Saturday, June 2, 2012
Calling Bullshit On Mad Men
Since I've mostly stopped doing recaps, I find that for most shows there will be an episode that encapsulates the way I feel about the season as a whole - like the Leap Day episode for Modern Family. "The Other Woman" was definitely that episode for Mad Men. So, we can all agree this season has been pretty wack, right? Definitely not the darkly beautiful subtle miracle of seasons past. And yes, I understand that the tone of the show has changed to adjust to the tone of the world they live in, but it just doesn't seem like the storytelling holds as much weight as it used to. That's not to say that this season has been bad; on the contrary, there have been many incredible moments (Roger on acid; Pete getting the shit kicked out of him; Joan kicking out her POS husband) and I still very much love the show. But it's not the same. Everything is a little more obvious, the emotions aren't as stark, and, worst of all, some of the characters actions and reactions don't seem at all in line with what we know of them.
This is my main problem with the Joan Is A Whore storyline. I mean, I think the whole plot is crude, sensationalistic, and unnecessary, but aside from that, I just don't believe for a second that that is the way either Joan or Roger would have handled the situation. I couldn't believe that Roger wasn't given more to do in this episode than look slightly disgusted for half a minute. I definitely DON'T believe that he would be just totally chill with the partners at his firm asking his lover and mother of his child to whore herself out for a shot at Jaguar. And I just simply don't understand the need for this turn of events at all.
Because what Joan has done is throw away all of the remarkably hard-won respect she has earned over years and years of spectacularly managed work, and I don't believe for a second that she'd squander that for something as meaningless as money. If she really needed money, all she has to do is ask Roger and he'd throw it at her. Honestly, I can't believe she's still letting Greg think the baby is his, but I'm sure it has something to do with complicated '60s divorce laws. And yes, I know that asking for money from Roger probably leaves a bad taste in her mouth, but wouldn't it have been a better taste than FUCKING THAT DUDE? Nothing here adds up (except for Don's reaction to the whole thing). This is not the strong woman we've come to know. And yes, Janie Bryant, I caught the call-back to when she was Roger's mistress and he gave her that fur she wore, and I get that y'all are trying to make the connection that this is just like that. But it's not. Letting slimy Pete Campbell talk you into whoring yourself out for a partnership at an agency that is slowly rotting at the core is not the same as being somebody's mistress, and it's not the way to live your life, Joan! I will never understand why people on television talk so much about their goddamn pride when people who owe them things try to give them money. Roger owes you money! It's his child! He's trying to do right! It just makes ZERO SENSE that she'd turn him down and then go screw Fat Jaguar Creep because Pete Campbell asked her to and Lane (don't even get me started on fucking LANE) tried to pitch her on it being a sound business decision. UGH. JOANIE!
I mean, I know there are arguments in favor of this. "She's using her sexuality to gain power" - "She's empowering herself the only way she knows how" - "She's planning for her child's future"...those are all complete bullshit. Because this isn't any woman, this is Joan, and while I believe she would (and probably has in the past) use her sexuality to get what she wants or needs, I definitely DON'T believe she would do it in a way that was completely open and transparent to the men she works with. So I'm feeling a little lost in the Mad Men world. I really don't agree with the violence that has infiltrated Don and Megan's relationship (again, it feels too forced) or with Pete's descent into irredeemable monster. What has always been wonderful about Mad Men is the nuance of the characters - how they make mistakes and sometimes learn from them, just like real people. Pete has always been pretty gross, but we know his character well enough that there are more moments in the series than you'd think where different, more sympathetic sides of him are revealed. This season feels more and more like we're being told what to think of the characters, instead of being shown their actions without any bias or filter and then being able to make up our own minds about them. The writing is still sharp and funny, but Mad Men doesn't inspire me or make me feel the same awe and wonder the way all previous four seasons did.
All that being said, I'm glad Peggy left. I hope she'll be back at SCDP eventually (with all the respect and accolades she deserves), but Kick-Ass Career Peggy is great, and I want to see her pitching against Don in the next episode, please. With only two episodes left, I'm a little afraid that everything I love in Mad Men is going to come crashing down, but you never can tell with Matthew Weiner. We'll just have to see what happens, and hope it involves lots of Sally.
Image via Screencrave