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« In Which This Is Why Donald Draper Can Never Have Anything Nice »

Sterling's Gold



This hour of Mad Men was dedicated to the jerkoffs who never take work off. This season is also women themed like that one year of the Oscars. This past year's Oscars were way more woman themed in that a woman won best director for the first time in history, but also because of the sadistically evil media treatment of Sandra Bullock's surprise win for best actress and simultaneous marital cuckolding. You can't win.

Just like Roger Sterling, Bill Clinton always made his accountability into a joke. Politically liberal men with bad personal gender politics are the worst (hate u Bill Maher). President Obama makes Bill Clinton look the outdated dinosaur he always was. Not every man in a position of power needs to subjugate women to maintain power. There is not a direct correlation between one and the other. How about that!

Anyone who constantly requires outside validation, especially sexual validation, is obviously insecure, in direct opposition to the image of super strength that endless new sexual partners is supposed to reinforce. What's cool is that Jon Hamm is actually nothing like Don Draper in terms of his personal sexual politics. He is a total feminist with absolutely no interest in macho posturing (don't hurt that he's super handsome).

It's crazy that it's so radical for Obama and Jon Hamm to talk about genuinely respecting their partners, but it's awesome that they do. They present the radical alternative possibility that you can be a powerful alpha male with no desire to sexually exploit women, that you can address the fact that the bar is so low for how men are expected to treat women and discuss it in a productive way without anger or blame.

Joan had the all too common experience of having to reject somebody you would once have killed to be with. Dr. Faye rightly called Don a scrub for trying to use her to help save his suddenly flailing career in a way that could totally damage hers. It's a two way street Don, not a one way mirror! Shaking my head at u Don (Willow Smith remix). The stylistic device brought out in this episode seemed to be extreme closeups. Roger muting the phone to fake a call, Peggy's hand on her new boyfriend's back. 

Stan made the mistake of thinking that just because Peggy was horny she must be horny for him. Peggy was so Liz Lemon in this episode, from her man's reaction to her room ("you're a slob!") to the confident I just had sex glow that she was radiating in the early scenes that made her suddenly seem super desirable to the boys in creative, which was literally the plot of this past week's episode of 30 Rock (INCEPTED!)

Peggy is finally discovering her real sexual power, and it has everything to do with her confidence in her intelligence. It also has to do with her new boyfriend Abe, who perceives her the way she has always imagined she should be treated. It is a kind of sexuality that has nothing to do with the way a girl feels dressed up in "sexy adult woman" drag. That is, it's not about straight male perception of Peggy's exterior.

It is about a sex appeal that transcends physical looks. A kind of sex appeal that is assigned to men constantly; to comedians who are hideous but funny, men who are ugly but charismatic, or average looking but so talented it makes them attractive.

Sexual attraction is as subjective as anything else. For all of the cultural emphasis on women's appearances, personality is actually weighted equally (if not more heavily) towards attractiveness. Over on Jersey Shore, DJ Pauly D has been self-professedly "locked down" by a girl who is not even exceptionally hot, just cute and funny.

That is why Stan is in love with Peggy, even though he is too dumb or indoctrinated with traditional gender roles to realize that he can be attracted to a woman because of her personality even more than her looks. Of course something good never happens without something bad happening, as Peggy puts it. She nails her presentation without realizing she has lipstick on her teeth (also very Liz Lemon/Elaine Benes of her). 

Peggy's innate coolness and smartness is what makes Abe remarkably nervous seeming around her, even as he tells her admiringly that she is "unbelievable." He made the mistake a lot of guys make trying to impress smart girls, which was to try and prove he was smart enough to hang with Peg by writing an essay. Of course that is not the move because smart girls hate being turned into passive audiences. If we want to hang with you we obviously think you are smart and cool enough to hang.

Roger Sterling is kind of like Chevy Chase in that he spent the early bulk of his life being a rich handsome dick to everyone who is hilarious but mostly at other people's expense, and then when it began to catch up with him as his looks and youth and power faded he had no idea how to deal with the loss of the privileges he was probably too ignorant to realize paved his entire way in life. That sad thin little book.

Roger's attempt to get Joan back was totally pathetic. Joan's attempt to deflect attention from her hotness was to wear her pajamas again, but doesn't she realize she's even hotter in pajamas? If she had worn the glasses too it would have been like she was just mocking him. Roger made his own myth and now he has to die in it.

Bert Cooper tells Roger that nobody takes him seriously because he never took himself seriously, and he is right. The children of the wealthy are hobbled by expectation, but they are also gifted beyond measure with the powers of privilege and nepotism.

The scene with Roger and Jane on the couch of their mansion was spectacular. It was like a Scorsese film, although actually it packed more atmosphere than all of the Boardwalk Empire pilot. Easy exit is never that easy, Rog. I need a combined mega-edit of the recorded memoirs of Jack Donaghy, Roger Sterling, and Kenny Powers. 

Ken Cosgrove is engaged to Alex Mack! But be careful Kenny, because her father is Laura Palmer's father Leland and you seriously do not want to fuck with that guy. Also probably don't fuck with Alex Mack, since she is an amorphous blob of quicksilver. 

As for Megan the secretary, well fuck. Because Matthew Weiner is a genius, the characters are all somewhat three-dimensional. As much as I wanted to hate Megan, she was kind of interesting. She is worshipful of Don but just as much because she envies him professionally as because she wants to toot it and boot it.

I also totally didn't believe Megan (an artistic type from Montreal) that she's not going to get weird, because nobody fucks Don Draper without catching feelings. Nobody! I mean, did you see the way she kissed him on her way out? She is doomed! Also I do think they are probably going to get married when she said she has dabbled in acting. I don't know why, but that cinched it for me. Prove me wrong, Weiner!

That you sympathize with both Dr. Faye and Megan, and every once in a while Don, is the crux of a good love triangle. It sucks realizing that your romantic rivals are not very different from you. In fact if you like and attract the same person, you probably have all kinds of things in common as much as it nauseates you to consider. That is why Betty and Veronica are best friends, and also why Archie is kind of a total dick.

Two quick Clueless things: Stan's awkward come-on to Peggy (with the closing the door and locking it, jesus) totally reminded me of Elton coming onto Cher in the car. The noise Cher makes when she realizes what is happening is the noise I make when I'm really disappointed. And god this is so harsh, but Megan is kind of a Monet.

Pete Campbell struggles with his life/work balance. As per usual he is the most female friendly of the Mad Men men, and Vincent Kartheiser's acting is always incredible. He conveyed exactly the flash of elation followed by intense regret as he finds out that he missed his daughter's birth because he was in an emergency SCDP meeting.

Men are traditionally told to value autonomy above all else, but then they get super sad when they end up having nobody left to talk about their real feelings with. It is a tale as old as Philip Roth. It is also the Jack Nicholson story, Kenny Powers is struggling with it, and Kanye West grapples with it in his music and life.

Even superstar supersluts of the seventies like Michael Douglas and Warren Beatty actually wanted real romantic intimacy in the long run. Apparently getting cancer has made Michael Douglas realize that he cares way more about spending time with his kids than he cares about burnishing his legacy as a movie star.

Don sucks at emotional intimacy, but he is awesome at lying! Seriously, when he saw Dr. Faye in the hallway right after he just banged Megan on the office couch? I would have dropped my keys for sure but he was all smooooooth sailing (to be fair, he had just gotten laid). How would Don Draper deal with text messages?

As is now routine I felt hella sympathy for Dr. Faye, whose keen intuition betrayed her this episode when she didn't even try to do a Riskay on Don. How come he didn't smell like cheap French-Canadian perfume? Is Don going to pull a Ross Geller on Faye and be all "we were on a break!" when she does find out?

Life is full of logical gaps, and we create fantasy narratives in our head to explain them. Stan created a narrative that Peggy had to be harboring a secret crush on him just because he had one on her. Roger created a narrative that Joan would comfort and baby him for his weakness rather than be disgusted with his breach of ethics.

That one horse meat lady from last season had a narrative that she and Roger were soulmates, which Roger dispelled. But Joan finally dispelled Roger's emphatic notion that he and Joan are soulmates. Roger had a fantasy narrative involved believing that their intellectual and sexual connection with Joan, which he abused and took advantage of so many times, could withstand all his betrayals without wavering. I would like to direct Roger Sterling to a little R. Kelly song called "When A Woman's Fed Up."

Matt Weiner likes to do a false lead (SEE: JOAN ISN'T PREGNANT, DUH), so the whole set-up to make it seem like Dr. Faye was going to dump Don in a Dear Don letter totally tricked me. But no, presumably against her better judgment Dr. Faye tried to compromise, because women are always told to compromise. Women are told to make it work and men are told to cut and run, when it's really a lot more complex.

The truth is Dr. Faye was right the first time, when she walked the fuck out of Don's big fancy office. But no matter how smart you are, no matter how logically sound or convincing your arguments against it, sometimes there's no way to stop yourself from caring too much about somebody who doesn't care enough about you.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording and star of the popular comedic radio program Fibber McGee & Molly. She is on tumblr and twitter

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Reader Comments (17)

the middle sequence of the dreaming destroys that end sequence of hounds of love. what is this blog

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterruptures

"don't blame me for mp3 hijinks" - Don Draper/Molly Lambert

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

sometimes i think i only watch madmen so i can read your blog. pete campbell the femenist rapist = this recording feminist critique sponsored by american apparel.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbenwah benyameen

'Life is full of logical gaps, and we create fantasy narratives in our head to explain them.'
Thanks. That was like a mini revelation, reading that!

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHC Carr

Megan is the perfect 'love-to-hate' hot girl. Unlike the hot self centered bitch she is humble and oddly nice, completely boring but her claims of an artistic temperment keep her from being labelled a 'norm'. So lame yet somehow anything bad you say about her just make you seem like a petty bitch, especially her monet tendencies. A pixie dream girl without the mania. Uggh Ive met her 500 times.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterleti

^ (500) Days of Megan

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterConcerned Parent

Nice work on catching Larisa Oleynik in there. I would never have noticed otherwise. Between her and Ray Wise, there was some serious TV voodoo happening in that dinner scene with Ken Cosgrove Accounts. I hope we see Danny Tamberelli or that fucking dog from 'Frasier' next week.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFernando

Trudy's dad is Marshall Darling from Clarissa Explains It All. SNICK realness.

October 4, 2010 | Registered CommenterMolly

I read all the way to the end and Kenny Powers didn't show up in this recap. H8 u.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

All I have to say is BOOM. Spot on, as usual.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

I have to admit, I was having harsh Monet thoughts about Megan as well. Maybe they had to ugly her down to make her artsiness seem more believable? Shit, maybe that's harsh too. Anyways, mostly I was struck by the parallels to the pilot, where Don also had a romp with a brunette bohemian (but, like, a real one?) and then went home to his blonde wife (or someone closer to him, at least, in Dr. Faye's case). The parallels mostly just underscoring how much Don's world has collapsed in on him, of course.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPearJack

He keeps having opportunities to break the cycle but it's just so easy to get back into the old routine.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

"It's the dog in me that makes me do wrong." - Don Draper/DMX

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterConcerned Parent

Love you for that Riskay reference.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbg5000

Wow, this was a fantastic recap to one of the best Mad Men episodes. Hit nearly every single fleeting thought that came into my head while watching the episode, down to Joan's glasses and Riskay. The amazing thing to me about this episode is that although it was a compendium of the way women desire/love it didn't feel like some sort of pastiche on the theme. The only thing I would sort of quibble with in your write-up with is the Don/Faye scene at the end. I didn't think it was "smooth sailing" for Don - between this scene and his explosion at Pete over Glo-coat his anger/self-righteouness seemed half-hearted. And he had nearly the exact same look on his face as Roger on the couch.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

I always wondered if you were the Molly on <I>Fibber McGee and</I>.

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatos W.K.

Don can't stop sleeping around because it's in his design to encourage people to say, 'yes', to things they don't need. It's not just a human trait. The character is bound up with his art.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSmithers

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