'Mad Men': Who was this week's empowered heroine -- Allison or Peggy?
Peggy Olson -- proud copywriter for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and a woman largely succeeding every day at a man's game -- broke away from her suit-and-tied work environment to hang out with some '60s-era counter-cultural hipsters during Sunday's episode of "Mad Men." Is this just one more reason why Peggy is, as Popeater contends, "the real 'Mad Men' heroine"?
While I admire Peggy for a number of reasons, I'd say our Miss Olson still has some baggage to deal with before she can fully emerge as a bona fide heroine. In fact, based solely on the events that transpired in this most recent "Mad Men" installment (title: "The Rejected"), I'd say the real heroine of the show is Allison, Don Draper's now former secretary (and one-night stand) and a woman who -- as the video above demonstrates -- isn't afraid to throw an incredibly heavy cigarette dispenser at her boss's head when the moment calls for it.
Yes, Allison lost it after a Pond's focus group turned into the sort of weepy, female-bonding session that, in modern times, would send most women on a journey of self-discovery through Italy, India and Bali. Were her tears a little unprofessional? Sure.
But that ever-reliable secretary -- the one whose work Don described as "sparkling" -- kept her hurt and disappointment over her boss's dismissive, post-sexual-encounter treatment bottled up for several weeks. It was bound to spill over eventually. The fact that it did, and she let it, shows that she is in touch with her feelings, processing them and taking action.
And by taking action, I mean: a. trying to confide in Peggy (more on that in a minute), b. telling Don that she can't continue pretending they didn't sleep together (a concept, BTW, that Don can't grasp since he is the Pretender -- seriously, that Foo Fighters song is totally about him); c. deciding to find another job; and d. aiming a cigarette dispenser straight for Don's dapper skull.
Obviously chucking potentially injury-inducing objects at another person, particularly one's supervisor, is never advisable. But when Don had the gall to ask Allison to write her own recommendation letter, I don't think there was a perpetually put-upon employee watching -- male or female -- who didn't cheer when she very nearly clonked Mr. Draper right in the noggin. The words she spoke afterward were even more hurtful than the concussion Don might have incurred if that desktop doohickey had actually made contact. "You are not a good person!" Aliison blurted out.
As we know, that fear -- that he is really a bad guy with a heart that's at least two sizes too small -- is what keeps Don awake at night. And by awake, I mean alert long enough to craft a two-sentence apology to Allison on his typewriter, crumple it up, then pass out in a drunken stupor on his bachelor pad sofa.
So, to recap: Allison came to terms with her feelings, told Don where to go and marched out of the office, most likely to accept that magazine position she mentioned and start working for a woman. That's right, a woman, presumably the sort of mentor who won't get wasted at the company Christmas party, leave her keys at the office, force Allison to bring her keys all the way to her sad, little apartment, then seduce her into a sexual encounter. Presumably.
Now to that confrontation with Peggy. Allison opened up to her female colleague, thinking that the former secretary to Don Draper would know exactly how she felt. But once Peggy realized what Allison was implying about the nature of her relationship with Don, the woman who went from dowdy bangs to swellegant flip 'do immediately turned firm and cold.
"Your problem is not my problem," she said. "And honestly, you should get over it."
Peggy never slept with Don. So maybe she was trying to draw some definitive line in the ad agency sand, to make it clear that she wouldn't do what Allison had done. (To be fair, Allison could -- and should -- have said no to Don's advances. It's just hard when he looks so darn handsome and his breath smells so much like a warm, cozy distillery.)
But Peggy's sudden snap into judgmental territory struck me as more of a defense mechanism, and evidence that she really has the capacity to become as dismissive and blunt as the men around her. Let's be honest: Allison's problem has been Peggy's problem. At one time, albeit under different circumstances, Peggy definitely grappled with Don's fickle and often withholding nature. And -- perhaps more to the point -- Peggy has certainly done some skinny dipping in the company swimming pool.
Which brings us to Peggy and Pete. Peggy demonstrated a measure of class by issuing a sincere congratulations to Pete after hearing the obviously upsetting news that he and wife Trudy are expecting. But she was clearly repressing some lingering emotion -- Sadness?Jealousy? Guilt? -- related to the child she and Pete conceived and the fact that Peggy isn't remotely ready to start a family.
By episode's end, she seemed to have made her choice. As her knowing glance with Pete implied -- a glance Peggy sent his way, notably, while standing outside the glass doors of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce -- she plans, for now, to enjoy being young, unmarried, capable of kissing writers unexpectedly in closets during sudden police raids and as smart as any of the mad men around her. I admire her for that.
But Peggy's still got some unresolved feelings she isn't acknowledging. Like her old boss, Don, she's shoving her most troubling secrets as far into her private, interior corners as she can, and turning on that tough exterior, even when that means being unflinchingly unsupportive to a fellow woman. But I suspect that, like Allison, she won't really be able to move on until she lets all her grief, anger and disappointment spill out.
Translation: I have a feeling this won't be the last time we -- or perhaps some people very close to them -- are reminded that Pete and Peggy very nearly became parents.
| August 16, 2010; 3:52 PM ET
Categories: TV | Tags: Mad Men
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