rules at the cumae ruins

rules at the cumae ruins

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mad Men- Signal 30

Anyone else want a cigarette to help you enjoy the afterglow of seeing Pete Campbell get decked?
Even if you don't smoke, you know you want one.

The obvious theme of the episode is the ways men were emasculated in, and by, the culture of the era. But the more subtle one is that we turn into something else, especially into what we hate or what we wanted to be. Pete is turning into the Don Draper of old, and Don is turning into the Roger Sterling of his early marriage to Jane.

Be careful what you wish to be because you might become that...
In "Blowing Smoke," Cooper proclaimed they had created monster with Don when he published his famous letter. But now the monster du jour seems to be Pete, who has made Roger an irrelevancy (or at least helped make him an irrelevancy), downplayed Peggy's role in the business, and belittled Lane. We seem to be back to the box-stealing, blackmailing, au pair raping Pete of yore. What happened to the Pete who refused to laugh at blackface performances? Or laugh at protestors being water bombed? Or understood civil rights when no one else around him did ("Lassie can stay at the Waldorf, and they can't.")?

Back in season 1, Pete expressed his admiration for Don in the first episode, trying to get Don to go out with guys for his bachelor party. Even in this episode, 6 years later, Pete was almost like a giddy little girl at the prospect and reality of having Don in his home. Like Don of 6 years ago, Pete now lives in the 'burbs with a wife and baby. His wife wears her housecoat with a big pompom tie, (a visual not unlike Betty's newfound love of ball-fringe) similar to Betty's frilly white housecoats of old. Trudy's full skirted dresses look shockingly like those Betty wore back in Ossining and her party dress, with its thin straps, open neck, and full skirt, reminded me so much of Betty's party dress from the "around the world" party she and Don hosted in season 2. Pete is finding reasons to stay at work, he's learning to drive, and he has a prostitute. She isn't his first extramarital action (Peggy, the model from the bra ad, and the au pair are a part of his past), but this is the first that was so public. Only Peggy and the janitor knew about that relationship. His neighbor knew and confronted him about the au pair, and it seems he divulged that event to Trudy. But now he's looking for ways to escape, and he openly says he has nothing (even after Don tells him he has everything). I couldn't help but think of Pete's discussion with Peggy, the one where she tells him she had his baby and gave it away, that he wished he had chose her. Or his early days with Trudy, pouting over how she always gets what she wants. Pete's disappointment that Ken was published in important magazines, and all he could muster for himself was Boy's Life, and he had to pay for that. While he was surrounded by the diversions of the city, and the perks of having his name in his status conscious world, he could check some of the unhappiness he felt.

Pete might have grown up with money, but his familial home seemed almost as loveless as Don's. Like Don, he seems to hate the close ties his wife has with her parents. Now, the similarities between him and Don that have been easy to gloss over are huge. Pete is becoming the miserable suburban Don, desperate for anything to make him feel better. And Don, after the whorehouse hook-up, sees it and tries to give him advise: you have everything, don't make my mistake, don't throw it away. As much as Don does seem to blame Betty (when he said "if I'd met her (Megan) first..."), but his other comments reveal he knows he had a hand in why that marriage ended.

But Pete's suburban nightmare is more emasculating than Don's was. He can't even fix his faucet, and Don has to save the day. Of course, that will seem like nothing after Lane lays him flat. That faucet also hammers home other reasons why this 'burby life is so anathema to Pete. In the city, in his Manhattan apartment, he could ring the super for a repair. Now he's left to his devices. But those devices aren't all he'd hoped. And he needs a prostitute to call him King.

Be careful what you hate lest you become it...
Meanwhile, Don's second marriage, in its honeymoon stage, seems like sunshine and lollipops. The parallels to the second Sterling marriage have already been set. Megan sang for Don at his birthday, not unlike Roger performing for Jane at the Derby Day party. Roger looked more ridiculous in blackface than Megan did in her micro-mini black dress and black fishnets. At that Derby Day party, Roger told Don that he was angry because Roger was happy and in love, and Don rebuked him-- "no one thinks you're happy, they think you're a fool." I remember back to Jane and Roger rolling around in bed, post-sex, she reading her poetry to him. The issues they had seemed to be related to whether or not she could attend his daughter's wedding or try to befriend her step-daughter. Joan and the hooker he saw afterwards-- his affairs-- seemed to be behind him as he settled in to a new life with his young, carefree, beautiful wife.
Fast forward 3 years.

And now Roger is miserable. he can't get published. His much younger wife is vain and spends his money. She eats too little, and they both drink too much.

Is that what will happen to Don and Megan? Who are still in the throes of each other? Sex and song with a young, beautiful, carefree wife. Don proclaims his dalliances are in the past now too. Last week, he seemed to symbolically kill and then stuff away those adulterous impulses in his illness-induced dream. But tensions seem present. Megan's relationship with her parents. Her concern over his lack of friends. Betty's father proclaimed "you can't trust someone with no people," and Don still seems people-less-- related or not. We know she knows his real name-- Dick Whitman. And she seems to know he was unloved. But what DID he tell her? Did he recite the list of his partners? Tell her how he connected with the motherless Rachel? How he seemed to idolize Suzanne? How he confided in Midge? Has he really killed his appetite and needs? When problems surface (if they do) given the opportunity, will he find comfort with someone from his past, like Roger did with Joan?

ANd do you try to kill what you can't become?
Pete narcs on Ken Cosgrove and his writing. And Roger lets Ken know he has to stop. So one frustrated rejected writer tells another frustrated rejected writer about the success of a third writer. Pete's jealousy years ago had him suggest that Trudy sleep with another man to get him a top-flight publication, now he spreads his misery by reminding Roger of someone else's success at a craft that has frustrated them both. And Roger spreads his misery by letting Ken know his personal time isn't his own. Find your satisfaction on the job. What a change from years ago, when Ken's writing and publishing was a source of pride for most of the firm's leaders. Indeed, Pete and Paul Kinsey, another rejected frustrated writer, seemed to be the only people truly bothered by Ken's talent. Ken sought feedback from another artist, Sal Romano, and told Don about some of his stories. Now Pete and Roger are rejected and miserable over their lives, and Ken seems to have everything. He's happy in the city with his wife, he tries not taint that relationship by using her connections for his business gains, he's still child-free. He's successful at work; presumably he's still that guy that Lane described as account man who makes his clients think they don't have any needs, and he is successful in another endeavor too. Pete has always felt that he needed best Ken, something he thought he'd done when he became partner. And Roger certainly feels as though everyone is taking something from him or has something he wants. Misery loves company, and bitterness loves pain.

And now, the question of the season thus far-- Does Megan work? We see her at Don's desk typing or looking at papers. She did some coupons. But she leaves early and arrives late. We never see her in the creative lounge with the others. Does she spend her time in Don's office because she is uncomfortable with the others? Given her conversation with Peggy and the way Ginzo chastised everyone for poring over the Speck photos, I wouldn't be surprised if she did feel uncomfortable. And of course, most everyone else must also feel uncomfortable. She is much junior to everyone except Michael on the creative staff, but as Don's wife, her status is unclear. What has she worked on? Has she had an idea? Put together a campaign? Done a pitch? Michael's brand new at he agency (though he has experience), and he had the room enrapt-- much like Don did in his Kodak Carousel pitch-- with his vision of "Cinderella." Peggy "was discovered" by coming up with the idea for Belle Jolie, then hit another slam with the "reducing belt," both while she was still a secretary. And Megan makes a coupon? Really?

Coming soon: Peggy, get your head out of your ass. And while you're at it, burn that fugly ass outfit. Lane and fisticuffs- 2 great tastes that taste great together.

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