Ong - Twain - Migglebrink - Havrilesky - The American Dream - Cox


Click here for Yi-Ping Ong’s article — I suggest reading this several times at the very start of the term.


"A Wonderful Book" (From Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain, 1883)

The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book—a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me [a river pilot] without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day. Throughout the long twelve hundred miles there was never a page that was void of interest, never one that you could leave unread without loss, never one that you would want to skip, thinking you could find higher enjoyment in some other thing. There never was so wonderful a book written by man; never one whose interest was so absorbing, so unflagging, so sparklingly renewed with every reperusal. The passenger who could not read it was charmed with a peculiar sort of faint dimple on its surface (on the rare occasions when he did not overlook it altogether); but to the pilot that was an italicized passage; indeed, it was more than that, it was a legend of the largest capitals, with a string of shouting exclamation points at the end of it; for it meant that a wreck or a rock was buried there that could tear the life out of the strongest vessel that ever floated. It is the faintest and simplest expression the water ever makes, and the most hideous to a pilot's eye. In truth, the passenger who could not read this book saw nothing but all manner of pretty pictures in it painted by the sun and shaded by the clouds, whereas to the trained eye these were not pictures at all, but the grimmest and most dead-earnest of reading-matter.

Now when I had mastered the language of this water and had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet, I had made a valuable acquisition. But I had lost something, too. I had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived. All the grace, the beauty, the poetry had gone out of the majestic river! I still keep in mind a certain wonderful sunset which I witnessed when steamboating was new to me. A broad expanse of the river was turned to blood; in the middle distance the red hue brightened into gold, through which a solitary log came floating, black and conspicuous; in one place a long, slanting mark lay sparkling upon the water; in another the surface was broken by boiling, tumbling rings, that were as many-tinted as an opal; where the ruddy flush was faintest, was a smooth spot that was covered with graceful circles and radiating lines, ever so delicately traced; the shore on our left was densely wooded, and the somber shadow that fell from this forest was broken in one place by a long, ruffled trail that shone like silver; and high above the forest wall a clean-stemmed dead tree waved a single leafy bough that glowed like a flame in the unobstructed splendor that was flowing from the sun. There were graceful curves, reflected images, woody heights, soft distances; and over the whole scene, far and near, the dissolving lights drifted steadily, enriching it, every passing moment, with new marvels of coloring.

I stood like one bewitched. I drank it in, in a speechless rapture. The world was new to me, and I had never seen anything like this at home. But as I have said, a day came when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms which the moon and the sun and the twilight wrought upon the river's face; another day came when I ceased altogether to note them. Then, if that sunset scene had been repeated, I should have looked upon it without rapture, and should have commented upon it, inwardly, after this fashion: This sun means that we are going to have wind to-morrow; that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks to it; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef which is going to kill somebody's steamboat one of these nights, if it keeps on stretching out like that; those tumbling 'boils' show a dissolving bar and a changing channel there; the lines and circles in the slick water over yonder are a warning that that troublesome place is shoaling up dangerously; that silver streak in the shadow of the forest is the 'break' from a new snag, and he has located himself in the very best place he could have found to fish for steamboats; that tall dead tree, with a single living branch, is not going to last long, and then how is a body ever going to get through this blind place at night without the friendly old landmark.

No, the romance and the beauty were all gone from the river. All the value any feature of it had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a steamboat. Since those days, I have pitied doctors from my heart. What does the lovely flush in a beauty's cheek mean to a doctor but a 'break' that ripples above some deadly disease. Are not all her visible charms sown thick with what are to him the signs and symbols of hidden decay? Does he ever see her beauty at all, or doesn't he simply view her professionally, and comment upon her unwholesome condition all to himself? And doesn't he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost most by learning his trade? 



The following is an excerpt from “Serializing the Past: Re-Evaluating History in Mad Men” by Monique Miggelbrink. I've inserted paragraph numbers and put in bold the parts we'll take a closer look at in class.

(From http://ivc.lib.rochester.edu/portfolio/serializing-the-past-re-evaluating-history-in-mad-men/)


In the midst of Mad Men’s first season, Sterling Cooper’s office manager Joan Holloway informs secretary Peggy Olson about her promotion to copy writer. At the end of their conversation, Joan refers to her position as messenger: “Well, you know what they say: the medium is the message.”1 Of course, the viewer can classify this as one of the show’s many anachronisms. We know that Marshall McLuhan’s slogan, which is one of media studies’ essential phrases, became popular in 1964 and not in 1960 as depicted by the show.2 But there is more to that. This famous sentence self-reflexively signifies that Mad Men’s form, its complex serial condition, is central to the way it represents the past. The medium, i.e. Mad Men as contemporary hybrid serial television drama, is the message as it signifies the show’s basic principle of investigating the past. We follow the characters of the fictional Madison Avenue advertising agency Sterling Cooper through their troubled public and private lives, and see them struggling, sometimes even capitulating, in the light of challenging historical times, from episode to episode, from one season to the next—over and over again. At the same time, the chronological order of (historical) events is disrupted by experimental storytelling techniques like narrative gaps and temporal discontinuities. Like both McLuhan and Mad Men, this article explores the relationship between the medium and the message. For Mad Men, it is not simply the televisual form, but the serial televisual form that communicates the show’s message.


Given the show’s focus on the medium, it here quickly becomes apparent that there is a need for new terms in television studies. Following the recent development of primetime television drama’s narrative forms, including Mad Men, but also Lost, The Wire, and The Sopranos, contemporary television drama is now more focused on complex and never-ending storylines, and the links between episodes than on the narrative closure of weekly episodes. So-called ‘quality television’ primetime series are also accompanied by immense academic output, either due to formal considerations or topics addressed. In television companion books, scholars analyze the shows’ non-conventional narratives. Invested in this current televisual phenomenon, Jason Mittell names this “narrative complexity” a key feature of contemporary storytelling in US-American television. Over the course of their development, television series like Mad Men use innovative narrative styles and a self-reflexivity about the forms they employ.3 They become an experimental ground for trying out new modes of storytelling. As the primetime television drama expands serial features and is, therefore, more focused on continuity than on closure, narrative complexity foregrounds the continuity of plots.4 This shift within contemporary primetime programming originating in the United States liberated both the serial and the soap opera from its stigmatizing label as a low-quality daytime format. Heralded in a new form as critically-acclaimed evening dramas,  this ongoing but nevertheless fractured form of storytelling suggests and enables Mad Men’s re-telling and re-evaluating the past.


One possible method for considering the complex relationship between content and form in contemporary television dramas may be drawn from a 1988 article in The American Historical Review in which Hayden White discussed the relationship between history in words—“historiography”—and history in images—“historiophoty.5 White asserts that both forms are not simply marked by difference, as it is often assumed by historians, but are unified in the basic fact that neither can ever depict historical events objectively. Every medium shapes its content according to its own nature, no matter if it speaks the language of the written word or the filmic image.6 Concerning Mad Men, one has to consider its visualization of history and, perhaps even more importantly, its serialization of history as its message. Telling history through the modes of seriality and narrative complexity establishes a deepened narrative scope that is not driven by linearity and closure, but provides space for historical complexity.


So what possibilities are there to transform history in today’s hybrid, multiple storyline serial form? Here, I argue that the hybrid serial form is significant in the way Mad Men chooses to tell its version of the 1960s. As its complex narration features elements of nonlinear storytelling, (historical) events in Mad Men are not presented as a coherent narrative but are marked by dissonance. History itself is negotiated anew as an elliptic experience. Moreover, the serial nature of its storytelling universe provides space for re-telling and re-evaluating history through personalization. The Mad Men narrative offers its audience the opportunity to experience abstract history through the life of different individuals. As we are witnesses of the micro-perspective on 1960s history, we are asked, as viewers, to draw conclusions about the macro-level production of history by historians, textbooks, and a conservative culture. Glen Creeber states that the historical serial, as Mad Men may be considered, is so successful because it is “able to balance and address the ‘personal’ and the ‘political’ within one complex narrative trajectory.”7

We may have time in class to look at how history is personalized in "Meditations in and Emergency" (S2 E13), which you can view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZDSrSgvC6E .

Complex Narration and Hybridization: Multiplying the 1960s


As Sarah Kozloff suggests, television can be described as the essential storyteller of our times.8 Since its rebranding in 2002, AMC has redefined itself as major competitor in the storytelling universe of television, symbolized by its current slogan “Story Matters Here.” Its first original drama series, Mad Men became a cultural phenomenon after the first season aired. In addition to its visual style, a new quality of contemporary primetime drama can be found in its narrative structure. One primary distinction in the narrative structure of serialized television is that between series and serial:

Series refers to those shows whose characters and setting are recycled, but the story concludes in each individual episode. By contrast, in a serial the story and discourse don’t come to a conclusion during an episode, and the threads are picked up again after a given hiatus.9

In the following analysis I refer back to this basic assumption. The television serial, synonymous with the daytime soap opera, features a continuous narrative. Though the series also offers its viewers a consistency with regard to setting and characters, it gives prominence to discontinuity in narration as each single episode presents a self-contained storyworld. In general, the series signifies the neglecting of episodic memory, whereas the serial denotes the materialization of episodic memory.


With regard to contemporary programming, however, it is no longer useful to strictly differentiate between both forms of storytelling. Rather, it is crucial to show how flexibility and fluidity characterize new narrative forms. British television scholar Robin Nelson coined the term “flexi-narrative” to explain the hybridization of the contemporary television drama as a “mixture of the series ‘plot-resolution model,’ the serial’s ‘extended story over several episodes’ and the soap’s ‘on-going narrative.’”10 This concept is also highly relevant to the discussion of Mad Men.


Elements of continuation clearly prevail in the show. Some storylines are expanded over several episodes while others are temporarily forgotten and then referred back to and modified in later episodes. Narrative enigmas—described by Jeremy Butler as the core of serial programming—remain unsolved over the course of whole seasons.11 Don Draper’s true identity as Dick Whitman, for example, is a central mystery of the first three seasons’ storytelling universe. Don’s reluctance to talk about his childhood is a continuing storyline that gains depth throughout the serial narration. This is exemplified in a conversation with his colleague Roger Sterling and their wives, in which Don evades the topic in a comical way: “I can’t tell you about my childhood. It would ruin the first half of my novel.”12 But at this stage of the program, it is already obvious that there is no need for a Don Draper autobiography. Serial narration in the contemporary television serial is richer in detail and character drawing than any life depicted in print.13 In Mad Men’s diegetic universe, anyway, Don would never approve of a novel based on his story. Rather, he has gotten used to employ humor and self-assurance as a means to conceal his fear of getting caught living under a false identity.


Nevertheless, three episodes later, viewers witness the sudden appearance of a central link to Don’s secret past, his brother Adam Whitman. Don tells Adam that he must have mistaken him for someone else, as he wants his brother to believe that he died in Korea.14. In a second meeting, Don finally states that they can’t have a relationship again as he has taken on another life and identity.15 In order to deepen the enigma of Don’s past, the show features flashbacks to his youth and life as a young man. There are several fragments depicting his family life on a farm16 and his time as a soldier in the Korean War.17 Various flashbacks into the elusive main character’s time as a car salesman and his relationship with the real Don Draper’s widow, Anna Draper, cast light upon his identity change.18 It is not until the end of season three that Betty finally discovers her husband’s secret past and confronts him.19 Still, for the audience, Don’s past remains an ongoing suspenseful storyline.


The course and outcome of Peggy Olson’s pregnancy is another story arc that remains mostly unsolved several seasons into production. At the end of season one, Peggy has visibly gained weight, but her pregnancy is not made explicit until the season’s finale.20 In a subsequent episode, a flashback in which her mother and sister, and later on Don, visit her in a hospital shortly after she gave birth illuminates the missing parts of this particular storyline.21 But again, the audience is largely left in the dark about the primal sequence of events. Such enigmas—which are caused by narrative gaps—postpone the closure of storylines. Rather, as the story arcs involving Don and Peggy illustrate, one enigma seems to give cause to the next.


As Sean O’Sullivan suggests, Mad Men’s serial narrative is ambivalent in nature. It stages a central conflict between narrative coherence with regard to its characters and events and, at the same time, features elements of discontinuity through alterations of formula as well as in time and space.22 Likewise, Glen Creeber describes the merger of the series and the serial as “small screen hybridization,” and simultaneously declares the triumph of the serial form within contemporary programming.23 As he explains, “television drama now has a ‘soap-like’ quality to it,” as the serial form has become more flexible.24 Thus, the Mad Men narrative seems potentially endless.


Apart from its ongoing serial storylines, Mad Men also features the elements of a series. In the midst of many unresolved and mysterious narrative threads, music gives the audience a sense of episodic closure. The sound accompanying the ending credits—realized through instrumentals, original music from the 1960s, contemporary pop songs, diegetic noise or just silence—displays a more or less intense culmination for and commentary on the contents of the discrete episode. In this regard, the show uses music toward narrative functions to bring episodes to an implicit end. The episode “Babylon”, for example, concludes with Don and his mistress Midge attending a performance of the song “Babylon” in a Greenwich Village bar. The old folk song, based on Psalm 137, was adapted and released by the singer-songwriter Don McLean in 1971. The lyrics deal with Jewish exile in Babylon and the quest for unity and match the counterculture setting of the sequence perfectly well. While the song establishes a melancholic atmosphere, it comments on an accompanying montage. Viewers see Rachel Menken, whom Don had courted earlier in the episode, folding ties in her department store, Betty putting on lipstick on her daughter, Sally, each of them absorbed in thought and calmness. While Don is listening intently to the song, Roger and Joan, engaged in a long-term affair, are departing a hotel room, leaving like strangers. The music unites these fragmented images through its affect and tone, highlighting the theme of loneliness. At the end, the song fades into diegetic traffic noise, and finally into silence.


An additional element of closure is given in the episode titles. As discussed above with regard to the music, “Babylon” focuses on Jewishness, exile and the feeling of isolation in general. These subject matters are also broached in other episodes, but not as intensely as here. In order to prepare a presentation for the Israeli Tourism account, Don and his colleagues have, comically enough, compiled “research material,” including the bestselling novel Exodus and a copy of the Old Testament.26 In an attempt to find out more about Judaism, Don seeks advice from Rachel Menken, a Jewish client. Over lunch, she tells him about Jewish exile from Babylon and throughout the world.27 The theme of exile extends beyond the physical exile experienced by the Israelites and later Jews, the subject to Don and Rachel’s conversation, but speaks to the self-exile, remaking of self, and dissociation experienced by various characters throughout the episode. The title “Babylon” therefore functions not as a capsule or definition, but as a hint to specific topics that are addressed with in singular episodes, here speaking to the latent feelings of alienation that defined American postwar culture. Even with continuing plot lines, the episode simultaneously functions as an individual capsule.

In class we'll look at Rachel and the theme of isolation in "Babylon" (S1 E6). This episode also contains the Belle Jolie scene which Cox uses extensively.


Thus, as this analysis of Mad Men’s narrative structure has shown, it features serial as well as series elements. Though music and episode titles function as significant elements of closure, Mad Men’s most prevailing narrative characteristic is not that of the series, but the ongoing story arcs of the serial. To this point, Mad Menfeatures many instances of what Mittell calls “the narrative special effect.” It is a hybrid period drama. This break with conventional television storytelling “push[es] the operational aesthetic to the foreground, calling attention to the constructed nature of the narration.”28 To elucidate Mad Men’s possibilities for analyzing history, I’ll take a closer look at the techniques of its complex narration.

1.        “Babylon.” Episode 1.06. Mad Men. 35. min. 

2.        Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. 1964 Reprint (London: Routledge, 2005), 7. 

3.        Jason Mittell, “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television”, The Velvet Light Trap 58 (2006): 39. 

4.        Ibid., 32. 

5.        Hayden White, “Historiography and Historiophoty”, The American Historical Review 93.5 (1988): 1193.

6.        Ibid., 1194. 

7.        Glen Creeber, Serial Television. Big Drama on the Small Screen (London: BFI Publications, 2004), 13f. 

8.        Sarah Kozloff, “Narrative Theory and Television”, in Channels of Discourse, Reassembled: Television and Contemporary Criticism second edition, ed. Robert C. Allen (New York: Routledge, 1992), 67.

9.        Ibid., 91. 

10.     Robin Nelson, “TV Drama: ‘Flexi-Narrative’ Form and ‘a New Affective Order’,” in Mediatized Drama/Dramatized Media, ed. Eckart Voigts-Virchow (Trier: WVT, 2000), 115. 

11.     Jeremy Butler, Television. Critical Methods and Applications (London: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002), 29. 

12.     “Ladies Room.” Episode 1.02. Mad Men. 2. min. 

13.     Ironically, Roger Sterling’s fictive memoirs were published as an item of Mad Men merchandise. This self-reflexive comment is another reference to a cross-media comparison between the television serial and the novel. Sterling’s Gold: Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Men (New York: Grove/Atlantic, 2010). 

14.     “5G”. Episode 1.05. Mad Men. 15. min. 

15.     Ibid., 18. min. 

16.     See for example “The Hobo Code.” Episode 1.08. Mad Men. 24. min., 35 min.; “Out of Town.” Episode 3.01. Mad Men. 1. min.; “Shut the Door. Have a Seat.” Episode 3.13. Mad Men. 3. min. 

17.     See for example “Nixon vs. Kennedy.” Episode 1.12. Mad Men. 25. min., 38. min. 

18.     See for example “The Gold Violin.” Episode 2.07. Mad Men. 2. min.; “The Mountain King.” Episode 2.12.Mad Men. 7. min., 22. min., 32. min 

19.     “The Color Blue”. Episode 3.10. Mad Men. 28. min. 

20.     “The Wheel.” Episode 1.13. Mad Men. 43. min.

21.     “The New Girl.” Episode 2.05. Mad Men. 26. min, 39. min. 

22.     Sean O’Sullivan, “Space Ships and Time Machines: Mad Men and the Serial Condition”, in Mad Men: Dream Come True TV, ed. Gary R. Edgerton (London: I. B. Tauris, 2011), 120. 

23.     Creeber, Serial Television, 11f. 

24.     Ibid., 12. 

25.     “Babylon.” Episode 1.06. Mad Men. 42. min. 

26.     Ibid., 15. min. 

27.     Ibid. 28. min. 

28.     Mittell, “Narrative Complexity,” 35. 

29.     “Seven Twenty Three.” Episode 3.07. Mad Men. 1. min. 



“Stillbirth of the American Dream,”  by Heather Havrilesky (Salon, July, 2010). Please note that I've inserted paragraph numbers for easier reference, put certain parts in bold, and put some names in caps. 


Americans are constantly in search of an upgrade. It’s a sickness that’s infused into our blood, a dissatisfaction with the ordinary that’s instilled in us from childhood. Instead of staying connected to the divine beauty and grace of everyday existence — the glimmer of sunshine on the grass, the blessing of a cool breeze on a summer day — we’re instructed to hope for much more. Having been told repeated stories about the fairest in the land, the most powerful, the richest, the most heroic (Snow White, Pokémon, Ronald McDonald, Lady Gaga), eventually we buy into these creation myths and concede their overwhelming importance in the universe. Slowly we come to view our own lives as inconsequential, grubby, even intolerable.


Meanwhile, the American dream itself — a house, a job, a car, a family, a little lawn for the kids to frolic on — has expanded into something far broader and less attainable than ever. Crafty insta-celebrities and self-branding geniuses and social media gurus assert that submitting to the daily grind to pay the mortgage constitutes a meager existence. Books like “The 4-Hour Work Week” tell us that working the same job for years is for suckers. We should be paid handsomely for our creative talents, we should have the freedom to travel and live wherever we like, our children should be exposed to the wonders of the globe at an early age.


In other words, we’re always falling short, no matter what our resources, and we pass this discontent to our offspring. And so millions of aspiring 3-year-old princesses hum “Someday my prince will come!” to themselves, turning their backs on the sweetness of the day at hand.


Maybe this is why AMC’s hit series Mad Men (premieres 10 p.m. Sunday, July 25) resonates so clearly at this point in history, when the promise of the boom years has given way to two wars, a stubborn recession and a string of calamities that threaten to damage our way of life irreparably. Somehow Mad Men captures this ultra-mediated, postmodern moment, underscoring the disconnect between the American dream and reality by distilling our deep-seated frustrations as a nation into painfully palpable vignettes. Even as the former denizens of Sterling Cooper unearth a groundswell of discontent beneath the skin-deep promises of adulthood, they keep struggling to concoct chirpy advertising messages that provide a creepily fantastical backdrop to this modern tragedy. DON (Jon Hamm) sighs deeply and unlocks the door to his lonely apartment, PEGGY (Elisabeth Moss) whiles away her waking hours trading casual quips with co-workers, but happiness is still just a shiny kitchen floor or a sexy bikini or a cigarette away.


As the American dream is packaged for mass consumption, these isolated characters find themselves unnerved by its costs. Alternating between befuddled breadwinner and longing lothario, Don has finally put his ambivalence toward Betty (January Jones) behind him: He’s leaving his marriage and focusing on the new ad firm as his true passion, just as we saw at the end of the third season. But can someone as conflicted as Don commit wholeheartedly to anything? Not surprisingly, the premiere seems to suggest that Don may not feel comfortable yielding his entire life to his career. And now that he’s free to pursue any woman he wants, instead of focusing on a woman whose intellect matches his own (like so many of his lovers, from Midge to Rachel to Suzanne the schoolteacher), Don appears likely to be drawn in by the same manipulative style of femininity that Betty embodied.


Of course, Roger Sterling (John Slattery) has always provided a sort of an omen of where Don was headed, hence their volatile relationship. Roger also has a somewhat childish habit of falling for anyone who makes him feel powerful. First there was Joan (Christina Hendricks), whose standoffish charms sometimes obscure the fact that she’s the most adaptive, resilient and personally effective character on the show, and next there was Jane (Peyton List), a character who could just as easily be called That Crying Girl, who’s developed into more of a high-maintenance daughter to Roger than a real partner.


Roger and Don may represent the wildly fluctuating fortunes bequeathed to the masters of the universe: Told that they can have everything they want, these two are haunted by a constant desire for more. But what variety of more will suit them this time? The answer typically — and somewhat tragically — seems to spring out of impulse and ego and fear more often than any real self-reflection or wisdom.


BETTY represents the female version of this lack of foresight, and as the fourth season develops, the arbitrary nature of her recent decisions starts to become more apparent. Showing her usual startling lack of insight, Betty smoothes over bumps in the road with Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) while lashing out at her daughter, Sally (Kiernan Shipka). Betty has always had a life that’s built around men, but she entirely lacks Joan’s wisdom, survival instincts and compassion, and instead tends to resort to the foot-stomping of a petulant child. But what else can you expect from someone whose closest relations — overbearing father, paternal but deceitful husband — have consistently rewarded her for quietly, obediently playing along with their games?


Having taken the opposite path in life, Peggy represents the victories (and defeats, and insults) of the single career girl. At the start of Season 4, Peggy appears more committed to this path than ever, and she’s growing much more resilient and unflappable in the face of her co-workers’ personal slights. Nonetheless, we’ll surely see many of the fairy tales PEGGY has been forced to give up along the way. Likewise, selling a kittenish flavor of femininity and sex while asserting your own power can’t be an easy tightrope to walk for Peggy, and it’s this uncomfortable spot that makes her one of the show’s most riveting characters.


The ambition and conflicted desires of these characters in their pursuit of happiness is what makes “Mad Men” such a singular and resonant reflection of a particularly American puzzle. But even as it strains to capture the transformation of the American dream into a commodity that can be bought and sold, Mad Men itself is the ultimate, endlessly marketable über-brand: Everyone and everything is gorgeous to the point of luminosity, a pitch-perfect reflection of the times that’s been polished to such a high gloss that it upstages our hazy memories of that era completely. The terse exchanges, the sly banter, even the lighthearted quips dance over the mundane drudgery of workplace interactions like mean-spirited sprites. Bourbon glistens among ice cubes in immaculate glasses, fire engine red lipstick frames heartbreakingly white teeth, fingers tap perkily on typewriters as young men amble by, their slumped shoulders hidden behind the heroic cut of their tailored suits. Don Draper’s unmoving cap of hair gleams like a beacon, sending some Morse code straight to female brain stems, stirring long-buried childhood notions about one day having a husband who looks just like a Ken doll.


Behind the impeccable facade, of course, we see the longing in Pete Campbell’s (Vincent Kartheiser) tired face, we see the fear in Betty’s eyes as she sits down to dinner with her brand-new mother-in-law. The lovely details of this fantasy — the hairstyles, the costumes and the props that come with the dream — occasionally fail to obscure the confused humans who straighten their shoulders and dry their eyes and take the stage day after day, dutifully mouthing lines about the thrills of work and family, all of it the invented, peppy rhetoric of laundry detergent jingles.


This is the genius of Mad Men, its dramatic reenactment of the disconnect between the dream of dashing heroes and their beautiful wives, living in style among adorable, adoring children, and the much messier reality of struggling to play a predetermined role without an organic relationship to your surroundings or to yourself. We’re drawn to Mad Men week after week because each and every episode asks us, What’s missing from this pretty picture?


What’s missing on both a personal and a broader scale is empathy, of course — embodied most gruesomely in the lawn mower accident last season, but also wrapped up in the sharp edicts Don and Betty issue to their children, in the distracted insults Don aims at Peggy, in the self-involved funk of Joan’s doctor fiancé, in the cruelty that springs from Pete’s existential desperation. While Mad Men’s detractors often decry the empty sheen of it all, claiming that it has no soul, clearly that’s the point. The American dream itself is a carefully packaged, soulless affair. This is the automobile a man of your means should drive. This is the liquor a happy homemaker like yourself should serve to your husband’s business guests. As absurd as it seems to cobble together a dream around a handful of consumer goods, that’s precisely what the advertising industry did so effectively in the ’50s and ’60s, until we couldn’t distinguish our own desires from the desires ascribed to us by professional manipulators, suggesting antidotes for every real or imagined malady, supplying escapist fantasies to circumvent the supposedly unbearable tedium of ordinary life. In show creator Matthew Weiner’s telling, the birth of the advertising age coincides directly with the birth of our discontent as a nation — and what got lost in the hustle was our souls.


The American Dream (From Wikipedia):

The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. [1]

The American Dream is rooted in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that "all men are created equal" with the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." [2]


The meaning of the "American Dream" has changed over the course of history, and includes both personal components (such as home ownership and upward mobility) and a global vision. Historically the Dream originated in the mystique regarding frontier life. As the Governor of Virginia noted in 1774, the Americans "for ever imagine the Lands further off are still better than those upon which they are already settled". He added that, "if they attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west". [3]

20th century

Freelance writer James Truslow Adams popularized the phrase "American Dream" in his 1931 book Epic of America:

But there has been also the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position... The American dream, that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of merely material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been much more than that. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class. [1]

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (1963) rooted the civil rights movement in the African-American quest for the American Dream:

We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands ... when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. [4]


1. Library of Congress. American Memory. "What is the American Dream?", lesson plan.

2. Kamp, David (April 2009). "Rethinking the American Dream". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on May 30, 2009. Retrieved June 20, 2009.

3. Lord Dunmore to Lord Dartmouth, December 24, 1774, quoted in John Miller, Origins of the American Revolution (1944) p. 77

4. Quoted in James T. Kloppenberg, The Virtues of Liberalism (1998) p. 147



“So Much Woman: Female Objectification, Narrative Complexity, and Feminist Temporality in AMC’s Mad Men

By Fiona Cox. From Invisible Culture, Issue 17. http://ivc.lib.rochester.edu/so-much-woman-female-objectification-narrative-complexity-and-feminist-temporality-in-amcs-mad-men/ Please note that I've inserted paragraph numbers for easier reference. In your essay, refer to the paragraph number -- i.e . (Cox 13) = paragraph 13.


In February 2011, in anticipation of the release of the fourth season of US TV drama Mad Men on DVD, The New York Review of Books published a review by Daniel Mendelsohn. In what is a predominantly scathing assessment, Mendelsohn decries AMC’s critically revered series—set in Manhattan in the early 1960s and centering on fictional advertising agency Sterling Cooper1—for what he argues is its hypocrisy in offering up “an alluring historical fantasy of a time before the present era’s seemingly endless prohibitions against pleasures once taken for granted.”2 The show’s hypocrisy, Mendelsohn feels, stems from its eroticization of that which it also seems to intend as shocking.  In his words:

to invite an audience to feel superior to a less enlightened era even as it teases the regressive urges behind the behaviors associated with that era strikes me as the worst possible offense that can be committed in a creative work set in the past: it’s simultaneously contemptuous and pandering.3

I would like to unpick one of the areas Mendelsohn holds up for criticism: the representation of women in Mad Men. The paradox he outlines with regards to pandering and contempt can be considered, in this instance, not to be hypocritical but instead to gradually but actively encourage a feminist perspective in the viewer. Taking into account the four seasons aired thus far, the teasing of “regressive urges” Mendelsohn points out is revealed as a central feature of an extended deconstruction of female objectification: a damning critique that gains momentum over the course of the series.4 There are certainly many occasions of this particular form of sexism both within the diegesis and the mise-en-scène of Mad Men. The glamour of objectified women—beautifully dressed, perfectly coiffed, and wielding sexual power over men—is a major part of the drama’s signature style.  The visual appearance of these women has been celebrated in the popular press for adhering to traditionally gendered modes of dress, and has inspired a retro fashion trend in high street stores, with designs for women mimicking the tightly fitted and brightly colored outfits featured by the show.5  Yet the women of Mad Men are repeatedly shown to suffer because of their position within a gendered hierarchy that positions females primarily as the tantalizing focus of a desiring male gaze.  Joan Holloway (later, Joan Harris), played by Christina Hendricks, begins the series as the most tantalizing vision of all, achieving a form of power by deliberately offering her body up to the male gaze as erotic spectacle. However, Mad Men then proceeds to enact a subtle, protracted criticism of this self-objectification, steadily chipping away at its power and appeal over time. While the surface pleasures the series offers might entice audiences, the enduring nature of the show’s appeal could be said to stem not from its glamorous representation of women as sexual objects but rather from the ways in which it questions female roles, complicating audience investment in the objectification for which Mad Men is both celebrated and reviled. This article proposes that, while Mendelsohn is correct in recognizing the ostensibly oppositional tactics within Mad Men’s representation of women—especially visible within the depiction of Joan—the co-existence of the dual appeals he names is neither truly hypocritical nor an “offense”. An examination of Joan’s representation and narrative arc over the first four seasons reveals a complex use of the prolonged temporality of the narrative which has deeply feminist consequences.


Jason Mittell notes that, as opposed to feature films, serial television can make use of its extended temporal form, allowing storylines to unfold over an expanded period of time to form what he calls “narrative complexity”.6 “Rejecting the need for plot closure within every episode”, he writes, “narrative complexity foregrounds ongoing stories.”7 Such a format “encourages”, Mittell argues “and even at times necessitates, a new mode of viewer engagement”, rewarding long-term audiences.8  Mad Men creator, Matthew Weiner, who spent time prior to the production of the AMC series working on TV shows such as Becker (CBS, USA, 1998-2004)and Andy Richter Controls the Universe (Fox Network, USA, 2002-2004), has expressed personal dissatisfaction with his former engagement with the formulaic, simplified format of the 30 minute sitcom.9 Having later worked as a writer for HBO’s greatly acclaimed drama The Sopranos (USA, 1999-2007), Weiner has credited the latter show—one of Mittell’s primary examples of narrative complexity—with giving him “the confidence to tell subtle stories”.10 He has also been vocal about his feminist ideals, noting “the most exciting idea going on intellectually when I was in college was feminism… [T]hose were my politics”, and declaring gender roles to be “both an intellectual and personal interest of mine” when he was writing the series.11 Bearing the mark of its creator’s narrative preferences and personal politics, Mad Men makes use of its protracted structure to question the objectification contained within its diegesis, offering nuanced storylines which gradually complicate audience pleasures surrounding female representation which are set up in the first season.  Joan, the ultimate erotic spectacle when the series opens, suffers a series of humiliations, shocks and disappointments over several years as the narrative unfolds.  These events trouble her initial positioning as fêted sexual object, providing the groundwork for a long-term critique of her inhabitation of that role.  Aiding the developing critique, Joan’s sexual power eventually dwindles, undermining the sexist objectification so prevalent in the show’s 1960s milieu and which, as Mendelsohn complains, holds appeal for contemporary viewers.  Her investment in femininity as a means of professional manipulation is contrasted with the more progressive Peggy Olsen, played by Elisabeth Moss, who has an entirely different outlook on life, preferring to use her brain rather than her body to achieve goals.  As the series progresses, Peggy’s successive triumphs and Joan’s increasingly compromised position add to the critique of the latter’s manipulative tactics.  Analysis of this overall strategy within Mad Men reveals not only what I believe to be clear feminist intentions within the text, which steadily deconstructs the female objectification it so famously showcases, but also strongly feminist critical possibilities contained within the very format of the series. 

Step one: objectifying Joan


In order to provide an overview of Mad Men’s gradual critique of Joan’s objectification, we must first outline her presentation in early episodes. From the moment she is introduced, it is clear Joan is a woman of her particular era, not yet engaged in the second-wave feminist movement but embracing the precursors of the sexual revolution, reveling in the freedoms and opportunities on offer. Weiner has spoken of drawing inspiration from Helen Gurley Brown’s work when writing for Hendricks’ character.12 Gurley Brown’s playful and frank manuscript, Sex and the Single Girl, published in 1962, instructs single women on how best to navigate the public sphere.  Much of the advice she proffers concerns behavior towards the opposite sex, typically revolving around exploiting sexuality for personal gain.  “Sex”, she declares, “is a powerful weapon for a single woman in getting what she wants from life…”13 While Joan could not have read the book by March of 1960, the time the pilot is set, Weiner has admitted ignoring the dates slightly. He acknowledges the influence the book had on Joan’s character and remarks that Gurley Brown’s—and Joan’s—ethos was to “use your sexuality to get everything you can”.14 There are many aspects of Gurley Brown’s advice discernable within Joan’s early characterization.  For example, Joan regards sex as a tool of manipulation, deeming feminine sensual display necessary in the workplace. Her belief in sex appeal as professional requirement is made immediately apparent during her opening dialogue in the pilot episode.  Providing a brief orientation on Peggy’s first day as a secretary at Sterling Cooper, Joan’s career advice to the new employee comes in the form of instructions on what to wear to appeal to men. She notes that “Men love scarves” and suggests that Peggy place a paper bag over her own head and stand before a mirror to assess her aesthetic strengths and weaknesses, then accentuate her figure accordingly.15 This advice, while recognizably Gurley Brown’s, seems to have been adapted not from Sex and the Single Girl but from a passage in the writer’s later book Sex and the Office, published in 1964:

An editor of Ladies’ Home Journal… suggests you put a sack over your head with two holes cut out for eyes when you do this figure analysis… Once you understand your figure—what you really look like—you’re more apt to reach for the clothes that will flatter it.16

The use of a second book by the same author emphasizes the influence of the writer’s work in Weiner’s conception of the character, as well as Joan’s strong investment in the particular pre-second-wave-feminist moment of sexual freedom signified by Gurley Brown’s work.


In the pilot episode, Joan jokes that making the right moves in the office centers on finding a man to marry, ostensibly pinpointing matrimony as the pinnacle of success for a woman. Later, she appears to buy into this when she marries and leaves the firm with the intention of becoming a full time homemaker.17 However, given that the man in the office with whom Joan is occasionally sexually involved (Sterling Cooper partner Roger Sterling, played by John Slattery) is already married, the goal of her emphasis on sex appeal in the office does not seem to be wedded bliss. Gurley Brown saw sexuality as a tool women could use to gain power in the early 1960s professional arena, which belittled female intellectual prowess but championed their erotic potential:

In an ideal world we might move onwards and upwards by using only our brains and talent but, since this is an imperfect world, a certain amount of listening, giggling, wriggling, smiling, winking, flirting and fainting is required in our rise from the mailroom…18

Instead of chasing a husband, Joan appears to adhere to Gurley Brown’s advice on utilizing sex appeal as a career enhancer, dressing well and flirting often to please men as part of a professional strategy. Her conviction that being sexually attractive to males is central to female success in the workplace remains evident in the ninth episode of the first season when she chastises Peggy for putting on weight. Asking ‘Don’t you want to do well here?’, Joan reveals her continued belief that maintaining one’s figure and career progress are inextricably linked.19


Early on in the narrative, Mad Men appears to celebrate Joan’s investment in Gurley Brown’s recommended methods, highlighting and rewarding moments of sensual display. She is unabashedly presented as an erotic spectacle by the script, mise-en-scène, and the character herself.  In the first season, Mad Men frequently and prominently showcases Hendricks’ curvaceous body, which is highlighted by era-appropriate foundation garments and tight dresses. Joan’s signature gold pen necklace draws attention to Hendricks’ sizable breasts, dangling between them on a long chain, and the actress’ in-character walk makes much use of swaying hips and buttocks.


In addition to costume designer Janie Bryant’s designs and the actress’ sultry onscreen physicality, Mad Men capitalizes on Hendricks’ appearance by eroticizing her figure via camerawork.  As Mendelsohn points out, “the camera glides over Joan’s gigantic bust and hourglass hips”, frequently reframing to observe her retreating figure as she walks away.20 Jeremy Butler notes, in his article ‘’Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’: Historicizing Visual Style inMad Men’, that low camera angles highlight Joan’s curves by contrasting them with the fluorescent lighting grids in the visible ceiling, “emphasizing”, he argues, “how her masquerade of femininity is the source of her power”.21 The most sexually revered of the women employees at Sterling Cooper, she is also the female with the most authority, running the administrative side of the agency with precision and aplomb: hiring and firing secretaries, holding the key to the supply closet, and instantly solving any problem. Her mastery over her appearance and her professional domain thus seem connected, so that early episodes seem to encourage audience admiration for Joan’s self-objectification.


Hendricks’ buttocks are obviously fetishized—both within the diegesis and for the audience—in her outrageously unsubtle display during a focus group for Sterling Cooper client Belle Jolie lipsticks.22 A veritable knock-out in a form-fitting, red dress, Joan bends forward over a table and pushes her hips backwards as she stubs out a cigarette, offering a hidden group of men on the other side of a two-way mirror an isolated view of her tightly-clad behind (Fig. 2.1, top image). Joan’s visual offering is picked out by the camera, her generously-sized rump filling the frame as her coquettish move cues playful jazz music on the soundtrack. The scene brings to mind Laura Mulvey’s writing on scopophilia (“pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight”).23 Certainly, Joan personifies Mulvey’s term “to-be-looked-at-ness” in this scene, and in many early episodes, encouraging the audience to engage, whether consciously or not, with a form of scopophilia.24 Hendricks herself acknowledges this: “When Joan is walking somewhere,” she explains, “she wants to make sure at least one person’s watching her.”25 In their article, “The Best of Everything: The Limits of Being a Working Girl in Mad Men”, Kim Akass and Janet McCabe offer an analysis of Joan as a prime example of Mulvey’s “Woman as Image, Man as Bearer of the Look” thesis.26  They cite the rear-view shot in question as exemplification of Mulvey’s “circuits of pleasure in looking, split between ‘active/male and passive/female’…”27 As their article points out, in this moment Joan ostensibly adheres to Mulvey’s analysis of female roles as erotic spectacle, her display momentarily interrupting the narrative, working “against the development of a storyline” as we temporarily abandon the task at hand—secretaries trying on lipstick—to observe her sensual display and the reaction it provokes.28 One young man, clearly reveling in the image before him, stands and salutes Joan’s posterior from behind the two-way mirror.


The scene is reminiscent of one Gurley Brown passage in particular, which seems to pin down Joan’s visually centered career success strategy, mirroring not only her sartorial style but also the many shots in early episodes that focus on her womanly shape:

A formfitting wool dress… hugging the figure everywhere… makes you sexy… This dress would zip all the way down the back, from which it is a great angle for your co-workers to view you. (I hope you check all of your clothes for this back intrigue.) When you walk out of his office, you know very well his eyes won’t make contact with that report you left on his desk until you’re well out of sight.29

This advice is part of a list instructing women in “What to wear to be especially sexy” when it becomes necessary to use “secret weapons” (sex appeal) to “move immovable objects’” (men).30  It is significant here that men, and not women, are viewed as “objects”.  While certainly a scopophilic moment, the Babylon shot in question does more than merely halt the narrative to objectify Joan’s figure, also showing her in the process of maintaining her professional power. Her actions show that she is very conscious of the effect her body can have on those who desire her, given her awareness that she is being watched by a group of men, including Roger.  Flirting, she exercises erotic power over the group, and the salute—while playful—demonstrates that her technique is effective. Joan’s knowledge of her male audience, owing to her senior position in comparison with the other women, sets her apart from the secretaries in the room, who are being unwittingly observed and cruelly critiqued.  Able to see only their own reflections, they lack the power and control Joan possesses at that moment.  Instead of being positioned purely as a passive scopophilic object, Joan actively takes possession of the male gaze, deliberately directing it towards herself in a bid for power and influence over them. Because her sensual display is enjoyed by the on-screen male audience, as well as glamorized by the camerawork and score accompanying the scene, audiences are encouraged to view such tactics as fun and positive: the secret of Joan’s professional success.


Mirroring Joan’s objectification, Christina Hendricks has become an international sex symbol since the series has aired. Presented to television audiences via a series that eroticizes her appearance, the actress has become renowned for her voluptuous figure, relatively unusual in a culture and industry which generally reward thin women. In September 2010, British GQ called her “The sexiest woman on television”.31 Typical article titles in the popular press, punning on her generous proportions, include “Ahead of the Curves”, “Dangerous Curves”, and “Woman of the Hourglass”’32 Her body has become a frequent object of public discussion, with much speculation over whether the actress has undergone breast augmentation, although Hendricks has denied having surgery.33 She has complained about this focus on her body, noting:

I’m on what I think is the best TV show there is right now and everyone’s always talking about my boobs… I’m definitely ready for someone to be like, “She’s the most amazing actress ever!” That would be nice.34

Judging from the positive reaction in the press, the appeal of Joan/Hendricks’ objectification in Mad Men is strong, demonstrating how this particular form of sexism is still an acceptable part of mainstream western society.35 For Those Who Think Young, the first episode of season two, seems to play on this erotic appeal so appreciated by audiences, recalling the isolated close-up rear-view shot from Babylon. The opening shot of the second season seems to reference the earlier scene by beginning with the camera pointed at Hendricks’ rear end, panning upwards as she fastens a different—yet very similar—tight red sheath dress. The visual echo reminds the long-term viewer of the earlier outfit and the provocative antics that took place while Joan was wearing it.  The upbeat music accompanying the shot invites us to ‘twist again, like we did last year.’ The sequence works as an inside joke for invested audiences aware of the frequent positioning of Hendricks’ posterior as erotic spectacle, referencing and exploiting the fact that looking at her figure is a major pleasure offered by the show. The lyrics offer a meta-textual assurance that this pleasure will be revisited in the second season. That pleasure, however, is soon troubled, as it is within the second season that viewer enjoyment of Joan’s objectification becomes highly problematic. As the series progresses, it becomes clear that the erotic spectacle of the shot in Babylon is, in fact, part of a feminist narrative trajectory that details the decline in Joan’s sexual power, plotting her dwindling erotic appeal against fluctuations in her career so the audience is forced to question her formerly celebrated tactics.  Joan’s waning ability to gain a form of power over men by utilizing sexual display retrospectively imbues the scene in Babylon—and occasions like it—with increasing significance, serving as a point of comparison during later moments of erotic and professional successes and failures.

Step two: undermining Joan’s objectification through progressive humiliations


The critique of Joan’s objectification happens gradually, detectable even while she is at the height of her scopophilic powers.  While the lingering camera seems to be celebrating how mouth-watering Hendricks looks in her tight, bright ensembles, her character suffers a series of small humiliations that indicate her Gurley Brown tactics are flawed.  For example, in the fifth episode of the second season, The New Girl, secretary Jane Siegel, played by Peyton List, beats Joan at her own game of erotic display. Pretending not to notice the attention she is garnering, Jane displays her chest for nearby appreciative men (another “How to be Especially Sexy” tip: “If you’re small-bosomed, wear a pretty, lacy bra and leave your blouse unbuttoned one button below where it usually is.”36).  Joan, usually very covered up despite the unsubtle nature of her Babylon display, admonishes the younger woman, expressing disappointment at the tactics.37  In a later episode, having been fired by Joan in an unrelated incident, the younger woman uses her feminine wiles to her advantage on Roger, by now Joan’s ex-lover, crying in his office in order to get herself reinstated.38 Joan is humiliatingly outmaneuvered by a woman following a set of rules similar to her own and, apparently, possessing more erotic capital. Beaten at her own game, with her inferior position to her male boss reinforced and drawn to the fore, Joan must swallow her pride and remain silent.


However, as Bruce Handy notes in his article on the series in Vanity FairMad Men is a show in which “the silences, of which there are many, speak loudest”.39 It is during such a moment of silence that we are invited to understand that, while Joan may well be comfortable with her position in the world—deliberately utilizing her own objectification in pursuit of personal gain—her moral comfort with that position does not necessarily translate to the physical.  A shot towards the end of the season two episode A Night to Remember privileges us with the sight of Joan at home, seated on her bed.40  Alone, she gently rubs her left shoulder where the straps of her brassiere dig in. The scene gains poignancy in relation to the fact that, earlier in the episode, a nervous co-worker deems her “so much woman”, explicitly drawing attention to the strong scopophilic appeal of her generous proportions. Playfully showcasing Joan’s figure in early episodes, Mad Men revels in her curves, objectifying the character by presenting her as visual spectacle.  In contrast, during this brief, quiet moment in A Night to Remember, the celebrated object becomes the suffering subject. Mad Men initially allows the audience to enjoy Joan’s sensual appearance and behavior, yet by introducing scenes like this the series troubles its own light-hearted presentation of Hendricks’ body as an unproblematic focus of erotic attention. The long-term viewer familiar with Mad Men’s previous celebratory representation of Joan is gently encouraged to gain a new perspective on the appealing image she more typically presents, invited to consider something more than surface pleasures. Being “so much woman” is physically painful, and while the appreciative co-worker—and Mad Men audience—might enjoy the sight of Joan’s breasts, they are a very real burden to her (Fig. 3). A shift seems to be occurring in the silence, following which celebration of her erotic appeal is thwarted by the televisual text.  For example, despite the visibility of Joan’s underwear in this scene, it is not a moment of scopophilic spectacle.  Instead, we are offered an opportunity for reflection; a brief shot in which to consider Joan as a subject for whom investment in her own objectification has negative consequences.


The episode in which this scene occurs marks the beginning of a turning point in Mad Men’s representation of Hendricks’ character. Until season two, Joan appears in a position of control within the office, and when she is at home she holds power over her roommate Carol, played by Kate Norby. However, two storylines that emerge in A Night to Remember begin to seriously trouble the surface pleasures and apparent power of Joan’s image.  First, taking on additional responsibilities at Sterling Cooper, she helps the Television Department by vetting scripts for advertisers. Gently but clearly outshining Harry Crane, played by Rich Sommer, whom she is supposedly assisting, Joan notably “impresses a group of men with something other than her looks”.41 However, when the episode introduces us to her fiancé, Greg Harris, played by Sam Page, he belittles her work, saying “I thought you just walked around [the office] with people staring at you.” The offhand remark reveals his lack of interest in her mind, accomplishments and career and his preferred focus on her scopophilic appeal.  Joan’s organizational prowess and seniority in the office gives his comment the potential to rankle the long-term viewer, even though audiences often do see her doing this.42  Yes, people stare at her, and viewers have previously been encouraged to do so as well, but Greg’s lazy joke dismisses that which has also been depicted: her professional excellence. By mockingly suggesting that Joan is all image and no substance, the passing comment slightly undermines—for the viewer irritated by the comment—audience focus on that image. It also suggests Greg’s lack of respect for his future wife and in particular for her career.  Significantly, Joan’s home attire is relaxed; wearing black pants and a sweater, she walks around barefoot, hinting at traditional notions of the barefoot, submissive housewife. Her informal clothes are indicative of her reduced status in the private sphere and in relation to her fiancé, particularly when compared with her relative high status in the office. Greg’s request for a glass of water places the typically indomitable Joan in a position of immediate and unquestioned domestic servitude, increasing the contrast between her professional and personal status. We see that Joan is willing to severely compromise her power when it comes to her romantic relationship, and the vast difference between her celebrated office vixen role and her submissive domestic status highlights the latter in a negative fashion.


Very quickly, Joan’s highly successful foray out of administration and into advertising ends when she is unceremoniously replaced by a man who knows nothing about the task at which she has excelled.  As Akass and McCabe write:

It is a shocking moment. But it should be no surprise. Speaking in and through a representational type that codifies patriarchal fantasies of a feminine ideal is a precarious business; and Joan’s participation in reproducing the sexist culture has deep implications.43

Existing as “so much woman” in a world where the women, especially “womanly” women, did not have careers outside of marriage, Joan loses a chance at significant professional accomplishment and satisfaction. Her investment in her image as a source of power is an attempt to exploit a gendered system that disadvantages her, and the indirect result is that she remains disadvantaged. The professional storyline introduced in the episode ends in disappointment, but the personal storyline begun in the same episode ends in something much darker. The narrative arc of Joan’s relationship with Greg dramatically alters the possibilities for audience perception and approval of her power and investment in self-objectification. In early episodes, particularly the first season, Joan cashes in on her pneumatic femininity to please men: deploying her figure to maintain power in a world that affords her little outside erotic exchanges. As noted above, viewers are encouraged to take pleasure in this behavior. In The Mountain King, the penultimate episode of the second series, Joan’s overtly sexualized appearance and the conflation of this appearance with power is irrevocably shattered by a harrowing incident involving her fiancé. As Emily Nussbaum puts it: “Joan was raped and everything changed.”44 In a distressing scene, Greg forces himself on Joan on the floor of the office belonging to Sterling Cooper partner Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm. The incident is apparent payback for a moment earlier in the episode in which Joan unwittingly emasculates her fiancé by initiating sex—on top. Immediately prior to the rape, Joan good naturedly but firmly attempts to fight off Greg’s unwanted advances but is overwhelmed by his superior strength as he holds her down. The scene ends with a devastating zoom-in to close-up on her face as she stops fighting and submits to his will (Fig. 4.1). For the long-term viewer used to seeing Joan in charge and in control, it is particularly horrifying. Up to this point in the series, her utilization of female sexual desirability in a world of male privilege is a reasonably effective mode of existence, with only arguably minor humiliations. Sex typically brings Joan status and power, but the rape turns her own weapon against her. That her attack occurs at Sterling Cooper, the very space her sexuality typically allows her to dominate, makes it all the more shocking. Greg uses his masculine strength to reassert sexual and emotional dominance in the relationship but, by raping her in her boss’s office, it is also suggested that he desires to have a power over his future wife that trumps her commitment to her work. “Joan is a story of a generation,” creator Matt Weiner has argued. “Our moms had friends like her—very confident and sexy and they got punished for it. She has the confidence of a man and that’s really hurt her”.45 Contrary to Weiner’s analysis, I would offer a slightly different perspective: Joan has the confidence not of a man, but of a sexually aware woman. She employs femininity and sex as tools to achieve her aims, and Greg’s attack is not only triggered by these actions but enacts a direct reversal of them. The rape is a dramatic moment in which the scopophilic object experiences a narrative event directly related to her investment in sex as her greatest weapon, directly problematizing audience enjoyment of such behavior.


Somehow more disturbing than the rape is that which follows: Joan goes to dinner with Greg immediately following the incident, and eventually marries him. The shock Joan’s rape causes for Mad Men’s long-term audience not only stems from the contemporary western belief that women shouldn’t suffer rape silently, but is also a reaction to the seemingly sexually-indomitable character’s acceptance of the violent act. The upsetting incident and its aftermath punctuate Mad Men’s apparent complicity in Joan’s objectification, which emerges in retrospect as part of a feminist criticism of both the complicity and the objectification. For almost two seasons Joan Holloway is the fun sex object in near-total command of her world: her mind is brilliant, but her body her most effective tool. Although she suffers minor setbacks she is the ever fabulous, sassy woman who has the upper hand in most situations. Following her rape and apparent submission, Joan’s life loses its glamorous appeal. Ultimately, her perpetuation of culturally appropriate feminine behavior results in violent and total subjugation. Her rape and the events that follow signal a shift in the representation of Joan’s character. The incident in The Mountain King marks the moment at which unequivocal celebration of female objectification becomes untenable for the invested audience. While the occasional viewer might watch Mad Men for the camera’s pleasurable fetishization of Hendricks’ curves and buy into the consummate effectiveness of Joan’s manipulative femininity, following her rape, long-term viewers can never see the character in the same way. For the show’s consistent audience, the viewer who is invested in its serial form, such pleasures are, from this point on, highly qualified.

Step three: undermining Joan’s objectification by compromising her sexual power


Weiner has often claimed that Mad Men is all about a changing world, and the way people react to it:

I’m interested in how people respond to change. Are they excited by the change, or are they terrified that they’ll lose everything that they know? Do people recognize that change is going on? That’s what the show’s about.46

One of the ways in which extended temporarily comes into play in deconstructing Joan’s objectification is by showing the effects of change on her everyday experiences over time. Joan belongs to an old-fashioned, disappearing world, accepting the glass ceiling that keeps her in her place as an administrator in a work environment based on gender inequality. In contrast, Peggy forges a path towards greater freedom for herself via hard work and asking for what she wants, for the most part ignoring Joan’s advice on dressing to please men.47 Over time Peggy is rewarded for her tenacity and boldness: receiving promotions and landing a creative position within the agency, a job that had previously been the preserve of male colleagues.48 This is the crucial difference between the two women: Joan clings to gender divides and relies on femininity to gain power, whereas Peggy transgresses gender and consistently irks Joan by actively disengaging with the older woman’s recommended mode of behavior. Instead of relying on her appearance to get ahead, “Peggy recognizes her [intellectual] merits and isn’t shy about going after what she thinks she deserves”, gaining admittance to the traditionally all-male stable of copywriters in the first season despite putting on significant weight, directly proving her would-be mentor incorrect.49 In this way, Peggy acts as a foil to Joan, progressing at the agency despite her resistance to the redhead’s constant advice. A shot towards the end of the first season contrasts the two when, in an echo of many shots of Joan, Peggy is caught walking away from the camera.50 Instead of seeking to exploit her retreating figure, however, the shot reveals Peggy’s skip of glee inspired by her success at copywriting for the Belle Jolie account. Unlike early rear views of Joan that emphasize her figure as the direct object of a desiring heterosexual male gaze, Peggy’s walk away from the camera reveals her happiness and links this to professional accomplishment based on merit, not looks. Although Peggy is less than ten years older than Joan, her progress begins to make Joan’s ideas seem antiquated, especially when compared with the older woman’s career path over the course of the series so far.


While Peggy’s efforts, which revolve around intellectual undertakings, are rewarded with professional progress, Joan’s career-supporting sexual prowess is shown to dwindle, and is rendered virtually ineffective by the fourth season. By this point in the series, Sterling Cooper has given way to the reformed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP). Joan’s aura of sexuality in the office has significantly abated, offering a distinct comparison—for the long-term viewer—with her earlier eroticism. The series no longer foregrounds her figure, nor does it conflate her eroticism with professional excellence or achievement.  A new generation of men—significantly younger than Joan—does not take her seriously. Her sexual appeal is acknowledged but, instead of commanding reverence, even elicits a distinct lack of respect. Several incidents show this altered representation of Joan in action.  For example, when there is a focus group comprised of female employees Joan is left out for being “old” and “married”.51 In a humiliating reversal of the Belle Jolie focus group in Babylon, she is removed from those deemed worthy of observation. Peggy, one of the unwittingly scrutinized secretaries in the earlier episode, is also removed from the observed, but this is due to her professional advancement which now allows her access to the group of observers. In contrast, Joan, still working in the administrative strand of the agency in a position equivalent to the one she held on Peggy’s first day, is forced to vacate her office to allow the focus group to take place. While she has some administrative authority, Joan holds little power when it comes to influencing or advancing the creative work of the agency and is therefore excluded from both the observers and the observed. The comparison with Peggy, who has moved into the group in the position of creative power, as well as the invasion of her office space, marks Joan out as somewhat professionally hindered.


The focus group gives rise to a brief shot that pointedly indicates the differences between the heady sexuality Joan exuded in the first season and the way she is depicted in the fourth. Opening the curtains, she throws the drapes back from the centre so her arms are outstretched; her silhouette displayed to Don, Freddy Rumsden, played by Joel Murray, and Peggy, all seated behind her.52 The outstretched stance Joan momentarily adopts serves to highlight her new position on the opposing side of the one-way mirror, as well as presenting an opportunity for visual appraisal from behind as in Babylon (Fig. 5, second image).  Yet no one in the room even glances at her. Her potential audience is uninterested: Don has always been a stickler for respecting women (in public) and remains true to form; Freddy, an enthusiastic member of the on-screen all-male audience of Joan’s display in Babylon, seems to have lost interest, and Peggy, who has crossed the gender divide to inhabit the gaze of the observer, is apparently heterosexual and therefore unmoved. No playful music cues us to regard Joan as seductive in this moment. Even the camera displays a marked difference in the handling of this scene in comparison with the close-up of Joan’s posterior in Babylon. When Hendricks bends down slightly to switch on the audio in the room, there is an opportunity for episode director John Slattery to recreate the tone of Babylon by focusing on her buttocks. He does not. The lack of attention Joan receives in the shot highlights the waning appeal of the sensual tactics on which she has always relied.


There are moments of erotic spectacle involving Joan in the fourth season, but by this point they are an exception to the rule. One example occurs when she gracefully leads the conga line at the 1964 SCDP Christmas party.53 When the festive gathering is required at the last minute to impress major client, Lee Garner Jr., played by Darren Pettie, it is organized with great attention to detail by the ever-competent Joan. After Roger informs his sometime mistress of Garner’s potential desire for her, Joan appears to enjoy this brief return to the center of erotic attention. She smiles and laughs as she wiggles her tightly-clad figure around the office, Garner’s hands placed on her hips, and ends the activity by turning to him, leaning forward and subtly but flirtatiously shaking her breasts in his direction. She wears a red dress in this scene; a visual echo of her glory days in the Belle Jolie focus group and her former scopophilic prowess. Yet during the conga line there are no close ups of Joan. The camera does not fragment her body parts in order to fetishize them, and her allure is not emphasized by sultry extra-diegetic underscoring. At one point, two men even cross her path, temporarily blocking the view of her undulating figure. Far from being the centre of visual and erotic attention as she was in Babylon, Joan’s lack of power to command the camera’s focus mirrors her dwindling ability to draw the attention of the desiring gaze. Significantly, this brief reversal of Joan’s lessening erotic impact is enacted for a man who is a shadow of his former powerful self, with Garner shown at the party to be a petty, vindictive man who belittles Roger in front of the guests. Pleasing him seems rather unsavory, as though Joan is in some way prostituting herself to a seedy client for the agency’s benefit rather than playfully reveling in her power over men. Although audience enjoyment of her objectification has already been severely qualified, as argued above, any temptation to celebrate Joan’s attempted return to form is additionally compromised by Garner’s unworthiness. It has also previously been hinted that he might be gay, with his third season attempt to seduce former Sterling Cooper employee Salvador Romano, played by Bryan Batt.54 For long-term viewers, awareness of Garner’s possible homosexuality further undermines Joan’s attempt at creating an erotic spectacle here, as her intended audience is possibly entirely uninterested. Her decreasing power over men is made especially clear in the following episode when she fails to manipulate SCDP partner Lane Pryce, played by Jared Harris, into giving her a few days off work.55 Sashaying into his office, she offers to order him fried chicken, launching into some classic Joan innuendo:

Joan: Interested?
Lane: I am.
Joan: [Twisting her body slightly, drawing attention to her figure] Breast? Thigh?…

Assuming she has distracted Lane with thoughts of her body, she then places her request for time off.  Gurley Brown would approve. However, this strategy fails spectacularly. Lane even calls Joan out on her not-so-subtle tactics, irritated by her assumption that she could persuade him in this way: “I understand that all men are dizzy and powerless to refuse you – but consider me the incorruptible exception. Fried chicken indeed!”, he scoffs. Perhaps it is the British Lane’s stiff-upper-lip or his work-dominated outlook that makes him impervious to Joan’s manipulations, but later episodes confirm this is part of her changing reception within the diegesis. By the fourth season, she no longer holds the celebrated power over men that she was afforded within the first season.


Joan’s old-fashioned sexual strategizing irritates more than just Lane. In The Suitcase young freelance artist Joey Baird, played by Matt Long, refuses her instructions to clean up his trash in the office.56 Joey’s refusal undermines Joan’s authority and demonstrates her failure to have any power—sexual or otherwise—over him.  In the following episode, The Summer Man, when Joan summons Joey into her office for disciplinary reasons, he calls her arrogant, asking “What do you do around here besides walking around like you’re trying to get raped?”57 An obviously reflexive remark that resonates with long-term viewers aware of her history, this comment not only propagates Mad Men’s depiction of era-appropriate cultural views (the belief that rape is the victim’s fault) but draws attention to the fact that Joan’s typical reliance on sexual allure is going out of style. Joey connects Joan’s style with old-fashioned behavior and previous generations by informing Peggy that: “There’s a Joan in every company. My Mother was a Joan… She even wore a pen around her neck so people would stare at her tits.” Naming the base nature of Joan’s visual appeal, Joey evidences disdain for her tactics, once again problematizing any remaining audience objectification of Joan’s appearance. His damning analysis adds to the sense that her former powers are failing, and his comparison between Joan and his mother confirms the dated appeal of Joan’s office vixen act.


One particular incident that takes place in The Summer Man displays both the lack of respect Joan’s behavior elicits as well as the misguided nature of her preferred methods of asserting power: Joey draws a cartoon of the redhead performing fellatio on (the rather unattractive) Lane. Peggy fires Joey in response, but Joan is unimpressed.  She explains that, had she wanted the artist to be let go, she would have gone for dinner with a senior male client and gently persuaded him to remove Joey from the account. Joan clings to her belief that a woman’s power stems from using feminine wiles to influence men to do her bidding rather than from directly enacting her own desires. However, at this stage in season four, by which point Mad Men has consistently undermined Joan’s power over men, her stated plan of action is unconvincing. In contrast, Peggy wields power in the same manner a man might. She possesses the authority to fire Joey owing to her senior position and, following Don’s encouragement to enact this authority, does the job herself. Joan’s preferred method of handling the situation reveals her adherence to strict gender roles and desire to maintain the status quo. However, because Peggy succeeds—and because viewers have repeatedly seen Joan’s favored system fail her—the old fashioned tactics seem outdated, impotent, and damaging.


Joan’s advocacy of Gurley Brown’s methods of female empowerment is also destabilized when her diminishing sexual power is accompanied by an increase in her professional accomplishments. In the third season, Joan leaves Sterling Cooper, having achieved her initial goal of quitting work for marriage. Disappointingly, her husband’s incompetence as a doctor forces her to seek employment in a department store. This humiliating step down is followed by her triumphant return to the advertising fold at the end of the season. Having been off-screen for a significant portion of that year’s episodes, Joan is an indispensable and integral part of making the necessary arrangements for covertly setting up SCDP.  Despite being called in by old flame Roger, she is chosen not for her erotic capital but for her unsurpassed knowledge of the inner workings of the agency.  Sterling Cooper’s best men—hand picked and pooling their knowledge—can’t even locate the necessary files, but Joan, who has been absent for months, is able to pick up exactly where she left off, making several calls to organize the clandestine operation before she even walks in the door.58 In the fourth season, within the SDCP offices, we see Joan making phone calls, conducting interviews, chairing meeting of the partners, and discussing the agency’s accounts. She not only has a desk, but her own office.59 In the fourth season finale, she is promoted to Director of Agency Operations.60 Although SCDP is in a severely compromised financial position and has been forced to cut back on staff, reducing Joan to menial jobs like delivering the mail, the new position is clearly a reward for her professional skills and hard work, not her looks. Notably, it is Lane, demonstrably immune to her feminine charms, who informs her of the news. The series ultimately privileges Joan’s intellectual prowess and skill over tactics of self-objectification, significantly rewarding the character in the professional arena only after her formerly powerful erotic appeal has demonstrably weakened.

Conclusion: feminism and extended narrative form


For the occasional viewer, it might be possible to view female representation on Mad Men as a series of surface pleasures and sexual thrills. That such offerings continue to appeal to audiences is evident in the use, in 2011, of Hendricks’ tightly skirted rump pushed towards the camera in Babylon as part of UK Mad Men trailers.61 Alone, the clip is robbed of its context as part of an ongoing narrative that troubles the sexism contained within the shot. Non-viewers seeing the trailer are left with the objectification minus the crucial criticism that extends over a significant amount of time. Specifically televisual temporality (the long-form drama, taking place over several years) delivers feminist results. As discussed above, Joan’s rape is given additional shock value by the amount of time Mad Men spends building up the character as an admirable, sexually powerful woman before the attack.  The rape pulls the rug out from beneath viewers comfortable with her objectification. After the incident, celebration of Joan’s former self-positioning as erotic spectacle is at best compromised for the long-term viewer who cares about the character. The triumphs that do eventually come to Joan take an inordinately long time to occur, so that the process of watching her failing investment in scopophilic spectacle is painful to the viewer sympathetic to her cause. The protracted nature of Mad Men’s critique of female objectification strengthens its effects, suggesting that the long-form drama contains within its very structure feminist possibilities in a so called post-feminist era when audiences are so willing to indulge in “regressive urges”.  Extended narratives pander to the emotional responses of the invested viewer, whose sympathies with characters can reach significant depth over time. Mad Men makes effective use of the possibilities contained within its narrative form to trouble Joan’s initial presentation as successful spectacular female, her reliance on image rather than intellectual substance emerging as increasingly problematic season by season. Viewers who begin the series worshiping Joan’s scopophilic presence are increasingly guided towards a more critical perspective.  The overall result, building as the series progresses, is strongly feminist.


Perhaps there is hope for Mrs. Harris in Mad Men’s future. In 1970, Germaine Greer, part of the feminist second-wave, published The Female Eunuch, in which she argued:

Now as before, women must refuse to be meek and guileful, for truth can’t be served by dissimulation. Women who fancy that they manipulate the world by pussy power and gentle cajolery are fools. It is slavery to have to adopt such tactics.62

I can envisage Peggy reading Greer’s book. I wonder whether she’ll pass it on to Joan.


1.     Later, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. 

2.     Daniel Mendelsohn. “The Mad Men Account.” The New York Review of Books. 24 Feb. 2011, 1. Accessed 24 Feb. 2011. 

3.     Mendelsohn, 1. 

4.     So far.  At the time of writing only four seasons have been aired in the US. 

5.     See Sarah Tomczack, “How to Dress Like a Lady.” Glamour Nov. 2010: 136+.  In 2011, retailer Banana Republic teamed up with the show’s designer, Janie Bryant, to create an official Mad Men fashion range.

6.     Jason Mittell, “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television.” The Velvet Light Trap 58 (Fall 2006), 31. 

7.     Mittell, Ibid. 

8.     Mittell, 38. 

9.     Matthew Weiner, interview for Archive of American Television, full interview available here

10.  See Mittell, 29, and Matthew Weiner, speaking in a clip from the above full interview available here

11.  Matthew Weiner, quoted in Kathy Lyford. ”Mad Men’ Q & A: I’m fascinated that people get so much out of it.” Season Pass. 22 Oct. 2008. Accessed 21 April 2011. 

12.  Matthew Weiner, audio commentary on Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (pilot episode) (Mad Men Season OneDVD, Lions Gate Home Entertainment, Europe, 2008) ASIN: B0014XVTIY. 

13.  Helen Gurley Brown. Sex and the Single Girl (New Jersey: Barricade Books, 2003), 267, 70. 

14.  Matthew Weiner.  Qtd. in Lyford. 

15.  Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

16.  Gurley Brown, Sex and the Office (New Jersey: Barricade Books, 2004), 23. 

17.  Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency (3.6). 

18.  Gurley Brown, Sex and the Office, 3

19.  Shoot (1:9)

20.  See Mendelsohn, 1.  Also see Maidenform (2:6) and Roger Sterling’s deliberate survey of her “Valentine’s Heart” in Those Who Think Young (2:1)

21.  Jeremy G. Butler, ‘’Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’: Historicizing Visual Style in Mad Men” in Gary R. Edgerton (ed.), Mad Men: Dream Come True TV (London & New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011), 63

22.  Babylon (1:6)

23.  Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” in Issues in Feminist Film Criticism. Patricia Erens (ed.) (Bloomingdale and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990), 33. 

24.  Mulvey, 33. 

25.  Christina Hendricks, quoted in Logan Hill, “Dangerous Curves: Christina Hendricks, TV’s retro-sexy secretary, on living in a Mad Men’s world”, New York Magazine, 2 Aug. 2009, 1. Accessed 17 Nov. 2011.

26.  Kim Akass & Janet McCabe, “The Best of Everything: The Limits of Being a Working girl in Mad Men” in Gary R. Edgerton (ed.), Mad Men: Dream Come True TV, 182. 

27.  Akass & McCabe, 183.  Also see Mulvey, 34. 

28.  Mulvey, 33. 

29.  Gurley Brown, Sex and the Office, 33. 

30.  Brown, 32. 

31.  Dylan Jones. “Christina Hendricks Drives Mad Men Wild!” British GQ Sept. 2010. 

32.  Brandon Voss, “Ahead of the Curves.” The Advocate Nov. 2009: 3; Logan Hill; Amy Larocca, ‘Woman of the Hourglass’. New York Magazine, February 14 2010. Accessed April 21 2011. 

33.  See Carrie Zender, “Christina Hendricks Breast Augmentation Looks to be Confirmed.” makemeheal.comFeb. 4 2011 . Accessed Jan. 4 2012 and Lina Das, “’I’m learning to celebrate what I was born with’: Why life is shaping up nicely for Christina Hendricks.” Daily Mail Online May 24 2011. Accessed Jan. 4 2012.

34.  Qtd. in Brandon Voss, 3. 

35.  Of course others have made the general point about objectification within contemporary western societies far more eloquently and with infinitely more detail.  For example, see Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. New York: Free Press, 2005 and Natasha Walter.Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism. Great Britain: Virago, 2010. 

36.  Gurley Brown, Sex and the Office, 33. 

37.  The New Girl (2:5). 

38.  The Gold Violin (2:7). 

39.  Bruce Handy. “Don and Betty’s Paradise Lost.” Vanity Fair Sept. 2009, 134. 

40.  (2.8). 

41.  Tom & Lorenzo, “Mad Style: Joan Holloway, S2 Part 2”, Project Rungay. Accessed 21 April 2011. 

42.  She doesn’t appear to have her own desk and, when not swanning about amongst secretaries dispensing cutting remarks and precise instructions and looking fabulous, is frequently found drinking, smoking and/or chatting in the break room or kitchen. 

43.  Akass & McCabe, 186. 

44.  Emily Nussbaum, “Nussbaum on Mad Men: How Joan’s Rape Changed Everything.” Vulture, 24 Oct. 2008. Accessed 21 April 2011. 

45.  Hill, 1. 

46.  Matt Weiner, quoted in Fred Kaplan “Drama Confronts a Dramatic Decade.” New York Times 9 Aug. 2009. Accessed Nov. 17 2011. Also see Melissa Maerz, “The Mind Behind Mad Men. Rolling Stone, 17 June 2009. Accessed 17 Nov. 2011. 

47.  Peggy does listen to Joan’s advice to ”stop dressing like a little girl” for one night, joining a client in a strip club in a bid to operate on the same terms as her male colleagues in Maidenform, but her efforts are an isolated incident. 

48.  See Babylon and The Wheel (1:13). 

49.  Ashley Jibee Barkman, “Mad Women: Aristotle, Second-wave Feminism, and the Women of Mad Men” in Mad Men and Philosophy: Nothing Is As It Seems, Rod Carveth and James B. South (eds.), 206. 

50.  The Hobo Code (1:8). 

51.  The Rejected (4:4). 

52.  The parallels were pointed out to me in a Basket of Kisses blog post, but I have not included this as a direct reference as my interpretation of the meaning was slightly different.  See Therese. “Joan Won’t Be Rejected.” Basket of Kisses. 18 Aug. 2010. Accessed 17 Feb. 2011. 

53.  Christmas Comes But Once A Year (4:2). 

54.  Wee Small Hours (3:9). 

55.  The Good News (4:3). 

56.  (4.7). 

57.  (4:8). 

58.  Shut The Door. Have a Seat (3:13). 

59.  However, although she exerts a lot of organizational power in the SDCP offices, she lacks professional status.  Gender differences play a part here, since although she essentially runs the agency with Lane Pryce, who has a quiet office with a secretary, Joan’s professional space is taken over for other purposes, and serves as a walkway for the entire agency – much to her annoyance. 

60.  Tomorrowland (4:13). 

61.  On satellite channel Sky Atlantic. 

62.  Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch (London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1970), 328.


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