Episode 2.6 "Maidenform"
Lots of movie star references surface in this episode which spins from a brassiere campaign. It's not only a great episode but a phenomenal excuse to open with shots of all three female leads in their underthings. Behold the holy Mad (Wo)Men trinity: January Jones (Betty), Christina Hendricks (Joan) and Elisabeth Moss (Peggy). They're all Emmy nominees this year.
They're the Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and... ??? of the show. But before we get to the reductive stereotyping of women, a few male types are referenced.
One of Mad Men's chief strengths is the well crafted characterizations. Even the character's movie tastes are consistent from episode to episode. Pete Campbell, like Don, is a frequent moviegoer but he has a limited mainstream palette. He definitely likes manly heroics and in one of this episodes funny bits he spoils the latest John Wayne movie for Peggy.
"You saved me 50 cents," she responds unfazed. Peggy rarely shows interest in entertainment. She's all business, as humorless as Don Draper in her own way.
We're glossing over the movies costing 50¢ bit lest we begin weeping.
The movies were even cheaper in Roger Sterling's youth. As the show's resident silver fox his cultural touchstones are older. He's pissed that two of his best men are warring over a botched account.
"Errol Flynn is gone. So is my taste for swordplay. You two need to put them away."Errol Flynn, the cinema's great swashbuckler died in 1959 (when he was only 50), a few short years before this episode takes place. He was still a regular movie presence. But Roger Sterling undoubtedly grew up watching Flynn's big screen adventures as a kid in the '30s.
But the best movie-related discussion in this episode stems from the "two sides of the same woman" brassiere ad campaign. Jackie Kennedy by day / Marilyn Monroe by night. (I love this episode so much I even used it as my Mad Men Yourself background for my desktop.)
The men decide that there are only two women that other women fantasize about being. They point to the women in the office, labelling them one by one to prove their point.
"Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. Every single woman is one of them. Watch this. Jackie. Marilyn. Jackie...Christina Hendricks cuts such a wonderfully round figure as Joan Holloway (in both characterization and shape) that that significant compliment reads like the gospel truth.
"...MARILYN. Well... Marilyn is really a Joan. Not the other way around."
Peggy doesn't like being left out and wasn't privvy to this campaign. So she disagrees.
Peggy: I don't know if all women are a Jackie or a Marilyn. Maybe men see them that way.
Paul: Bras are for men. Women want to see themselves the way men see them.
Sal: You're a Jackie or a Marilyn, a line and a curve; Nothing goes better together.
Peggy: Which do you think I am?
Ken: [mocking her] Gertrude Stein.
Sal: I would say you're more classical. Helenic.
Don Draper: Irene Dunne.
Freddy: [The oldest member of "creative"] Ohhh, I love Irene Dunne.
Peggy's dead-serious demeanor disqualifies her as an Irene Dunne if you ask me, since Dunne could be so superbly silly (The Awful Truth = the most bliss to be had anywhere outside of Singin' in the Rain) but the comparison is undoubtedly a compliment. It's also interestingly incongruous since Irene Dunne is a classic Hollywood rather than contemporary 60s reference point ... and isn't Peggy the most modern of the women?
But there are more types than two, even within Mad Men restrictive gender universe. Betty Draper doesn't spend time in this office but she's definitely not a Marilyn or a Jackie. She's a Grace Kelly.
We've come a long way since the 1960s and pop culture gives women a much wider range of fantasy persona today: a Meryl, a Kate, an Angelina, a Scarlett, a Keira, a Sandra, an Oprah, a Tilda, a Dame Helen, a Kristen, a Reese, a Beyoncé, an Ellen, the list goes on and on...
Have you ever thought about which celebrity (male or female) people might 'type' you as, if they checked you out?
Other Cultural References in this episode: (Movies) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance | (Politics) Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, The Kennedys.