Thoughts From the Netflix Queue

One of the things about having a toddler is I don’t get out much anymore. Another of the things about having a toddler is that when she goes to bed at night, I’m too exhausted to do much of anything except veg out in front of the TV. I’ve been slowly re-watching Mad Men — I watched it when it originally came out, and had very mixed feelings. But I’m finding that watching it again has actually improved my appreciation of the story a lot, and many of the things that kept me from liking it last time have faded. I don’t know if it’s because I now know what’s going to happen, so I can pick up on the EXCESSIVELY subtle clues (for instance, that Peggy is pregnant) and draw conclusions that I hadn’t before. I can also easily skip the parts that I know lead nowhere or are otherwise boring and annoying to watch (like all of January Jones’s long, pointless therapy sessions, or, you know, January Jones’s scenes in general).

One of the things I thoroughly disliked the first time around was any storyline involving Pete Campbell. I thought he was a pretty bad actor and I didn’t understand his motivations or character, in general. But in rewatching, I realize that the “fakeness”  that grated against me in so many scenes is the character’s, not the actor’s, because he’s got this whole carefully constructed society-boy Ivy League facade going on. And I find his combined hatred of and desire to get approval from Don to be kind of lovely to watch. His boyish little temper tantrums, too, especially as compared to Betty’s.

(In passing, I will say this for Betty’s character — I did catch this time around how often she talks about her childhood. SHe’s CONSTANTLY talking about it, which makes her infantilization and her whole creepy thing with Glenn a little more understandable. It’s kind of impossible to imagine her a single girl in Manhattan — the girl Don fell for. It’s like she went from being a child to being a mom of children, with nothing in between.)

One of the biggest shocks for me, upon rewatching, was the realization that Peggy did NOT ditch her baby with her sister. The way her sister says “Aren’t you even going to say goodnight?” in one episode before she looks in on her sister’s sleeping children and the way Father Hanks gives her an Easter egg “for the little one” and gestures to Anita’s toddler son, it seemed, upon first watching, that this was her baby, and her sister’s anger and resentment over the way Peggy was just putting her whole experience behind her and acting like it was over with was not only completely understandable, it was… well, not as angry as I’d be if I was raising my sister’s kid and she was acting so carefree and dismissive toward me!

But in a flashback, it’s shown that while Peggy is in the hospital, Anita is also heavily pregnant. The little boy we see in Anita’s house is Anita’s. not Peggy’s. Anita’s anger is still understandable, as a staunch Catholic with a family of her own (and dealing with a husband who won’t work and a crowded house and her mother and all that — she’s clearly overwhelmed and a little jealous that Peggy is living a comparatively glamorous life and not dealing with the responsibility of her “sin” — but she’s not raising Peggy’s child.

The idea that Anita was raising Peggy’s son made me dislike Peggy a lot, because I thought she never really acted grateful and she was always really flippant toward Anita and her mother. But if she gave the baby up for adoption it makes a lot more sense that she doesn’t feel particularly beholden to them, and also why she might not have wanted to “say goodnight” to the baby that reminded her of the one she gave up. Also, the “Easter egg” scene is notable in this version for letting Peggy know that Anita told the father about what she did, and how that changes his relationship to her — he goes from being a friend who wants to use her copywriting skills to help him at church to a disciplinarian who wants her to repent.

I also like seeing that by season three, the sisters have forgiven each other and are on good terms again.

Additionally, the “adoption” explanation for the fate of Peggy’s baby makes much more sense with the season two plotline about Trudy’s infertility and Pete’s bias against adoption. His OWN baby was put up for adoption.

The other thing — and this might just be a writer thing — I really wish there was more about Ken Cosgrove. It’s a very realistic representation of a writer, unlike all those movies where writers are being chased down by their editors and are magically millionaires seconds after they put pen to paper. Ken hasn’t quit his day job, he’s not trying to worm in on creative, but it’s clear he is writing, all the time, in secret (as we find out again seasons later).

And of course, Joan. Ah, Joan. I love her so much.

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10 Responses to Thoughts From the Netflix Queue

  1. Phoebe says:

    Ooh, this post is exciting. I recently rewatched all of Mad Men too (over a span of about a month, which was intense!). I find your aside about Betty really interesting. Originally, I found her to be an extremely unsympathetic character and found it difficult to look past the instances where she abuses Sally. A second viewing reminded me how very recent the loss of her mother was prior to the first season and also made it more clear the deliberate efforts Don himself made to infantilize her (refusing her a career, insulting her when she puts on a bathing suit). I started to see Betty as more of a tragic character, rather than a villain–young, dealing with trauma, very literally stuck at home with three young kids, trying her best to use the coping mechanisms seen as socially acceptable at the time (slapping them! ugh) and often failing (her frustration with Sally over her terror at baby Gene was more understandable the second time around). I can understand, of course, why one would skip her scenes–I hated her SO MUCH the first time around. But there’s still some complex stuff going on there.

    A question about Pete–did he know about the baby during the adoption plotline in season 2? I think that wasn’t revealed until the very end of the second season, making it a pretty good instance of dramatic irony. But I don’t think that was Pete’s motivator–I think it was his own family’s deeply entrenched class beliefs that lead him to dismiss adoption initially.

    • Diana says:

      I skipped the Betty scenes not so much because of Betty Draper but because January Jones’s “acting” sets my teeth on edge. Her character is fine.

      I didn’t think of the adoption as a motivator for Pete’s actions in that season (like you said, he doesn’t find out about it until the last episode) but as you said, as dramatic irony. I just meant it fit better. But I did spend several years thinking Peggy was a selfish bitch for gallivanting around Manhattan and shoving that in her sister and mother’s face with little more to help them out than a TV.

  2. Phoebe says:

    Oh, and absolutely agree about Ken. I spent way too much time this season playing with this with some writer friends of mine: http://davealgonquin.wikispaces.com/

    • Diana says:

      Wait, what is this? Is this for real? What is this? “Ben Hargrove?”

      • Phoebe says:

        Hargrove was the name he used as a sci-fi writer. We decided we’d try to make up a fictional page researching his oeuvre and the “truth” of his identity. 🙂

      • Diana says:

        OH wow, you totally punked me. I spent all afternoon thinking that this was Matt Weiner’s “answer” to a long standing mystery (though I was like — that never happened on Veronica Mars!)

  3. Connie Onnie says:

    I have a love hate relationship with Mad Men, I just finished watching up through season 4 on netflix. At first I was only watching because I needed to figure out Don Draper and not just his mystery but why he was so self destructive.
    I don’t think the writers even know who Betty Draper is. I kept asking my friend while watching if we would ever see the Betty Don fell in love with. I think the closest we got was their trip to Rome. I really liked Betty in the back yard with the shot gun.
    The is such a lack of likable characters, you know people I would be friends with in real life on the show. But I love the time period, my parents were married in 62 and that time period has influenced my life a lot. And who doesn’t love Joan when I realized she was coming back I yelled out loud Joanie!

    • Diana says:

      It totally is the trip to Rome. I think it’s interesting that if that who Betty WAS before Don got his hands on her — this sexy, glamorous, Italian-speaking independent world traveler, what are we seeing NOW, how he’s turned sexy glamorous French-speaking Megan into a woman who sits around her apartment all day in capris and throws temper tantrums.

  4. Connie Onnie says:

    I blew my friends mind when I told her that January Jones was one of the dumb American blondes in Love Actually, she does this face that is the perfect dumb blonde and I knew I had seen it before.
    I haven’t seen this season but don’t worry who didn’t know Don would break her. At first I was hopeful that maybe if he felt loved for who he is that he could learn to love himself but really that guy is the one who needs to see a psychologist.

    • Diana says:

      Don is deeply messed up, yes, and has no business being married. I did think they would be happier if she’d stayed in advertising, because it’s like he got his total dream package — his Peggy and his Betty all in one. But she’d rather be an out of work actress, I guess?