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Mad Men: "To Have and to Hold" OAD 4/21/13 ***SPOILERS***


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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 12:14 AM

mmwriter.jpg

 

Erin Levy started on "Mad Men" as a writing assistant, then gained credits as a staff writer or writer, and ultimately co-producer. In 2010 she and Weiner both won an Emmy for the writing of the episode "Shut the Door, Have a Seat."

In a 2010 interview on Center for the Psychology of Women web site she explained:

 “Enter the psyche of the character. Think about how they move, how they talk, figure out how they breathe and what they eat. I have to relate to the women of that time in order to write them. I guess that is one thing I’ve learned as a female writer on Mad Men. Through studying these characters I’ve learned a little about what it was like to be limited by your circumstance of your time, and I’ve learned how lucky I am to be a woman living today.“

"To Have and to Hold" was written by Ms. Levy, without Weiner. If you watched this episode, you probably aren't surprised because it focused mostly on women.

 "To Have and to Hold" is the name of the daytime soap that Megan has a role in. And to have and hold that role is going to be complicated for Megan. The role seemed to have survived that creepy foursome proposal, which wasn't golf. It was funny when Arlene mumbles out loud how "James Garner" will deal with Megan's love scene. And maybe it was impossible for Don.

Sylvia appears to have Don's measure when she prays for him to find peace.

And before we discuss the complexity of Joan's life, we do have to note that while Don's young wife is finding success of her own, he discovers his mentoring of Peggy has put her in direct competition with him. In their effort to hold beans, they'll need to find a place to rendezvous to try to have ketchup. Pete says "We'll get a hotel." Only Peggy's there also attempting to seduce the Coca Cola of condiments. Don overhears her using his Season 3 line to win his client:  "If you don't like what they're saying, change the conversation."

In the meantime Don's selling the product that isn't there. The ketchup bottle is missing, just like the hotel was missing from the footprints on the beach scene. If something is missing from your life, can Don sell it to you by removing it from the scene?

Several subplots and themes revolved around Joan.

First, there was the subplot about Scarlett leaving work and talking Dawn into clock her out later.

That allowed the creation of the angry man - I know, I know, in a late 1960's feminist world the angry man is to be despised and maybe pitied. (I won't go further about the long term picture than to say pity did not solve the angry man problem and in the 21st they blow people up.)

But Harry is outraged that Joan could fire Scarlett, except we learn that is really just a cover because Harry is outraged that Joan was made a partner. After all he is bringing in significant money too. He angrily says: "I'm sorry my accomplishments happened in broad daylight and I can't be given the same rewards...."

And Joan was cautioned about Dawn by Pete. A real historical reference is contained in this. In March 1968 the New York City Human Rights Commission held hearings focusing on the lack of diversity in the advertising industry. In November they issued a scathing report that said, among other things: "Sad to relate, the advertising industry did not apply, in the early days of its awareness of this problem, the energy, inventiveness and sophistication it always brings to projects...."
 

Joan's mother finally expresses admiration for her professional advancement, as does her friend Kate (I'm going to avoid the Mary Kay - Avon thing and the fling). But having been undermined in the Scarlett and Dawn situation, Joan can appreciate the support but really isn't feeling it. In the end, though, Dawn is the one who offers her some respect which she can reciprocate - mentoring by women for women with ambitions in the business world might start here.

Still, in this episode J. Walter Thompson apparently got "to have" the ketchup. SCDP may struggle "to hold" the beans. To have and to hold in business are also terms that can be associated with death. As can the war which Don opposes, we learn.

 

Anyway, kudos to Erin Levy who started out as a lowly writing assistant.


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#2 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 02:13 AM

Yes, it felt like a woman wrote it, and it kind of sucked. It lacked the MM brilliance, bounce and wit. It was plodding and predictable. I hope she goes back to producing. The whole Dawn thing in the coffee shop blabbing on about the wedding of someone we've never met was tacked-on and annoying. A heavy-handed play at our sympathies for the poor Black woman embematic of all token Blacks of the age. Hell, why not just give her a podium and a mic, that would have been more honest. It's not that the issue shouldn't be raised, just develop it in a more natural and organic and clever way instead of awkwardly sticking it onto the plot with a wad of chewing gum.

 

We got no character at all out of Peggy. The whole 4-way proposal was badly wriiten--Megan's no fool yet she acted like she didn't know what they were talking about for most of the scene. And the real Don would have immediately said, "I'm sorry, we're not into that. We're leaving, now."

 

Levy can't write for Joan. Joan was almost somebody else for the whole ep. This tagalong with nothing to say with her sister. And nothing but a cold bitch at work, when we know Joan is way more complex than that. And Joan just taking the hit when insulted in the board room? Not the Joan we know and love.

 

And Don was wishy-washy and whiny about Megan and just a gigolo with his slut all ep. That's not the Don I ever knew. He has attitude, style and panache. But not Levy-Don, he's just another ******* male.

 

In so many ways, Levy has no feel for the characters, they are flat as a pancake, and none of the brilliance to delight us with where these characters should be taken in the script. Please stay out of the writers' den Ms. Levy. You don't have the equipment.



#3 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 07:26 AM

Phrelin, as usual your reviews are insightful but I feel you missed the point of the episode. Perhaps that's because unlike most of them, the episode title doesn't have a lot to do with the real core. I thought the theme here was rationalization. Rationalizations will become increasingly important to the characters as they get older... this happens to many of us as well. This episode is about the moment when you still know right from wrong and you do wrong anyway. 

 

Don's rationalization is that he sleeps around but he hates himself for it, so that's kind of ok. He knows he's a bad guy. His rationalization is shaken by Megan, who actually has fun play acting at romance. She doesn't hate herself in the least, because her rationalization is that it's all for a part. Don would have probably been ok with her kissing some other guy if after "cut" she threw him off and went to gargle. 

 

Pete rationalizes that it's ok to use one of your loyal customers as a stepping stone because it's for the good of the agency. It backfires in a big way, and exposes Peggy's rationalization, that she and Stan can be friends and competitors. Obviously not true and she may have just lost the only man who will understand her. 

 

And then wow... the big Joan and friend rationalization-fest. It's ok for women in their late 30s and early 40s, one with a child and one married, to go to a hookupfest. It's "vacation behavior." Many of us still do that. 

 

Finally, poor Dawn who embodies the head-down acceptance of her status so common to women and African-Americans at that time. It's heartbreaking to see someone crush her own soul because she needs a job.

 

Unlike Maruuk, I think there was truth to these characters, especially the women, and perhaps the big difference here is that the men are shown for the reprehensible cads they are, while the women (for once) carouse carelessly. 


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#4 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 12:31 PM

I don't disagree that rationalization was built into the ep, but I'd go further to say that it wasn't unusual since the entire show is based on its characters ratiionalizing like mad, and the characters coming to grips with the karmic fallout from it for better or worse. In a sense, all MM eps are about rationalization.

 

Re the Dawn bit, most folks crush their souls because they need a job, irregardless of race. A lot of the lower echelon MM characters are in that very position, Dawn is not a standout.

 

My problem with this ep was really from a dramaturgy viewpoint. Just thought it was weak and I didn't believe the characters, or find their scenes particularly compelling. MM is entertainment, not sociology. There is great writing, and not great writing.


Edited by Maruuk, 23 April 2013 - 12:49 PM.


#5 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 12:56 PM

 Hmmm. Well, as was the case in the 2009 episode "Shut the Door, Have a Seat" that won her an Emmy, Ms. Levy seems to push a lot of buttons. The thread on that episode was long and maybe worth reviewing. That episode was a turning point that led to much of what we saw this week.

I have to say that the Joan we saw in the Board room this week was a politically savvy business partner. You have to pick your fights. When Harry came bursting in, Joan was the only other person in the room who knew what triggered his rant. Wise board members don't instantly respond to that kind of challenge. The irony is Harry is where he is because at the beginning he was shuffled off to handle that upstart medium, TV, nobody else wanted to demean themselves by getting involved in.

We can't forget that Joan basically saved the partnership because an amoral Pete asked her what it would take to get her to do so, to get her to become amoral, if only briefly. Everyone in the Board meeting understood that.

In one sense, "amoral" - meaning "indifferent to questions of right or wrong" - describes the advertising biz and Pete. That is exactly what the New York City Human Rights Commission attacked in March 1968 hearings. April 4, 1968 is right around the corner but I don't want to try to anticipate where the show is going.

Regarding the two black women discussing marriage as a way out of the struggle to safety, in my opinion what that should have created a "ladies you are deluded" reaction in all of us. We don't see being married to the men of Mad Men offering safety. And we all know the statistical impact of Lyndon Johnson's well-intentioned "Great Society" on the institution of marriage and family among the poor over the next 20 years.

Joan and Kate ostensibly envy the choices the other made. But in reality Joan is an executive and a director in a light-weight advertising agency and Kate is hitting a ceiling in a large and expanding direct marketing corporation supposedly offering opportunities to women in a women's environment. Joan's choices in men were poor. Kate seems to have made a better choice, even if at this point in her life she questions it.

Finally, from a psychological viewpoint many of the characters are feeling a core sense of "estrangement" from society, from that "American Dream" that includes the ideal marriage to a wonderful spouse, 2.3 perfect kids, a stimulating secure rewarding job, and vested wealth in an ownership society. They are angry about the hypocrisy surrounding them with rules and restrictions that those in power seemingly ignore to get what they want.

 

In this context "rationalization" is a middle class process that doesn't afflict those who have and hold. It afflicts the Don's and Dawn's, the Joan's and Harry's.

 

In the early 1960's a consciousness raising created an awareness of the hypocrisy.  That allowed for the civil rights movement and feminism as long as it didn't get too up close and personal. It was all folk singers and smart comedians.

 

In the late 1960's feminism was in Don's face - too close and personal. And in 1968 the civil rights movement and its Democractic Party supporters discovered too close and personal meant assassinations and riots, not  Joan Baez and a crowd of college kids singing "Kumbaya." Don hypothetically does understand that in a war like Vietnam the losers are the poor and middle class, except in Korea Dick Whitman won because some guy named Don Draper lost.

 

It is from the comfort of the late 1950's to the turmoil of the late 1960's that we see through the microcosm of "Mad Men", all up close and personal for the characters.


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#6 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 12:59 PM

Who hasn't won Emmys? I got 3 of them. BFD. Besides, she was only co-writer on that--that was a gangbang with Weiner and Kater Gordon. They saved her from herself.

 

You know, it's interesting seeing the female winners in MM: Megan is winning because she's beautiful. Joan's sister and Joan herself win attractive men in this ep because they're beautiful. Joan won her partnership because she was beautiful.

Peggy is struggling and hassled because she's ugly.

Dawn kept her job after a major screwup solely because she was Black.

Seems to be a message being sent here.
 


Edited by Maruuk, 23 April 2013 - 01:13 PM.


#7 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 02:17 PM

Who hasn't won Emmys? I got 3 of them. BFD. Besides, she was only co-writer on that--that was a gangbang with Weiner and Kater Gordon. They saved her from herself.

Well, I haven't won an Emmy. It's recognition from your peers that is worth noting whether its for writing scripts or musical scores or any other category.

 

IMHO I can see the common influence in both episodes, particularly when it comes to the women characters. As with the beauty of the women, the beauty of the script and score is in the eye and ear of the beholder. That is what makes the variety we find in the world so stimulating.


"In a hundred years there'll be a whole new set of people."
"Always poke the bears. They sleep too much for their own good."

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#8 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 02:49 PM

Mad Men is saying it's not. Don is objectively "James Garner". Betty used to be every man's dream. Megan is drop-dead gorgeous. Joan is a walking sex fantasy. MM establishes a critical objective split between gorgeous and not.

 

Conversely Peggy and a lot of the office girls are clearly being typecast as "plain" and unappealing. Point being, Mad Men actually wants us to see a class system based on looks. That's an important meme within the show: the beautiful win, the ugly lose. They don't always of course, but that's the straw man that they either establish or occasionally try to knock down. But it's always there lurking in the background.

 

In MM, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, it's in the pen of the writer.



#9 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 05:47 PM

madspace1.jpg

There's a new show being pitched now about the 60's space program from the press viewpoint--it's being referred to as "Mad Men in Space."

 

"Are you an astronaut or something?"


Edited by Maruuk, 23 April 2013 - 07:45 PM.


#10 OFFLINE   djlong

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 05:07 AM

Dawn kept her job because she admitted what she did and CLEARLY showed remorse.  She did NOT say "All the other girls do it!".  She did NOT try to rationalize it away and Joan respected that.  Joan also understands, from an intensely personal viewpoint, what it means to do things under peer pressure.

 

Even so - remember that she is *punishing* Dawn with the new responsibilities.  In addition, she's making the statement that, if she doesn't have hire/fire control in cases like that, she's not going to take the blame and be a whipping post.  To me, this is the opening move in another transformation for Joan.



#11 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 05:28 PM

Then there was the other conversation between the guys in which they agreed they COULDN'T fire her under pressure from some civil rights council or whatever. But you're right, they're trying to carve out a new arc for Joan in which she establishes some real authority in the company, and can have casual sex in her personal life without it being an office politics play. The old Joan always had sex involved with job advancement, the Shirley MacLaine role in The Apartment. Now it's just good clean 60's sex, and maybe true romance in the future.

 

One harkens back to that great moment during the SC Mutiny: "Do you know where all the accounts documentation is? Either do I. Call Joan!"


Edited by Maruuk, 24 April 2013 - 05:28 PM.


#12 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 07:35 AM

Neither do I.


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#13 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 06:43 PM

Nor I. If I call Joan, will she come?






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