Mad Men, Season 7, Part 1

Peggy Olson Is a Boss and Beyoncé Isn't Around to Help Yet
Talking television.
May 6 2014 12:59 PM

Mad Men, Season 7, Part 1


It's 1969. Peggy is a boss and Beyoncé isn't around reclaiming the word yet.

Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson.
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson.

Photo courtesy Michael Yarish/AMC

I don't think Peggy's getting a raw deal. If this is where Peggy's story was going to end, maybe, but it's not. And nothing that has happened is out of character—it's just an unfortunate amount of bad character all at once. Peggy has always been the kind of demanding, oblivious boss who makes her employees stay late on holidays, qualities she inherited from her own boss, Don. But those traits in a woman mean she is lacking the very thing we expect female bosses to have: emotional intuitiveness.

You're right, Julia, that this is all very gendered, but to such an extent that not only am I not sure if Weiner is doing it on purpose or not, I'm not sure he has to do it on purpose. We, the audience, are supplying all the subtext. Is Peggy behaving worse than her male colleagues? Of course not! They are cheaters and drunks and liars. They get in fistfights in the office; they condescend and evade; they are impolite and irresponsible. Don, in particular, has not just been professionally noxious, he has been personally so. He threw money in Peggy's face! And yet when Peggy told him how unmissed he was didn't she seem like the one who was being way harsh, unkind, holding a grudge?

When the men on the show are jerks, they also have charm or pathos. When Peggy is a jerk, that's all she is, or a litany of other very gendered words: shrill, petty, irrational, bossy. And that distinction between Peggy and her peers isn't so much in the text—everyone on Mad Men is petty, irrational, flawed—as it is in the air all around us. It's what makes Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart and Jennifer Lawrence such flashpoints while Shia LaBeouf and Zac Efron are just, eye roll, silly boys. 


It's 1969. Peggy is a boss and Beyoncé isn't around reclaiming the word yet. So yes, Peggy is having a supremely unlikeable moment. I don't think it will last at this pitch. But even if it does, Peggy should not be straightjacketed by our expectations for her and only her, even though, of course, from her and only her, we expect more.

Read all of Slate's coverage of Mad Men.

Willa Paskin is Slate’s television critic.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

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

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 22 2014 8:07 AM Why Haven’t the Philadelphia Eagles Ever Won a Super Bowl?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
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.