The Candy Machine
by MOLLY LAMBERT
"I looked up at the Barbizon and thought about all the women in there, one in every room, touching themselves to sleep." - Carrie Bradshaw
No just kidding that was Don Draper writing in his gournal, but way to make Carrie Bradshaw seem like a clever wordsmith by comparison! Monologues are hard. Look, I was a (Prezler award winning) playwright, I get it. But that's no excuse. Especially when there is the built in defensive mechanism against criticism of Don Draper telling us immediately that he's never written down his thoughts before. Sorry, still no.
Matthew Weiner is probably drunk on CLIOs and money from whatever company is funding those horrible meta ad-campaigns that run in the middle commercial break. If this was an attempt to stretch out on the bed creatively, like a sky-diver on some white satin sheets, or whatever dumb metaphor it was Don used, well, uh, splat.
I mean, coming off last week's triumph there was no chance of topping it, but for some reason Don deciding to get his swag back had more dramatic heft than actually getting it. Not that it wasn't super satisfying to see Don with swag again. It was just tentative swag. Bambi on the ice swag. The swag of a man going on dinner-dates with blonde teenage-dreams who still has to see his ex-wife and her daddy-husband.
Voiceovers are almost always the worst idea/laziest shortcut to describing a character's inner life. Just look at all the bad cuts of Blade Runner. And if those swimming pool scenes were supposed to be allusions to The Graduate, I'm sorry, I just can't. In general when it comes to The Graduate, I just can't. Overrated! (sorry Buck Henry)
If you want to hear my monologue about how The Graduate sucks, but could have made sense if it had starred Elliott Gould, and how Carnal Knowledge is Mike Nichols' real masterpiece, I'll be giving free seminars on my back porch every evening.
If Betty Draper is Grace Kelly, then Dr. Faye is Tippi Hedren. Don eavesdropping on Faye's phone call was LOL and so was realizing Don thought cool girls were as impenetrable as people think he is. Finding out that even really cool people are as fucked up and vulnerable as everyone else is perhaps THE revelation of adulthood.
Finding out that Dr. Faye is a mobster's daughter, and her assessment of Don as "another two-bit gangster" had some charm. Not enough to cover for that awful Aesop's Fables conversation. Hey writers, stop using wikipedia so damn much! I know you are learning interesting trivia all the time and you want to share it with the world, but hold back! Or be more subtle! I struggle with this every day of my life!
Natasha V.C. (who writes the great MM recaps at The Awl) and I were talking about last week's episode and decided that Joan's five seconds onscreen and the revelation that Miss Blankenship was a "hellcat" were meant to demonstrate Joan's potential dead-end future at a desk in front of Don's office. Joan has steered herself into a corner.
Joey calling Joan "the madam of a Shanghai whorehouse," not to mention "mom" was the stickpin in her current struggles, which also involve her husband trying to recapture their date-rapey honeymoon period by smooshing her while she cries. Joan's husband actually kind of reminds me of Ronnie from Jersey Shore, only hot. Joan is smart, but crippled by pride. We were all hoping she'd ask Lane for a raise or advice.
Harry trying to talk Joey into guesting on Mad Men's primetime soap forebearer Peyton Place to me seemed like an expression of the way we expect handsome successful alphas to live dream lives, the pressure Don is currently veering to escape. Bethenny Van Nuys may not be the smartest cookie, but she had a point about Don's inability to get close to anyone. Don has a point too though, that the prospect of somebody turning the firehose of their full attention directly on you can be terrifying.
The gender wars, like the wars on terror and drugs, are endless but also imaginary. For the current battles in the gender wars, you needed to tune over to MTV, where Kanye West and Taylor Swift were greco-roman oil wrestling for control of America's heart at the VMAs. Based purely on taste metrics, Kanye won. And like Peggy Olson in tonight's episode, Taylor just made herself look like a humorless bitch by comparison.
Taylor's new song was so terrible, I really wish Lady Gaga had stuffed a steak in it. Camille Paglia really needs to stuff a steak in it too. She's been trolling longer than I've been blogging. Joan and Peggy's terse elevator conversation banged home the real point: you can't win. You're fucked if you do and you're fucked if you don't.
If you accept "boys will be boys" as an excuse and you get to be in the boys' club, you then have to bite your tongue all the time as well as accept that you'll never be a "real" member, like non-Italians in the mafia who never get made. If however you call people out on crossing the line, you risk being branded as a "wet blanket" or way worse.
The line is very subtle and like pornography hard to define but instantly recognizable on sight. I can make rape and abortion jokes all day (and sometimes do) but if a joke is racist (which is different that "about race) or legitimately hateful I get offended and kind of genuinely horrified. Why did they describe Lane fucking Joan doggy style in a bowler hat but then Joey drew her blowing him? Those are two different things!
It's good that they're taking a pass at humanizing Betty Draper. I liked her tonight. The idea that people are capable of real change within themselves is very optimistic for a show that has been branded as relentlessly negative. But hey, the sixties were optimistic in a world that has been pretty much relentlessly negative since.
Now that Don's opening up about his feelings it's only a matter of time before Betty is marching in the streets for feminism. Don still needs a few more slaps in the face about his virgin/whore complex. Making a woman congratulate you for withdrawing sexually because you like and respect her too much is an Inception level neg.
In conclusion, Don Draper's diary sucks, but the face he makes while getting a blowjob remains super hilarious and awesome. This was probably the worst episode of the season, but it was still okay and I didn't care that much because it's my birthday!
"Chicago Train" - The Besnard Lakes (mp3)
"Glass Painter" - The Besnard Lakes (mp3)
"Albatross" - The Besnard Lakes (mp3)