Comments on: Selling Style: Mad Men and the Fashioning of Femininity Responses to Media and Culture Fri, 12 Feb 2016 19:35:04 +0000 hourly 1 By: Derek Kompare Wed, 18 Aug 2010 01:51:07 +0000 Interesting about how you’re each finding the counter-culture depictions (at least a little) cringe-worthy. I could see that, but I’ve always seen those characterizations as both testing the sensibilities of our “establishment” regulars and testing our comparative hindsight (i.e., the historical construction of the “sixties,” which looms like a monolith over our viewing of the show).

I’d be disappointed if the counter-culture types were meant to be read as somehow more “authentic” or (worse) “real” than the regulars. Instead, I see Weiner et al pointing out that the ad men and women don’t have a monopoly on posturing and conformity; it comes in different varieties and angles. The denoument of the entire series (eventually, in a few years) may very well be when Joyce comes to work for Peggy’s hip new ad agency circa 1971, selling the counter-culture to the world as more products…which is basically what happened.

By: Elana Levine Tue, 17 Aug 2010 23:57:17 +0000 Thanks, Derek and Allison, for the thoughtful comments. I agree, Allison, with your sense of the cringe-worthiness of some of the counter-culture depictions in the series. But I thought Joyce, at least, was less of a caricature, perhaps because Peggy was so accepting of her. I did find the Malcolm X reference telling, too. I’m hoping it portends more attention to racial politics in the episodes ahead. So much going on in these episodes, it’s hard to deal with anywhere near all of it in one Antenna post!

By: Allison Perlman Tue, 17 Aug 2010 22:01:25 +0000 I completely agree with your comments about the importance of fashion to the gender politics of the show. As the appearance of Joyce underscores, up until this point clothing has been one of the most visible ways for the show to express just how strictly gender norms were policed during this era. During the first two seasons, I was fascinated by how often we saw our female characters in their underwear, moments that were not only intending to titillate or to underline the attention to detail in the series (even the undergarments are period accurate!), but that show how women’s bodies literally were sculpted and hemmed in to conform to mid-century expectations about women’s roles and norms of beauty.

As per Derek’s comments about the episode’s integration of the “sixties” into the show, I have to admit that when Mad Men provides images of the counter-culture, I always squirm a little. The series has been so invested in presenting a counter-narrative to what we think of when we think of the sixties, that when it brings in characters or scenes that gesture to the youth movements or cultural changes of the period, it always seems to me to be presented with a healthy dose of condescension and disrespect, as though Weiner and his team don’t really take any of it seriously and revel a bit in exposing how silly it was. While I liked Midge a good deal, her Bohemian friends were caricatures, as were I thought the crowd at the Factory-like party where Joyce took Peggy. Stephanie, Anna’s niece who we met last week, similarly seemed ridiculous, as did the delinquent draft-dodgers of season three and the hippie-esque teacher Don slept with. I think show is on more solid ground when it uses shifts in advertising to think through changes in the culture of the 1960s, and the scenes inside the agency in which the characters have to grapple with how the world is changing read as much more persuasive than those in which the characters venture outside.

I also noticed the Malcolm X comment, which both spoke to Peggy’s increased consciousness of the political shifts of the era, and let the audience know that around two months had passed since the last episode (Malcolm X was murdered at the end of February). Since Allison and Don’s “indiscretion” happened around Christmas, this confrontation had been in the making for around two months

By: Jeremy Butler Tue, 17 Aug 2010 18:13:05 +0000 The Peggy-centric episodes are always the best and “Rejected” marks a new high point.

I can see a bit of Kubrick here, Derek, but I think the better comparison — considering all the mirrored surfaces and windows that Elana mentions — is Sirk. Many of the MM women are trapped within 1950s conventions of femininity (cf. ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS), but Peggy is charting her own course.

And John Slattery’s (!) use of mise-en-scene (the post in Pete’s office!) is taken from Sirk’s playbook.

By: Derek Kompare Tue, 17 Aug 2010 17:53:14 +0000 Intriguing take on this episode, which is thus far my favorite of the season, for all the reasons you analyzed.

Related to the comparative treatment of fashion and gender that we were invited to enjoin are the perpetual storm clouds of change. While change is of course what MM is ultimately “about,” it comes in different permutations in every episode. And here I think we were presented not just with change but with what the very process of change looks and feels like. Peggy’s arrival at the party was our most elaborate immersion in the “sixties” of the 1960s yet in MM, and her sense of wonder, bemusement, stoned fascination, and (during the police raid) excitement are indications of a growing comfort with the New (rather than a shocked rejection, as Life Magazine did with the photos; more on that below). Peggy’s realization of Malcolm X’s assassination–i.e., that “important stuff is going on”–similarly models a potential interest in “the stuff between the ads.” Allison’s explosion at Don was cathartic and messy: change is also loud, angry, and violent. On a less historiographic level, even Pete’s realization of fatherhood, and ballsy business offer to his father-in-law suggests a substantial personal change.

The sequence at the end was beautiful in this regard, as you observe, with an almost Kubrickian regard for Megan and the back-slapping ad men contrasting with the mocking Joyce et al on the other side of the glass. Tip of the hat to John Slattery, who directed this one; not just our sad Roger Sterling, apparently.

As for the “shocked” Life Magazine, how unintentionally ironic that these mild nudes were presaged by the full-screen “partial nudity” warning at the beginning of the episode. So we’re meant to giggle at Life’s shock in 1965 and accept as legitimate AMC’s paternalism in 2010. Hmmm…