Mad Men, Season 4

Week 4: "She's Engaged! She's Lovely! She Uses Pond's!"
Talking television.
Aug. 17 2010 8:34 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 4: "She's Engaged! She's Lovely! She Uses Pond's!"

Pond’s Cold Cream Ad (1944).

We haven't talked much yet about Don's showdown with Faye at the end of the episode. Faye claims that the women in the focus group don't care about "ritual" or "routine"; they just want to get married, as Freddy Rumsen has suggested all along. Don argues that ads can do more than reflect desires and expectations—they can change and shape them. This is, if you think about it, a somewhat profound case for the significance of the work they do at SCDP. Perhaps a forward-looking ad agency—one that rejects tame two-piece bathing suits and single girls desperate for a ring simply because the ideas feel square—contributes as much to social change as the most impassioned activist, if inadvertently.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast

In the 1940s, Pond's Cold Cream did promise quite explicitly that using its cream would win you a man, with a campaign that featured "real girls" and the slogan: "She's engaged! She's lovely! She uses Pond's!" (Perhaps these are the ads Freddy Rumsen is cribbing from.) It's amazing today to look at one that touts the "petal-clear" complexion of a "Pond's bride-to-be" and notes: "It's no accident engaged girls like Frances, noted society beauties, love this soft-smooth beauty care." It makes you grateful for whatever progressiveness the ad world gives us, however venal its motives.

Pond’s Cold Cream Ad (1944).
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Swans, you're so right that for Allison, being asked to draft her own reference letter was crushing. All episode long Allison was angling for Don's attention—needling him about his boozing ("Why is this empty?"; "You drank it all."), nosing through his mail, staring accusingly at him through the one-way glass. Her disappointment when Peggy, not Don, came to console her after her meltdown was palpable. The idea that Don couldn't stand to pay attention to her even professionally—and that she wouldn't have the chance to submit his platitudes and praise to close scrutiny—finally cracked her composure. Sharp reader Barbara Pfieffer points out that Allison, who says she's going to work for a woman at a magazine, may be headed to Cosmopolitan, which named Helen Gurley Brown editor-in-chief in 1965. Perhaps a confessional article is in Allison's future? "37 Reasons You Should Never Sleep With Your Boss."

Finally, I want to call out a few particularly astute readings of the pears scene that closed the episode. The first is from reader Ryan Kalember, who saw the scene "as a juxtaposition of the 'never happened' generation with its even more Victorian predecessor. The old woman doesn't even think it proper decorum to discuss the contents of her grocery bag in the hallway with a stranger listening."

The second is from reader Mary Anne Mayo:

I saw "the pears" scene as a comment about privacy, which was a motif throughout the show. One of the generational changes that began in the '60s was a blurring of the line between public and private. Affairs used to be private and secret; now the office hears the smashing glass and gets involved in consoling the aggrieved. Glass partitions allow peeping. Conference calls allow a secretary to listen in without the cient's knowledge. Kisses are semi-public; lesbians are out of the closet; Allison pries by inquiring about the photo of Don and Anna, and asks whether it was in "the letter from California"—bad manners, which causes Don some annoyance. Trudy's condition becomes public knowledge almost before Pete hears about it, and the office is putting a card and champagne gift together almost before he's told his colleagues. As Don notes, the one-way glass focus group elicits a gabfest that is none of anyone else's business. Ken complains that unflattering comments about him are circulating. Joan is put out because her office has been invaded. And then we have the old couple, clearly a part of the past, where the elderly wife seems a bit embarrassed that her dotty husband is demonstrating his dottiness in the hallway in front of a stranger: "We'll discuss it inside!" in private. Don's discomfort with the "let-it-all-hang-out" generation is a question of manners, of privacy.

I can't top that, so I'm going to go stare into a mirror and brush my hair 100 times. Talk to you guys next week.

Julia