The world is still reeling over the loss of MAD MEN, and still in shock over the reveal that a fictional character created the 1971 Coca-Cola "Hilltop" ad. (Kidding, of course.) Last night's finale pleased many and disappointed a few, but whatever your opinion, there's one fact that remains incontrovertible: We'll always remember MAD MEN as a truly groundbreaking piece of television. (And while we're talking about it, here's a shameless plug: Next week, we'll have MAD MEN creator Matthew Weiner and a slew of the show's writers at our INSIDE THE WRITERS ROOM WITH MAD MEN event.)
And while the show's true strength was its layers upon layers of character depth - such that there may be no end to what can be revealed upon multiple viewings - what won many viewers over was its frank, unflinching depiction of the sexism of 1960s America.
Over at Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz argues that the show's pilot, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," foreshadowed the finale. He's put together a fairly exhaustive list of points to support his contention, like Don's description of Pete's fate should he continue to act like a hooligan in the office:
Pete's final fate doesn't seem to match Don's prognostication; reasonable people can agree or disagree as to how meaningful or empty Pete's life wound up being. What's certain is that that's a brilliant bit of dialogue, and frames the world of MAD MEN very, very well. Sure, it seems like Don is defending Peggy, who Pete had crassly insulted in the prior scene. And certainly Don is kinder to Peggy, and alleviates the situation a bit by sympathizing with her. But just a few pages earlier, he said this:
What may seem at first to be a direct refutation of Pete's naked sexism is really more of a good excuse for Don to throw his weight around a bit. You might pump your fist in celebration, but keep watching the show, and you'll find that Don isn't exactly on the cutting edge of feminism.
But perhaps the pilot's best exploration of the era's misogyny is this squirm-inducing scene between Peggy and a doctor - whether he's a GP or an OB-GYN is never really expressed - from whom she's trying to obtain birth control pills.
This scene employs that lip-service feminism in a much more openly humorous way, with Dr. Emerson first expressing what might seem like a liberated opinion ("I'm not here to judge you") and following it up with a pretty direct refutation of that opinion ("easy women don't find husbands").
And he closes with a real winner:
These pages are from an April 20, 2006 draft of the pilot. We're sad to see MAD MEN go.