Monday, May 19, 2014
In Which I Review Mad Men (7x6)
Often times on Mad Men, the pitch presented in the episode is working to demonstrate the overall themes found within the hour itself. Sometimes the pitch strengthens whatever is happening to the characters, and sometimes it's a ironic nod to how different the "real" world works. In this weeks episode, "The Strategy," the pitch is the latter. This pitch, which will be presented to Burger Chef, is way too complex for a TV ad and has an almost overly romantic (read: old fashioned) quality to it. Burger Chef (which my mom tells me was a real place) wants to get more moms to visit the franchise for their dinner, but the housewife of 1969 feels guilty for not cooking dinner that night. As Peggy says later on, "mom's job is to make dinner and Burger Chef's job is to stop her." The pitch, then, revolves around the idea that moms can get permission from their husbands to pick up Burger Chef for dinner instead of having a home cooked meal and it will be a special treat served with love. As Lou says in the middle of the presentation, "it's nice to see families happy again!" Because that's the great irony of this episode--there are no families like this anymore. Don doesn't go home every night to a roast and a waiting wife and dutiful children. Peggy isn't simply passing time until she gets married and has babies. Joan is a single mother who's ex-husband is not her son's father, and Peter is getting a divorce and his own daughter barely recognizes him. The episode walks us through just how unhappy these supposed families are until Peggy (drunkly) stumbles onto the right idea: family is what you make it.
Bob! Who knew we'd cheer when seeing Bob Benson again? Bob has been in Detroit handling the car account but has come home to see his "family," which mainly consists of Joan, her mother, and Joan's son Kevin. I love the irony here that Peter shows up at his former house to see his biological daughter and treated coldly, but Uncle Bob comes in to a warm welcome and hugs from Kevin. Note that they are both wearing plaid jackets and a tie, but that Pete's is decidedly more "cold" in color, while Bob's jacket and tie is sunny and warm. He's the one being greeted with joy. Perhaps it's because Bob is no threat to this family; he doesn't seek to upset the balance. At least, Joan doesn't suspect it of him. He's just Bob--her gay friend who keeps his life to himself for fear of persecution. There is little doubt in my mind that Joan knows plenty of gay men. She lives in the Village, right around the corner from where the Stonewall Riots will occur (and it's no coincidence that they brought Bob back at this moment; the Stonewall Riots are, if our calender is right, about a week or so away from happening literally right outside her door). If there is one thing to remember about Bob, it's that he's much more comfortable than our previous gay character, Sal, of the earliest seasons. Sal was totally closeted, deep in an unhappy and arranged marriage, fighting who he truly was. Bob knows he's gay, is fine with it, but also knows that he has to keep it to himself for fear of bodily harm and professional harm. In 1969, you could be fired for being gay, and as Bob is about to be reminded, the cops weren't going to take pity on you if they caught you trying to have a gay liaison.
--I can't believe we only have one more episode this half. Then we have to wait almost a full year for the conclusion.
--"Say what you want you will, but he's very loyal." The entire boardroom was just BURNED by Don Draper.
--"When we grow up, we're going to kill you and marry your wife."
--I'm not quite sure what is going on with the car companies. The actual business aspect of Mad Men, outside of the pitches and their relation to the themes of the show, never held my interest for long.
--I love how happy Don gets at the idea of being able to pitch.
--One quick costume note: very interesting that Joan is wearing a purple dress in the her opening scene. Purple is her heartbreak color (she was wearing an abundance of purple when Greg raped her). Not only is she decked in a color that signals doom and gloom by episode end, but she's also decked out in gold jewelry, emphasizing her new wealth and status as partner. But by the end of the episode when she learns that her company has lost the car and now Harry Crane is going to be partner? Only one small piece of jewelry to be found.