The Moth Chase

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

I know that the man pees inside the woman

with 5 comments

Dear Kathryn,

Well, we are a long way from the sweet but mischievous Sally pictured here!  We have a self-induced haircut (which I thought turned out adorable and made her look more like Betty) and a little public masturbation (if you can call gesturing toward doing it while your friend dozes “public” – I mean, sure, inappropriate, but hardly public. And like the hair-cut also, it seems, an activity that makes her look more like Betty  – “I was private and mostly grew out of it” – mostly?  Are we to think Bets still indulges?  Perhaps if she did so more she’d be less terrifying and calm down a bit!).  Somewhere between this haircut and an awakening sexuality, I find myself pitying Sally and her total lack of healthy female role models.  As the credits began to roll on Doris Day’s “I enjoy being a girl” I realized how much Sally is groping for someone to show her how to be a woman without ending up as a silly overgrown girl.  And while Dr. Edna’s talking therapy (4 time/week – holy cow!) might help, I’m also left worrying that it will serve to close down Sally’s healthy attempts at sexual enjoyment rather than open them up to possibility.

It’s interesting to me to think of Roger as Sally’s flip side in this episode.  Just as she begins a therapeutic program to deal with whatever issues she might have, he evinces how far past that possibility he now is.  With long-buried anger erupting at inopportune times, Roger is a perfect candidate for the type of talking that might bring healing to old trauma.  But it’s almost certain that he would have none of it…instead attempting to unload on Joan who flatly tells him she doesn’t want to hear it.  Now he’s finally ready to talk, there’s no one there to listen – a situation that makes his current marital choices even more tragic, as he finds himself with someone from that generation he bemoans – the generation that finds forgiveness to be a better quality than loyalty.

This is, of course, a potentially dangerous ethic for life…but also a potentially liberating one.  The men of Mad Men tend to live according to it – trading loyalty to their wives for the illusion that their affairs would be forgiven if uncovered.  But we theologians also know that forgiveness might just be the thing that saves the world!  But then again, we feminists might side with Roger in saying that there are some traumas (like the trauma of extreme violence) that no one can ask anyone to forgive.  And in the most intriguing way, Mad Men is showing us that loyalty, forgiveness, and all the other goods and virtues we might take to be defined by an unfailing truth, are in fact contextually negotiated in ways that disallow any sort of fixed meaning.  As Mad Men’s chronology closes in on some of the political events that give postmodernity its teeth, it seems we’re also shifting into the possibilities associated with that ethic.

This is especially interesting to me as the figure who stands in for the discipline – psychiatry – that links Sally and Roger, Dr. Faye, herself is a bundle of contradictions.  Searching for the truths of the human mind, she lives with practically necessary lies (this week’s wedding ring, last week’s secretary dress).  Faye’s whole presence embodies a psychological paradigm, it seems.  With a simple work break-room conversation, she helps Don answer his own question of why everyone needs to talk about everything…because it really does help. And yet as she embodies this moments of potential healing, she also embodies a type of falsehood…pushing this season further and further beyond neat categories of good and evil than the series as a whole has already brilliantly taken us.

The one thing that is really striking me this season, though, is how damn funny it is!  I commented on this last week with Peggy’s one-liners paired with an almost physical comedy routine of climbing up for a better view of Don’s office.  Humour has always been a marker of power in Mad Men (Sterling far and away has gotten the funniest lines).  But now it’s being democratized, and in its democratization, its busting open into new forms.  From the Japanese businessman’s (unsubtle) questioning of how Joan doesn’t fall over, to Peggy driving the motorbike around as if she’s playing in a performance art loft, humour got physical while managing to stay classy – a tough line to hoe.  Peggy’s “Don’t touch it, I wanna see how long it goes” was both funny and somehow pregnant (although I haven’t yet figured out with what), and even Don’s involvement in the general japery of the great motorcycle escapade, culminating in a risky (personal $3K check-ed) reversal of dishonour felt a little giggly.

Can’t wait to hear what you thought!
xoxo,
Natalie

—-

Good morning Natalie,

You and I are on the same wavelength, it appears, because I also found the heart of this episode to be the rise of psychology or therapeutic culture. Sally’s entrance into the world of child psychology was the driver to this theme and perhaps more than you, I have great hope that the talking cure might actually do her some good. In many ways all Sally needs is someone to pay attention to her, to make her feel loved and affirmed, to listen to what she has to say. I thought it was telling that in the “previously on” they focused on her outburst about Grandpa Gene’s death and her confession to creepy Glenn about how lonely she was. Both could just be general reminders that all is not well for Sally Draper, but they were also moments when she was trying to communicate what she was feeling to an unreceptive, unprepared, or even hostile audience. I am holding out hope that the presence of a reasonably attentive, sympathetic adult might make all the difference. Besides, I got the sense that Dr. Edna wasn’t nearly as horrified by Sally’s natural sexual exploration as Betty assumed she would be.

However it works out in particular for Sally, closing the episode with the image of her walking into Dr. Edna’s office, the door shutting behind them, seemed symbolic of the generation she represents. They will (sometimes quite literally) come of age in the psychologist’s office. And even for those that don’t spend 4 days a week (and yes, wowzers that is a lot of talking) with a Dr. Edna, the language and tropes of psychology and therapy will be the hallmarks of their generation. They will learn to talk about what they feel and to privilege feeling in general in a way that Don and his cohort will never understand.

This generational difference is what made the exchange between Faye and Don so fascinating to me. I agree completely: Don performs the very act that he criticizes when he opens up to Faye, sharing more than is usual by far. At the same time, the whole exchange was loaded with flirtation and a new kind of intimacy. Is it that Don understands the power of sharing his thoughts and feelings with someone, but can’t get over the impersonal nature of the new therapy? He confessed to Betty and again to Anna just how wonderful it felt to tell Betty the truth – to pour out his soul and his secrets. He was roundly and painfully rebuffed and that had to affect his sense of whether or not the honest sharing of souls is a real possibility, but I suspect he might still hold out hope that it is. Don might understand the talking cure, but he prefers it with a pretty blond flirting in the kitchen. Which is to say, within the confines of the layers of social posturing, role playing, and self-presentation that dictate the world he moves in. It was also interesting that we see Don reading by himself in this episode (what was he reading? The Chryssanthum and the Moth or whatever the book was they were supposed to read for the Honda folks?). We’ve seen him do this all through the seasons. My husband pointed out to me that in a lot of ways the new therapeutic culture is going to compete with an older kind of humanist psychology, the kind that assumes we can learn about each other and probe our own inner worlds primary through literature and other encounters with expressive arts. Don has always been interested in this humanist psychology – whether it is reading Frank O’Hare or trying to read his clients. Don discovers the key to winning the Honda contest through reading; Faye would probably conduct a market research experiment. I am not sure how much the writers on the show want to play up this distinction, but I am intrigued by it.

I also think that the liklihood of Faye and Don having a rough and tumble roll in the hay is lower now that I know she is not really married. Suddenly it seems like the stakes are a lot higher – if they get it on it might actually have to go somewhere. Which could be good for both of them, but a lot harder for Don to do. What do you think?

I also agree that this season is full of great humor and I am loving it immensely. Though it is also a lot darker as a season to me. The turmoil of an age in transition can be felt closer to the surface than ever, emerging in this episode for me in Roger’s angry racism and Betty’s frigid rejection of Sally. All is not easy going in the world and while there is so much to be excited about – so much potential for humor, excitement, and cultural revolution – there is going to be a lot of grief and mourning as the old ways pass away. Then again, there is also something just delightful in watching Don (holstering on his pistols?) out con the sleezy competition in a fantastical farce that involves Peggy riding circles around an empty sound stage.

xoxo,

K

Written by themothchase

August 24, 2010 at 8:38 am

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Betty masturbates. In season one she leaned up on the washing machine while fantasizing about the air conditioning man. And she clearly placed a high value on sex with Don —— essentially her reason for marrying him despite all the strikes against him. Given how distant and withholding Don became, I think we can assume she took care of business a fair amount.

    You make an interesting point about Don’s book reading. I think he’ll always prefer the perceived authority of a book over the revelations of feminine chit-chat. Remember also that he’s a fraud, and has no formal education. Now that he has more time to read, (no more drives to Ossining, no family obligations, no affairs,) it makes sense that he would find himself enjoying the insights that books offer. They’re his windows on the world, free from personal entanglements.

    Jean Bean

    August 24, 2010 at 11:03 am

    • You’re so right – I had forgotten about that washing machine scene. After I wrote this, I did remember her scene on the chaise last season as she contemplated Henry and all he had to offer…the fade away and look on her face in that scene as her hands moved up her dress indicated she was probably giving herself a little treat then too. And that’s why I find it so interesting that she says she’s “mostly” given it up, while indicating how shameful she thinks it is. I don’t recall her looking or feeling much shame in those two scenes. It makes me think sex has slipped down her list of important things in her transition from Don to Henry. Thanks for the comment! (Natalie)

      themothchase

      August 24, 2010 at 11:31 am

      • Oh right, the chaise scene! The hideous chaise she plunked down in front of the hearth. Amazing.

        Jean Bean

        August 24, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    • I didn’t get that he enjoyed the book, so much as it was research into a new client. Of course, he certainly used insights from the book quite successfully.

      Eldritch

      August 24, 2010 at 12:35 pm

  2. running behind, but a comment anyway. watched this one last night and looked forward to reading your thoughts.

    i thought the conversation in the kitchen with anna was the real “don.” his most honest conversation about the latest episodes in his life we’ve ever seen (reminded me of when roger told him about betty and henry last season – don unmasked).

    as for betty, i watched this episode and wondered if henry actually feels like he now has two adult daughters and three step-children? after betty slapped sally and he talked her down, he watches her ascending the stairs…and i was thinking for him, “mother was right.” he’s the engaged parent she never had…AND her children are terrified of her.

    JB

    September 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: