The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

I Think Norman Mailer Got Shot Over There

with 5 comments

Hey Kathryn,

So I’m realizing each week poses the question anew: who is Don Draper?  And despite initial hopeful signs, we always seem to move through drunkenness and prostitutes to end on Don’s shifty eyes looking lost in the world of his own making.  We’ve been flirting with a Dick Whitman storyline already this season, but we returned full force to California this week to remember the man Don could have been before he was Don – before he was just a man in a room with a checkbook.

I love it when Don goes to California – it’s such a stark juxtaposition to New York and, while we are constantly reminded of how flaky Cali can be while he’s there, we also get to see Dick at his most relaxed…literally, being himself.  This LA trip gave us the most gorgeous scene of the episode: the turn from night, to dawn to mid-morning sun shining through the windows as Don stared blankly at nothing, moving not a muscle.  This beautiful time-passage hearkened back to the second season’s artistic playfulness – an old Mad Men trick I wouldn’t mind seeing more of.  LA has always inspired the artsy in this show.

And so, despite the potential loss of great character, this artfulness is another reason why Anna’s cancer is such a painful twist for me.  But it’s also because in past seasons California has served as Don’s safe haven; the place where he can go to recharge and let his guard down.  No one on earth knows him like Anna knows him and so, as she points out, no one on earth can love him like Anna loves him.  She’s his final tie to who he once was.  And so as we’ve watched every aspect of the life Don built for himself crumble – his marriage, his control over his work, his sex-appeal – now we have to entertain the crumbling loss of his former self too.  Lord have mercy, I’m half expecting a suicide attempt in the weeks to come.

A suicide attempt, or remarriage to a younger lady – both of which would amount to a similar narrative device in the context of this show; that is, Don’s decent into the man he vowed he would never become.  Divorce is ugly on him and, despite insisting that he wouldn’t give advice on the matter, he’s initiating Lane into a similar sort of ugliness.  I loved watching Lane’s newbie nervousness over coffee, not knowing how much to pay a prostitute, pitted against Don’s world-weary expression of man who has done this too many times…at least he kept his kids’ room sacred though, allowing neither Lane’s tryst nor his own to take place in Sally and Bobby’s bunks!

The flower mix-up with Joan reminded us just how in control of her situations she can be – and the return of her fiery nature gives me hope that she won’t just keep taking it from that jerk husband of hers (he might have stitched up her hand in a sweet way, but let’s not forget he marital-raped her last season…I’m not forgiving him anytime soon!).  I’m hoping she doesn’t get knocked up by that creep, although a single-mother Joanie might make for a fascinating storyline!  Did you notice how she wore virgin-Mary blue throughout most of the episode?  I had to wonder if that was an intentional play against her (shockingly matter-of-fact) double abortion-ed past.  Either way, that first blue dress with the ruffles descending from the waistline was incredible!  If you figure out where we can get that dress, please let me know – stunning!

I’m curious that the show’s title came from a random story, buried in a scene that was more poignant for numerous other reasons.  “The Good News” being the religious message Anna’s niece got from her room-mate upon awakening – but why make that the episode’s title?  Is it to show the rumblings of the religious right that will one day rise in the country?  Was it just to remind us that Don is searching for something, for some meaning or some truth that he hasn’t yet found?  Or was it simply to remind us how a-religious the Mad Men world is?  I’m not sure??  Thoughts, friends?

I’ve got to close with what were some incredible lines of the night – lines that continue to run around in my head calling for further reflection on their deeper meaning:  Anna’s “I started thinking of everything I was sure was true and how flimsy it might all be” referred to UFO’s but much, much more; as did her, “A patch of new paint is just as bad as a stain”; but perhaps the best of all was Don’s repetition of Anna’s, “We’ll have to smoke the dress” – the burning desire of a dying woman, echoed in the desperate need of a man who has utterly lost himself.

Here’s hoping for some Betty next week…and a little more Peggy too!


Written by themothchase

August 10, 2010 at 8:23 am

5 Responses

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  1. I thought the “good news” bit from Anna’s niece’s story was mostly historical texture. I’m may be wrong in a religious sense (American history has waves and waves of revivalist movements), but culurally I think of 1965 and the years just after as the time when the personal Jesus movement exploded into secular culture in California and someone was always asking you–on the streets, at the beach, in the parks, and certainly on campuses like Cal–to take Jesus into your heart. I recall it as a counterpoint to the hippy movement. I thought the little bit that followed was pretty grim. Doesn’t Anna say something to the niece like, “It’s (someone telling you “the good news”)not always bad,” to which Don replys, “Yes it is.” That was sort of chilling and in line with the Don-as-lost-soul characterization.

    Valerie Stevenson

    August 10, 2010 at 10:53 am

  2. First time poster!
    I got the impression from the conversation Joanie had with the doc vs the quick “everything’s fine” she gave to her husband, combined with the fact that she’s obviously so upset over his joining the military, that she’s planning on trapping him with a pregnancy. Anybody else get that feeling? Discuss!
    Hiya Katie!! xoxo Joyanna


    August 10, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    • Hey Joyanna! I was sort of confused by the whole doctor/pregnancy discussion. The fact that her husband knows she went to the doctor and that she gave him that knowing look when she said all was well made me think they had discussed getting pregnant. But all their other discussions definitely make it seem like that is a bad idea, since she keeps throwing it in his face that he doesn’t know what will happen next. So, yes, I am open to the idea that Joanie has pulled the goalie without consulting her husband as a way to get him to settle down. Last season I was sort of excited at the idea that he would head to Vietnam and probably not make it back – we’d get some angle into the war and Joan would be free of a doofus. But Joan really loves him, I think. And she really wants to be married and have kids and prove to herself and everyone that that option is still hers, despite her “career” and her “procedures” (digression: how easy was it, do you think, to find such understanding, flirty, progressive doctors?). Other thoughts out there? –Kathryn


      August 12, 2010 at 8:23 am

      • First off, might I say that the phrase, “pulled the goalie,” gave me a HUGE belly laugh. Secondly, I am TOTALLY with you about having hoped that the husband would die in Vietnam. Katie, are we just bad people, wishing for this man’s death?? >:)
        Re: the doc-hmmm..that one perplexed me a bit, especially considering how ridiculously sexist the two previous doctors shown had been (let’s not forget when Peggy first went to get birth control–what a jerk!). This doctor was progressive in that the idea of “procedures” didn’t shock him, yet still archaic with his questions to Joanie about her gettin’ scrubbed up before the ol tick tock runs out. (Yes, I’m paraphrasing…)

        I say she’ll get pregnant, hubby will die, Katie and Joyanna will be happy hubby is dead, and Joanie will eventually end up with Roger.

        p.s. My husband is throwing out Don Draper and Joanie as an eventuality…hmmmmm….


        August 16, 2010 at 2:28 pm

  3. My favorite line of the episode was the donkey dick joke!

    Jean Bean

    August 24, 2010 at 11:34 am

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