Author’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series, analyzing the female characters on Mad Men throughout season 6.
This week, the theme for the show’s women was certainly: those who and try to “have it all” get knocked down a peg from time to time. Three working women all dealt with awkward, hurtful, or disappointing situations at the workplace.
As mentioned previously on this blog, Don dealing with a wife who has a career is a new challenge for him. Back in season one, when Betty wanted to get back into modeling, Don objected to the idea at first. Later, he seemed resigned to allow her to do it, but he made clear he was never happy about the decision. Much the same occurred when Megan was pursuing her acting career.
Megan finds out the soap opera gods (the head writer, Mel) like her enough to write her a love affair. It’s a big step for Megan, because it means her storyline (on the soap, not Mad Men) is getting more developed and she’ll get to stick around for longer. Of course when Megan tells Don, he’s skeptical, but doesn’t object outright.
Don’s also been known to take his frustrations from work into his home life, and perhaps some of his anger at Megan was misplaced because he’d just lost out Heinz to former protege, Peggy.
Megan’s mad he’s on set, wondering why he would do this to himself. It’s the first time Don’s been to set and she’s been working on the show for months. “I’m sick of tiptoeing around you every time something good happens to me. This is my job. No, my career.”
Don compares her to a prostitute. “You kiss people for money. You know who does that?” Interesting since in last week’s episode, Don was having flashbacks about his mother. (A prostitute.)
Megan points out she chose to tell him and not hide it from him, but it doesn’t make any difference. Don leaves and Megan cries about what an asshole her husband is.
Joan’s married friend, Kate, in town from Spokane, looks at Joan and thinks she has everything. “I want what you have.”
Joan tells her, “It’s not what you think.”
And it certainly isn’t. When Joan attempts to fire Harry’s secretary, he makes a big to do about knowing how Joan became a partner in the firm. “I’ve actually earned it,” he states.
While the partners assure Joan he won’t become partner, they do not rise to her defense. Roger deals with the situation the only way he knows how. He won’t entertain Harry’s push for partnership, instead buying him off. This all occurs behind closed doors and as far as the audience knows, Joan has no knowledge of it.
As Joan states to her friend: “I’ve been working there for fifteen years and they still treat me like a secretary.”
Meanwhile, in the romance department, married Kate reveals she wants to have a little fun. This is a nice take we haven’t seen too much on the show before: adultery from a female perspective. (Yes, Betty cheated on Don with Henry, but part of the cheating felt it was to get back at Don. Not to mention Betty and Henry may be the two squarest people in Ossining.) She and Joan visit an old style soda fountain shop and it’s clientele appears to be young college-aged women. From teenage style flirting, they travel downtown with one of the shop’s workers to the Electric Circus, a dirty looking lounge style club with blue and green lighting and mod furniture. Joan ends up making out with the shop guy’s friend, but she doesn’t seem particularly interested.
For someone who is known for her allure, it’s curious to note romance seems to have changed for Joan. Is it because of what she was asked to do for the Jaguar account? Or now that she’s divorced, has a baby and has taken on more responsibility at work, she doesn’t have the energy? Last season, Joan wondered aloud to Don how she was going to forge a new relationship with a baby. It’s clear Joan is still smarting from past events, both personally and professionally.
After last week’s brouhaha over Heinz ketchup, it was expected Don and Stan would find out Peggy was assigned to the account at her new firm, but it surprising the reveal was so soon.
Peggy remained rather stoic throughout her interactions with both Don and Stan, although it’s clear Stan is pissed at her. The fall out of their friendship has really yet to be explored and it remains to be seen if Peggy will apologize or stand her ground.
She also seems to be stealing a lot of her tricks of the trade straight out of Don’s toolbox. This week she used his “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation” line during the Heinz meeting. The beauty of it was Don was standing at the door listening to his protege beat him at his own game.
Dawn got wrapped up in the Joan situation this week. When Harry’s secretary, Scarlett, asked Dawn to punch her out at the end of the day, despite the fact she was skipping out of the office early to attend someone’s birthday party, Dawn readily agreed.
Her friend warns her the girls in the office aren’t her friends. Dawn claims they are and did seem to say yes to Scarlett only because she wanted her approval.
At the end of the episode, she apologizes to Joan and says she should dock her pay. Joan seems to place most of the blame on Scarlett, because she asks Dawn who it’s fair to if she does that. “Fair to Scarlett?” To learn her lesson, Joan gives Dawn the task of managing time cards and the supply closet. Dawn tells Joan she doesn’t care if everyone else hates her, as long as Joan likes her.
The appearance of a possible storyline for Dawn is a long time coming. Although the demographics of an advertising agency in the 1960s probably weren’t too diverse, it’s unfathomable it took this long to have a black character appear on screen in a role more important than Playboy bunny or Paul’s girlfriend.
Again, it’s hard to get a sense of who Sylvia is, beyond her affair with Don and her religious affiliation. This week she told Don she prays for him to have peace. Make of that what you will, dear audience.