Just finished season four of Mad Men. So many things to like. First of all, there was Joan and Peggy’s pitch-perfect conversation in Joan’s office about their anger at Don’s engagement, or, to be more specific, their anger at how little their accomplishments in the office matter against the engagement of a previously unremarkable secretary to their boss. (Roger only knows her by her first name, and when Don first mentions he’s getting married to Miss Calvet, says, “Who?”)
Their interactions all season really struck a chord. Not only with the reality of office relationships between women and men in the 60’s, but with reality of office relationships between women and other women. In some ways, the latter can be more interesting, because they create a space that can require much more delicate maneuvering. It’s a space where each party is as equally informed about the real goals and handicaps of the game as the other.
Just look back at Joan and Peggy’s conversation in the elevator after Peggy fires the freelance worker who drew a pornographic cartoon of Joan giving Lane a blow job. “All you’ve done,” Joan says, and I’m paraphrasing, “is prove to them that I’m another meaningless secretary, and that you’re another bitch with no sense of humor.” She’s had more time working in the office than Peggy, and in a lot of key ways, she’s much more cynical. She knows that firing the freelancer doesn’t solve the real issue. It’s a band-aid, and Peggy’s attempt at heroics seems pathetic in the face of the real problem: the culture of the business, and the culture of society at large.