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Mad Men TV Club: Repetition Compulsion

I won’t lie – this was an annoying episode, and such a disappointment after last week’s strong premiere. And it’s not just that I missed Rachel Menken (which I obviously did).

The title of the episode is “New Business” but of course it’s really about business as usual, or perhaps the oldest business—sexual commerce. Everyone is a prostitute, and everyone has a price. Megan turns down Harry’s crass offer, but she accepts Don’s $1 million pay off for “ruining her life.” (Did he really ruin her life? I don’t see it. Yes, she gave up her job on the soap opera for him, but she seems like she’s doing ok and not worse off than she would have been if she had never met him.) For all her shaming of her daughter, Marie Calvet’s price is a lot lower—$200 from Roger to pay the movers. Diana—who gave Don sex for money last episode—this time trades it for a visit to his “right out of Architectural Digest” apartment.

When Pima the photographer entered the scene, I initially thought she was going to offer an alternative to this model of the sexual economy, but I should have known better from her early line about art selling something. I thought she might be a role model for Peggy, an example of an older woman who is successful in business and calls the shots for herself, but in the end she was just another person—albeit an omni-sexual, funky three-piece-pantsuit-wearing person—using sex to get power in her job. Seeing a female version of the familiar male office predator wasn’t satisfying or hopeful to me. Peggy, interestingly, is the only one who refuses to engage in this kind of commerce. And we didn’t see Joan at all.

I think part of what was tiresome about this episode was its emphasis on the show’s familiar theme of the repetition compulsion. It’s 1970, but how far have any of the characters actually come? They have more money now, but they’re stuck in the same patterns as always. It’s like Groundhog Day on Madison Avenue.

But Moshe Dayan still inexplicably hangs over Stan’s bed, so I’m happy. 

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Megan Draper and Don Draper
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Megan Draper and Don Draper, in Mad Men.
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How to cite this page

Rosenbaum, Judith. "Mad Men TV Club: Repetition Compulsion." 15 April 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 11, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/mad-men-tv-club-repetition-compulsion>.

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