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The Orange Couch Does Mad Men: S7E6, “The Strategy”

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, May 19, 2014 9:45 EDT

So this is the most optimistic episode of Mad Men, possibly ever, right? As Marc and I discuss in the video, the entire episode was about the breakdown of the “traditional” nuclear family. Which was always more an aspirational ideal more than a “tradition”, per se, as is made evident by the fact that Peggy finds herself feeling inadequate compared to the housewives without noticing that those housewives are not actually achieving the ideal of the home meal-cooking happy homemakers that they thought they’d be. Since Mad Men tends, at best, to be ambivalent about the rapid social change of the 60s,* I was buckled down for an episode that was just as ambivalent about that. A lot of people have noticed that Peggy has been something of an ironic character this season: Dressing like Mary Tyler Moore, for instance, but dissolving into tears instead of throwing her hat joyously into the air. But the cheerful, optimistic ending for Peggy suggested something very different, instead. It suggested Peggy’s sadness has less to do with the realities of her life and more to do with her hang-ups, and that the solution to her sadness is to let go of the illusion that there’s one right way to live and instead create her own path in life.

So yeah, that episode, complete with “My Way” as a kicker and the image of Megan actually smiling on the plane as she escapes Don’s clutches, was a real bright spot in the midst of a season that is tracking the growing dread of the era. Weiner & Co clearly have a cynical take on the hippie movement of the late 60s, for devolving into magical thinking and repackaging the same old sexism in dirty dungarees and pretending it was something new. But, this episode seemed to argue, the chaos of the late 60s gave women an opportunity to break free from stifling gender norms and start asking themselves what they authentically wanted out of life, and that was a wholly good thing. Even Don, who can love Peggy without his judgment being clouded by what he wants from her, can see quite clearly that she’s making out like a bandit. Now, if she’d only let herself enjoy it.

Same goes for Joan and Megan. What struck me is that both of them seemed to have reached a place where they’ve realized that autonomy counts for more than pretty much anything. Both of them have a man offer them yet another golden birdcage, and both reject it without hesitation. Both realize that autonomy is more important than security or luxury. Both know that the life these men offer would probably have fewer frustrations. But being the hero of your own story, in the end, matters more than the day-to-day pleasures that being the well-pampered wife of a rich executive has to offer.

Jessica Valenti recently wrote a piece about the way that conservatives concern troll modern women about how all our independence is supposedly making us unhappy, something they seem not to worry about when it comes to men having independence.

While I don’t mind being a little unhappy as a feminist, I admit there are downsides. The realization that there is so much work to be done isoverwhelming. But the itch of discontent makes us better: we fix things, seek out new adventures, and think about new ways of living our life. Ignorance may be bliss – but it’s not the truth.

This episode showed that better than anything. Megan, Joan, and Peggy have all considered the choice between the pampered life of a dependent—which admittedly has fewer frustrations, since it’s easier to figure out what to make for dinner than what makes a great ad campaign, how to get that great part that will be your break-out, or how to organize a business—but they choose the struggle. Happiness is an emotion that comes and it goes. But feeling true to yourself is, well, a strategy that makes life worth living.

Thoughts? Feelings? Do you think Don has learned something? What was with all the baby blue dresses?

*Except, of course, when it comes to both the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement. But even then, the marginalization of both those movements on the show is an ambivalence in and of itself. Not of the moral rightness of those causes, but of their effectiveness as enacting real, lasting change.


Guns: So many people obsessing over a tool so few will ever use

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, May 16, 2014 13:55 EDT

Loud. Expensive. Useless. On a recent episode of the show Louie, there’s a hilarious scene where Louie is playing poker with his comedian buddies, and they start trying to outdo each other with masturbation jokes. At one point, Jim announces that he uses both a vibrator and a dildo to masturbate. This understandably confuses everyone, so he gleefully elaborates: He rubs the vibrator up and down his dick until he orgasms. It’s great. But what…


Trailer for new sitcom Selfie causes feelings of rage, despair, and constipation

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, May 15, 2014 11:49 EDT

Okay, this isn’t the most earth-shattering thing in the world, but this is so upsetting. I am a fan of both John Cho and Karen Gillan’s, and so I’m devastated to see that they’re going to star in an ABC sitcom called Selfie, based on Pygmalion, that looks unbelievably sexist and…


It’s not the secular world that’s hyper-sexual

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 11:38 EDT

I need to document that ass. For Jesus.  By now, I have to imagine regular readers have seen this story posted at the blog of Hännah Ettinger, who was raised in the Quiverfull movement and is now an outspoken critic of Christian patriarchy. (Her family has since left the cult and,…


The new Pope believes in demon possession. This is a problem.

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 11:20 EDT

I touched on this briefly in a Slate post, but I want to dig in and talk about it some more. Anthony Faiola has an alarming piece up at the Washington Post about how the small but devout exorcist community within the Catholic church is getting a huge boost from…


The Orange Couch does Mad Men: S7E5, “The Runaways”

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, May 12, 2014 9:45 EDT

This week’s episode was incredibly dense in its themes and allusions. Including this, which our intrepid publisher Roxanne Cooper dug up and sent me: Starting at 1:37. Clearly, Stanley Kubrick is the muse of this season. Eagle eyes who catch more allusions to Kubrick always welcome! In The Orange Couch,…


Will Monica Lewinsky matter?

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, May 8, 2014 12:33 EDT

Digby has a post castigating people who think that the return of Monica Lewinsky isn’t going to matter, and I find her reasoning quite persuasive. The Lewinsky scandal was seen at the time through the lens of the unprecedented partisan attacks of the previous five years and the total abdication…


Is Shape magazine misleading readers about what dramatic weight loss looks like?

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, May 7, 2014 16:08 EDT

Losing a bunch of weight does not necessarily make your stomach flat.  Brooke Birmingham’s website Brooke: Not On A Diet is crashing, and it’s no wonder. She must be getting slammed by traffic after this amazing expose she published on her website regarding her refusal to work with Shape magazine…


Atheists need to put the Christian right on the spot, ask them if they really think we’re less American

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 11:27 EDT

One of the reasons it’s important for atheists to organize and make themselves more visible is that it’s probably one of the best weapons against bullshit like the Supreme Court coughed up yesterday, allowing explicitly Christian prayer to open legislative sessions. Ian Millhiser explains why it’s so dangerous: Town of…


The Orange Couch does Mad Men: S7E4, “The Monolith”

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, May 5, 2014 10:28 EDT

It’s easy to make knowing jokes about how much of a tribute to Stanley Kubrick this episode was, but I’ve never been one to think that the ease of catching a reference somehow diminishes its emotional impact. On the contrary, it was nice to reminded that Kubrick was really on…