The Thing About the Women (of Mad Men) Is…

Courtesy of "The Independent"

I wanted to come up with some grandiose literary analysis that explained the women of “Mad Men,” and provided insight — you know, that shiny little nugget of knowledge that stands out above the rough, but always winds up begging more quests? I had to be funny though, or I’d come off as too serious about the whole thing, and who likes a complainer, am I right?

The truth is, I don’t know that “Mad Men” is more emblematic about the complicated identity issues that women face every day than any other show. Even the shows that falter and fall into the stereotypical concept of a woman as being a “liberated” air-headed flirt — ahem, “Whitney” — shine light on the complicated relationship many women have with themselves. In fact, even the shows that “showcase reality,” aka the worst human beings known to mankind, portray women as bizarrely distorted images of themselves. The fighter/vixen, the girlfriend, the chubby obnoxious one, her even more whiny and obnoxious friend…are there any more of them? I think that’s about it. You know who I’m talking about though…the “Joyesy Girls.” The ones that get excited to bring a “juicehead” into the “smush room.” Sounds like every girl’s dream. No wait, that’s empowerment. Ahh, I still love watching it and gasping in amazement as they humiliate themselves for my amusement.

“Mad Men”‘s women are different as night and day, but not in the cookie cutter identity sort of way that even some real-life women are guilty of subscribing to. Naive Peggy aspires to be great by working hard. You’re gunning for her the whole way and wishing her luck, as she paves the way deeper into the shady, creepy world of grabby guys. And as she struggles to climb the totem pole, she finds the ability to believe in herself. You can actually see the courage well up inside her, to ask for a raise, to buck the trend. It’s heart-breaking and admirable, all at once.

“Joan is such a Marilyn,” everyone says. Really? I have to admit, I haven’t seen My Week with Marilyn, so I don’t know much about the actress, but Joan is very much her own woman. She’s not some two-dimensional pin-up. She’s sad, mostly, and lonely. For as easy as men make her out to be, I still have yet to see her let her guard down, even with her husband and Sterling. The biggest slap in the face for me (who, dorky over-achiever as I am, identifies most with Peggy) was when Joan met Peggy’s act to defend Joan’s integrity with icy resentment.

As much as I love to hate Betty Draper, aka Nightmare Mother, I do empathize with her. She was brought up believing that everything would always be perfect and never gotten the common sense to realize that just isn’t true. I’d almost prefer her as a plastic doll — timeless and existing only to be looked at. Was that harsh? Girls are awful. But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. Check it.

To say that Peggy, Joan and Betty play characters isn’t entirely accurate. They play people. Women who are stuck with the cards they’ve been dealt, in a¬†chauvinistic world that expects perfection. Unbridled as we seem in today’s society, it’s the same expectation of picking a persona like picking a nail polish that “Mad Men” women faced that leads us to ask, “Which one are we, a Peggy, or a Joan?”

I guess I don’t watch the show to learn about life as much as I revel in the world it’s created to learn about people. We’re too quick to forget that we’re not perfect, and seeing a cast of characters as flawed and distraught and elated as any person I might pass on the street reminds me that we’re all born with a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. We play our cards the best we can and hope for the best. Sometimes we’re childish, like Betty, sometimes, we’re admired, like Joan, and sometimes, we’re defiantly independent, like Peggy. We could categorize and characterize all day. But in the end, we’re always entirely ourselves.

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This entry was published on March 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm. It’s filed under diy wedding, spring wedding, The Engagement, wedding and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

5 thoughts on “The Thing About the Women (of Mad Men) Is…

  1. Pingback: Mad Men Hairstyles still great, show’s not so hot! | real hairstyles

  2. I love this! You are so right that this show has so much more depth than most mainstream shows these days, yet its so darn funny and entertaining. I love the last paragraph, I couldn’t have said it better myself! We may all be shocked by some of the society differences in the 60s, but the show just proves that these women weren’t too different from ourselves and we can all relate to them! Now how about Megan… is she all there or partially in a fairytale land?

    • Thanks! Megan is a confusing one. I tend to wonder what her motives are. Her friends said she was an incredible actress and in the first episode of the new season, she was all over the place. Don seemed to have fallen in love with her when she was playing the mother role with his kids at the end of last season, in California, but he also seemed content to stay with her at the end of the last episode, after she’d turned into a more of an emotionally dramatic and theatrical wife. Personally, I think he needs a stronger woman who expects more from him, like Faye, who was feminine, but intelligent and self-directed. Megan seems to be pretty divisive, in complaining that the office doesn’t like her and in pushing Don to pick between her or them. We’ll have to see of what comes of his allying with her. He seems so happy, but I hope he knows what’s good for him.

      • Oh! I totally forgot about Faye! I loved her. You’re so right, she seemed way better for him! He seems to be a “new man” this season, so we shall see! :)

  3. Pingback: Notions of the Self from a Perpetual Over-Apologizer | This Must Be Sauer Place (formerly bridefied)

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