Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mad Madness: Predictions Editions

Lots of predictions! But first a rant and a prediction that's really a wish:

I've written before about the show's treatment of Carla and show runner Matt Weiner's "that's the way it was" defense of the lack of black folks on the show. He's said something similar a couple of place leading up to the new season. I agree that there's something powerful in letting your heros be on the wrong side of history, showing how racism and indifference to Civil Rights pervaded the culture, not just some easy villains. But this must be cold comfort for black actresses and actors when so many "prestige" projects are "period." I remember reading something back when Shakespeare in Love was up against Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture saying, isn't it interesting that we find these settings so "profound," the ones where blacks don't exist, so excluding them is just historical accuracy? (Obviously there were blacks in WWII, but not in the same units with whites, so you get a totally white film if I'm remembering correctly.) But given the parameters, just because a culture marginalizes someone doesn't mean you have to. Weiner doesn't want to let us off the hook by creating a parallel sixties where African-Americans are welcomed into advertising. Fine. But since when is the show actually about advertising? Isn't it really supposed to be about outsiders? A number of people have pointed out that the very first episode begins with a conversation between Don and a black waiter, with Don asking if he would ever change his brand of cigarettes. Shilling stuff is who Don is; being on the other end of the sell is who the rest of us are, especially outsiders. It's a promise that the treatment of race on the show has yet to fulfill. So my prediction that's actually a wish would be for a full episode that's all about what happens to Carla after Betty fires her. We could see her own family, and how they react. Perhaps she has a teenage son or daughter who has been politicized. We could see Carla look for a new job, interact with her family, friends and neighbors, and catch sideways glimpses, Mad Men style, of what she's actually thought about the Drapers all these years, perhaps revealing a secret of theirs along the way that we're left to figure out.

And bring back Paul and Sheila while you're at it.

Onto the predictions:

- At the start of the new season, Don is still married to Megan, but things are already bad. Fixing his Clio was all well and good, but once things go bad such shoring up starts to look desperate. We seem first flirting with a new (blond, now that the wife is brunette) mistresses or love interest; that he's still married is a reveal the way his marriage was in the first episode.

- Betty will play a very minor role throughout the season. At some point she tries to make a play to get back into Don's good graces and bed: his marriage makes him more attractive to her, along of course with the trials of being Mrs. Henry Francis. Talk about being on the wrong side of history: the guy's a Rockefeller Republican.

- At the same time we'll get to see more of Sally. How wonderful an actress has Kiernan Shipka turned out to be? We'll mostly see her with Don and Megan. She'll start to turn on Megan, but we'll also continue to see just how profoundly she hates Betty.

- An obvious one, but nonetheless: Roger threatens to expose that he's the father of Joan's baby (already born as the season begins), but then kicks it. (If this weren't already an obvious prediction, given the end of his story arc, after Mrs. Blankenship died in episode 9 last season, Roger said he didn't want to die in the office.) Expect some awkward toasts and references to Sterling's Gold and the very welcome return of Mona and Margaret.

- Shortly thereafter, doctor rapist kicks it in Vietnam, but through some stupid drunken accident rather than in combat. Joan is quietly and discretely relieved, and with good reason: being a single mom is better for Joan's work life than being a married mom would have been.

- Peggy continues to kill it for the ungrateful boys of SCDP, and necessity forces them to let her go beyond panty hose into some of the big stuff they reach for to replace Lucky Strikes: booze, cars, maybe even an airline. But her job keeps causing problems with her an Abe. This is more of a dilemma for her now than before, as Vietnam and Joyce have likely furthered her politicization, but it's still no choice: she'll choose the job.

- Burt Cooper comes back, with or without his testicles.


  1. Nailed it! Most interestingly, on the first point. New York in the 1960s wasn't all white after al. Who knew?

  2. Yeah, and contrary to what some commentators have said, it isn't ahistorical that some black folks in NY in the 60s didn't suffer in silence! (Saw in several places complaints about the woman saying "and they call us savages." New York mag said "it's a terrible line that should have been red-penciled because it seems to validate the usually wrongheaded complaint that Mad Men scores hindsight points off the past." Except it turns out to be an actual quote from a woman at the demo reported in the Times.