Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Ladies of Mad Men

Yours truly in her vintage/Mad Men best with
the obligatory and delicious martini
With the new season of Mad Men right around the corner, I feel it's the perfect time to  explore the fabulous ladies of this spectacular show and what we, as ladies ourselves, can take away from them and their struggle, as well as from the show and its themes in general.  Perhaps the most obvious thing to be learned from both the men and the women of SCDP is the importance of knowing who you are.  The enigmatic Don Draper is perpetually in flux over who he really is, sometimes reverting to his Dick Whitman self at all too inopportune moments.  Other characters similarly fluctuate between personas, such as Pete Campbell, who oscillates between being a self entitled jackass some of the time and a sensitive but world weary soul the rest of it.  Being uncertain of your footing as a person will result in nothing but mid-life crises and/or pleasing others at the expense of yourself.  Hammer your true self out in stone, however, and no one will shift you or bend you to fit their will. 

As for the ladies themselves, let us start with Peggy.  She's a woman who has changed in the most visible and drastic ways throughout the series, and is in a prime place to change more in the new season (confirmation that she will be in the next season:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/26/mad-men-peggy-is-trying-on-new-things-elisabeth-moss_n_2558152.html).  She has learned the careful art of breaking out of the role that others have defined for her without alienating those around her, and her skillful handling of this new position of power in her life has allowed her to excel and eventually move beyond the gilded cage of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce.  In watching her it's excellent to remember that when (and/or as) we, as ladies, rise through the world we are not beholden to play nice or humor those who would disrespect us or those around us, and when we have a position of power we are free to exert it at our will, as Peggy did when she fired one of her sexist artists.  Being a stern boss does not make us less feminine.  It simply makes us less willing to put up with viciousness when we have the power to stop it, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Betty, by contrast, serves more as a warning than a hero for ladies of the world.  Her personal difficulties have come to a head with her losing control of herself completely, though this ultimately is only the swing of the pedulum of self-loathing in her case.  It is not that Betty's gaining weight is inherently a problem - it is that such a drastic gain in such a short period of time implies that something bigger is at play in Betty's mind.  Most likely, she began with enjoying her freedom from the restriction she felt married to Don, but by carrying that too far she has begun to hate herself all over again in a different way and eats as a response to this stress, resulting in a snowball effect of self hate and her abrupt ballooning.  If there is one thing to take away from Betty, it is simply that excessive fixation on your body rather than your self as a whole will only result in pain and sorrow. 

Joan is, of course, is in many ways the darling of the Mad Men female cast.  She is certainly my favorite, and if there is one thing that Joan can pass on to us ladies it is a simple lesson that one can be beautiful, strong, and intelligent all in one package, all bound up with a will of pure steel.  Joan has shown some of the most striking turn arounds in the show's history, proving herself willing to go it on her own when she threw her abusive husband out the door.  Unlike Betty, she did not make sure she had another safe haven to fall back on with the ejection of Dr. Rape; she simply pitched him out on his ear because she knew, intrinsically, that he was only going to cause more pain in her life.  Her personal happiness and self confidence were more important than appeasing the ideals of her time.  As such, despite the often difficult (and sometimes outright miserable) circumstances she has had to face, Joan still pushes forward harder and climbs ever higher every time the world tries to drag her down.  Also, like Joan, it is always important to present your best self to the world, no matter the circumstances.  You may be miserable, but holding fast and standing tall and beautiful will bolster even the most battered resolve, no matter the squall you face. 

Meghan is still a newcomer to the ranks of Mad Men in contrst to Peggy, Betty, and Joan, but she in turn has her own strong will and persona to contribute to the mix.  Simply put, she does NOT allow Don to get away with the same deceptions he pulled over Betty's eyes, or at least Meghan has in season 5 (what occurs in season 6 is yet to be seen, given the ambiguous ending to last season:  http://www.idigitaltimes.com/articles/15750/20130305/mad-men-season-6-spoilers-don-betty.htm).  Where she will go from here is uncertain, but we can absorb some of her refusal to have the wool pulled over our eyes or settle for anything in our romantic lives.  There is no benefit to be gained from smiling and letting things that our lover does go, only to have them get under our skin.  Better to get it out in the open (whether gently or roughly is up to you) than let it fester into an explosion of frustration at the one you love.  We are worth too much to let someone else make us suffer for no good reason other than keeping a peace that is not be worth it. 

There are many other women and ladies throughout Mad Men, who I may dicuss more as season 6 premiers, but for now enjoy these four and their growth, struggles, and strengths.  We all can learn and emulate the good and learn to recognize the bad in ourselves through fictional characters, and Mad Men's depth and charisma is wonderful at letting us view the benevolent and malevolent traits in ourselves. 

No comments:

Post a Comment