"MAD MEN": "IT'S HARD BEING A WOMAN"
My recent reading of the reactions to the Season Seven "MAD MEN" episode, (7.03) "Field Trip" has left me feeling a little exhausted . . . and somewhat annoyed. After reading comments on various blogs, I am beginning to wonder if fans of the show really harbor an enlightened attitude when it comes to the major female characters. I an a little perturbed by the attitude toward Joan Harris, Peggy Olson and Betty Francis; I have encountered in other articles.
The fan reaction to Don Draper's return.to Sterling, Cooper & Partners, after he was asked to go on "leave" in the Season Six finale,(6.13) "In Care Of", has left me shaking my head. In another Season Six episode called (6.06) "For Immediate Release", Don had really pissed off Joan, when he got rid of the Jaguar account that had a great impact upon her career. I understood why Joan was upset. Don had rendered her actions in (5.11) "The Other Woman" - namely sleeping with a Jaguar salesman in order to gain the acount for the firm - a waste of her time. Don, who had failed to prevent her from sleeping with Jaguar salesman, tried to become her knight in shining armor again, when he got rid of the Jaguar account. Not only did he rendered Joan's actions useless, his decision ruined Joan, Pete Campbell and Bert Campbell's attempt to make the company public. And some of his other actions back in Season Six caused a good deal of upheaval for the firm, which included his emotional outburst about his lurid childhood during a meeting with Hershey's executives. His Season Six actions, along with her anger over the Jaguar account loss, made Joan wary about his return. But I noticed that some fans - especially many male fans and critics - seemed hostile toward her reaction to Don. Many had expressed this belief that she should be grateful to Don for getting rid of the Jaguar account and the presence of salesman Herb Rennet. They did not understand Joan's anger or did not want to understand. And now, they have expressed either hostility or confusion over her reluctance to be thrilled over Don's return.
I also suspect that many believe that Peggy Olson should be eternally grateful to Don for taking her out of the secretarial pool and making her a copywriter in the Season One episode, (1.13) "The Wheel". They also want Peggy to be grateful for giving her emotional support after she had given birth to hers and Pete Campbell's love child. But once Peggy became a part of Don's creative team, he not only started to take her for granted, but subject her to some harsh belittling - especially when she asked for a raise. These same fans wanted Peggy to forget the crap that Don had subjected her from Seasons Three to Five. They want to forget that Peggy had a good reason to finally put Don behind her, when she resigned from the firm in "The Other Woman". They also want Peggy to forget Don's actions in Season Six, regarding her relationship with another partner of the firm, Ted Chaough. I am not saying there was nothing wrong with Peggy's affair with Ted. There was. But Don's manner in delivering a blow to their relationship in (6.12) "The Quality of Mercy" came off as ham-fisted . . . and angered Peggy in the process. Yes, she is still angry at Don. And she is also angry at Ted for finally ending their affair. But due to their own reasons, fans want . . . or demand that Peggy forget about all of the crap that Don had put her through in the last four seasons and welcome him back with open arms. Why? Was it really that important Don to resume his role as Peggy's Alpha Male? These same fans also demand that Peggy return to the woman she used to be during Seasons One to Four or Five . . . especially after expressed anger at her secretary,
Following his return to Sterling, Cooper & Partners, many fans are chomping at the bit over the idea of Don eventually resuming his role as the Alpha Male in the advertising workplace. This desire is so strong that they were willing to pay lip service to Don's offhand dismissal of his former secretary and the firm's new Office Manager, Dawn Chambers, after all she had done for him during his leave. Regardless of Don's mistakes, it seems more important to many that he resumes his place back on top in the form of a "new and improved" Don. Fans are so convinced that Don will stick to his new and improved path that all of the females that he had interacted with in "Field Trip" - Joan, Peggy, Dawn and second wife Megan Draper - are being bashed by the fans, because they did not swoon at his feet. In the case of Dawn, no one seemed to care about Don's dismissal treatment of her, because .they believe they have a cause to celebrate - namely the potential return of Alpha Male Don Draper.
But the character I really feel sorry for is Betty Francis, Don's first wife. I feel sorry for her because as a character, she seemed to be in a conundrum. Betty had been taught and has been expected to be a perfect mother and wife. This is her biggest demon. Fans of the show have criticized her for trying to be perfect. Yet, at the same, they continue to demand that she be perfect . . . especially as a mother. This certainly happened when Betty coldly reacted to her discovery that son Bobby had exchanged the lunch she made for him, for a bag of candy in "Field Trip". This was the latest incident in which fans The only time Don has seriously been criticized as a parent, was when daughter Sally caught him with Sylvia Rosen and he made an attempt to brush aside what she saw with a lie in Season Six's (6.11) "Favors". by the fans to make one mistake in regard to her kids. Not one. She forever has to be a Mildred Pierce - a mother willing to coddle her children, despite their transgressions - in order to be consistently loved by the fans. I have been on the receiving end of a cold reaction like Bobby from my parents when I made a mistake. It has not damaged by psyche. And I have reacted to others, like Betty did. I am a human being and I am capable of mistakes. But, due to her mistakes, Betty is the only character - other than Pete - who is consistently labeled as a "child", when she makes a mistake. Yet, other characters in the series, have also been consistently childish since the first season. But I sometimes wonder if fans cannot make up their minds on what Betty should be. They criticize both her lack of maternal perfection (which does not exist in real life, by the way) . . . and at the same time, criticize her attempts at perfection. I feel sorry for her, because due to rules of our still patriarchal society - both in the series and in real life - she will never win. Even when she expresses doubt about her skills as a mother, which she did by the end of "Field Trip".
Poor Betty will never be accepted as the complex person that she is, because of this demand that she be the perfect mother. Many seemed incapable of understanding Joan's initial wariness at Don's return. And many wanted Peggy to disregard her past anger at Don and his past behavior, so that she will be eternally grateful to him, again - something that nearly happened in a later episode,(7.06) "The Strategy". God only knows how their relationship will progress in the season's second half. Meanwhile, many cannot wait for Don to be his old self again - the creative Alpha Male that he was, seasons ago. We truly live in a paternalistic society.