Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mad Hoc: Character studies

Just in time for the new episode of Mad Men, RMJ's and my chat on "The Good News."  These chats may be more infrequent/posted later due to internet connections in Zambia, but we'll try to keep bringing you Mad Men discussions!

Don and Anna
 RMJ: So, what did you think?
 Coca Colo: Well, TLo pointed out it was a slower episode, and I agree, but it was really sweet and interesting to see so much Don-Anna interaction
  RMJ: So I was with tlo - it was a little boring
  i watched it with a friend which i think means i missed some of the subtleties
Coca Colo: Yes, it was more about laying groundwork. I'm less into this other version of don, as far as I just find him less exciting, than the Madison Avenue one, but I think that's the point
 RMJ: Yeah, he's a lot less compelling but much happier
 Coca Colo: I think it’s because he's NOT that polished guy. He's the guy in the country bar and painting the wall.

 RMJ: Happy people don't need drama
Coca Colo: And what Anna said really resonated with me, "I know everything about you, and I love you." Because I think that's our deepest fear sometimes, that if anyone knew the real you, they wouldn't love you.  So it's so meaningful that he has that. Someone who loves him without secrets and pretense and showmanship.
RMJ: But then he has to lose it immediately, and go back to consorting with awkward Englishmen and hookers. Which just makes his loss - both of Betty and Anna - that much more potent.
Coca Colo: Yes. You're right, it is a little funny, that the best he can do for a friend is Lane. But he knows he's living a duality, it's almost like his night out with Lane is his rebound from getting a little too real.  He has to come back and put things in their proper boxes

Joan and Greg
RMJ: So what did you think about Joan this episode?
 Coca Colo: Well, we got to see a very different side of her this week, with her being very vulnerable and emotional. And it was interesting to see her so genuinely concerned about a family and her marriage, because before I felt like that was more of a status and a comfort thing to her, than what she actually wanted.
 RMJ: I think it's still to a certain extent a status thing. She's realized she's behind on her checklist And so she's trying to make sure it gets done, like a good manager.
 Coca Colo: That's an interesting take, and I can see why you say that, but I also felt a lot of genuine emotion behind it.
RMJ: Oh, definitely. I don't think they're mutually exclusive. Also, we definitely saw a more positive view of Greg than we ever have before.
 Coca Colo: Yes, which is interesting. Is this show doing a whole humanizing rapists thing? TLo said this:
After she cuts her finger badly on a knife, we get to see Greg act like something other than a selfish jerk. Most of the viewers aren't ever going to forget that he raped her once, but people aren't easily pegged in the world of Mad Men - or the real world, for that matter. He did a horrible thing and we doubt anyone involved in the show would argue otherwise, but people are more complicated than merely being Villains or Heroes. Plus it was nice to see that he's not a total loser on the professional front. In fact, we think Joan was seeing that side of him - the caring, competent side - for the first time herself. "I can't fix anything else, but I can fix this."
Which is all well and good, yes, people are complex, but I still feel a little ishy about making it out to be that raping women is just another bad thing that men sometimes do
 RMJ: Well, it is, though. Rapists are everywhere, and they're not usually clear cut monsters.
  It's an especially horrible crime, but they are not fundamentally not human. They have more sides than just "terrible rapist person."
Coca Colo: Sigh. I know that that's true. But I have this weird moralistic thing about only being able to forgive people for doing bad things if they know it's bad.
 RMJ: I understand that, but it's not a moralistic show, really.
Coca Colo: Yes. You're right. But, I feel like someone who rapes a woman has an underlying issues with respect for women, personal boundaries, and entitlement.  So I feel like even when they're being nice, we should see that issues. And I hope they don't get too far away from that.
RMJ: I think they've already very clearly established that with Greg, so I think that considering the brevity of his appearance in this episode, the weight of his past characterization means that this episode is more shading than a turning of tides.  He's probably about to be out of the picture, forever, and he's been one of the most 1-D characters in the whole show. So I interpret this as shading, and expect some f***ery from him next week.
Coca Colo: Yes. You're right. Sorry I'm such a rapist bigot :)
 RMJ: Haha, no, I think your point of view is really necessary for a feminist discussion of this. Rape is something, I think, that the producers want us to keep constantly in mind when viewing these characters.
Coca Colo: It's especially meaningful to me, because I have had to make some very big decisions to forgive people in my life for big things, and an underlying criteria for me was that they had to know it was wrong, understand why, and be genuinely sorry. That's how I've been able to put the past behind me.
But I haven't been able to do that with Pete and Greg. So we'll see where it goes.
 RMJ: I think that's totally fair. Pete and Greg both did something that fundamentally altered your view of them, and considering what they did, I think your reaction is totally appropriate.
Coca Colo: So, maybe they will get some kind of comeuppance or redemption. We'll see where the writers take us.

Joan and Lane
Coca Colo: What did you think of Joan's response to getting a note from Lane signed "Kisses"?
RMJ: Well, that was supposed to be for his wife...
 Coca Colo: Right. But when Joan reacted, she didn't know that, and I was actually really intrigued by her reaction. Because Joan does so often use her sexuality to charm men, it was interesting to see her react so strongly against someone being overly familiar with her.  I liked that, actually, but it was interesting to me.
RMJ: I think it was confusion - she had come on so strong in the previous scene with him.  I'm curious about whatever was accidentally sent to his wife!
 Coca Colo: I think the secretary said that it said "Joan, forgive me." Which is obviously terrible in the context of his messed up marriage! Imagine him trying to explain to her that that's his secretary!
Or office manager, rather, since she seems to have moved up quite a bit, and as she notes, doesn't file papers anymore--she has people to do that.
 RMJ: haha
Coca Colo: We also saw this episode that Peggy isn't, after all, engaged, but she is still seeing that guy.  She said "my boyfriend" to Joan.
 RMJ: Oh yeah, I completely forgot about that!
 Coca Colo: Anything else to discuss?
 Coca Colo: Like whether Don is physically incapable of not hitting on women outside of the office? It's like his default response when he feels intimacy or closeness, or guilt, or any emotion. Try to sleep with person involved.
 RMJ: Right, ugh.
 Coca Colo: I guess, while we’re waiting to see where the writers take other characters this season, we’ll have to see if there’s any personal growth from Don. It would be nice to see him figure out what he wants in a woman and stick with that.
RMJ: Till next time….

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