Friday, June 1, 2012

The Women of Mad Men – How Far Will They Go?

Actress Christina Hendricks at Chivas Regal Pr...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Did you catch the last episode of AMC’s Mad Men? In a departure from the norm, this week the story was not about the men at all, but the women; three very different career women struggling to get ahead in the male dominated workplace of the 60’s. And, to be fair – the only three women featured in the series that aren’t housewives or secretaries.

Spoiler alert:
If you haven’t watched the episode yet but plan to, you may want to come back and read this later.

First we have Joan, who runs the office. It’s not clear that the men would be able to find a pencil without her. She has clear aspirations for more responsibility, but never given the chance to do more. But this week there’s an important deal on the line – signing an automobile account. This is what the firm has been waiting for. Joan is asked to help.

Recognizing an opportunity for financial security for herself and her son, she sleeps her way to a partnership (yes, literally). The partners, including her former lover and father of her son, vote to ask her to do so. After all, this is the break they need. Accordingly, Joan lands a 5% partnership in the firm – something she clearly deserved without the (ahem) extra effort.

Success for a price. Joan, how could you?

Next, there’s Peggy, the copywriter who broke the glass ceiling by being the first female copywriter, but keeps banging up against that glass. She’s not allowed to work on the Jaguar account – after all, they can’t put a girl on Jaguar. Peggy is told she is in charge of everything else, but is then limited on what she can do. When she saves an account on the fly, her boss tries to take the win away from her, and treats her as if she is a spoiled child.

Appropriately, it’s Peggy’s former colleague who was fired for drinking, falling asleep, and wetting his pants on the job (yes, literally), who gives her the pep talk to make the move. He was the first to recognize her talent, and still her champion.

So Peggy grabs her career by the reins and goes out and lands a better offer – better title, and more money than she asked for. Peggy makes a bold career move to work for the competition – one that I hope won’t take her out of the picture, as I want to see her career progress further.

Good for you, Peggy Olson!

And lastly there is Megan. Receptionist turned Secretary turned Boss’s Wife and Copywriter, who left the firm to pursue an acting career. In her first big audition callback, Megan is asked to twirl around so the producers can check her out physically. We aren’t privy to what happened after that, but we know that Megan didn’t get the job. Will she get the next one?

I’m rooting for Megan to make it without compromise.

What is so clear in all of these stories is that the career women of the sixties had a huge challenge. I love that the writers of the show chose to take each of these women in different directions, moral dilemmas and all. Are you a Mad Women fan? What do you think?