[This post discusses the plot of Sunday night's episode.]
Once Mad Men moved into the early-middle part of the 1960s, people began to ask an increasingly urgent question: where was the civil rights movement? Where were the black people? Was Sterling Cooper (Draper Pryce) (And Partners) really so sheltered that race barely touched its tiny world?
Mad Men's very first scene, in fact, had found Don Draper attempting a conversation with an African-American server at a bar — whom Don was pumping for information about cigarette purchasing — only to be interrupted by a white manager eager to apologize for the server's inappropriate chattiness. Race has been there, at the very edges, for a long time.
And sometimes, it's gotten more attention, as it did when Don's agency interviewed black women in the wake of a civil rights protest and wound up hiring Dawn, who became Don's secretary. But for the most part, race has reared its head primarily to demonstrate the clumsiness and blithe racism of almost every white character's approach to it.
Sunday night, however, both Dawn and Shirley — a recently added black secretary who, unlike Dawn, rocks very short dresses and natural hair — got their very own conversation, just the two of them, that subtly realigned the show's consideration of race from one that was primarily about the experiences of white people to one that was at least curious about, if not yet diving deeply into, the experiences of black people, and specifically black women.
Dawn's story began with a bang as we learned that Don, despite being on an involuntary leave of absence about which he's told very few people, is still meeting up with Dawn to get updates about what's going on in the office — not to mention having her take his calls and keep Megan from finding out he's not working.
We saw a scruffy, robe-wearing, boozing Don put on his full Don Draper drag, from hair to tie to shoes, just to briefly greet Dawn at the door. She knows he's not working, so he's not literally trying to fool her, but it was fascinating to see Don trying so hard to maintain the illusion of his status to an audience consisting solely of his black secretary, whom he appears to trust a great deal, meaning it probably really was for her benefit, and not to avoid gossip. That gussying-up process demonstrated a strange, twisted respect for her — and concern over what she thinks — to which it would probably be hard for him to admit.
When Sally made a surprise visit to the office to visit her father and had to be dealt with by Lou Avery, Avery took it out on Dawn, demanding that she be reassigned. And as he demanded that Joan reassign Dawn, he said — right in front of her — that he knows Dawn can't be fired. Dawn knew what he meant, and quite reasonably, she took offense to the implication that she gets special treatment, particularly special positive treatment.
Meanwhile, Peggy, who continues to humiliate herself over Ted and flounder in Don's absence, mistook the roses Shirley had received from her fiance for ones meant for Peggy herself. Shirley, not wanting to make waves and counseled by Dawn to drop it, let her boss steal her Valentine's Day flowers. Was Peggy grateful? Certainly not. When Peggy found out the mistake she'd made, she took out her embarrassment on Shirley and — you guessed it — went to Joan and demanded a different secretary. So after beginning the day with bosses who probably didn't deserve them, Dawn and Shirley both found themselves pushed out of their gigs for reasons primarily related to their bosses' huge egos.
Joan responded by moving Dawn to reception, but right on cue, Bert Cooper made it clear to her that he was not ready for "colored people" to "advance" as far as the face of the agency. So now Joan had both Dawn and Shirley to reassign, and she had had it. She was saved when Jim Cutler, a character who's remained a bit obtuse thus far, suggested that she, Joan, needed to drop her dual responsibilities as a partner/account "man" and head of personnel and move up — move on up? — to a higher floor. He told her to find someone to take over personnel juggling, and to make it someone who didn't mind not being liked.
Having just seen Dawn barely restrain herself from well and truly giving it to Lou Avery, Joan gave Dawn her old job and gave Lou — Lou, of the obnoxious "can't be fired" remark — Shirley.
On the one hand, this was a story of the good people getting the upper hand over the bad ones, in that Dawn grinned to herself as she sat in Joan's office, promoted in part as a result of her obviously thick skin and even temper. Shirley got away from the rudeness that Peggy directed at her and got a new assignment — and got to keep her flowers.
On the other, the show went to some pains to show a conversation between Dawn and Shirley early in the episode that suggested they are friends, but they are also allies of a sort whether they want to be or not, as they are treated as interchangeable at work. (Wryly, Dawn calls Shirley "Dawn," and Shirley calls Dawn "Shirley.") They support each other, they give each other advice, they gripe to each other — they are office pals in the way everyone needs office pals.
Dawn is Shirley's friend, but it took Joan to fix her problem. Shirley is Dawn's friend, but ... same thing. And while Lou didn't get away with his play to get out of having a black secretary, this puts Shirley in the position of working for a boss who thinks she, too, can't be fired. How is she going to fare working for a man to whom she was assigned as a sort of sweet revenge?
These women, as smart as they are, don't have the pull to do anything about Lou's hostility or Bert's concern for appearances. And, in fact, neither does Joan. Dawn still isn't sitting at reception. She got the job Joan was sick of doing, while Joan moves up. Peggy got to grievously mistreat Shirley, and won't need to make it right the way she would need to if she'd mistreated someone with more status in the office.
What they're telling here is in part a story of the complicated way race and gender are interacting for these women. Joan and Peggy would undoubtedly never dream of saying that they're relieved to have somebody in the office with less status than they have in the eyes of somebody like Bert Cooper, but ... they probably are. Joan earned her partnership in part by suffering the gruesome effects of the other partners' lack of respect for her. She knows what it's like to be in a workplace where people treat you as less-than. She's known for years. She's smarter than most of the men who have outranked her; she was key to the creation of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in the first place. Now, even inside the office with the people she works with directly, she gets to be privileged.
Think about Peggy early in the show's history. Peggy didn't outrank anybody. Peggy was on the bottom of the totem pole. But now, as she finds herself rising through the ranks, does she remember what it was like to have someone's rage vented on you? She doesn't seem to. Does she take her rage out on the people who are causing it, particularly Lou? She does not. She takes it out on her secretary, much the way Don used to take his rages out on her, much the way he treated her as automatically less deserving of respect than he was, as if he was doing her a favor every time he didn't yell at her.
(Perhaps that was what the money was for.)
While there's a long way to go yet in fleshing out these characters and these stories, Dawn's promotion and the complexities of Joan and Peggy's interactions with Dawn and Shirley were a big step forward for Mad Men beginning to take the kind of interest in the way flawed people dealt with race — and what that meant for the people they dealt with poorly — that it has with gender from the start.
Don is not in charge right now; Don is not running the show. Don reveals himself exclusively to the two women he should most easily outrank: his secretary and his daughter. Right now, women are driving the story, all tied to each other not just through story but through imagery — over and over, we saw women carrying flowers.
And where's Don? Well, Don is just trying to get his bearings. It's a welcome change.
"Aviation experts call it a miracle," says Honolulu's KHON-TV. "The FBI says a 16-year-old boy stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from California to Hawaii, and survived. The boy is expected to fully recover."
According to The Maui News, the unidentified teen survived the trip "halfway across the Pacific Ocean unharmed despite frigid temperatures at 38,000 feet and a lack of oxygen, FBI and airline officials said."
The Associated Press writes that FBI spokesman Tom Simon, who says the "kid's lucky to be alive":
"Said security footage from the San Jose airport verified that the boy from Santa Clara, Calif., hopped a fence to get to Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 on Sunday morning. The child had run away from his family after an argument, Simon said. Simon said when the flight landed in Maui, the boy hopped down from the wheel well and started wandering around the airport grounds.
" 'He was unconscious for the lion's share of the flight,' Simon said. The flight lasted about 5½ hours."
KHON spoke with airlines analyst Peter Forman, who said:
"The odds of a person surviving that long of a flight at that altitude are very remote, actually. I mean, you are talking about altitudes that are well above the altitude of Mt. Everest. And temperatures that can reach 40 degrees below zero. A lot of people would only have useful consciousness for a minute or two at that altitude. For somebody to survive multiple hours with that lack of oxygen and that cold is just miraculous. I've never heard of anything like that before."
The boy, Simon told the AP, has been handed over to child protective services in Hawaii and will not be charged with a crime. The jet he reportedly stowed away on was a Boeing 767.
In California, the wire service adds, "a Mineta San Jose International Airport spokeswoman said airport police were working with the FBI and the Transportation Security Agency to review security at the facility as part of an investigation."
Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat whose district includes cities and suburbs east of the San Francisco Bay area and who serves on the Committee on Homeland Security, tweeted Monday that he has "long been concerned about security at our airport perimeters. #Stowaway teen demonstrates vulnerabilities that need to be addressed."
Good morning, here are our early stories:
And here are more early headlines:
Russia Claims Ukraine Breaking New Accord On Protesters. (BBC)
Sherpas Consider Quitting After Everest's Deadliest Accident. (New York Times)
Japanese PM Offers Gift To Controversial Shrine, Infuriating China. (Reuters)
Car Hits South Florida Church During Easter Service, Several Hurt. (News-Press)
More Anti-Government Clashes Reported In Venezuela. (AFP)
Another Possible Meteor Spotted Over Russia, No Damage Reported. (NBC)
"Dick And Jane" Book Art To Be Auctioned. (AP)
Teenager Stows Away In Plane's Wheelwell, Flies To Hawaii. (Los Angeles Times)
"The conduct of the captain and some crew members is wholly unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense, and it was like an act of murder that cannot and should not be tolerated."
Yonhap News says that was the word Monday from South Korean President Park Geun-hye as she spoke with senior aides about last week's ferry disaster, which is feared to have killed about 300 people — most of them high school students who were on a trip to a popular resort island.
CNN has a slightly different version of the president's words, though they convey the same message:
" 'The actions of the captain and some of the crew are absolutely unacceptable, unforgivable actions that are akin to murder,' Park said Monday in comments released by her office. She said she and other South Koreans were filled with 'rage and horror.' "
According to Yonhap News, Park condemned Captain Lee Jun-seok for not moving more quickly to evacuate the 476 or so people who were on board and for being among the first who were able to get to safety:
"The captain did not comply with passenger evacuation orders from the vessel traffic service ... and escaped ahead of others while telling passengers to keep their seats. This is something that is never imaginable legally or ethically," she said.
As we reported Sunday, a transcript of the conversations between the ferry's crew and local maritime authorities show there was considerable confusion last Wednesday when something caused the ship to start listing. Within two hours it had capsized and begun sinking.
Among Monday's other developments:
— "Sixty four people have been confirmed dead while 238 others are still unaccounted," Yonhap News writes.
— "Divers are retrieving the bodies at a faster pace," Reuters reports. Parents who have gathered in the port city of Jindo have "moved from [a] gymnasium to the pier to await news."
— Seven members of the crew, including the captain, are now under arrest, according to The Washington Post and other news outlets.
— On Morning Edition, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reported about how a family's grief was compounded by human error when they were told of one girl's death — only to be shown a body that wasn't her's.
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
o Doris Pilkington Garimara, the aboriginal author who wrote of the forced separation of mixed-race aboriginal children from their families, died on April 10. She was thought to be 76. Garimara's novel Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence was based on the story of her mother, one of the so-called Stolen Generation, who was taken from her family and placed in a government settlement. She escaped with two other girls and walked more than 1,000 miles through the Australian wilderness. Garimara, too, was a member of the Stolen Generation and grew up in a mission believing she had been abandoned by her mother. "[W]hile we were in the mission, again, we were continually told, you know, that the Aboriginal culture was evil ... [a]nd the people who practiced it were pagans and devil worshippers," she said in a 2003 interview. Reunited years later, Garimara's mother told her the story of her escape, which became a novel and then a celebrated film.
o Michele Glazer has a poem titled "Issue" in the Boston Review:
We have arrived at what we dread: the
diminution of loved ones, livid
and unmistakable lapses, quick
angers that lap at, lick at
that is the one certain shore.
The Best Books Coming Out This Week:
o Lisa Robinson began reporting at a time when rock journalism "was in its infancy and mostly populated by boys who had ambitions to become the next Norman Mailer," she writes in her pleasantly gossipy memoir, There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll. Her memories of some of music's biggest legends, from Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga (whom she describes as "a cute girl in her twenties who had really good manners"), animate this book, though Robinson sometimes gets a little too misty with nostalgia.
o Francine Prose's Lovers At the Chameleon Club, 1932 follows Lou Villars, a French lesbian racecar driver who spied for the Nazis. Told by competing narrators, the book is more a story about the unreliability of memory and storytelling than a tale about Lou. The book is flawed, mostly because of its habit of assigning ever-more elaborate identities (lesbian Nazi racecar driver, wealthy baroness who worked for the Resistance) to its characters rather than developing them as people. But it also makes a persuasive point about the ways that the authors of history have their own agendas.