“MAD MEN” RETROSPECT: “It’s Hard Being a Woman”

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“MAD MEN” RETROSPECT: “IT’S HARD BEING A WOMAN”

The reactions to the Season Seven “MAD MEN” episode, (7.03) “Field Trip” had left me feeling a little exhausted . . . and somewhat annoyed. After reading comments on various blogs, I began to wonder if fans of the show had really harbored an enlightened attitude when it came to the major female characters. To this day, I remain a little perturbed by the attitude toward Joan Harris, Peggy Olson and Betty Francis I have encountered in other articles.

The fan reaction to Don Draper’s return to Sterling, Cooper & Partners, after he was asked to go on “leave” in the Season Six finale, (6.13) “In Care Of”, had left me shaking my head. In another Season Six episode called (6.06) “For Immediate Release”, Don had really pissed off Joan, when he got rid of the Jaguar account that had a great impact upon her career. When I first saw the episode, I understood why Joan had been upset. Don had rendered her actions in (5.11) “The Other Woman” – namely sleeping with a Jaguar salesman in order to gain the account for the firm – a waste of her time. Don, who had failed to prevent her from sleeping with Jaguar salesman, tried to become her knight in shining armor again, when he got rid of the Jaguar account. Not only did he rendered Joan’s actions useless, his decision ruined Joan, Pete Campbell and Bert Campbell’s attempt to make the company public. And some of his other actions back in Season Six caused a good deal of upheaval for the firm, which included his emotional outburst about his lurid childhood during a meeting with Hershey’s executives. His Season Six actions, along with her anger over the Jaguar account loss, made Joan wary about his return. But I noticed that some viewers – especially many male fans and critics – seemed hostile toward her reaction to Don. Many had expressed this belief that she should have been grateful to Don for getting rid of the Jaguar account and the presence of salesman Herb Rennet. They had failed to understand Joan’s anger or did not want to understand. And after this episode aired, they expressed either hostility or confusion over her reluctance to be thrilled over Don’s return.

I also suspect that many had believed Peggy Olson should have been eternally grateful to Don for taking her out of the secretarial pool and making her a copywriter in the Season One episode, (1.13) “The Wheel”. They also wanted Peggy to be grateful for giving her emotional support after she had given birth to hers and Pete Campbell’s love child. But once Peggy became a part of Don’s creative team, he not only began to take her for granted, but also subject her to some harsh belittling – especially when she asked for a raise. These same fans wanted Peggy to forget the crap that Don had subjected upon her from Seasons Three to Five. They wanted to forget that Peggy had a good reason to finally put Don behind her, when she resigned from the firm in “The Other Woman”. They also wanted Peggy to forget Don’s actions in Season Six, regarding her relationship with another partner of the firm, Ted Chaough. I am not saying there was nothing wrong with Peggy’s affair with Ted. There was. But Don’s manner in delivering a blow to their relationship in (6.12) “The Quality of Mercy” came off as ham-fisted and manipulative . . . and angered Peggy in the process. By the time “Field Trip” aired, she was still angry at Don. And she was also angry at Ted for finally ending their affair. But due to their own reasons, fans wanted Peggy to . . . or demanded that she forget about all of the crap that Don had put her through during the past years and welcome him back with open arms. Why? Was it really that important for Don to resume his role as Peggy’s “Alpha Male”? These same fans had also demand that Peggy return to the woman she used to be during Seasons One to Four or Five.

Following his return to Sterling, Cooper & Partners, many fans were chomping at the bit over the idea of Don eventually resuming his role as the “Alpha Male” in the advertising workplace. This desire was so strong that they were willing to pay lip service to Don’s offhand dismissal of his former secretary and the firm’s new Office Manager, Dawn Chambers, after all she had done for him during his leave. Regardless of Don’s mistakes, it seemed more important to many that he resume his place back on top in the form of a “new and improved” Don. Fans were so convinced that Don would stick to his new and improved path that all of the females he had interacted with in “Field Trip” – Joan, Peggy, Dawn and second wife Megan Draper – ended up being bashed by the fans, because they had failed to swoon at his feet. In the case of Dawn, no one had seemed to care about Don’s dismal treatment of her. They were too busy celebrating the potential return of “Alpha Male” Don Draper.

But the character I really felt sorry for was Betty Francis, Don’s first wife. I felt sorry for her because as a character, she had always seemed to be in a conundrum, as far as fans were concerned. Betty had been taught and expected to be a perfect mother and wife. This is her biggest demon. Fans of the show have criticized her for trying to be perfect. Yet, at the same, they continued to demand that she be perfect mother. This certainly happened when Betty coldly reacted to her discovery that son Bobby had exchanged the lunch she made for him for a bag of candy in “Field Trip”. This was the latest incident in which fans continued to demand that Betty behave more like indulgent Mildred Pierce, instead of a real parent. The only time Don has ever been seriously criticized as a parent, was when daughter Sally caught him with his neighbor Sylvia Rosen and he made an attempt to brush aside what she saw with a lie in Season Six’s (6.11) “Favors”. As far as many fans were concerned, Betty had to be a mother willing to coddle her children, despite their transgressions – in order to be consistently loved by the fans. I have been on the receiving end of a cold reaction like Bobby from my parents when I had made a mistake. It did not damage my psyche. And I have reacted to others, like Betty did. I am a human being and I am capable of mistakes. But, due to her mistakes, Betty was the only character – other than Pete – who was consistently labeled as a “child”, when she made a mistake. But when she had to discipline her children, she was accused of being cold. On the other hand, other characters in the series had also been consistently childish since the first season. But I sometimes wonder if fans were unable to make up their minds on what Betty should have been. They criticized both her lack of maternal perfection (which does not exist in real life, by the way) . . . and at the same time, criticized her attempts at perfection. To this day, I still feel sorry for her, because due to the rules of our still patriarchal society – both in the series and in real life – Betty was never been able to win. Even when she had expressed doubt about her skills as a mother, which she certainly did by the end of “Field Trip”.

Poor Betty will never be accepted as the complex person that she was, because of this demand that she had to be the perfect mother. Many had seemed incapable of understanding Joan’s wariness at Don’s return to the firm. And many wanted Peggy to disregard her past anger at Don and his past behavior in order for her to be eternally grateful to him . . . again. Meanwhile, many fans literally anticipated for Don to be his old self again – the creative “Alpha Male” from past seasons. Like I said – we truly live in a paternalistic society.

“FEUD” Season One – “Bette and Joan” (2017) Episode Ranking

Below is my ranking of the episodes from Season One (and the only season so far) of the F/X series called “FEUD”. Titled “Bette and Joan” and created by Ryan Murphy, the season starred Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon:

 

“FEUD” SEASON ONE – “BETTE AND JOAN” (2017) EPISODE RANKING

 

1. (1.05) “And the Winner Is… (The Oscars of 1963)” – The fallout from the Oscar nominations for “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” leads to underhanded tactics from Joan Crawford, while co-star Bette Davis relishes the opportunity to break a record.

 

 

2. (1.02) “The Other Woman” – With production on “Baby Jane?” underway, Bette and Joan form an alliance, but outside forces in the form of Warner Brothers studio chief Jack Warner, director Robert Aldrich and an unsuspecting bit player conspire against them.

 

 

3. (1.07) “Abandoned!” – Following the beginning of production for “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, the feud between Bette and Joan intensifies. Meanwhile, Bette reveals her vulnerabilities to Aldrich during their affair.

 

 

4. (1.03) “Mommie Dearest” – The “Baby Jane” production reaches its climax, while Bette and Joan clash over every last detail. And both actresses face private struggles.

 

 

5. (1.01) “Pilot” – Cast aside by Hollywood and struggling to maintain their film careers, Bette and Joan sign up for “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” before they commence upon a feud.

 

 

6. (1.06) “Hagsploitation” – Hungry for another hit after “Baby Jane?”, Jack Warner pressures Aldrich into bringing the original team back together for a second project – “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”. Meanwhile, Joan receives a surprising blackmail threat from her brother.

 

 

7. (1.08) “You Mean All This Time We Could Have Been Friends?” – In this finale, Joan accepts a leading role on a new film (her last one), despite her deteriorating health. Faced with a possible new rival, Bette reflects on her misplaced feud with Joan.

 

 

8. (1.04) “More or Less” – When “Baby Jane?” opens in movie theaters, Bette and Joan face uncertain prospects, Aldrich deals with his own personal and professional difficulties, and his assistant Pauline Jameson makes a surprising offer.

 

“The Worship of Sally Draper”

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“THE WORSHIP OF SALLY DRAPER”

The following words regarding a certain character on the AMC series, “MAD MEN” is bound to result in me receiving a good deal of hostile responses … or none at all. I am so sick to death of fans putting Sally Draper on a pedestal.

I am sick of it. Ever since Season Three, when show creator Matthew Weiner made her a more prominent characters, fans have been putting a character that aged from nine to sixteen on a pedestal. Why, I have no idea . To me, there is nothing special about Sally. She has always struck me as a typical kid who will probably grow up with her own set of virtues and bullshit . . . just like her parents, her siblings, and nearly every other character on this show.

After the last episode, (7.10) “The Forecast” aired, I managed to encounter two articles that waxed lyrical over Sally. In one of them, “MAD MEN: Viva la Sally Draper”, author Julianne Escobedo Shepherd claimed that Sally will be forced to spend the rest of her life overcoming her parents’ personalities. Now, I realize that neither Don Draper aka Dick Whitman or Betty Draper Francis are perfect. In fact, they are far from perfect . . . like every other character on this damn show. Including one Sally Draper. Unfortunately, this is something that many fans of the show, including Ms. Shepherd, always fail to realize.

Watching Sally in “The Forecast” made me realize how ridiculous are those claims that Sally is more mature than her parents. Do not make me laugh. I saw that Sally was unable or unwilling to cast any blame on her old friend, Glen Bishop, after she witnessed his reunion with Betty. Ten years earlier, Glen commenced upon an infatuation for Sally’s mother that apparently has yet to abate. But instead of commenting on Glen’s obvious attempt to flirt with Betty, Sally went into a tailspin over Betty’s friendly response to Glen. Later in the episode, Sally had dinner with Don and her friends at a restaurant, in which one of her friends began flirting with Don. Who responded with a good deal of friendliness without making a scene. In the end, it was Sally who made a scene by blaming Don for the exchange and ignoring her friend’s attempt at flirtation. The fact that Sally was unwilling to blame her friends for what happened between them and her parents, only tell me that not only is she still immature, but also a world-class scapegoater.

In The Washington Post article called “MAD MEN: Is Sally Draper Our Last Hope For Change?”, author Soraya Nadia McDonald speculates on whether the character will become some symbol of change on the show. Duh! Sally is the youngest major character on this damn show. By 2015, she will be at least 61 years old. Of course she is the future for a show in which the setting ends in 1970. However, this also means that whatever Sally manages to achieve with her life, she will still have to deal with her frustrations, disappointments and especially her own personal flaws. These personal flaws may or may not affect others. They will certainly affect her. And those flaws will be with Sally until the day she dies or when “MAD MEN” goes off the air.

I have notice in this latest article on how McDonald went out of her way to insult both Don and Betty . . . and at the same time, put Sally on a pedestal. I swear . . . both the media and the fans seemed to regard Sally in the same manner in which Mildred Pierce regarded her daughter Veda. Through rose colored glasses. These same fans have a penchant for ignoring Sally’s penchant for scapegoating. I first became aware of this problem back in Season Four, when she solely blamed Betty for the end of the Drapers’ marriage. Sally possesses other flaws – namely her penchant for bullying – especially her younger brother Bobby; her “sass”, which makes her a world-class needler in my eyes; and her slightly cruel sense of humor. Sally reminds me of certain classmates from my younger years in elementary and high school, whom I heartily disliked or I had regarded with a good deal of wariness. But if there is one person whom Sally reminds me of . . . it is her paternal grandfather, Archie Whitman.

This is the character who is supposed to be the series’ “Great White Female Hope”? Sally Draper? A character, whose flaws are constantly ignored by the “MAD MEN” fandom? There are some who are talking about a spin-off featuring Sally as an adult. Honestly? That is one show I will never watch. How can I drum up the interest to watch a series about a character I have never harbored a high opinion of in the first place? What I am trying to say is that in the end, I am getting sick and tired of the “Glorification of Sally Draper”. The sooner “MAD MEN” is off the air, the less chance I have of encountering this phenomenon. God, I hope so.