Mad Men, Season 5

Oh, the Accordion!
Talking television.
April 10 2012 10:29 AM

Mad Men, Season 5


Oh, the accordion!

Mad Men (Season 5)
Those dulcet tones

Photograph by Michael Yarish/AMC.

I admired those slingbacks, too, Julia. But the word is footwear. Don’t make that mistake again.

What a compelling indictment, Swansburg. I’m hardly going to step up and defend the episode in its every detail. The Peggy and Dawn sequence did feel facile, and having witnessed Lane’s awkward encounter with the cabby a few weeks back, it was a bit deflating to have the show reduce the fraught race relations of the era to a trust-and-money dynamic once again. 

You also make a terrific point about the prevalence in popular culture of supporting African American characters who function only as instrumental foils for the personal development of the white leads. This is an old problem, of course, and an ongoing challenge for black actors. After The Wire, with its rich array of complex roles, concluded, most of its actors were reduced to taking broader, less nuanced parts; some of them couldn’t find acting jobs at all, and ended up working 9-to-5. There was a measure of irony, during Oscar season, that the extraordinary Viola Davis raised these issues repeatedly, and persuasively, while campaigning for a film that, in some respects, was emblematic of the problem. Some noted a further irony when she ended up losing the Oscar.

Maybe we should adapt the Bechdel Test for race. But on Mad Men, at least, we’ll need to wait until SCDP hires a second black employee—or until the show ventures past 96th street, where even the cabs won’t go, and follows Dawn home. Either way, let’s hope we find her in an environment where her inner life can start to show; I’m pretty uninhibited myself, but even I would be a little guarded during an impromptu sleepover with a senior copywriter from my new job, and an overly empathetic, drunken one, at that.

There’s one potentially significant issue that you haven’t addressed, however: You say you knew the Andrea scene was a dream sequence, John, but when did the dream begin? We can all agree in retrospect that her second visit to Don’s apartment was a fantasy—but what about her first? Don is awake when she shows up the first time, and he quickly hurries her out.  Was that a dream as well? To me, and to a number of our readers, it seemed more likely that the first encounter actually happened. And if it did, that would lend some weight to the hunch I expressed yesterday that the Lincoln Center pas de deux may have taken place more recently than the 1960 season.

A stray, favorite moment: It’s a fairly typical comic convention to have a violin player descend on the table and launch into a schmaltzy serenade just as the diners are commencing an epic fight. But to make the interloper an accordionist was an inspired twist—as it let Mrs. Holloway punctuate the awkward silence that follows by remarking, brightly, “Joanie plays the accordion.”

That’s for nothing. So look out,



Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.