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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

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

Ah, crap, it’s Sunday again already, and I never got to this all week. So, quick notes:

Is Don suddenly getting introspective? Writing a blog–er, diary; fretting about missing his baby son’s birthday party when he never seemed to pay much attention to his kids at all before; realizing that he “already knows” Betthany (because she’s a clone for Betty, and not just physically); realizing that he likes sleeping alone; even worrying about Vietnam. (Never fear, Don: It won’t be another Korea. It’ll be much, much worse.) Even his acknowledgment that he’s never written more than 250 words at a time seems like a little slap at the advertising work that he loves and is brilliant at, which is all about slogans and soundbites. Maybe he really will end up running off to Haight-Asbury eventually (as I speculated, only half jokingly, a while back) and writing a novel or something.

And suddenly, rock ’n’ roll is in the air: the Rolling Stones on the Mad Men soundtrack. The times are a-changin’…
Here’s a kick in the pants: Don’s “I should have finished high school.” The idea that someone could become creative director of an ad agency without even having finished high school seems even more ludicrous to us today — when it’s almost impossible to get any kind of corporate work without a bachelor’s degree, at a minimum — than Don’s assumption of someone else’s identity. Because a college degree (or a lack of one) isn’t about intelligence or talent these days but about credentialling, a way to weed out those who haven’t conformed and learned how to play the right games and make the right noises and operate within a system. And also, of course, about basic education, now that our schools are a disaster. Don, even without his high school diploma, is probably better educated that some college graduates today.

Does Don finally have a date with an adult woman, with Fay? It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out…

And then there’s Joan and Peggy, and a bitter illustration about how women simply cannot win when it comes to sexual harassment: either you’re a “meaningless secretary” or a “humorless bitch” if you address it, or you’re accepting being demeaned and dismissed if you don’t. How unfair that Joan turns on Peggy for firing Joey the obnoxious freelancer for his verbal abuse and harassment of Joan. Men like Joey would probably consider it a bonus that what he’s done has alienated the women from each other, because solidarity could have been a first step toward genuinely changing the atmosphere that encourages such humiliation of women. They women are already conquered; keep them divided, too, and the boys’ club can persist.

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