The Mad Men Thread

If you haven't seen the latest episode, avoid the jump.

I found Campbell as the rapist a lot more troubling (in a good way) than Greg. I don't know how else to say this--I thought Pete's episode was much more about how the rapist lies in the heart of all men. It was very hard to see myself in Greg, to empathize with him as the rapist, last season. That's because Pete is familiar to us, Greg isn't. We know Pete.

This is very important, because it keeps us from averting our eyes, from putting a rapist in a box, from turning him into a pariah who could never possibly live on our side of the street. Equally important is how the rape happened--not as brute force, but by bringing to bear a myriad of societal forces (race, class, citizenship) to exercise power. What I appreciate about Mad Men's depiction of rape, is the refusal to make it about hoods hiding out in dark alleys. Yeah it's that too--but it's so much more. Rape in Weiner's hands is a kind of lynching, a means of putting uppity women, who dare express their own free will, back in their place.

And yet even with that, Mad Men stands as a total rejection of the Manichean, of good and evil, light and dark. It's characters aren't so much balanced portraits, as they are archetypes inflated until they are human to us. It's important to see Betty and Don role-playing, and then repairing to their hotel room. It's important to be able to credibly ask, without a hint of sarcasm, "Are these two in love?" Narrative is the original CGI--it's hard to get the eyes right, to make the characters move as they though are human.

The contrast between Pete and Betty was so powerful that I am scared to even attempt to tell you what it means. But that's never stopped me before--At first I thought it was about man as beast, how men need marriage to keep them from doing evil. But then I thought it was about humans as beasts, and how marriage keeps us all from committing to stupidity. The difference, at least in this instance, is that women recognize this, and men do not.