Tag Archive for Mad Men

The Personal is Political: Speaking about media and feminism while female

I wrote professionally for the online magazine California Literary Review for four years. My piece defending Hit Girl garnered something like 90,000 views. It (and some of my others) got some nasty, threatening comments – but you can’t see them anymore since my editor wisely deleted them. When CLR closed down, I began writing for PolicyMic. My first few pieces at the publication for millenials were about Mad Men (my forte) and Game of Thrones (with which I am nerdily, happily familiar – and about which I have very strong opinions). 

Silenced: Woman with Duct Tape

See bottom of post for more. Image courtesy Reductress.

I haven’t logged on to PolicyMic in eight months (until just now) because I was left so fatigued by the number of people calling me a terrible person, telling me I should just give up, that I’m obviously not invested, nor do I know a thing about Game of Thrones, Mad Men, or media criticism in general. I was completely beaten down by the number of people who think sexism in media is plainly not worth having a conversation about. It’s just a thing, and we should just deal with it. And that was a monitored forum.

re: the hopelessness of media, and why I should stop talking about it:

Could anyone in this discussion actually come up with an entertaining story line that would attract an audience globally with high ratings that did not portray sexist views of either sex and that did not objectify beauty and muddy the gain of power?

re: my comment that the casting directors didn’t portray Brienne with the kind of hideous features about which Martin writes (the hideousness that excepts Brienne from my argument – women in the canon are measured by and utilize their fuckability):

I don’t think Gwendolyne Christie is gorgeous. [Ed. This is not about your dick, dude.] 

re: not expecting more from my television:

you shouldn’t expect period pieces to reflect something antithetical to the period.

re: why I should just shut up:

It seems like you’re just looking to complain about women’s issues for no good reason other than to complain.

Point: completely, 100% missed. I’m not saying you have no right to disagree; I was, at the time, asking that people listen and consider. And I was repeatedly shot down for speaking at all. This is not to denounce the commenters on PolicyMic, who all things considered are a thoughtful, respectful bunch. But you know, not all commenters. 

Gwendoline Christie

Totally hideous. Image courtesy With An Accent.

I’ve never been super active on Twitter, for which, in circumstances like this, I’m grateful. The #YesAllWomen hashtag that appeared last weekend in the wake of the UCSB shootings took a collective fist, thrust through my ribs, and grabbed me right in the heart bits. Then it squoze. (Yeah, makin’ up words. How I do.) Not because I want to complain about women’s issues just to complain, but that I have been these women.

Two very close friends of mine were assaulted in high school and college, resulting in permanent psychological (and physical) damage. The authorities were no help. An old friend’s parents wouldn’t let her walk across campus at night for fear she would get raped (which evinces an ignorance regarding stranger danger). Even as I knew this was logically fallible – that the likelihood of some guy jumping out of the bushes and raping her because she was “pretty” – it affected me as a vulnerable 16-year-old, placing in my developing brain an insidious fear of moving independently that I had trouble shaking. I have known practically from birth that I can’t leave a drink unattended in a bar. I have, without really thinking about it, developed a set of responses to and avoidance methods for harassment (i.e. if they’re in a car and yell obscenities, I flip them off and find the nearest crowd; if they’re next to me on the sidewalk I ignore completely – which often means getting called bitch, whore, cunt; if I’m in the underpopulated country by myself, I don’t get out of the car much). I’ve been cruelly ostracized by both men and women for refusing men and for not refusing men. I carry my keys in my knuckles when I walk alone, and I know to knee the groin and then stomp the foot for maximum pain. But hey, you’ve seen all of these things on #YesAllWomen, right?

So why is it that, when I try talking to men I know and love, men I know love and respect women, their first responses are to dismiss, to say things like, “I don’t have the energy for that” or “what the fuck does hashtag activism even mean?” “You like to wallow in this stuff” and “I have never seen these things happen, but if I did…” And maybe worst of all, to say, “not all men are like that.”

Point: completely missed

This is in response to a brilliant piece over on Pop Tortes, one that links to both Arthur Chu’s nerd call to arms around the roles of women in media (particularly geek media) and Ann Hornaday’s much-lamented piece discussing the role of women in media (particularly Judd Apatow media). Look at the differences in response to two people making exactly the same point. Just. Look. You guys, this is why my Mad Men pieces have been so like book reports, containing little other than observations about the show’s story. I am a film critic; I devoted my education to feminist criticism. I care deeply about my friends, myself, my autonomy, and my freedom to speak and write. And I’ve been unwilling to dive back into that sea because frankly, it depressed the everloving fuck out of me to be told repeatedly that I should just quit complaining. But look at what Hornaday endured; look what Zerlina Maxwell and Lindy West go through regularly. If you have a really thick skin, look what Erin Gloria Ryan witnessed as a fly on the wall for eight horrible, frightening hours in a pick-up artist forum. Speaking While Female is a dangerous prospect, emotionally and sometimes physically.

Peggy Olson tells it like it is.

Fuck yes, Peggy. Image courtesy HuffPo.

And hey, those of you who say that if you ever see this behavior, you’ll be valiant and try to stop it: THIS IS THE TIME. You see it. We are talking about it. Listen. Pay attention. Sympathize with your loved ones and don’t interrupt or speak over them. Realize that no one is accusing you, personally, of being a bad person who hates women. But realize just as the insidious fear lurking in the back of my mind as a result of my socialization is important to examine, that your own socialization is to be scrutinized and jostled and shaken up. And please realize that telling people it isn’t worth the conversation is making you part of the problem.

No, I won’t stop complaining, and no, I won’t stop Speaking While Female. I’m on hiatus right now for personal reasons. I was unable to be calm and reasoned about the UCSB shootings and #YesAllWomen earlier in the week, and this is me trying to remedy that. Anger is appropriate, and focused anger can get things done. More important than being angry, perhaps, is making sure we’re having the conversation. All of us. All the time. Otherwise, nothing is going to change.

 

P.S. I just Googled “woman with duct tape” because I’m lazy and wanted a simple, effective image on this post. You want more evidence we’ve got problems? Check it out. 

Musing on Mad Men, movies, & being a real adult

I’m studying for an exam that’ll take place on Thursday (May 15), so my recap for this week’s episode of Mad Men, “The Runaways,” will be bundled into the next week’s piece. But I wanted to write a listicle of sorts, punctuated with exclamation points! Because this week’s episode deserves some !!!.

– Betty Draper is more of a teenager than her daughter! (Also, doesn’t want to be a Stepford wife for actual.)

– A threesome is pretty much never the answer, Megan!

– “It’s a nose job, not an abortion!”

– Holy 2001: A Space Odyssey references!

– A nipple in a box! (!!!)

– “This is the Final Solution.” What you did there, I see it, Stan.

– Did pregnant Stephanie’s craving for steak remind anyone else of Rosemary’s Baby? At least Megan cooked her a medium-well done hunk of meat instead of searing a rare one.

– “I have a stomachache all the time.” 🙁

– Phillip Morris is back in the picture!

– “Scout’s Honor” actually makes me feel kind of sorry for Lou!

Aside from Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Revenge, and Hannibal, I’ve also started tentatively watching Don’t Trust the B*%&$ in Apt 23. So far, fun and funny. Also, I haven’t been writing about them, but I’ve seen quite a few movies in the last few weeks. More lists because it’s easy:

Frozen: cute, but not mind-blowing. I adored The Princess and the Frog, so it isn’t just being an Old that left me with so-so feelings on Frozen. The characters are pretty static and the music felt a little jumbled. (I know, I know: blasphemy.)

Noah: I need a re-watch. This shit was bizarre. I’m agnostic, I don’t know the Bible at all, and I saw it with two (largely) nonpracticing Mennonites, a nonpracticing Quaker, and a nonpracticing Catholic. Nobody was entirely sure what to do with it. Mostly: a waste of a brilliant cast on poor performances, but what a pretty movie. I expected more from Aronofsky, but I have a feeling it’ll grow on me.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: It’s a downright angry NSA allegory, and the graphics are gorgeous. Totally enjoyable and definitely better than the first.

Grand Budapest Hotel: gorgeously curated, meticulously crafted, hilariously acted. I’m a sucker for Wes Anderson’s particular breed of quirk and this one is grotesque and odd (in that Eastern European way) on top of the usual idiosyncrasies. A winning combination.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Mehh. It has some serious pacing issues, and I don’t think Andrew Garfield is as funny as he thinks he is. I’m not familiar with the books, but I know the basic mythology, and some of the changes they’re making aren’t sensible. Dane DeHaan is great, and the sound design and graphics are magnificent.

Lastly, HBO is airing The Heat right now and I thought it’d be kind of terrible, but my thoughts are as follows: Melissa McCarthy is a goddamn genius.

Send me good vibrations on Thursday, okay? I’ll need them.

Mad Men Recap: “The Monolith” (Season 7, Episode 4)

I’ve been gathering a few people to watch Game of Thrones and Mad Men each week, and it’s interesting the way other people can change your perspective. When I was writing for California Literary Review, I think my editor enjoyed my pieces because I chronicled the reactions of the audience as lovingly as I wrote about the film. After last night’s episode, my friend Chelsea said with a considering expression, “That was kind of like a sitcom episode,” and she’s right. In “The Monolith,” problems are presented, problems are fixed, and we’re back to the status quo. It was a filler episode, which is common at this point in the season. But despite its easily solvable character dilemmas, it was a truly weird one. It is Mad Men, after all. It’s 1969 and everyone’s staring into the void, looking for answers. For some, the answers may lie in technology. Others search for a more organic sense of belonging, while still others just want a damn couch that isn’t full of farts. Basically, we’re all a bunch of monkeys gazing at a monolith.

Gazing into the infinite. Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

Staring into the infinite. Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

In the opening scene of Sunday’s episode, we drop in on a scene in which Pete describes the various destinations of choice for an upcoming trip with Bonnie. She spots George Peyton, a ghost from Campbell’s past who worked with Trudy’s father Tom at Vicks. Remember the Vicks drama? If I recall correctly, Pete’s shameless philandering lost SCDP that account. (Don’t shit where you eat, Pete.) Pete explains to a curious Peyton that he and Trudy are getting a divorce, and that Bonnie is his real estate agent (she’s none too pleased with this informal introduction). Peyton reports that Tom Vogel, Pete’s father-in-law, had a heart attack. “Who knew he had a heart?” George chuckles. Further, Peyton’s now working for Burger Chef. You can practically see the lightbulb ding into existence over Pete’s head; the guy knows how to use his connections. Meanwhile, the two men circle around their respective lady friends, both wearing ridiculous(ly awesome) ’70s dresses with feathers and fringe.

"This agency has entered the future!" Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

“This agency has entered the future!” Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

When Don comes into the office for his first official day back, he’s looking every bit the old Don Draper. His eyes are alert, his old but neat suit impeccably pressed; his hat rests in his hands. He disembarks from the elevator to discover the office has been evacuated, and rapidly. A phone dangles eerily from a secretary’s desk; he hangs it back up. On the second floor, he discovers the entire office in an impromptu meeting to announce a construction project: they’re putting in a computer. Cutler intones smugly, “This agency has entered the future.”

Unfortunately, in order to enter the future, they have to take out the Creative department lounge. Peggy mentions under her breath that Lou has no idea what he’s doing, and Lou says pragmatically that he’ll use that computer more than the lounge. Ginsberg gets a moment to shine; he feels (quite rightly) displaced. “Harry Crane took a huge dump and we’re cleaning it up,” he cries. With a maniacal glint, he asks Don to help him move the massive orange couch into the office he shares with Stan because “the other one’s full of farts!” Ginsberg climbs onto a soapbox and bellows a battle cry: “They’re trying to erase us, but they can’t erase this couch!” It’s all so very dramatic and very Michael Ginsberg. Read more

Mad Men Recap: “Field Trip” (Season 7, Episode 3)

Sunday’s episode of Mad Men took us on a number of trips, metaphorical and physical. The theme here is related to Megan’s repeated questions: “Where are you? Why can’t I reach you?” Sure, she’s asking about why Don is never there when she rings up – but at the same time she’s not. He’s mucked up his entire world, and try as he might, it’ll never be what it was. He’s adrift, searching for a lighthouse.

This episode also sees the return of our favorite trophy wife, Betty Francis, who despite hardly interacting with Don anymore, still shares their children (and interestingly enough she’s probably the worse parent). The other day, I got squinty-eyed and a little pissy about this Salon takedown of the series by a young(er than me) writer named Matthew Brandon Wolfson. Wolfson notes that we’re supposed to “soak in Betty’s poise while pitying her for her limited possibilities.” I beg your pardon? I pity Joan Harris for her limited possibilities (even though she did rather put herself in this position), but I do not pity Betty Draper. She’s no bombshell, not thwarted by her femininity; she’s a petulant, blank-faced child. The piece is worth a read (?), but I’ll continue to rebut it throughout this recap.

Betty Draper Francis is an utter child. Photo courtesy AMC.

Betty Draper Francis is an utter child. Photo courtesy AMC.

“Field Trip” starts us out in a smoky theater where Don Draper idly watches a film set in San Francisco. This is the same theater where Don caught Ted and Peggy on a date; it’s where he taught his protege to escape to when she needs to get away from the office. Once the movie’s over he returns to his “work day,” which means calling Dawn because he needs typewriter ribbon. Poor Dawn, recently promoted to head of the secretarial pool, is utterly swamped. Don is peevish about her assignation of a courier to bring him his supplies. “I didn’t make any plans. I was expecting you to come over!” he cries. Dawn reports that Alan Silver called from California; Megan’s manager, the slimy, slightly swishy guy from last episode, wants to talk to Don. Dawn, overrun by SC&P business, can’t connect the call, so Don resentfully dials up Silver himself. (Poor Don. Must be rough.) Alan reports that the stress is getting to Megan. She burst into tears after bombing an audition, then stalked a director. “I’ve seen it before,” Silver says. “You know her best!” Of course this dude would call the husband to quell what he sees as a hysterical episode.

Don, obviously, jumps on a plane to California to “fix” Megan’s problem. The stewardess greets him warmly as “Mr. Draper.” When he tells her he’s flying home to surprise his wife, she flirts with him gently as her massive blond pompadour bobs near the ceiling of the plane. “I’ve said it before – I hate her!”

The return of Francine, and wearing a pantsuit no less. Photo credit: Justina Mintz/AMC.

The return of Francine, and wearing a pantsuit no less. Photo credit: Justina Mintz/AMC.

Out in Rye, Betty Francis meets her old friend Francine for lunch. “How are things in real estate?” Betty asks. Francine responds patiently, “I’m a travel agent, Betty.” Francine is thrilled to tell Betty about her new job, for which she’s in the office three days a week. She reports happily that one of her customers says she “redefined his definition of first class.” While Francine continues to contentedly natter about work, Betty becomes increasingly disgruntled. “Being alone in the house all that time, I really needed a challenge,” says Francine, echoing the sentiments of a million housewives in 1969. She amends this with a sly smile: “Fine, I needed a reward.” Betty, raising one perfectly groomed eyebrow, says, well, I thought the kids were the reward. She finishes this with, “I dunno, maybe I’m old fashioned.” Do y’think so? Read more

Mad Men Recap: “A Day’s Work” (Season 7, Episode 2)

After last week’s premiere, which set an ominous tone for the final season of Mad Men, the writers reached out to pick us up and dust us off in episode two. Peggy and Pete are flailing about on opposite coasts, each experiencing ennui and scrabbling for purchase in their daily lives. Sally Draper is navigating her own transitional phase and handling it as gracefully as you’d expect from a 15-year-old. Dawn, Shirley, and Joan are shuffled about by the various men of SC&P while Cooper’s old-fashioned sensibilities hold up progress. Roger and Jim are at odds beneath a cordial surface. Out of everyone, though, Don Draper is most adrift.

Out to sea. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

Out to sea. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

The opening scene of Sunday’s episode calls back to the premiere with a time motif. Don awakens to his alarm clock on a Thursday at 7:30, stretching groggily. Moments later, he awakens again, this time at 12:34. Don’s discombobulated, out of time and place. In his apartment, he blankly stares at Little Rascals on TV, his face unshaven and his robe hanging open. He idly pages through Look Magazine, which features a headline about abortions (the contentious topic would’ve been ramping up toward 1973’s landmark Roe vs. Wade case). He passes a full-page ad that inquires, “How do you handle a hungry man?” while absent-mindedly eating Ritz directly from the box. He marks the level on a bottle of Courvoisier, tsking to himself – he’s drinking too much. A cockroach wanders by and Don just sighs. The time passes, and into the evening Don shaves and dresses, buttoning up his shirt and fixing his tie just as the doorbell rings.

Dawn steps into the apartment, but she can’t stay. She’s brought him Sweet ‘n Low and Coffee Mate since she noticed he was out. Likewise, she arranged for a Valentine’s bouquet to arrive at Megan’s house in California. Dawn’s another set of eyes into SC&P, and it’s making her uncomfortable. “I don’t mind keeping you aware of things, but there’s something about the money that makes it feel wrong,” she says. On her way out, she reminds him that the cleaning woman is coming tomorrow morning. She takes the money.

Our very own Don Draper, the hero/antihero of the series (this is debatable – there are those who think it’s been Peggy’s story all along), has gotten interminably sad. Without his work, without purpose, Don Draper is nothing. He can’t even handle the basics of his marriage and his home without help. It’s tough to watch.

So grownup. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

So very. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

Sally Draper has transformed into a full-blown teenager. Her friends smoke cigarettes in her dorm room, gossiping about another friend’s dead mother. Everybody’s stoked to go off campus for the funeral because they an sneak away to shop for Pocahontas boots. (I’m actually shaking my head in consternation as I write this.) That lucky bitch whose mom died, she gets to stay out of school until Easter! “I’d stay here til 1975 if I could get Betty in the ground,” Sally says, dragging on a cigarette. (Snort. It’s awful, but can you blame her?) Read more