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‘Mad’cap Recap 4:12

WHEN MAD MEN FIRST STARTED, one of the most commented-on elements of the show was the cigarettes. At work, in restaurants, around kids–even pregnant ladies were lighting up with barely a second thought. There is no more provocative symbol of this bygone generation than constant smoking. More than rampant workplace sexism or even alcohol use and abuse, seeing so much smoke creates an immediate divide between modern viewers and ’60s characters.

Tobacco has been involved in many of Mad Men’s significant moments, both personal and professional. I will always remember Lee Garner, Sr. arguing for the wholesomeness of the Lucky Strike brand and doubling over at the conference table in a paroxysm of lung hacking, while a boatload of yes men instantly and hilariously developed the same mysterious malady. Even more indelible is the image of a terrified Don Draper, his secret life as Dick Whitman finally exposed to Betty, fumbling with a cigarette and dropping it on the floor. Showrunner Matthew Weiner has said that every flick and drag is in the script as a marker for an important emotional moment. When someone on Mad Men lights up, pay attention. They are probably hiding a great truth behind that cloud of smoke.

And yet, though smoking will likely never be far from the Mad Men world, it does seem that SCDP is breaking up with tobacco. (Or should that be SDP, now that Bert Cooper has taken his shoes and gone home?) Remember the beginning of this season, when Don was reluctant to step into the media spotlight on behalf of SCDP? Well, he’s sure jumping into it now. Don’s full-page letter rejecting all future tobacco business was a bold and irreversible step that has created a major stir in the industry and a general panic among the partners. And I’m not really sure why Don did it. His brush with Midge and her new “full-time job” probably played some part, but what? Did Don decide that if he couldn’t save Midge from a life of heroin addiction, he could at least save some people from falling under the spell of any more of his effective pro-smoking ad campaigns? Or was he simply looking for a way to change the conversation per Peggy’s advice and got inspired? Don is in such a state of flux these days that the idealistic and the cynical answers both seem equally likely. What will come of this surprising move is still to be seen. The American Cancer Society is knocking on the door, but nonprofits usually don’t have millions to throw around on advertising, so SCDP may need to do something even more unorthodox to keep their doors open.

Meanwhile in Ossining, The Continuing Adventures of the World’s Worst Mother are proceeding apace. The last time we saw Betty, she was slowly loosening her grip on her anger toward Don. Clearly, that was just to get a better stranglehold on the pointless and infuriating resentment she has for her daughter! Mind you, I don’t entirely disagree with Betty’s decision that Sally might be better off with friends other than Glen, who still gives off a persistently creepy vibe. But the way she went about it was just so inappropriate and immature. Was she overreacting because Glen is a boy? Was it because Glen is not a very handsome boy? Was it because she didn’t want to get in any more trouble with Glen’s mother? Or is she just punishing Sally at random because Betty hates herself and needs a mini-scapegoat? Whatever it is, that child psychologist has her work cut out for her with the Draper women. Like cigarettes, self-hatred is dangerous, addictive and ever-present in the world of Mad Men.

Next week is the season finale, titled “Tomorrowland.” I know they can’t afford it, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a SCDP field trip to Disneyland! Who wouldn’t love to see Pete and Peggy in Mouseketeer ears?

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One Response to “‘Mad’cap Recap 4:12”

  1. Pete and Peggy in Mckey ears? Yes, please! Pete could practically be a Mouseketeer.

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