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‘Mad’cap Recap 4:3

Three cheers for contributor Kate, who’s managed to make a surprising-but-effective observation about intergenerational relations based on drying paint.  How does she do it?!  Look out for spoilers as you read for yourself.

MY FAVORITE GUEST CHARACTER on Mad Men appeared in last night’s episode: Dick Whitman. I love Dick Whitman. He is so relaxed and happy, it’s hard not to want to see more of him.

His easy manner when Patty greets him as “Dick” reminds me of how heavily his life as Don Draper weighs on him, even during the better times. His devotion to Anna Draper is also incredibly endearing. He supports her and cares for her, not as a payoff to keep her quiet about his true identity, but out of gratitude for her unconditional acceptance of him. I’m not sure how much specific detail Anna knows about Don’s philandering, but I think she has the ability to look at the hurt he causes and recognize it as a cry of pain. When she tells him, “I want you to do everything you want to do,” she’s not writing him a blank check for consequence-free immorality, but she is trying to help him get at the core of who he is. I think she introduced him to her niece, Stephanie, because she knew that he would be tempted by her youth and beauty, and Anna wanted to give Dick an opportunity to make a good choice. Dick (and by extension, Don) is lovable to me because I know how much he is loved by Anna.

The revelation of Anna’s cancer, therefore, feels harsher than most of the other misfortunes that have befallen Don recently; for one thing, this is the only one that is not of his own making. For another, I am definitely on his side against Patty and the doctors. A sick person deserves to know that they are sick. Dick bristles at the injustice of Anna’s loss of agency, but eventually decides to let Patty make the choices about what is best for her sister. Dick is, after all, not really part of the family, and this truth may be the worst tragedy of them all.

So what’s a man to do when the last good thing in his life has been taken away from him? Get a friend drunk and take him to a Gamera movie, I guess. If Dick Whitman is to be sentenced to a life of loneliness, then Don Draper is going to retaliate against the universe by dragging the faithful Lane Pryce into the gutter with him. Don’t get me wrong, the adventures of Don and Lane had me in stitches. The steak belt buckle, the heckling of the stand-up comic, the wisecracking during the film (who knew that a couple of uptight ad men in the 1960s actually invented Mystery Science Theater 3000 decades before its time?)–all great stuff. But then Don is buying a prostitute for his coworker, and sadness overtakes the show again. Even after Don flees all the way to California to try to escape it, his fake real life is still there waiting for him when he comes home.

Meanwhile, Joan is struggling with her own sadness, as her husband, Greg (who raped her in season 2), is preparing for service in Vietnam, and as she, then, hopes to get pregnant before he is called overseas. Now, maybe it’s just because I’m a huge fan of Joan and Roger together, but I’ve never really understood what the fabulous and feisty Joan sees in Greg (who raped her) or what motivates her to continue trying to salvage their marriage. There’s just something about Greg (who raped her) that I don’t like, even when he’s being kind and competent in stitching up her cut finger, saying “I can’t fix anything else, but I can fix this.” Well, I’m sure I’ll think of it sooner or later.

And so Mad Men enters 1965. This year, America will officially enter the Vietnam War, and young men will burn their draft cards. The Civil Rights movement will gather steam as Martin Luther King, Jr. leads a series of marches and protests in the South. Bob Dylan will go electric, and the Beatles will play Shea Stadium. As Dick said, young people are in charge. It remains to be seen if Don Draper’s generation will leave any more of a mark on their world than a splash of paint on the wall.

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