it was yet another example of Pete being a bastard. He as good as blames Trudy—asks her not to leave town again and so forth

    Trudy dat.  As for Ogilvy, what a line!  I can just see Roger Sterling saying it....

    Posted by Michael  on  10/07  at  11:52 AM
  29. On reflection, I don’t think it particularly matters whether you decide that Pete-and-the-au-pair crosses the rape line or not. What does matter is that the situation is clearly transactional and, even more clearly, parallels the Betty-and-Henry-Francis storyline. Men do women a favor and feel they are entitled to sex in return. Henry is a bit classier (and more experienced) than Pete, but they both force their way through an aperture to get what they want. The difference in status between Betty and Gudrun is what determines the boundary of what each of the men feel he can claim.

    I think that Greg and Joan is a different beast in the Mad Men world. Greg felt threatened by Draper and Joan’s (relatively) high status in the Sterling Cooper universe, and like Soames Forsyte, reclaimed his property in the most brutal way possible.

    So yeah, what Pete did was probably de jure rape now and wouldn’t have been in 1963, but that’s not the important thing.

    Posted by  on  10/07  at  12:46 PM
  30. I keep reading this stuff, and it almost has me ready to take up television again. Then again, I get nothing done as it is.

    Posted by Jason B.  on  10/07  at  01:12 PM
  31. Henry is a bit classier (and more experienced) than Pete, but they both force their way through an aperture to get what they want. The difference in status between Betty and Gudrun is what determines the boundary of what each of the men feel he can claim.

    Ah, I see your point.  And yes, Joan’s rape is another order of thing, not least because of the emotional investment we have in her character as the embodiment of early-60s fabulousness.  Greg is threatened by that, yes, and threatened by Joan’s status in the office—but also, most immediately, by Roger’s sly insinuation (upon being introduced to Greg) that he knows a thing or two about Joan…

    Posted by  on  10/07  at  01:12 PM
  32. That’s an awfully broad definition of “transactional sex”, Marshall.  You could define away all rape as “transactional sex” under your rubric.  After all, what is sex taken with violence, if not her swapping sex for him not killing her?

    Posted by Amanda Marcotte  on  10/07  at  02:47 PM
  33. You could define away all rape as “transactional sex” under your rubric.

    Well, of course you could if you felt like having a pointless debate, just like you can come up with ambiguous example after ambiguous example to try to knock down any distinction between coercion and negotiation.

    My point in all of this is that by hanging a big RAPE sign on Pete-and-Gudrun, you miss the point of the parallel with Betty-and-Henry and elide it with Joan-and-Greg, which, I submit, would be an unhelpful thing to do if one’s aim is to analyze the artistic work and understand its themes.

    Posted by  on  10/07  at  02:57 PM
  34. My point in all of this is that by hanging a big RAPE sign on Pete-and-Gudrun, you miss the point of the parallel with Betty-and-Henry and elide it with Joan-and-Greg, which, I submit, would be an unhelpful thing to do if one’s aim is to analyze the artistic work and understand its themes.

    Then again, if you insist on the parallel with Betty-and-Henry at the expense of the obvious parallel with Joan-and-Greg, you’re missing much of the point about the series’ depiction of nonconsensual and “transactional” sex, see comment 6 above, and therefore missing much of what the artistic work is actually doing.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/07  at  03:14 PM
  35. I don’t think it misses it at all.  I’d say that it was loud and clear that the 60s really missed an understanding of the importance of mutuality that was necessary to prevent brutality.  Or what feminists would call the “rape culture”, which Betty unfortunately upheld when she told Sally that a woman’s role in love is passive.

    There was a strong contrast with Betty and Don’s Roman holiday, which was a model of playful, enthusiastic sex.

    Anyway, sorry if I seemed to be too hard, but I do think that the term “transactional sex” is misleading, when the real issues are mutuality and consent.  There is transactional sex that is completely mutual, and everyone gets what they want.  Then there’s the various ways women are constructed as passive, and coercion is justified.

    Posted by Amanda Marcotte  on  10/07  at  04:14 PM
  36. therefore missing much of what the artistic work is actually doing

    With regard to what?? I am sensing that my disconnect from the show is ingrained in the notion that this “artistic work” plays much more to those who grew up 20 years after this period, than it does for those of us for whom it was our daily lives (certainly the ratings demographics show this to be true--but that is more an anomaly of the basic cable programming schedule i think).  I knew a number of young women who were forced (by law and circumstance) to “go off” to those special schools where they would proceed with their pregnancies and give up the babies, to return to “normal” lives.  It would be fair to say that a more than a small minority of them were forced to do so because of coerced sex and date rape; though in the early 60s neither was considered outside the norm (sadly and grievously so), nor called anything other than “sex.”

    What strikes me more, is that if one of the major points of MadMen is to focus a critical eye on gender denigrating phenomena, it certainly is blowing way beyond the minds of folks like Derbyshire.  He is now on record that the worse thing to happen to conservatism is women’s suffrage. While we progressives take tiny steps forward in liberalizing a more egalitarian world, these nimrods are taking giant leaps back to the 1800s, hell the 18th century.

    Posted by  on  10/07  at  06:52 PM
  37. But really, was it Fellini or Antonioni? I say L’eclisse.

    I think the rough consensus at Basket of Kisses is that the exchanging of the dress was at least at the conscious level an altruistic act, mainly because Pete is not self-aware or mature enough to plan that far ahead.

    Posted by  on  10/07  at  08:34 PM
  38. Things for which I pray to the Flying Spagetti Monster:

    1. World Peace
    2. Rush Limbaugh catching permanent laringytis
    3. “Tonight on a very special Mad Men: Pete Campbell gets drafted and sent to Viet Nam”

    Posted by rev.paperboy  on  10/08  at  09:56 AM
  39. elliot:

    yes, the new season of brekaing bad has been running for about 5 weeks now (the same as mad men).

    so, if you guys won’t do a thread for it, you force me to do one myself.

    Posted by skippy  on  10/09  at  12:20 AM
  40. Things for which I pray to the Flying Spagetti Monster:

    1. World Peace

    Which kind?  The kind that reduces the number of conflicts going on in the world rather than committing more troops to them?  Or the kind that wins Nobel Peace Prizes?

    Posted by  on  10/09  at  10:30 AM
  41. The 2013 Mini Cooper are fantastic driving dynamics and great fuel economy, one of the most fun-to-drive models and

    four-cylinder engines

    Posted by mini cooper cars  on  03/08  at  01:23 PM

Name:

Email:

Location:

URL:

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below:


Next entry: ABF Friday: WTF edition!

Previous entry: Sparring

<< Back to main