Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MM@M: Jackie and Marilyn. A Line and a Curve.

TV's greatest show has a love affair with the movies. So we have a love affair with TV's greatest show. This is Mad Men @ The Movies. Season 4 begins in 5 days.

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.)



Anyway...

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...


"...MARILYN. Well... Marilyn is really a Joan. Not the other way around."
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.

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.
[long pause]
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.

19 comments:

moror said...

Kristen Scott Thomas or Kristen Stewart?

I would love to see more (complex) female characters in Mad Men... think of all the actressing and glamor that would take place!

David said...

I'm a Woody Allen type through and through.

NATHANIEL R said...

moror - as much as it pains me to say, Kristen Stewart is more of a "type" for women to emulate than KST. the horror. the horror.

david -- as long as it doesn't involve arguable stepdaughters, that's a good type to be! comically, intellectually, etcetera ;)

okinawaassault said...

Peggy's a Rosalind. She was born at the right time, but she would have been fine if she was born 20 years before.

And I'm an Asian male who hasn't beaten up anyone nor eaten at Whitecastle. My sister says I'm a Ewan McGregor because he's weird and has a sense of wonder and can be anyone.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

It's not even one of my favourite movies, but I love how much you love The Awful Truth.

/3rtfu11 said...

I’m a Bea Arthur type in a Nathan Lane body.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

Hmm this is going to sound presemptuous of me, but if I was a Hollywood celebrity I'd be a Jack Nicholson type.


Huge charisma that compensates the lack of ravishing beauty that stands out in my co-stars and that is so preferred (and even favoured) in HW.

People wouldn't love me at first but as they'd get to know me and what I can do, I'd win them over. :D

vatz said...

Steve Urkel from "Family Matters"

Jorge Rodrigues said...

I still can't believe Christina Hendricks DID NOT submit the vase episode for Emmy consideration.

She chose 'Guy Walks into and Advertising Agency', in which she's also very good, but not displayed as iconically as in that vase scene.

Jones and Hamm chose 'The Gypsy and the Hobo' (the one with Joan's vase scene) in which both are superb, while Moss chose 'Love among the ruins' which makes total sense for her since she's prominent in that episode.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

If Emmys were ONLY won based on the episodes, I'd slap Jane Lynch and Ty Burrell in the face, because those are some dumb choices they made and could cost them their Emmys.

Lynch picked 'The Power of Madonna' in which, although amusing, her Sue is lacking that something extra - I'd rather she picked "Hell-O" because the scene which shows us how she got her job back is hilariously funny enough to net her the Emmy.

Luckily for Lynch, she is so omnipresent when a person talks about Glee that one can't help not to give her the prize.


On the other hand, Burrell went with 'Game Changer', the iPad episode. Granted, he's always amazing, but couldn't he have picked "Truth Be Told" (the Judy Greer episode, in which he and Bowen are outstanding) or "Fifteen Percent" (Bowen and himself are, here as well, fantastic - it's the TV remote episode) or "The Bicycle Thief". Honestly, if it were based on individual episodes alone, Neil P. Harris ("Girls vs. Suits", excellent stuff + a musical number for TV ages) or Eric Stonestreet (where he played his clown persona, "Fizbo") might have a better shot.

NATHANIEL R said...

Jorge -- you hear that episode selection is important all the time but i really believe it's only important if you have a low rated show that the emmy viewers aren't already in love with (like FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS). for example if i were voting, emmy submission episodes would be crucial in deciding if Breaking Bad were worth a statue because i don't watch it, but Mad Men is already the default setting, you know?

But agreed that The Vase is a great Hendrick's episode.

and Truth Be Told is maybe the best Ty Burrell episode ... 'cept i also love that one where he is scared to go under the house with his son. don't know which eppy that is.

Lara said...

I have a confession to make. I watched the first three episodes of the first season and found it sort of boring. None of the characters sparked enough interest in me that I wanted to continue watching them on a regular basis. I found most of the characters to be bland, especially the female ones and particularly Don Draper's wife. That scene where she visits her shrink for the first time put me almost to sleep.
Has the series improved that much since the first few episodes, or is just me? Probably it's just me.

troyhopper said...

Though Jones and Hendricks chose superbly in their submissions (my opinion, of course), I really wish Moss would have picked the season finale. Her two big scenes with Jon Hamm in that episode were completely riveting and some of her best work. But I do understand the actors' tendency to choose the ones that feature them most prominently, even if it isn't the best representation of their performances.

Wade said...

Not to be a picker of nits, Nathaniel, but I believe its "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" not "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valiant" as you have listed under other cultural references in this episode.

betty321 said...

oh it makes me so happy to see modern day television and also websites like this still remember such gorgeous actors and actresses like irene dunne in particular, even though they generally have been forgotten nowadays as they were no such divas or over-publicized style icons like marilyn or grace kelly... :)

NATHANIEL R said...

Lara -- well it's definitely not a "speedy" show (until arguably Season 3 when it seemed to be injected with caffeine) but once you fall under the weird spell of the complex characterizations you can stare at these people for hours even if they're only ordering drinks or staring off into space.

Wade -- thanks. I misstyped. i type way too fast alas.

betty -- thanks. but forgetting Irene Dunne people do at their own loss. She's so great.

Deborah said...

I'm going to toot my own horn: I analyze what "type" Peggy is here: http://www.lippsisters.com/2009/01/07/peggy-is-neither-a-marilyn-or-a-jackie/

As for me? I'm Bette Midler through and through.

Hayden said...

An Eddie Redmayne type, if I'm lucky.

Paul Outlaw said...

Peggy is a Dolores Hart (Where the Boys Are, King Creole). Although she's also kinda Patty Duke.