Wow. By the end of Mad Men last night, I wasn’t thinking of The Kinks' Girl, You Really Got Me (1964) but a line from Maurice Chevalier’s Thank Heaven for Little Girls – “for little girls get bigger every day.” Joan and Peggy have certainly grown up.
The exchange or sale for sex is certainly not new in the Mad world. Just last week Harry got slapped after an impromptu sexual encounter when he told the woman she just gave it away for free. But for Joan to be so blatantly presented with the proposition for sex in order to land the Jaguar account was certainly shocking.
The philosophical question of price came up several times last night. “What price would we pay?” “What do you want to get paid?” The show reasoned that better finances might allow Joan not to have to worry about repairing appliances or might even allow her to be free of her miserable mother, but I wonder whether any price is worth paying in order to land a partner position at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The terms of the deal weren’t Joan’s but Pete's, though Lane (for his own ends, partially) helped her improve the offer. Can Joan ever be free? Or has she just bought a noose around her neck?
Peggy’s leaving was even more shocking to me. I always thought Peggy was the one character with integrity. She was there to remind the viewers of a person with flaws who is honestly trying to overcome them without hurting others in the process. But I guess after Don threw the money in her face, as might be expected towards a derelict or prostitute on the street, there was no recovery for her. When Michael Ginsberg’s character was introduced she was warned by another character not to bring him into the firm because he would be her supervisor one day, but she didn’t listen and brought him in because of his talents. Now she fully comprehends that talent would always be half the battle. As a female she would always be excluded from the big boys' table and spend her career enviously watching them from outside the glass office. Leaving was the only way to keep her integrity. Others (Freddy, for example) helped her to come up with the terms of departure. Will she too be able to stand on her own? Will she be able to trust the men who encouraged her to leave?
Besides Joan and Peggy I felt sad for Don. His world seemsto be exploding around him. His girls, the women he has defended and loved, were making demands, selling themselves, or leaving. (He was the only partner to be outraged by the Jaguar magnate's demand for Joan's favors.) The rebellion of Megan, the departure of Peggy, woud be enough to shake the strongest man. But now his most central strength has been challenged. Would he and the other partners ever know if they won the Jaguar account because of his pitch (which was Ginsberg’s idea) or because Joan slept with Herb from the car company? It seems a tough situation to reconcile.
The end of the show made me think of the Charlie Sheen quote, “I don’t pay prostitutes for sex. I pay them to go away afterwards.” Now the one who sold her soul stayed and the one who would never sell herself left. It’ll be interesting to see how Joan’s presence in the partners' meetings affects the other partners. Will she be a thorn in their side on issues about the business or stand on her own among the mad men?
-- Connie Aitcheson