Mad Men, Season 4

Week 5: The Psychiatry Stigma
Talking television.
Aug. 24 2010 10:58 AM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 5: The Psychiatry Stigma

Sally Draper.
Sally Draper

OK, fine. Leave the Sally Draper masturbation scene for me to ... touch upon. When I saw Sally head south while watching television, part of me saluted Mad Men for its friskiness, and the other part braced for the period speculation that would surround this scene: "Would a 10-year-old girl really quote-unquote 'play with herself' in 1964?" Gee, I don't know. If you look at the U.S. Masturbation Data from 1964 .... Alas, there is no Wikipedia page to turn to.

I don't hold the divorce fully responsible for Sally's exploration—among the prominent secondary causes has to be Glen down the street. We've already seen him giving Sally an earful about "doing it" during a telephone conversation. (Fun fact: Glen is Matthew Weiner's son.) And he seems a likely source for Sally's comment to Nice Across-the-Hall Nurse that, when it comes to sex, "The man pees inside the woman." Which has a certain undeniable kid logic.

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I suppose it's as simple as this: Sally, witnessing her parent's divorce, sees a new man in her mother's house and knows that her father goes on dates. (Her response to the name "Bethany" was great: "I don't like that.") We're witnessing her understandable attempts to figure out what this mysterious thing is that influences the actions of the adults in her life. It's not as if she can discuss it with her mother.

Do I sound like a therapist? John, I wrote that the psychiatry seemed ominous because of the way the scene showed Carla looking sadly at Sally as she enters the door for her first appointment. She is leaving the land of the sane and boarding the crazy train—becoming marked as "in need of help." Remember Henry's mildly alarmed response to Betty's admission that she had been in therapy. Despite how it helped his daughter, Henry's reaction suggests that there's a lingering stigma about seeing a shrink. Also, Sally has to go four days a week!

I like how Betty softened a bit in therapy, trying to justify the divorce to herself and Dr. Edna. Her character is always so unlikable, but she's more appealing during those memory/emotional-monologue bits. Previously, we'd consigned Don and Betty to the "never happened" generation, but this week we saw them both opening up. Loosened by a touch of sake in the kitchenette, Don asks Faye Miller: "Why does everybody need to talk about everything?" And then he proceeds to unburden himself of his divorced-Dad misgivings about time with his children. Those sentiments were a little generic, especially for a guy with a double (triple?) life, but, hey, it's a start.

Julia is right that we haven't fully addressed the important matter of Miss Blankenship. Christ on a cracker! Sure, she can do serious damage to the New York Times crossword puzzle (left-handed), but I don't see how Don lets her feeble work with the buzzer stand. He's a creative who's supposedly a master of presentation and image. It's time to get a secretary of French-extraction with an alluring accent tout de suite.

Having lunch with a Deerfield chum,
Agger

Michael Agger is an editor at The New Yorker. Follow him on Twitter.