New Orange Couch! Marc and I discuss the themes of dominance and submission, history repeating itself, and authenticity vs. substitution. My Texas heart soared to see the overt allusions to The Last Picture Show.
For a person who works in creative, Don sure likes to think that the only route to power is destruction. How many people did he he try to obliterate and dominate, either directly or indirectly, this episode? Ted and Sylvia are the most obvious ones, but it’s clear that he’s also trying to squish Peggy and Arnie through his mind fucks of Ted and Sylvia. Despite seeming like a man not at home in the 60s, he actually is pretty well aligned with the destructive forces that worked through the culture at that time, forces we’re reminded of by Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.
On the “history repeats itself” front, Marc makes an interesting observation that just because people do the same thing over and over again doesn’t mean that they produce the same results. Both Kennedy brothers were shot by lone madmen, but one assassination led to the election of LBJ and the other to Richard Nixon, who I think we can safely say were very different men (though they both prosecuted the pointless Vietnam war). Don’s little dominance games fail to squish any of the people he struck out to squish. He tries to roll up Megan into the generic “wife” role that he stuck Betty with, but it’s hard to deny that they’re very different people. Don may want the rest of the world to accept that they’re just toys for him to play with, but they’re finally declining his offer.
That’s why I keep dwelling over the final shot of Don being oblivious to the Kennedy assassination while Megan is overwhelmed with emotion. Another character—I forget who—suggests that the assassinations are blending into each other at this point, and I think that’s what Don is basically suggesting by ignoring the TV. But Megan—who is pretty much always in the right whenever she conflicts with Don—is still honoring this tragedy as its own, unique tragedy that needs to be mourned just as surely as all the others. It’s not an indistinguishable stream of violence. Each assassination is different, with different reasons it happened and different results. It’s not naive to believe that, but it’s just the truth. What that means for Don, however, is hard to say. As hard, presumably, as it was for a bunch of liberal New Yorkers in 1968 to grasp that Nixon really, truly was going to win this one.
Thoughts? Opinions? Fantasies about how Don gets his well-deserved comeuppance?