Death and the Girls

The ninth episode of AMC’s Mad Men’s fourth season titled “The Beautiful Girls” is one of firsts, as Don Draper is rendered speechless after both his daughter and death visits the office of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

The pressure is once again on, as the fledgling firm tries to sign as many big accounts as possible. This time, the account and creative team is trying to generate and sign a new campaign for Fillmore Mechanics; a client whose businesses are the object of a civil rights boycott in the Southern United States, as it (like many of its contemporaries in the era), refuses to hire African-Americans.

Peggy learns this sordid bit of information about the big client from a young, politically aware Brooklynite she has a drink with at a bar. She is visibly upset after learning the practices of her client; but she maintains she is not a political person. Her scenes in this episode are interesting and makes viewers wonder, while living in changing times, is it important to join a large group in protest to fight battles, or should one dig their heels in where they stand and fight in their own way?

Even as Peggy frets about not being able to navigate and advance her career as successfully as her male counterparts (as important account and social meetings often take place over golf and tennis, places, she as a woman, is not welcome), she does not see the value in her journalist friend publishing a scathing article against Fillmore Mechanics.

Often portrayed, as a beacon of hope and even pioneer for the rights and equal treatment of women in the workplace, is her character being revealed to be something other than pure? Is Peggy solely a naïve pawn working for “the man”?

Other characters find themselves reacting differently to the unpredictable stimuli in the Mad Men universe. The sudden death of a secretary has everyone over 40 wringing their hands and questioning their own mortalities and simultaneously swigging on Stolichnaya vodka. In another scene, intense fear drives two former lovers back into each other’s arms in a dark, cold New York alley.

As the episode closes, Peggy rushes for the elevator and stands between Dr. Faye and Joan; a scene which begs the question, which woman will Peggy most end up like? Will she become Joan, the full-figured professional; desirable, married but still wanting for passion, excitement and children, or will she be more like Faye, the professional woman; childless, successful, independent, but still as insecure as the everyday people she studies?

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