Maiello: Defeat the Press
Wolraich: Obama at the Gates of... Gates
I've gotten the impression a number of folks at dag like this show a lot. My wife and I got into it a few months ago and are getting caught up.
If you have a favorite scene, an "aha" moment the show has triggered for you, or just some observations you'd like to share about the show, it's success, and what that says if anything about part of our culture, please feel free to share. Also if you don't like the show or know people who don't like it, I would find it interesting to hear why.
I'll share a few observations/reactions. Two are reactions to characters. The other is to the show.
Betty Draper, the January Jones character who is Don's ex, personifies in the early episodes what I understand Betty Friedan was getting at in The Feminine Mystique when she wrote about the infantilization of women. Don treats her like a child when she wants to see a shrink, as well as generally. She says things that reflect a severe emotional over-dependence on him that over time leaves her increasingly unhappy. Other than horseback riding she appears to have no other real interests of her own that she pursues.
Then she changes, in ways that surely reflect the experiences of legions of women in the 1960's and 1970s when the womens' movement sprang up. She gets some admiration and respect, of the sort she never got from her then-husband Don, for volunteer work either in the community or with the Rockefeller political campaign (or both, I forget), which brings her into contact with her subsequent husband. She comes to realize that it doesn't have to be the way it was in her life, that she didn't have to forego doing anything she wanted to do, that were important to her. And she didn't have to be subjected to denigrating assessments of her capabilities and aspirations from her husband. Perhaps aided by her increasingly independent consciousness of her role she eventually can no longer ignore the plentiful signs of Don's chronic infidelity.
And so she breaks away. I love that the show doesn't sugarcoat that process. It's very messy, it's very painful. Where we are in the series is where she's remarried and is portrayed as kind of chronically cranky, hyper-critical of her kids, and just generally aggravated at having to deal in any way, shape or form with her ex. It's as though she has shed her own skin but has not, not yet anyway, grown her new one or come to feel comfortable in her new one. Wonderfully portrayed by January Jones.
Peggy Olson, played magnificently by Elisabeth Moss, is my favorite character. She faces just about every sort of degrading, insulting, dismissive, condescending treatment one could imagine. And that's just in the workplace. Her mother is totally unsupportive of her generally, and in particular of her decision to find her own place, in, of all places, that brothel otherwise known as Manhattan. Even her priest, played by Colin Hanks, tries to manipulate rather than support her. She is torn in all sorts of fascinating ways by her ultra-conservative, anti-liberatory upbringing, including her experience of Catholicism, on the one hand, and what she learns about herself in the workplace through sheer persistence in the face of enormous barriers that make her eventual ability to break through and shine and start to receive some richly earned respect for that all the more remarkable. She is such a fascinating mix of a character in transition from one predominant way of looking at herself and the world to another. She's outrageously funny, sometimes without realizing it, and of course extraordinarily bright, quick-thinking, and talented at what she does. She has exceptional social and emotional intelligence--without these she never would have been able to negotiate the maze of barriers and break through. Which is a situation many women today, I suspect, can relate to in spades.
Often the big corporate world is seen as, or presumed to be, anti-entrepreneurial. The show features Draper rising in position and influence in large part because he is so entrepreneurial and because he often succeeds when he is. Working for a corporation gives him at least a little cushion to fail sometimes if his failures don't cost the firm existing clients. Perhaps the corporate world of advertising was (is?) culturally different from other large corporations in that regard. A former professor of mine who once worked for the precursor organization to what is now the Office of Management and Budget once said to me that he had never worked for a bureaucracy that didn't have its own culture. The show to my way of thinking provides a convincing depiction that penetrates the fog and the mystery of these large, impersonal-and-faceless-to-much-of-the-public organizations.