Mad Men s3e6: Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency

“I bet he felt great when he woke up this morning.”

Reconcile! The British are coming! Potential dual position in London and New York for Don? Kenny rolling into the office atop an actual John Deere riding mower?? All around an intriguing episode where nothing is as it seems.

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image courtesy of BurnThisMedia

The British are coming for an inspection, around July 4th nonetheless. Nobody knows the purpose of this visit, but it’s reverberating as a Big Deal(TM). Could Don be courted for some crazy dual position in London and New York? Don’s casual conversation with Betty later that evening, discussing a potential jet-setting life together in London over chicken salad, is the most relaxed we’ve seen them as a couple on the show thus far. Flirtatious, even; Betty happily opens his beer, they appear to be interested in one another.

Bert is tired of Roger and Don’s manpain fight bullshit, and forces them to kiss and make up over a close shave.

“Part of the problem with Mona.. is that one day, she just started judging people. I’ll tell you right now Don, I don’t like being judged.”

Fair enough, Roger. Message received.

The PPL visit happens around Joan’s last day at Sterling Cooper. Looks like Greg has convinced her that he’ll be the alpha in their household, but it turns out he was not selected for the lucrative resident doctor position like the proper fuckup he is. Turns out he’s a shit surgeon and is super dramatic about this outcome, choosing to go dark on his wife ignoring their dinner plans to booze it in a bar alone for ~12 hours. Manpain central, and as she shuts off the lights for the night, Joan looks positively fed up.

PPL has arrived, and here’s Guy MacKendrick! He’s some young, stupidly charismatic asshole with great teeth in the Don Draper grey flannel suit uniform, but without the mysterious depth. Feelings in the office are ghostly and tense. Turns out that PPL wants Guy to come in and run the show, effectively replacing Lane (who will reluctantly be shipped off to Bombay), and thus keeping Don in a holding pattern.

This restructure is presented to Lane as some sort of faux reward for being a cog in the machine. Natch, Lane is not at all pleased to hear this news, as his wife and son have just gotten settled in Manhattan; but his concerns are belittled. “Don’t pout. One of your greatest qualities is that you always do what you’re told.” Really fucking demeaning, but Lane takes it in stride. You get the vibe that he’s heard all this before, he’s accustomed to it.

There’s a bigwig meeting about the reorganisation. According to the overhead projector, Guy is the new COO, Roger is left off of the diagram entirely (an alleged oversight), and Harry is the only one who gets a promotion. Mess. Meanwhile, Don doodles the American flag.

Guy delivers a heartfelt and hollow toast to Joan, who weeps. Her life is a mess, and Sterling Cooper offers her a valuable and vital respite; and soon enough, it seems she won’t even recognise the place. And in the midst of this nightmare, Conrad Hilton’s office rings Don, much to his total surprise. When Don vaguely recognises him upon officially meeting, he feels a little dumbfounded.

“Apparently you don’t have long chats with everyone.”

Peggy, in limbo between the worlds of the steno pool and the copywriters and not wholly fitting into either just yet, yearns to be a meaningful part of Joan’s last day. “I don’t want you to think I never listened to you, but it’s just.. we can’t all be you.” Poignant and true.

These women could not be more different, but they fight the same battles and want some of the same things. Peggy imagines that Joan is off to get what she always wanted in life, but Joan is beginning to have second thoughts; this is a massive change, and she secretly wants stay in the workforce. Joan is a woman who’s admired and revered in that office, she’s great at her job; and Peggy longs for that sort of status someday as well.

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image courtesy of Uproxx

There’s a lot to say, but it’s cut short by a fucking hot mess. Smitty is on that John Deere mower riding it around the goddamn office.. and then, dolt Lois mounts it which is of course a complete DISASTER. Bye bye, Guy’s foot. Joan saves the day with a tourniquet, ruining her dress in the process; but she manages to save his life.

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image courtesy of AMC

Roger finds it all pretty funny. “Right when he got it in the door.” Secretly relieved that this shit is over and he’s relevant again at the agency, Roger nonchalantly moves forward. And hey, Lane will remain in New York! Deus ex machina at work; Don, Roger and Lane are all silently relieved. The status quo is restored.

“Believe me, somewhere in this business, this has happened before.”

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image courtesy of DigitalSpy

Don and Joan share a moment at the hospital waiting room. You can sense there’s a deep history there; they’ve worked together for so long and seem at ease with one another. As the PPL guys show up, they lament that Guy’s career was tragically cut short; he’s lost a foot, he’ll never golf again. Love that dry British wit, but good fucking god. Lane senses the depth of what’s gone down, and knows that PPL will find another way to ship him off somewhere else.

“I feel like I just went to my own funeral.. and I didn’t like the eulogy.”

At home, Betty tries to relate to Sally about baby Gene. Sally seems scared of the new baby, refusing to be around him. Betty makes up a sweet little story, and gifts her a Barbie doll from her baby brother;  Betty emphasises that he wants to be her friend. Close-up on side-eye Barbie as Betty leaves the room.

Turns out Sally is completely terrified of baby Gene, believing he’s a reincarnated version of her dearly departed Grandpa Gene. Don spots the Barbie doll in the bushes outside the house, and innocently places it back on Sally’s dresser. When she wakes up late in the night and sees the dead-eyed Barbie staring back at her, she starts screaming at the top of her lungs in fear. “He’s not supposed to be here anymore.”

Blaming Betty, Don is pissed that she named the baby after her father, a man whom he did not like and vice versa. She retorts, “It’s what people do, Don. It’s how they keep the memory alive.”

After the midnight hysteria quiets down, Don has a nice parent moment with Sally, showing her that there’s nothing to be afraid of when it comes to baby Gene.

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image courtesy of TomandLorenzo

“This is your new brother. And he’s only a baby, and we don’t know who he is yet, or who he’s going to be.

And that is a wonderful thing.”

Touching, really. Who is this baby? Where will he go, what will he choose to do with his life? How their relationship evolve over the years? There’s only room for love at this point. Solely love and hope can exist at this juncture, and those are two of the most important things in life.

“Well, that was strange.”

Sorry, Ghostbusters; nope.

Not to be a buzzkill, and I understand that pretty much everyone I know is popping boners for the new lady Ghostbusters movie trailer that just dropped, but as a whole it honestly does nothing for me. I’m actually a little repelled. Why is that exactly?

Nostalgia doesn’t do a hell of a lot for me, truth be told. Never has. The re-hashing of Ghostbusters seems to have lost what made the original so great; that movie had heart, subtle humour, and a good core science fiction story. It seems like they missed what made that first movie great; the same phenomenon happened with Jurassic World.

I know this is just a trailer, but comedy today has really lost something with this current generation of writers and comedians. I feel as if I no longer understand the path they’re choosing with comedy specifically.

Get off my lawn.

Modern comedy seems to have devolved into some sort of smug neo-SNL ‘THAT’S THE JOKE’ pointedly awkward mess. I haven’t genuinely enjoyed a comedy in years, and that’s really a shame. Sometimes the comedy aspect will work for a good chunk of the movie, but completely fall the fuck apart in the second or third act.

Trainwreck was on its way to being an enjoyable feminist fairytale of a foul-mouthed party girl who has it all; the career, the apartment, a shameless proud sex life, and perhaps a guy who could share it all with her if she so desired. I was on board, I was into it!

And then they sent it straight to hell towards the end of the second act where the protagonist has an emotional breakdown because, basically, women aren’t “supposed” to be that way, and she has to Settle Down(TM) like her bland-ass sister and OH MY GOD IT TURNS OUT THAT’S WHAT SHE’S BEEN YEARNING FOR ALL THIS TIME BUT FELT TOO UNDESERVING OF IT AND HAS LOW SELF ESTEEM AND THAT’S WHY SHE’S THAT WAY IN THE FIRST PLACE. Woof.

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File footage of me in the theatre when that happened. image courtesy of Reddit

And I get it, I really do. People change, people move forward with their lives, that’s how shit works; but you don’t have to denounce what you were doing in the past or who you once were to get there. For Christ’s sake, own that shit; it makes you who you are.

Am I totally mortified at the nonsense I used to do and say? Abso-fucking-lutely. But I would not be who I am today if I was not that vague garbageperson yesterday.

Can’t she just be her damn self and be different and embrace it? I identified heavily with her character in the first half of the movie, truth be told. I was really rooting for Trainwreck to be about how you can be a different and unironic woman, still enjoy yourself in ways that feel true to you, and actually find someone to share that with who won’t think you’re a shell of a person because you’re not The Norm. Too bad it blew up into Romantical Garbage territory and immediately caught on fire. Why does the fact that this lady is different automatically make her Bad?

I look back on the comedies of yore, and I guess the difference is that they’re consistently written well, they’re simple, and have heart. Ace Ventura isn’t trying to serve some greater idea of people-dom, it’s simply a well put together story about a passionate maniac who loves animals, yelling, and solving mysteries. Uncle Buck offers some great insight into being proud of where you come from, and that being different or weird isn’t bad, you need to own it. Tommy Boy tells the story of a goodhearted (though dumb) character who has been told all his life that he’ll only ever be the funny fat party guy, but it turns out he can really accomplish things and defy the odds if he set his mind to it.

The fact that the protagonists of these movies are all men isn’t lost on me either, by the way. To me, the point of those comedies is universal. They didn’t have to be women in order to really speak to me.

Somewhere along the line, I guess that idea got lost. The times are changing, and I’m in no way saying that’s a bad thing; I think we aren’t quite there writing-wise yet. They’re still searching for ways to make female characters who are different have some sort of ~tragic backstory~ or some shit to explain why they are that way instead of just .. being themselves as characters, like they fucking write men. It’s especially confusing when the writers of some of these female characters are women. How the hell does that happen?

I agree that the representation of women in film is extremely important, and it’s always great to see ladies kicking ass, but I disagree that these more recent movies should be seen as AUTO-FANTASTIC because of #women. Mad Max: Fury Road is a good example of that. Sort of a misfire plot-wise, but everyone collectively shit their pants because WOMEN. When I tried to look a little deeper at that movie, I came up empty-handed and sort of confused at the Tumblr fanaticism surrounding it. I agree that it’s incredibly well-crafted and envisioned, but it fell flat to me.

There’s so many other, better places to find female characters who aren’t awful.

Bridesmaids was, for all intents and purposes, intolerable. It exemplified everything I can’t stand about comedy today; pointing at a joke that was just made to make sure the audience got it, gratuitous gross-out stuff, try-hard writing crystallized into catchphrases specifically for t-shirts and memes.. the list goes on. Yet everyone lauded this movie for its’ fresh take and all female cast! MESS. I felt like I was taking fucking crazy pills.

Mean Girls, on the other hand, works perfectly. Good storytelling with emphasis on being yourself, and what that means as a teenage girl. It’s not tryhard or over the top, it’s actually funny, and has a good message. Alright.

Kill Bill is an example of a fantastic female character. (..though not necessarily a comedy depending on how you look at Tarantino..) Beatrix Kiddo has agency. She’s wild, strong, and kicks several asses, but she has a softer side as well; and she’s not ashamed of who she is. Her journey as a character is relatable, even though she’s an assassin.

The core reason that the Ghostbusters trailer/idea doesn’t speak to me is that I grew up in a house where there were no limits as to what I could be or wanted to do. I was never told “no” to something because I was a lady.

Yeah yeah, I know some of you are gonna shriek PRIVILEGE here, but that’s my truth. I feel really lucky and #blessed to have grown up that way. My mother was an extremely positive role model for me, and she always encouraged me to follow my dreams and be completely unashamed of who I am no matter what other people said. Feminism wasn’t something that we ever spoke about explicitly, it was just understood. It was/is life.

The first time I distinctly remember my mom changing my life, I was 7. I was having some issues with a friend being a jerk to me, and was truly upset about it and felt badly about myself as a result.

My mom’s response? “Eh, to hell with her.” She spoke to me as a peer. Totally changed my perspective on the issue at hand, and she reinforced that so long as I wasn’t being hurtful, I was a good person and should always be proud of who I am. There will always be people who don’t dig you, but focus on the ones who do. Truth bombs.

On the other hand, I completely understand why this movie needs to exist. There are so many women of all ages who didn’t grow up the way that I did, and look to pop culture for female role models. So that’s definitely positive. I’ve done the same at times, and I can’t hate on that. Admittedly I am still searching for a female character I can entirely relate to, without the plot twist of that lady being a deeply unhappy garbageperson with low self esteem who needs to change in order to be ‘acceptable’. Fuck that shit.

I gotta say though.. all these fuckboys wailing about the lady Ghostbusters are giving me a little bit of life. Fragile Man Feelings(TM) are the silver lining here.

Shows that Rule: Silicon Valley

Time to start another semi-irregular series here! This one, “Shows that Rule”, will visit shows I’m digging at the moment as well as revisiting shows of yore. As far as the latter is concerned, I plan on doing write-ups of True Detective, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Twin Peaks, and Lost at some point, so stay tuned. Just because a show is over doesn’t always make it irrelevant, after all. That’s actually the hallmark of a great show!

Onto 2014. Fact: Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley is fucking brilliant. As someone born in 1984, I am part of the so-called Millennials or Generation Y or whatever the hell we are. Silicon Valley manages to capture this era without being lame and promoting it in some weird way, and there’s thankfully no shoehorned faux-nostalgia that’s so annoyingly rampant in media these days.

I’ve always admired Mike Judge, from the early days when I’d sneak around to watch the quintessential Beavis and Butt-head rerun on MTV while trying to avoid explaining what I was watching to my parents. As a brazen 12 year-old, I snuck into a screening of Beavis and Butt-head Do America and told my parents I was seeing Jingle All the Way, for shit’s sake. There was that certain something I latched on to and dug about his style and writing even from a very young age.

Judge has a knack for creating down to earth portraits of specific archetypes. His honesty and humour are sharp and the dialogue is always tight, traits which carry over easily to Silicon Valley. His eerily prophetic Idiocracy still hits all the right (unfortunate) culture commentary notes here in 2014, and he’s continuing that trend now. Silicon Valley has a fantastic ensemble cast, and they’re all really entertaining to watch; I feel like I know these guys.

Let’s face it, someone has to poke fun at Palo Alto and the complete absurdity going on in and around the tech sector. This show goes after brogrammers, god complex engineers, hysterically eccentric billionaires, and weirdly zen CEOs. Most of these real-life people are so fucking ridiculous and/or silly that the show writes itself, but Judge and his team really succeed in creating interesting and sympathetic characters amongst the dark dredges of insufferable Hip(TM) tech companies.

Speaking of the tech sector, I’m also very interested in how AMC’s upcoming 1980s period drama Halt and Catch Fire will fare. The PC revolution is a really fascinating time in history, and (if it’s good) I think it could serve as a bizarro companion piece to Silicon Valley for sure. I feel like Silicon Valley serves as the dark 1985A future of Halt and Catch Fire that none of those poor schmucks saw coming.

So, get your ass on HBO and check it out already! You’ll be glad you did.