e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


Mad Men

Mad Men can devastate viewers. For all its accolades, the show really is a wonderfully written soap opera: all sex and secrets and pathos and marriages falling apart, more or less focused on good-looking people at a cool workplace. Characters give babies up for adoption, keep their sexual orientations secret, cheat on their spouses, connive, commit suicide, reveal shadow identities, and drink too much. It's General Hospital written by MFAs. Next Sunday Roger Sterling may hatch a plan to freeze all of New York City. In the last episode Dick Whitman may wake in an army barracks in Korea, circa 1952, having dreamt the whole thing.

But back to the devastation. Throughout the show's run, some of the greatest, soapiest scenes have been those that left viewers with personal and existential sadness. Sally Draper's mom says something shitty and cruel to her. Sally sees something her young eyes shouldn't see. Sal Romano loses his job to a homophobic world even though he's about the only legitimately nice guy in the whole agency. Devastation. Sal and Sally are fan favorites, but what about protagonists like Peggy? This past week Peggy--who regularly embodies the receiving end of '60s sexism--experienced the usual workplace disempowerment. She's asked to let the guys in the office present the ideas she took the lead on creating (they'll have the authority, Peggy's told, and she can interject with the emotion). Visibly bothered, Peggy is comforted by the co-worker who fathered a baby with her years prior on his office couch: "She's as good as any woman in this business."

But this week, something more. Agency at the agency. While Sinatra's "My Way" plays on the office radio, Peggy's mentor Don encourages her to rewrite the Burger Chef pitch as she sees fit, even though the client already likes the safe pitch the agency's already floated. Peggy decided to take a risk and write the better ad campaign, the one that's inside her. Then they go eat burgers. And it's beautiful. And it doesn't look like something you ever saw on General Hospital.

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