Mad Men - At the Codfish Ball
Everyone knows that distinct feeling of pressure when trying to please your parents. You’ve got to exceed their expectations, try and keep the peace and attempt to reconcile your own ideas about success compared to what they had in mind for you. “At the Codfish Ball” sees a lot important changes for several characters, but along with those leaps and bounds forwards, come a few uncomfortable setbacks from ‘mommy and daddy dearest’ who think they know best.
For SCDP, the positive change for them this week was finally signing Heinz Baked Beans. We knew this was coming all along, but who knew it would be Megan who saves the day? Megan is still presented as Don’s shining ray of hope and optimism, dressed in yellows and pinks and shining down on Don as he lies on his couch brushing up on his beginner’s French, but we’re really starting to see her fleshed out as an individual. Her complaint last week was that she’s too much Mrs. Draper and so here’s a look at Miss Calver. The presence of her parents and the coup she pulled with Heinz show her as a character and more than just an extension of Don. However, Professor Calver is not convinced. He questions his daughter’s means to an end of material wealth and comfort and makes the audience consider for the first time - How much is Megan using Don?
Madame Calver, on the other hand, believes “We should have everything we want”, which for her means having a tryst in the empty ballroom with the newly LSD-enlightened Roger Sterling, but for Peggy it means adjusting her tunnel vision on the future. Peggy’s outfit to dinner with Abe really said it all. The big pink puff ball love dress completely wiped away and and all progress Peggy had made in the last 4 seasons and reduced her back to “20-something desperately seeking a ring on” with her empty smiles and coos. Then Abe, Free Love, 1965 and the Hippie culture smacks her in an unexpected way, the prospect of ‘shacking up’ with her boyfriend. Peggy rises to the challenge though. In her most feminist move to date, Peggy supports and praises Megan on the Heinz account. Instead of wallowing in the nepotism or being stepped over again, she supports the achievements of her fellow woman. Peggy in turn, gets that praise from Joan, who’s quiet, “Good for you” speaks volumes about the changing mindset at the time. These three women shift back and forth in their roles and sister and mother to one another (since none of them have particular supportive mothers or sisters), all looking at the collective progress they’ve made together.
The American Cancer Society Ball was full of mislaid expectations. Don and Roger expected to shovel in new business only to find out they’ve been blacklisted by the group who cannot “trust them”. Sally expects to make a spectacular debut as a young lady, and more so a young Betty (an image which Don marvels in and is terrified of) only to stumble upon a dimension of sexuality that she can’t quite comprehend and means that her date dumped her for the night. As the family gathers around the table at the end of the night, we’re asked to wonder how successful any of these people ended up? ‘Mad Men’ often asks us to look through the Oedipal prism - desiring our beautiful Betty/Joan/Megan mothers and watch the mistakes of our Madison Avenue fathers, but this week the mirror is turned for the characters to peer into, as they quietly watch themselves trip into the same holes their parents fell prey to.