Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Mad Men," Season 5, Episode 7, "At the Codfish Ball"

Last night’s “Man Men” episode did not really introduce any new historical events, but reiterates themes from the first six episodes of the season. “At the Codfish Ball” continues to reveal the growing liberalization of American culture during the Age of Aquarius.

Like prominent musicians of the 1960s such as the Beach Boys and the Beatles, Roger Sterling feels inspired by the LSD trip he had in last week’s episode. Rather than simply drinking and going through the motions as usual, Sterling is embarrassed that his wealthy family handed everything to him on a silver platter and now wants to earn his keep at the firm.  His first wife tells him not to be apologetic about his advantages and that she’s “not going to let a bunch of dirty teenagers in the paper disrupt the order of things.”  Her comment is an obvious reference to the anti-establishment rhetoric of the youth culture.

After Abe insists Peggy meet him for an important dinner, Joan suspects he will propose. In a twist, though, Abe suggests they move in together.  Though she agrees, Peggy appears disappointed he didn’t ask her to marry him.  While such arrangements are common today, it was rare for unmarried people to live together in the mid-1960s, even in liberal New York City.  Peggy’s Catholic mother is extremely unhappy with the new state of affairs, declaring they will be “living in sin” and that Abe is just interested in sex.  Even a decade later in 1976, “Three’s Company,” a television show that depicted a man living with two women he wasn’t sleeping with, sparked controversy when it premiered.

Upset over her mother’s disapproval, Peggy sarcastically says that she thought her mom would be “relieved I wasn’t marrying the Jew.”  Though her mother claims that religion isn’t the issue, intermarriage between Jews and Catholics was very rare in the mid-1960s.  In fact, it was uncommon for Jews to marry outside their faith until the 1970s.

The show continues to become more open about sexuality as the decade progresses.  Last week, we saw Peggy service a total stranger at a movie theater.  This week, poor Sally walks in on Roger being serviced by Megan’s mom!  Speaking of which, I should have mentioned earlier that we meet Megan’s parents.  Shockingly, they are yet another unhappy married couple. 

Megan has a professional breakthrough this week as she solves the persistent problem of the Heinz account.  Her idea is to produce an ad that shows families eating beans throughout history, culminating with one having them for dinner on a lunar colony.  Heinz loves the idea because in 1966, as the moon race launched by JFK continued, it seemed perfectly reasonable to suppose that people would eventually live on the lunar surface. Believe it or not, Newt Gingrich wasn’t the first to suggest it.  See

Smoking remains a point of contention as Don accepts an award from the American Cancer Society for writing a letter denouncing the tobacco companies in last season’s episode, “Blowing Smoke.”  Megan has reproached Don for his smoking on a couple of occasions this season, which Betty, a smoker herself, never did.  Still, Ken mentions that new tobacco labeling legislation doesn’t dramatically affect the industry and we see several people puffing at the cancer society dinner!

While “At the Codfish Ball” doesn’t have as many historical references, it was fun and entertaining.  Roger is back in form and Megan appears unhappy with advertising, despite her obvious talent for it.  It will be interesting to see how these characters evolve throughout the remainder of the season.


  1. Thanks for keeping this going -- it's great to have the contextualization.

    I'm still having trouble mapping Megan and her parents onto anything remotely Canadian -- they seem more like a caricature of all things Parisian to me. Great comic pacing in this episode, by the way.

  2. Thanks for your feedback. Glad people are enjoying the posts. Not sure about Megan either. In the sense of our lack of knowledge of her past, she's kind of the new Don.

    Out of curiosity, how did you discover my blog?