Mad Men S5 Reflections: That Toothy French-Canadian Seductress
Now that Mad Men’s dynamic and powerful 5th season has come to a close on AMC, Cinedork writers take a look back at one of TV’s most brilliant dramas to analyze where Matthew Weiner chose to take his characters, and as a result, where the Mad Men creator chose to take us as an audience. We’ve already taken a look at Lane Pryce, but in this Season 5 reflection, Chris Blondell reflects on the fresh face on this season of Mad Men, Megan.
When Don first proposed to his new secretary Megan at the end of season four, we predicted a Roger-Jane type of situation: Old man marries young to cling onto his fading youth, tensions rise when he realizes he can’t keep up with her, yada yada yada… But when Megan strutted around the living room in a short black skirt, singing “Zou Bisou Bisou,” seducing her new husband Don (and the party guests), we knew Megan Draper was going to be entirely different from what was expected.
Megan is a breath of fresh air for a show like Mad Men. Not to say that any of the characters were boring, but Megan’s insertion goes hand in hand with the introduction of the 60’s counter culture. Don comes from the generation in charge, while Megan represents the emerging generation.
Fans either loved Megan or they hated her. They either loved her challenges to Don’s dominance, or they hated her whiney, “poor me” attitude. They either loved a fresh face that took the spotlight away from Betty’s bad mothering, or they hated how she stole the show from more interesting characters like Peggy (who had a rather scarce presence in this season). Regardless of her polarizing nature, without Megan Draper, this past season of Mad Men would not be nearly as impressive.
Sometimes shows will introduce a new character into a fading storyline in an attempt to boost ratings. It sure felt random at the end of last season when Don proposed to Megan despite teasing the audience with his relationship with Dr. Faye. Megan seemed quietly charming, she was nice to Don’s kids, she spoke French, she’s smart and pretty, and then all of a sudden, BAM, Don asks, ‘will you marry me?’
It was jarring. We were just getting used to a divorced Don, and now he’s got a young fiancé for him to cheat on in the future? But since it was the finale, all we could do was wait and see what show creator Matthew Weiner planned to do with her.
She sang “Zou Bisou Bisou.”
With that, the toothy French-Canadian seductress owned the moment, in the middle of their new, trendy 60’s living room, giving Don the only real surprise of his surprise party. This wasn’t Betty “Homemaker” Draper trying to look pristine and throw a proper housewarming party. This was a woman who knew what she wanted, was happily married, and totally unafraid of showing that off in front of colleagues. It was something different for Don, and for Mad Men. Young, newlywed Megan Draper joined Peggy and Joan in the scarce league of strong women in Mad Men this season.
Unlike Betty’s passive aggressive behavior, Megan challenged Don when she was mad. She would tell him when he upset her, she would force him to eat dinner with her like a good husband, and she would turn a fight into sex. Okay, maybe that last part was more Don’s doing, but she certainly wasn’t submissive while they went at it! Don suddenly had a woman who asserted herself and challenged her status quo.
But like every character on Mad Men, Megan has her shortcomings. Megan is a silly little girl at heart. When she quits her job at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to try and become an actress, she comes across as selfish, even spoiled. She proved to have at least a little bit of talent as a copywriter, and she drops that to pursue a dream. Admirable? Sure, she’s chasing a dream. She’s a free woman and she should be entitled to go after what makes her happy. But why give up a job where she shows that she has the potential to be a Peggy/Don advertising hybrid? It’s probably because she’s young and very comfortable with the life Don has given her. She feels entitled to pursue that dream because she has the means to pursue that dream.
Another aspect that brings Megan down is her behavior towards Don when she’s angry. She’ll throw dishes against walls, she’ll drink herself sloppy, she’ll beg Don for sex or cry when she doesn’t get it, she’ll pout, stew and act more like a big Sally than a mature Betty. It must be frustrating to be Don in this season. He’s got a hot new wife who sings French to him, but who will later cry and whine about not feeling special enough. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions in the Draper penthouse, but there doesn’t seem to be any less sex.
Megan is without a doubt a polarizing character on Mad Men, but she adds a much-needed breath of fresh air for the show. She’s a smart, stubborn woman that knows what she wants in life, but doesn’t seem mature enough to handle whatever she wants. She’s more than just a metaphor for Don’s aging, she’s more than a metaphor for the changing times, Megan Draper is the kind of woman Don needs at this point in his twisted life, but, considering how well we know Don, is Don the kind of man Megan needs? We will just have to see what Matthew Weiner does with her next.