Dr. Mister and I have been binging this week on Season 3 of Mad Men, now out on DVD. (It’s better than anything else on the teevee–but that’s probably not saying much.) This season we’re left with the overwhelming need to say, “Mad Men? Meh.” We just took delivery of the last DVD, which has the final four episodes, but overall this season is just more of the same characters put in the same situations, and there’s no sense of forward movement. The show’s nearly all-white cast makes occasional reference to the Civil Rights movement, but I’m afraid some of my initial suspicions about the show appear to have been justified: the two black characters (Hollis the elevator operator and Carla, the Drapers’ housekeeper) so far this season are totally marginal, and we never see them in their non-work lives the way we do the white characters.
It’s 1963, and Betty Draper is redecorating and tries out a beehive hairdo, but otherwise nothing much is new. (I will say that Betty’s dresses are even more gorgeous and envy-inducing than ever–and for me, they’re reason enough to watch the show all by themselves.) Pete Campbell? Still a douche. (Quelle Suprise!) Peggy Olson? Still trying to find her way to career success and love in a man’s world. Betty Draper? Still suffering from the problem that has no name. (Actually, the problem was named on February 25, 1963, when The Feminine Mystique was published, but the show isn’t suggesting any awareness of that title on the part of its characters. Civil Rights, Vietnam, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy are the only current events they’re using in their foreshadowing.)
And Don Draper? Still the brooding, mysterious, strangely trouble-prone old Don. I’m so over that. Can we at least have more of the wisecracking, hard-drinking, child-bride-taking Roger Sterling, please? He’s the only guy who seems to be enjoying himself. (The minstrel scene was horrifying, I’ll grant–and appeared to be included to shore up the show’s moral position as an anti-racist show with an overwhelmingly white cast.) After this point in my review, I should probably say SPOILER ALERT AFTER THE JUMP!
Finally, how is it that Salvatore–a man–is the only character in this workplace drama who is fired because he wouldn’t put out? Seriously? Of course I’m sure that sexual harrassment worked that way for some men, but why not show it how it usually works, which is as a strategy to control and punish women? I had hoped for more development of his story as he is the only gay character, but it looks like we’re out of luck. (We’ll see what the last four episodes bring–I’ll report back after I’ve seen them all.) The Sal-gets-harassed-and-fired story looks like the same strategy as including Roger Sterling in blackface as one of three “negro” characters: the writers and producers want to get the credit for being “sensitive” to racism and “aware” of sexual harassment, but their opportunities for doing something interesting and relevant are limited by their focus on white, male characters. (Don’t you think some of those women in the secretarial pool might have some interesting stories to tell, if the camera could peel itself away from the white, male supporting characters Pete, Paul, Harry, Ken, and Salvatore?)
Many thanks to my faithful readers and commenters, who sent in these Mad Men-ized versions of themselves. You, too, can do it if you click here, and please send me a copy if you’d like your Mad Men-ized self to achieve ‘net fame! (And please, send photos of yourself enjoying something a little more interesting than coffee and donuts–the folks here are obviously very serious and hardworking!)
What do the rest of you think about season 3?