Monday, September 15, 2008

'Mad Men' Monday: A Night to Remember

"Don't come home. I don't care what you do, I just don't want you here . . . Don, I don't want to see you. [*click*]"
-- Betty Draper, on the telephone with husband Don Draper in A Night to Remember

Who among us did not let up a hoot-n-holler when Betty Draper finally called the philandering dark cloud known as Don Draper on the carpet for his constant messing around? After several scenes of Don trying to make Betty think she was crazy for accusing him of having an affair with the odious Bobbie Barrett -- including the razor-sharp, polka dotted dress, red wine and desperate searching scenes where Betty was seeking tangible clues as to who the hell her husband really is -- the conclusion of this installment of Mad Men was indeed satisfying. The last scene, as the camera slowly drew back to show Don sitting alone in the sadly lit, shadowy Sterling Cooper kitchen drinking a Heineken -- the beer he KNEW Betty would buy because he knows Betty oh so well -- was fantastic.

Betty's been simmering with indignation for several episodes, much like Carmela Soprano when she finally acknowledged that her mobster husband was repeatedly stepping out on her. And Don laughing at the irony of Betty's choice to serve Heineken at a business dinner in their home as she was trying to put on her best, sophisticated face forward to Don's colleague and prospective client, made her feel childish and foolish. And she'd had enough of feeling the sting of humiliation.

The theme, at least as I perceived it, this week was one of a burden that weighs you down and what you do with it:

For Betty it was the burden of maintaining the charade of the idyllic American family with a charming American marriage. Taking a huge risk by throwing Don out of the house (remember how divorcee and mother of two Helen Bishop was ostracized by the women in the neighborhood in season one?), Betty has decided she will no longer bear the burden of ignoring Don's infidelity.

For Peggy Olson, it was the burden of having given birth to a baby out of wedlock that keeps her, in some ways, emotionally separate and apart from others, particularly at her church. (Anyone else think Father Gill was annoying as he persistently pressed Peggy to confess what he already knows? Something tells me that more than just Peggy's soul is on his mind.)

For Joan Holloway, it was the burden of being seen solely as a sex object because of her curves -- evident by the red marks left behind by her bra straps -- instead of being perceived as an insightful professional who made smart recommendations to Sterling Cooper's clients. (Last week Joan's authority in the secretarial pool was undermined by her former flame Roger Sterling when he let a newer, younger version of Joan keep her job after Joan had fired her.) The reality of the sex object burden hit Joan squarely in the face when Harry Krane hired a doofus guy (at a much higher wage I would guess) to do the work -- reading scripts and figuring out during which TV show clients should buy, or not buy, advertising -- that Joan had been doing with aplomb. For Joan, her sex appeal had previously worked to help her advance at Sterling Cooper, but in this case, it made the men with whom she works overlook her skills.

Please share your thoughts about the recent episode of Mad Men below. Were you as thrilled by Betty throwing down the gauntlet as I was? Feel disappointed for Joan, whose fiance wants her to be a housewife?

Image credit: AMC.

1 comment:

Adam said...

I for one was shocked by Betty's phone call with Don. It definitely takes some major stones to do what she did in the era in which she lives. But is it realistic? During the early 60's (aka the late 50's in attitude) would a woman with no real certainty throw the breadwinner out of the house? What does she do next? I know Betty can be impetuous, but I expected revenge not retribution as her form of punishment. Besides the club membership and the horseback riding man is still out there somewhere...