Couch Commando

MAD MEN: Season 1 Episode 2 – “Ladies Room”

Posted in Mad Men by LaurenStheTA on February 27, 2010

Viewed late at night on my couch, with a friend, and with too much snow outside.

In this episode we encountered ladies who lunch, societal taboos like divorce and psychiatry, and the difficulties and rewards of advertising to women. The funny thing about the taboos is how they change – things considered taboo then are no longer, while things we consider taboo now were common place back then. Back to the episode, this one is aptly titled “Ladies Room.” The whole 30 minutes mostly focuses on the women that revolve around the Mad Men.

Ladies who lunch.

At the beginning of “Ladies Room” Joan Holloway gives Peggy Olson a little lesson on wrangling free lunches from the men at the office. As usual, Holloway comes off as the office femme fatale and Olson blushes and brushes off the advances of her coworkers when they make inappropriate comments. We also meet the wife of Don Draper: Betty, who is oddly enough, engaging in things we would now consider taboo but didn’t warrant a second glance back in the early 60’s. Betty is having coffee and cigarettes with a neighbor while the children play. As Betty and her pregnant friend are smoking, Betty’s daughter walks in with a giant  plastic dry cleaning bag draped over her head. You know, the kind of bag that now has “Keep away from children” printed all over it. After admonishing her daughter for taking her dry cleaning out of the bag the women continue to gossip about the latest neighbor on the block: a divorced woman.

The powder room.

Of course, ladies that lunch will always end up in the bathroom together. In the short scenes that take place in the women’s bathroom of the ad agency, we almost always see a woman crying or dabbing moisture from her eyes. In a different and much fancier bathroom, we are introduced to Betty’s nervous symptoms – her hands sometimes go numb and she becomes unable to use them. Going doctor to doctor, it’s finally suggested that Betty see a psychiatrist, a taboo the disapproving patriarch doesn’t want to pay for. When they discuss a psychiatrist, Betty goes off on a tangent about her daughter having a bruise on her face and her fear that it could have been a permanent scar on her face. She specifies that for a girl, living with a permanent scar on her face would be worse than death.

In this episode we see more of Midge, one of Don Draper’s regular “extracurricular activities.” Although she is complicit in letting Draper cheat on his wife, she’s quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. She is fiercely independent, ambitious, and completely uninterested in the conventional ideas of marriage and domesticity. In the first episode she says,

“You know the rules: I don’t make plans and I don’t make breakfast.”

as she and Draper are waking up in the morning. She also lives in Greenwich Village – a fact that may account for her beatnik-esque ways.

Advertising to women.

At the ad agency, Draper is coming with ideas to sell a new deodorant that comes in an aerosol can. He mentions that women are the target demographic for their ads because women are the ones who do the household shopping (a fact that still holds true today). It was nice to see this bit of truth come out of the ad agency side of the show – it also helped that he didn’t go straight for the “shrink it and pink it” concept (Thanks, Femme Den).

Lastly, I noticed the humor in this episode. The humor is smart and sly – no one’s cracking a joke, but when you see Betty Draper admonishing her plastic draped child for putting her dry cleaning on the floor, it’s hard not to feel like you found some of the brownie in your Ben & Jerry’s Half-Baked.

Which was, by the way, the food of choice for this viewing session.

Rated 4/5.


5 Responses

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  1. Darren said, on February 27, 2010 at 3:41 am

    It sounds as though the show is starting to take off a little bit and start to get interesting. I too am a fan of the dark, subtle sort of humor that you’re describing from this episode. The article that you linked to was quite interesting and really drove home the point about marketing to and for women.
    Most of the characters in this show seem to range from objectionable to downright loathsome. Are any of the characters decent people? Also I’m not really getting a sense of the episode’s plot. Is there a direct linear sort of plot with a clear conflict that’s resolved at the end of the episode or is it a meandering kind of constant character development without a hard and fast plot structure?

  2. thecouchcommando said, on February 27, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I’m so glad you checked out that link. The characters in this show all seem to have a “fatal flaw”, if you will. I enjoy it, because that makes the show all the more honest. As far as the plot goes, it is “meandering” at this point. The show follows the lives of these characters and at some point, here and there, their lives will intersect at the ad agency. Many of the characters have very little to do with each other (so far).

    I also made a conscious decision to not just give a run down of what happened in the episode. After all, if people want a synopsis there’s a million places online to get a summary of the episode. It feels more important to give a sense of what I think about the show and how I’m reacting to it. That being said, I’ll try to add more plot details so you can understand where the thoughts are coming from.

  3. Darren said, on February 28, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Hopefully the characters will come together sooner rather than later but maybe it will be well worth the wait. It seems like a really heavy show. You make an excellent point regarding plot summary though. I’ve used that a bit heavily in my posts and am trying to cut back on it.

  4. TA Andrea said, on March 6, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I love that you guys came to that conclusion! These blogs should be more of you and less of plot summary. I keep encountering that a lot in the blogs I read and its gets a little tiring saying the same thing over and over. I appreciate that your not focusing on plot summary. You can easily find a balance between summarizing the plot and incorporating your feelings and reactions to that plot. I think your heading down the right path. Keep up the good work.

  5. […] MAD MEN: Season 1 Episode 2 – “Ladies Room” […]

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