This most excellent graphic, “Casting Call” was created by Dyna Moe. I ORDER you to go check her out. Stop reading. Do it now.
So like a lot of people, I’m obsessed with Mad Men. You must know by now the show won Best Drama Series at this year’s Emmys. As a result, my Google Alert “Mad Men” simply overfloweth with praise, interviews, even fashion tips.
But see, I’m obsessed with Mad Men Women. Because I know them. Growing up, I lived with them. And as a young woman, I was them. So many of the show’s moments snag something inside me and give it a good yank. The first time Peggy Olsen flung out her IBM Selectric cover like it was a blanket, and then used it to secure her typewriter against that evening’s dust, a memory file drawer was thrust open and I was 19 again, working for a small group of lawyers, typing their letters, their invoices, their envelopes. I wore a pink angora cowl neck sweaterdress to my interview, and later both my bosses told me it was what got me the job. It curved in all the right places. Yeah, I guess I should’ve been aghast, but instead I blushed. Frankly I was flattered. My whole life I was always the bookish one. I had never been viewed like that and to my utter astonishment, I loved it. For just a moment, I was Joan Holloway. And it felt powerful. Every woman should work her inner Holloway sometimes.
Another show moment – when Betty Draper, perfectly coiffed and attired at 7am, begins to make breakfast by prying open a can of frozen orange juice concentrate. My memory mind goes utterly, completely berzerko. I almost blow a memory gasket. Betty dumps the stuff in with a sick plopping sound before adding water, and there goes another yank in my gut. As a girl, that was my job. Plop it in the pitcher – that stuff that looks vaguely like something the cat yacked up – then add exactly three cans of water – or was it four? I had completely blocked out that part of growing up. Do they even make that stuff anymore? It tasted horrible. And it made crappy popsicles. That little monstery guy from the Saturday morning cartoons extolling the virtues of frozen orange juice popsicles made in ice cube trays with toothpicks. So healthy! So lacking in taste and they always fell off the toothpicks.
But I digress. Mad Men Women are brilliant. The level of detail is almost like someone had a time machine. Particularly with the clothes. I mean, my mother and grandmothers must’ve had literally HUNDREDS of housecoats. Now there’s something that has gone into fashion extinction. Maybe it’s time for a comeback? (Yeah, no thanks). And all those frilly nylon nightgowns Betty is always flouncing around the house in with a glass of red wine in her hand? If she was a long-haired brunette that could be my mother. Just unreal. I have so many memories of her lying in bed in one of those things, sometimes in the middle of the afternoon, talking about how she doesn’t feel well. Or she’s tired. That’s one good hard hurtful yank every time a scene like that appears. What, did Matthew Weiner somehow download the contents of my brain into his computer? Is there some sort of invisible Matrix-like cord coming out the back of my head and directly into his steno pad? It’s just a little too accurate to be comfortable. It makes my stomach hurt, but in a really really good way.
I used to dig through my mother’s chifforobe to examine those flouncy oh-so-flammable gowns, fingering the material, wondering if I’d ever be able to fill one out. They always seemed more like costumes than clothes. They were like flimsy little Kleenex. Or Tinkerbell’s wings. Or ballerina tutus. And Nan Jordan had hundreds – because she loved them, but also because my Nana worked in the lingerie department at Newberry’s in Front Royal, Virginia. So Nan could count on one every Christmas and birthday. I swear if ol‘ Matthew ever writes a scene where little Sally Draper ends up playing with Mommy’s gowns while Betty is out shopping, they might have to cart me away to the funny farm.
Nan, my mom, was so much like Betty in that everything had to be “just so” for company, but once the curtains were closed it was wine and housecoats. Her dinner parties were true practices in early 1960’s Camelot protocol. I mean, the woman majored in Home Ec at a woman’s college for chrissakes! The buffet was her work of art – a special serving plate for every offering, real cloth napkins, hell, we even had a multi-tiered “tree” for cookies. And Sinatra on the turntable.
My favorite scene of Mad Men Women? Well, it’s one that COULD have happened. It feels so real that it might actually have. Several of the neighborhood women are sitting around the living room, looking 1960 fashionably fabulous, smoking and drinking cocktails in the middle of the afternoon. Quietly projecting that kind of unadvertised, secretive power that kid gloves, kitten heels, Tangee red lips, leopard print hats, and ornate costume jewelry impart. When you wear “clothes that fit” (to quote Michael Kors) you can’t help but walk a little taller I think. These women may not have had powerful roles in their lives, but they sure as hell projected their power through their clothes.
Anyway, amidst all of this fashion “power” Sally and Bobby Draper come rushing in, wearing dry cleaning bags over themselves, screaming, “Look Mommy! I’m a spaceman!” I lost it. Laughed so hard I spilled my drink, peed my pants, then fell outta my chair. But the next line was the real classic, the clincher, pure Nan Jordan. “Children, if my clothes are balled up in a ball in a big wrinkle in the bottom of my closet, you are going to be in BIG trouble.” Drag on the cigarette. Sip of the cocktail. After a withering look to the kids, another one to the ladies that says, “God! These kids today.” Love it, love it, love it. This snapshot could’ve been pulled directly from my family album. Minus the dry cleaner bags though. Nan was a scaredy cat when it came to letting us possibly suffocate ourselves.
Simply put – Mad Men Women Rule. Their kind of power is what makes the show for me. Here’s a sneak peek at this week’s episode – all I can say is, “Go Peggy!”