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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

a few thoughts on ‘Mad Men’: “The Rejected”

You can sort of feel the weight of the future bearing down on everyone in this episode. From the opening scene, with Don and Roger on the client phone call about new restrictions in cigarette marketing (with Don chain smoking! I don’t remember seeing him do that before — it seems so uncool and un-Don Draper), to the closing scene, with Peggy and Pete sharing a glance as she goes off with her new hippie friends and he’s making nice with the old corporate silverbacks… hints of the complications that are starting settle on the world are here.

And there’s little personal smacks in the face to more than a few people, too. Peggy isn’t taking well the news that Pete’s wife is pregnant: I don’t think she wants Pete and she certainly didn’t want his baby (though I suppose it’s never too late for her to decide to actually embrace the child), but it must be a reminder of a very different route her life might have taken, had she chosen it. Don walking past the elderly couple pleasantly bickering in the hallway of his apartment building: He’s never going to have that now. He may eventually find someone to grow old with, but it’s too late now to have someone he’s spent his whole adult life with. (He probably wouldn’t have had pleasant bickering, though: it’s hard to imagine Betty mellowing much — she’ll just get more bitter.)
Is Pete getting ready to jump the SCDP ship? Or is his comment about the grass always being greener just his way of calming himself down after a bad day at work. God knows why they value him — though I supposed an oily schmoozer like him is always valuable when you’re selling something. Funny thing about Pete, though: He doesn’t really seem good at the schmoozing, either, but he always managed to get folks to come round. Like his father-in-law. He turns having to dump the Clearasil account into an opportunity to pick up all Tom’s other accounts. (Vincent Kartheiser is so incredibly sly as Pete. I can never figure out if I like Pete, or dislike him, or outright hate him. I consider that a sign of both good writing and good acting.)

Here’s why Don Draper remains one of the most fascinating characters on television: He’s so uniquely his own man (even when he’s another man entirely!). He goes with his gut. Often that gets him into a lot of trouble (as with the fiasco with Allison, who I’m sorry missed when she threw that paperweight at him). He hires Faye to do all this market research on how to sell Pond’s cold cream — and man, that focus group scene was layers and layers of deceptions and manipulations and, at the same time, honesty and heartache, too; brilliant — and then he rejects her conclusions. Not that Don has ever been a toe-the-line kind of corporate guy — and there’s the sense, too, that he’s rejecting Faye’s work precisely because he doesn’t like how well she can peg people, and not because she’s wrong — but Faye’s work was supposed to be exactly the kind of newfangled thing that a young and hungry agency like SCDP would go in for in an attempt to get ahead. Of course, Don is taking a risk in another direction in going with Peggy’s “pamper yourself” campaign idea. Maybe Don is simply pathologically incapble of doing anything except his own thing…



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  • JoshDM

    Pete showed some real stones last night with that confrontation with his father-in-law.

    (though I suppose it’s never too late for her to decide to actually embrace the child)

    Last we saw, the boy was being raised by her sister, but she a season or so later, she said to Pete that he was given up for adoption. Do you think, offscreen, he was raised for a while and then actually given up for adoption? Is the child still available for her to embrace?

    Don walking past the elderly couple pleasantly bickering in the hallway of his apartment building: He’s never going to have that now.

    “I’ll tell you when I get inside.” Whether or not she got peaches; can’t even say that in front of Don, who is the deviant in her eyes. Note that she would have been 1925s target demographic for Faye’s work; granted, ideas come back in style and we all know Faye is right.

  • I like the subtle details of this show; the way small things happen with no explanation: stuff you don’t necessarily have to notice, but when you do it’s an added layer of character, like how Don immediately steps behind his desk as Allison starts to confront him, closing himself off from her emotionally as well as physically.

    Also: yay for potential lesbianism!?

  • There are reminders everywhere of the what-ifs and could-have-beens that episode. Don getting a photo from California from his dying confidant… the emotional damage of his night with Allison, and Don’s inability to realize that the letter of recommendation was something HE needed to write, not sign off like another office memo… this growing unease that Don is falling off his game: failing in seductions, failing in maintaining control at the office…

  • Lisa

    I haven’t seen the episode but how is pamper yourself any different to because you’re worth it – Peggy’s ahead of her time.

    Also 100% sure Peggy gave her child up for adoption. Her sister’s child is definitely Peggy’s niece.

    I think Pete is awful. He’s so spoilt and self-entitled. Although Vincent’s completely turned me around since Angel – he’s a good actor and an interesting guy. There’s something so unhappy and angry about him. It’s being born into a life of priviledge and then having to work for a living. He’s so fake but I think people recognise that he’s the guy who’ll swallow his pride and do whatever.

    I think Pete is the reason I like Don because Don is not Pete.

  • Lady Tenar

    man, that focus group scene was layers and layers of deceptions and manipulations and, at the same time, honesty and heartache, too

    Yes and yes. Actually, the focus group seemed to contain hints of the “consciousness raisings” that are to come in a few years in the women’s lib era. In a weird ironic way, of course, since what that meeting was actually about was mining female insecurity to sell women stuff. But the emphasis on simply speaking–Faye’s “sometimes it’s good to just talk” and Don’s comment at the end of the episode about them talking “just to be heard” seems to hint at the widespread female misery, and the yearning to express it and share it with other women that will culminate in the consciousness raising. The intense need to break the silence about female experience that the feminist movement will capitalize off of.

    Note that she would have been 1925s target demographic for Faye’s work; granted, ideas come back in style and we all know Faye is right.

    She’s right in the sense that it really is all about marriage for those women but Don and Peggy are also right in their forward thinking. And Peggy’s “pamper yourself” idea is much more in line with how beauty products are marketed today.

    Also: yay for potential lesbianism!?

    I’m all for plot lines that explore homosexual relationships, but if they make Peggy a lesbian, I’ll pull an Allison and throw a paperweight at the TV. I mean, making the independent, strong career woman a lesbian? The writers have to be better than that. And I think they are because I honestly don’t see any kind of relationship happening between Peggy and Joyce. I don’t think that’s where it was going. Maybe some “experimenting” because that would be totally consistent with the counterculture of the times but that’s it. I think it’s far more likely that something will happen with that journalist she kissed in the closet. I mean, that boyfriend of hers can’t last. They already married off one of their awesome women to a sexist, patronizing douche, they’re not going to do that with Peggy too, right? Right?

  • Lisa

    What I find odd about Mad Men is that when I think of the 60’s, it’s all free love and the Beatles. Mad Men is still quite formal, conservative and 50’s – ish. Takes a decade a while to define itself, I guess.

    I watched The Hours last night – talking about yearning to express yourself!

  • Jerry Colvin

    Don didn’t hire Faye, she was forced upon him by Cooper and Price. When they did similar research in the first season and Pete used a report Don had discarded, he got chewed out for doing so. Don doesn’t believe in that stuff.

  • drewryce

    Lisa: I’m assuming that you are young enough not to have lived during the 60s. The show is spot-on for the early 1960s. Big things don’t change overnight. The 50s are still the dominant force and the 60s are just beginning to nibble at the edges. Warhol, Freedom Riders, Malcom X, etc are gaining recognition, but for the mid-town office crowd, these are all events happening somewhere else. over the next few years they will no longer be folks “who know a guy that knows this guy” that was affected by the changes. It will be them. Joan’s husband killed in VN, Peggy shacked up in the village with a musician, Joyce killed in a Weatherman bombing.

  • mortadella

    I half expected Peggy to run into Andy Warhol at that party….thank god she didn’t, it would have been corny. Whether Peggy ends up with that writer or not, I think he could have planted an idea in her head. When he asked if she was working on anything else aside from her copwriting duties. Peggy could become an icon herself.

  • Lisa

    It’s fascinating to watch that period happen from a different perspective. Also, I can’t believe they dealt with the death of Malcolm X in such a throwaway manner – This is what rolling news has done to us.

  • Lisa

    ha! I was expecting Andy Warhol too

    It did make you feel that Peggy was going to explore more ways of being creative, especially when they contrasted her new group of friends with the suits at SCDP.

    Writer guy is more interesting than douche bag guy.

  • Lady Tenar

    Also, I can’t believe they dealt with the death of Malcolm X in such a throwaway manner – This is what rolling news has done to us.

    It wasn’t a “throwaway manner.” It served to show us that, as capable and intelligent a woman as Peggy is, and as “ahead of her time” as we tend to see her, she really is very sheltered and naive in a lot of ways. She’s a Catholic girl from Brooklyn, she’s not clued into stuff like this. And she hasn’t really involved herself in the wider world outside her job. That’s why the artist (who’s name I forget) kind of mocked her gently with the “do you ever read what’s between the ads” comment.

    This isn’t a history lesson. It’s written from the perspective of very specific people in a specific setting. Malcolm X etc, is only just beginning to be on Peggy’s radar. It’s honest.

  • drewryce

    Lady Tenar is right on the money. The Peggy Olsens of 1965 did not know much, if anything, about Malcom X. She would probably know him best for his remarks following the death of JFK. Malcoms death would have been unremarkable. That will all change. By April 1968 the death of Martin Luthor King will be a national event of great importance, even to Peggy Olsen.

  • Lisa

    I meant throwaway in the sense that it got that one line. It’s hard to keep track of time in Mad Men (Thanks, Joan) and I felt it was quite startling to hear it mentioned so casually. Again it did contrast how hermetically sealed and cut off those guys are, but they’re meant to be on top of this stuff, at the cutting edge. Don is falling off his game – the decade is leaving him behind.

  • MaryAnn

    What I find odd about Mad Men is that when I think of the 60’s, it’s all free love and the Beatles. Mad Men is still quite formal, conservative and 50’s – ish. Takes a decade a while to define itself, I guess.

    Absolutely! Beatlemania is only just beginning in 1965, and free love is still a few years away. The 60s don’t really begin until, what, maybe 1968. And they won’t end till Watergate, at the earliest.

    Is the child still available for her to embrace?

    Maybe not. I thought Peggy’s sister was raising the kid, but I guess I’m wrong about that.

  • drewryce

    I’m not sure what date I would put on the “60s” officially starting. The whole thing is gradual. Just to take pop music as an example: if we look at
    Billboards top selling records of the era: 1962 has Dee Dee Sharp, David Rose (The Stripper), Shelly Fabares and Acker Bilk in the top 10; by 1964 the top 3 are the Beatles, Dean Martin and Louis Armstrong (Hello Dolly); After 1965 the top records are all teen pop i.e. The Monkees and the latest bands.

    See the transition? Pop is pop and it always rises to the top. But the pop itself has changed. The old guard of crooners and broadway soundtracks are replaced by knock off variations of the true youth movement like the British Invasion, Janis, Jimi, etc.
    A case could be made that the true 60s only lasted for the few months between Woodstock and Altamont.

  • Lisa

    It’s confusing because she could have lied to Pete but Matthew Weiner said she had to give it up. You do get the feeling she’s unburdening herself in that scene, so it wouldn’t make sense for her to lie.

    http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2008/10/mad-men-peggy-b.html

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