Mad Men s4e9: The Beautiful Girls

“It’s a business of sadists and masochists, and you know which one you are.”

This episode rattles me every damn time I watch it. Seeing Joan, Peggy, Faye and Sally all struggle with being put in a box and told what to do is infuriating and sad.. yet entirely too relatable even as a modern lady. Oof.

Like a tiny hobo, Sally hitches a train to the city to see Don; it does not go well. A kind judgmental stranger pops her to SCDP, and in a panic, Don shoves Faye in her direction. Turns out she’s not good with kids, much to Don’s chagrin.

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Women in this era were made to feel like horrible people and general failures for choosing not to have kids, and especially for not being good with kids. Hell, women today still get the same sort of shite judgement but it comes in more insidious forms masquerading as Encouraging(TM); “you’ll change your mind”, “you’ll be maternal when you have a baby”, “it’s different when it’s yours”, “what kind of guy would want to stay with a girl who doesn’t want a baby?”. Fun fact: these are real life sentences said to me by real life men (and women), all of whom I swiftly told to fuck off.

Anyhoo!

“These domesticated suburbanites still have a primitive desire to get their hands dirty, but they have become so removed from nature that they can’t. They don’t know how to hunt, or swing a hammer, or fix their cars.”

“You mean like these two!”

“Actually, no.. I’m from Vermont, and Don’s a competitive fly fisherman.”

“What our findings show is that this demographic will spend a good amount of money for the satisfaction of being useful with their hands. Ladies love a man who’s good with his hands..”

There’s a nice splash of irony when Don is meeting with the Fillmore Auto Parts guys. Faye is rattling off research about how men want to feel like they’re Real Men(TM), getting their hands dirty and all that junk, since the suits we know don’t tend to do that often. Just as she’s not a Real Lady for not being great with kids, men can be viewed as lesser than for not being able to fix shit. However with the dudes it’s more of a joking context, versus the reality of women being judged pretty harshly.

Sally is super unhappy at home, and who could blame her? She doesn’t get along with Betty in the least, she misses her father, things just aren’t right. Don has no idea how to really connect with her, and popping Faye into that Woman(TM) mould doesn’t really work.

It’s striking how much Don is using Faye, and it really hit me over the head watching it now. Back when this initially aired, everyone on the damn internet was ALL UP ONS Faye and Don ending up together, and I remained as indifferent and skeptical as Sally. The way he treats Faye is absurd. Watch my kid, make me a drink. What’s going on at that other ad agency? Tell me. It’s pillowtalk subtle, but it’s definitely undermining what she does professionally and he still, a tiny bit, doesn’t take her seriously.

Speaking of disrespectful trash, Peggy gets a drink with Joyce and hey, Abe pops in! Good god, Abe. He’s a journalist, an opinionated know-it-all type, and admonishes Peggy’s very real concerns about equality for women versus the Civil Rights movement. Pegs isn’t one to take it on the chin, and puts him in his place for trying to tell her how she should feel.. cause fuck that noise.

Granted, I feel a lot of this Abe guy is just being awkward and jamming both feet in his mouth in the process but nonetheless, Pegs splits. He tries to apologise (somehow) by writing a literal fucking manifesto; Peggy is mortified, since it’s taking down her profession. In the days following, Abe is clearly on her mind, radical nonsense and all; has she met her opinionated, overconfident match?

At least he’s got better bone structure than Mark.

But man, the fact that Faye doesn’t magically “fix” Sally’s outbursts or offer any insight cements the idea that she’s nothing more than a fling for Don, and she rightfully calls him on it at the end of the episode. Woof. Don definitely needs someone to help him understand his kids better since he seems to be quite shit at it on his own.

Oh yeah, and during Sally’s surprise visit, Miss Blankenship fucking DIES. Jesus Christ.. and she dies at her desk. It’s a bittersweet scene with some good comedic punch, but Bert and Roger are clearly upset. Roger had a bang with her way back when, Bert knew her for most of his life.. very sad.

“She was born in 1898 in a barn, she died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper.. she’s an astronaut.”

image courtesy of ONTD

Ah, poor Ida. Feeling the immediate pang of life being too short, Joan agrees to have dinner with Roger at their old out of the way place which doesn’t seem so nice anymore since the Bowery’s turned into a toilet. After getting mugged, they have a filthy alley fuck high on adrenaline. It’s a good distraction for them both, at least. Roger is evidently bored in his marriage to Jane, and Joan’s shithusband is about to be popped off to Vietnam. She doesn’t regret the bang, but she wants to respect her marriage. Fair enough.

But man, do I love their banter.

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Megan steps it up and works hard to cover Don’s desk as well as reception. When faced with the reality of returning home to Betty, Sally has a horrifying meltdown causing everyone to come running; faceplanting in the process, she hugs Megan and tearfully admits that she knows things won’t be OK. Ugh, heartbreaking and unnerving. Sally’s sadness and helplessness is palpable, radiating to everyone within earshot.

As the elevator doors close, we see the faces of Joan, Faye, and Peggy. It’s like the curtain closing on a play; who are these women in the office versus their real lives? What do they really want at the end of the day? They all want more out of life, that’s for damn sure.

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

“Men never know what’s going on.”

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.

homer_headexplosion

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.