Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Mad Men," Season Six, Episode 3, "To Have and To Hold"

In one of the least-subtle episodes in the six seasons of “Mad Men,” virtually every issue of the 1960s comes into play, from the sexual revolution to Vietnam.  Despite all the obvious historical references throughout “To Have and To Hold,” I’m not sure where this season is headed.

With Dow Chemical frustrated by the bad PR they are receiving over the military’s use of napalm in Vietnam, Harry Crane and a colleague conceive of a strategy to boost the company’s image:  an one-hour primetime televised Broadway show with celebrities ranging from John Wayne to New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath (including the horrifying idea of Wayne in a sketch of “Camelot.”)  The program would also feature performances of traditional songs such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and the Notre Dame fight song, while Dow would sponsor the show with the slogan “family products for the American family.”  Though President Nixon would not use the term until the next year, Crane and his allies seem to be appealing to the “Silent Majority” of Americans disturbed by the counterculture, the antiwar movement, and other changes of the era.

Meanwhile, during an evening out, Megan’s boss mentions the controversy over the Smothers Brothers criticism of the Vietnam War in their television program, saying, “sponsors and the network don’t want to have a conversation about the war.”   Indeed, CBS canceled the program in 1969 because of the hullabaloo surrounding it.  In the ensuing conversation, Don notes that he’s against the war, the first time he has mentioned his views regarding Vietnam.  While noteworthy, Don’s comment comes after the previous episode, “The Collaborators,” revolving around the Tet Offensive, following which a majority of the country thought the war was a mistake.  See>

The sexual revolution arrives in full force as Megan’s boss and his wife propose that Megan and Don go back to their place, smoke marijuana, and “see what happens” and if they can “become better acquainted.” It appears they are proposing some kind of wife/husband swapping situation.  At the same time, Joan and an old girlfriend randomly pick up a couple of guys.

Gender inequality again makes an appearance, as Joan’s partnership in the agency doesn’t seem to mean much when her attempt to fire a secretary is thwarted by the male powers that be.  Though her old friend is jealous that she made it on her own without help from a husband, Joan tells her that it is not all that it seems and that “I’ve been working there (the agency) for 15 years and they still treat me like a secretary.”

As the episode ends, Don remains unable to deal with female independence, unhappy with Peggy’s success at a rival firm as well as Megan’s burgeoning career as an actress.  Indeed, after avoiding the set of Megan’s daytime soap opera for months, he makes a point to come and watch her first sex scene.  Despite the relative tameness of the fictional encounter and his own ongoing affair with a neighbor, Don is furious at Megan for “enjoying it” and implies she’s a prostitute.  It’s 1968 and the world is changing, but Don Draper remains the same.

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