The Moth Chase

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

Everybody Likes to Go to the Movies When They’re Sad

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Dear Kathryn,

Well, I guess this was the episode that we all knew was coming. I’ve been wondering for over a season how they’ll handle the assassination of Martin Luther King. With so many variations in how to respond to the tragedy, what seemed to tie them all together, to me, was the way in which each character seemed to expose with clarity some core aspect of who they are – each in their own way making the political truly personal. Of course, Megan’s Marxist dad applauds the escalation of decay, and Don turns to the bottle. Megan, with her bohemian wannabe tendencies goes to a vigil in the park. Michael (who apparently is a virgin – how sweet!), whose social anxiety around pretty girls leaves him dateless abandons his date when he hears the news. And Henry finally lives into his political destiny, the catastrophic events shifting in significance for Betty as she realizes she’ll need to be in the public eye at a weight she wishes to hide. These are perhaps the obvious ways our characters made the political personal…

But then there were these other, slightly more complicated strands that I found fascinating. Harry and Pete’s fight offered one – Harry, in the true form we witnessed of him last week – thinks only of the cost to his career, unable to see the human dimension. At first I was surprised that Pete had such a seemingly noble response – but he too tried to deploy the events toward his own selfish ends, trying to use them to weasel back into his family (and note: family, not civil rights, was Pete’s way of framing the significance of this event). And then he orders take-out, making an Asian man – whose lack of English skills leads me to assume we’re to interpret him as an immigrant – brave the riots so he, with his white, upper-middle class privilege, doesn’t have to. Pete, I expect to lean on his own privilege while pretending (not only to others, but also to himself) that he’s a good guy. But then Peggy – Peggy goes for the plan on the apartment that takes advantage of the riots…like Pete, using the catastrophe for her own gain. So like with Pete, I was pleased to see her plan backfire. Although the silver lining – discovering that Abe wants to raise their kids in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood – was pretty sweet (even as I don’t want her to leave her job…even as I’m a bit worried about the eyes her boss seems to have for her…).

As is so often the case, Roger seemed to speak the sad truth of the matter – the man knew how to talk. I don’t know why, but I thought it would save him…I thought it would fix the whole thing.

But of course, the whole thing can’t be fixed by good talking – as perhaps, strangely enough, it was Bobby who taught us most clearly of all in this episode. I wondered what was going on with his line to the black janitor in the movie theatre – Everybody Likes to Go to the Movies When They’re Sad. So later when he confesses his fear that Henry will befall the same fate as MLK, I wondered if we were supposed to interpret him as simply not seeing racial difference. If that’s the case, his innocence could be read as a beacon of hope…but that hope is severely undermined by his inability to accept responsibility for his actions. After peeling off the wallpaper, covering up his tracks, and then being asked what he’s being punished for, his only answer is: the wallpaper didn’t line up. Rather than read Bobby’s innocence as hopeful, his answer here left me hopeless –  it’s the world around me that’s broken, not the role I play in that world.

Some stray thoughts: wtf is with that Randy dude?! There is a tear, and in that tear, are all the tears in the world?! Yikes! How about Joan’s awkward hug of Dawn? What do you think will happen to the good doctor and his wife stranded in DC? And what do you think was going on with Don’s speech about how you pretend your way into loving your kids?

I urge you to shake hands in the interest of erasing these remarks…



Thanks, Natalie, for getting us started on what I thought was a truly terrific episode. Mad Men always seems to hit its stride when the Big Historical Moment plays out in the small details of ordinary lives. And what a lovely visual touch watching the same news broadcast pick up from home to home – a reminder how ubiquitous the media is in shaping public response, and also how homogenous still in 1968 before the multiplication of cable news outlets. You’ve done a lovely job highlighting how the emotional reverb plays out for our characters, so I want to jump right in where the episode left off – Don’s semi-break down with Megan.

That scene caused a heated discussion between me and my husband, who is pretty much completely over Don Draper as a character worth investing much of anything in. The debate centered around whether an occasional peek into the desolate inner world of Don Draper should not get him off the hook for being a genuinely shitty father, husband, and much else or if that is even what a scene like that is asking of us as viewers, or of Megan. Are we supposed to hear Don’s drunken confessions of his difficult childhood and how it left him emotionally unavailable as a father, except for a surprising moment of intense love that derails him and feel like we have a piece of the puzzle that explains him? Or is this just more palaver covering up the essentially hollow center, one more version of Don that he tells himself or Megan or whomever to figure out the next stage of his life? If Don did feel his first overwhelming feeling of parental love, and I’m willing to go there, it appears it came when taking his son to the movies and realizing that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Don has always gone to the movies when he feels sad (and lonely and creatively stumped) and it is no surprise that hearing his son articulate what might be his own most basic code would have come with a rush of pride/love/affection. But were we supposed to cry along with Megan at this confession, and was she moved by the pain her husband has suffered or the sad realization that he is more of an emotional cripple than she even realized?

I am not sure Mason Vale Cotton will be able to handle an extended part or not, but I, for one, would like to learn more about that little Draper apple. I wasn’t so much concerned about Bobby’s inability to own up to his own bad behavior (with a mom like Betty I can’t imagine any sane kid learning to take responsibility for actions she would disapprove of) as I was about what the infaction means. “The wallpaper didn’t line up” seemed to hint at a kind of obsessive/compulsive fixation that should raise some red flags.

I am sure, of course, that Peggy and Abe would raise a much more balanced child in their multi-ethnic walk up on the “dangerous” west side. And since the 2nd Avenue subway still hasn’t been finished, I think Peggy will be better off with an investment on the west side anyway. Though she and Abe will be sad to realize the rich diversity he seeks won’t last their children’s life times. Like you, I loved how much amazement, hope and desire Elizabeth Moss was able to pack into a quiet, private smile contemplating a future she had clearly thought was off the table for her. But I’m right there with you wondering how this will actually work. Abe has proved to be a much better partner for an ambitious woman than I thought he might – but will he stay home with those future babes while she keeps climbing the ladder? And oh yay, Teddy Chaough was definitely giving Peggy the inappropriate boss eye. Something tells me Peggy’s path is going to get even trickier to walk.

So many other small details to note: the quick linger on the award statue that Megan did win after all suggesting just how much life for the creative elite did in fact continue on, and perhaps alluding to the happier life she and Don seemed to have last season. Those two dramatically different office hugs: Peggy awkwardly responding to real emotional distress and giving a hug that was both sought and received vs. Joan forcing a hug on Dawn whose only wish was not to be treated as a symbol of her entire race to which white grief could be offered. Don’s clenched jaw watching the fires in DC (not so cool and continental after all, are you Don?).

I didn’t know you felt that way. About the east side.



Written by themothchase

April 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm

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