“The Summer Man”‘s tone was certainly different than any episode of Mad Men before it. In way, they’re addressing the change from the 1950s to the 1960s and how all the characters are adjusting. Plus, “The Summer Man” addressed critical views on how the show treats women, specifically the causal slap-on-the-ass sexism prevalent in the first three season. “The Summer Man” takes on some of the worst out-right misogyny we’ve seen on Mad Men. Additionally, this episode addresses the changes in Don Draper. At first, Don was the mystery man, but over three seasons, we now know him. There’s no mystery, which is why I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Don takes a narrative-voice to “The Summer Man” as he begins to write a journal.
Don’s voice-over is almost as shocking to the viewer as is the Rolling Stone’s “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” used in the background as Don exits the health club. Clearly, as the 60’s roll on, Don is the man in the song that cannot connect with the narrator. And it doesn’t have anything to do with his Lucky Strikes, just that Don is getting old.
Now that Don’s hit rock-bottom with Anna’s death, he’s remaking himself. Almost in every way Don’s having a midlife crisis, but is now determined to be a better man. And for Don, that’s done through control. He doesn’t quit drinking; he regulates it. Don doesn’t give up halfway through a lap; he almost has an asthma attack, but works to beat the younger guy. Don literally tosses the old Don Draper, the one married to Betty, in the garbage. Plus, he lets down Bethany after a 5th date blow job and takes Dr. Faye out on a dinner date. Don’s realizing that he doesn’t need to become a new person to get his life in control, he just needs to pick up some new habits and let go of or back off of old ones.
Of course, in perfect contrast, Betty is still obsessed with Don. Especially when she runs into Don on a date with Bethany or Betty 2.0, the younger model. Sometimes, I think Betty processes her feelings even less than Don. No doubt, Betty’s many years with Don and her feelings for him can’t just disappear overnight. Or with a new marriage.
Plus, it’s pretty clear that the shine’s wearing off Betty’s marriage to Henry. They rushed into things, and now they’re actually getting to know each other. In their car ride, it’s pretty clear Betty has no clue even where Henry lived before he met her. In fact, Francine (yay!) points out to Betty that she has it all, a line which Betty later uses to sooth over Henry’s rage when Don shows up for baby Gene’s birthday party.
Of course, the actual issue in “The Summer Man” is the head-on confrontation which both Joan and Peggy have against office sexism. We know Stan is a sexist asshole, but Joey proved himself to be a pure woman hater. The only reason his work relationship with Peggy has worked, until this episode, is because to him and the rest of creative, Peggy is one of the guys. She’s not sexual to them (no doubt, they think she’s Don’s), and she’s not their mothers.
As the Marilyn Monroe body type fades from popularity, Joan’s sex appeal loses its grip. Not to mention, she’s clearly a married women and “old” by 1965 standards. (I personally find Christina Hendricks a gorgeous woman, and by today’s standards, she’s in no way old.) Joey comments about Joan, how she’s like his mother, a glorified secretary, and wearing a “rape me” outfit. Of course, the last comment stings the hardest as we know Joan was a victim of rape at the hands of her husband in Don’s office.
Of course, Mad Men layers it even more by having Joan go home to her rapist husband who’s packing for basic training and wants to have sex with her. In fact, he suggests that they pretend to be escaping from the office for quick sex at a nearby hotel. Just like Joan used to do with Roger and what Joey later accuses her of doing with Lane. And just what mind-frame her husband was in about Joan and office sex when he raped her.
We also see Joan’s tears get even bigger when she realizes she has no friends, no true allies at the office. (While we viewers want Peggy and Joan to be friends now, Mad Men‘s pretty realistic that they would only be colleagues and nothing more.)
When Peggy tells Joey to knock it off, Joey doesn’t stop. The next day, he proceeds to draw a nasty picture of Joan giving Lane a blowjob. Which he then hangs on the window which faces into Joan’s office. Joan, Peggy, and the audience are less than impressed. And both Joan and Peggy try to stop Joey from behaving like this in the future; in fact, both want him fired.
Joan is “traditional” in her approach to terminate Joey. She doesn’t have the outright power to get rid of him, but she has her ways. (In fact, after Joey’s initial comments, Don wants to hire him full-time for three weeks to work on a project. Don has no knowledge of what went on between Joan and Joey at this point.) Joan’s way is to start reporting that “people” have been complaining about Joey’s behavior. Her other way is to talk with someone from upper management or a powerful client — who can fire Joey — over dinner and convince him that he’s upset with Joey and needs to fire him. Joan’s only verbal rage at Joey is to tell him that she can’t wait until he’s drafted to Vietnam, which tells you a lot about what’s on her mind.
“I can’t wait until next year when all of you will be in Vietnam. You will be pining for the day when someone was trying to make your life easier. When you’re over there, and you’re in the jungle, and they’re shooting at you, remember you’re not dying for me because I never liked you.” — Joan
Peggy, on the other hand, is pioneering the way for women. She’s sick of Joey’s behavior, is loosing control over her creative group which has become a sexist boys’ club with Stan Rizzo’s hiring, and because she does want to stick up for Joan. (However, Joan is completely right when she notes that Peggy fires Joey for herself, not for Joan.) Peggy grabs the offending drawing and marches into Don’s office.
Don isn’t amused, not because he’s offended, but because Joey isn’t working on their project and Peggy’s upset. (Since Peggy has become Don’s new Anna, I’ll bet that he’ll consider her not-related-to-work-projects feelings more carefully now.) However, Don insists that if Peggy wants Joey gone, she needs to fire him herself. In one way, yes, Don is correct that Peggy would be a “tattle-tale” had Don fired Joey over the incident. Plus, she needs to assert her control back over creative. However, if Don had addressed to Joey just why treating women like that is not correct, Joey would’ve listened to Don more than Peggy.
That said Peggy did get put into the position of “humorless bitch” and was booted out of the boys’ club. I did really like how Peggy handled herself in firing Joey. I liked that she wouldn’t have if he went and apologized to Joan. And that she stuck to her firing and didn’t flinch when he started tossing around (her?) office supplies. Good riddance.
It doesn’t surprise me that in the elevator, Peggy tells Joan about firing Joey and comes off as smug. Or that Joan responds to Peggy saying that she never told Peggy to stand up for her. Because Joan is trying to stay that queen bee Peggy met on the first day. The one that told Peggy never to cry at work and to wear a scarf because men like that. Of course, this is Peggy’s own way of not crying in the office.
Sadly, Joan is correct when she says that for all her and Peggy’s power over the men in their office, the men can just go draw another sexist cartoon and take it all away. And perhaps more sadly, we’re still fighting the same struggles today even if we’ve had progress since 1965.
“No matter how powerful we get around here, they can still just draw a cartoon. So all you’ve done is prove to them that I’m a meaningless secretary, and you’re another humorless bitch.” — Joan
Overall, I think “The Summer Man” was a bold change in style and direction. Dealing as overtly with sexism was nice to see, but I don’t think this episode was one of their best. Completely memorable. But the new tone’s not there yet. The ’60s are in full-swing for everyone, and there’s some big differences.