Mad Men, Season 3

Week 6: Snake Charmers
Talking television.
Sept. 22 2009 11:54 AM

Mad Men, Season 3

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Week 6: Snake Charmers

I fully endorse naming your firstborn St. John Swansburg, John. Or perhaps, St. John of the Swansburg. But you'll only place a distant second to Jermaine Jackson, who, no joke, has a son named Jermajesty.

This raises an interesting matter of disclosure: None of us TV Clubbers has children. For the past few weeks, there has been speculation to this effect in the Fray and a recurrent contention that if we had any firsthand parenting experience, we'd stop carping about what a bad mom Betty is.

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Do you two buy this? I've been thinking it over, and really, I don't. To be sure, Betty is a sad case, a spurned wife and a harrowing embodiment of the spiritual downside of being a great beauty. And I would never suggest that being a mom in the early '60s was a piece of cake or that Don's once-a-month moments of tender interaction with his kids should be mistaken for responsible childrearing.

But I have to stick to my guns on this one: Betty's a dreadful mom. The only child she's shown any empathy for is Glen. She's consistently irritable and incurious when it comes to her own offspring, and I'm pretty certain that's precisely what Weiner wants us to think. Now, there are larger questions of the sort I raised in my last post about whether Mad Men is using Betty's solipsism to say something about how isolating it was to be a suburban housewife in the '60s. But on the general shoddiness of Betty's parenting, I don't see grounds for dispute.

Fraysters, am I wrong? Surely some of you have raised kids, even raised kids in the '60s, and still find Betty's style less than nurturing. Or do I need to change a few diapers before passing judgment?

Julia, I'm not sure I agree with you on Don and Joan. As Walter Dellinger observes again this week, Don is a master of reinvention. You could see the excitement in Don's eyes when the prospect of a move to London was on the table. He is restless, always shackled by his milieu. To me, Joan seems to be the opposite. She's defined by her milieu. Within the walls of Sterling Coop, Joan has a carefully tended power based on her encyclopedic knowledge of the place. Moneypenny justifies his nasty decision to blow her surprise party by suggesting, with evident envy, that it's impossible to keep a secret from her, anyway. If Don walked out the door and went to London, to the Waldorf, hell, even to PPL Bombay, I wouldn't worry about him for a minute. He specializes in second acts. But I fear that when Joan is exiled from her natural ecosystem, she'll lose that predatory, hip-swinging swagger and begin to look an awful lot like prey.

While we're on animal metaphors, do you have any thoughts on the snakes in this episode, Julia? Pryce's cobra echoes Don's remark to Connie about snakes that gorge themselves to death, and that line could only bring to mind Peggy's suggestion that Don has "everything—and so much of it." But Pryce's situation and Don's don't seem analogous. Any grand unifying theory you'd like to share?

Finally, I loved the Kinsey-on-the-guitar moment as well, John. And as jro108 points out, the disrespect was compounded by the ditty Paul chose, "Jerusalem," based on a poem by Blake and familiar to fans of Chariots of Fire, which posits that Jesus himself traveled to Glastonbury and was "on England's pleasant pastures seen." Guy probably grew up singing "Jerusalem" in school. But his teachers failed to warn him that if you don't tread gently through the dark, satanic mills of Madison Avenue, you might leave an appendage behind.

Of course it falls to Kinsey to prove that Americans can do irony after all.

Bring me my bow of burning gold. Bring me my arrows of desire.

Patrick

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