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Ken Honeywell

Ken Honeywell
Location
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Birthday
March 20
Title
Partner
Company
Well Done Marketing
Bio
I'm in love with my wife; a writer and producer living in Indianapolis; partner at Well Done Marketing; founder of Tonic Ball, a benefit concert that's become one of the city's favorite annual events; co-founder of Second Story, a creative writing program for kids; a vegetarian; lead singer of Yoko Moment; a life-long New York Mets fan; a sucker for waltz time; crazy about Pernice Brothers; etc.

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Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 14, 2010 7:07PM

Let Us Now Praise Mad Women

Rate: 18 Flag

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A friend told me a week ago that he was going to have to start watching Mad Men, but that his wife couldn’t handle it. “She can’t stand the way the women are treated,” he said. “She just won’t go there.”

I understand. Workplace equality is far from what it ought to be today. In 2008, for every dollar men earned, women earned 77 cents. The U.S. Census Bureau concluded that women earned less than men in all 20 industries and 25 occupation groups surveyed. Even female secretaries earn on 83.4% of what male secretaries earn.

So imagine what conditions must have been like in 1965. Or–don’t imagine. Tune in to Season 4 of Mad Men and watch as women are ridiculed, dismissed, used, abused, and generally mistreated.

And yet: in spite of the way the women of Mad Men are treated by the men, the show is anything but misogynistic. The female characters on Mad Men are among the most complicated and compelling women on television–and are all the more so for being so often downright dislikable.

For example: has there ever been a worse mother on series television than Betty Draper Francis? (Perhaps Weeds’ Nancy Botwin, but stay with me here for a minute.) She is awful to her children: abusive, dismissive, and neglectful. Although Betty doesn’t work, her kids are virtually raised by the maid. We know young Sally Draper’s going to be in therapy for a long, long time.

And yet, we root for Betty, in some bizarre way. We see how damaged she is. Her husband was not only a cad, he wasn’t even actually the person he said he was. In the latest episode, “The Summer Man,” Betty and her new husband Henry encounter Don at a restaurant with a date, and Betty falls apart. She, quite unbecomingly, “needs” a drink. She nearly squirrel’s Henry’s chances to run John Lindsay’s presidential campaign with her rude behavior. But by the end of the episode, Betty pulls it together. She looks at Don with pity and tells Henry, “We have everything.” Is she sincere? In denial? We shall see.

Joanie’s a whole ‘nother animal. She’s the subject of what today would clearly be called sexual harassment–and would have grounds for a big, fat lawsuit. In 1965, however, Joanie handles things differently. She uses her body as a shield and a weapon to keep both the secretarial pool and the men of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in their respective places. She also uses the idea that the nasty young men who’ve perpetrated a pornographic illustration of her will likely be shipping off to Vietnam as a withering response to their casual sexism. Of course, Vietnam is much on Joanie’s mind. Her husband, who’s seized upon the Army as his chance to become a surgeon, will be heading overseas after basic training. Joanie is the Amazon Queen of her pink-collar world. But her personal life is ruined, her dream of being a doctor’s wife compromised, if not shattered.

Which is why she doesn’t take kindly to Peggy Olson’s firing of piggish Joey the art director. Peggy witnesses the whole awful affair, and feels empathy for Joan. Joan tries to get Don to hire someone other than Joey to work on revisions for the Mountain Dew campaign, and Don ignores her. Peggy takes up her cause, and goes to Don for support. “You want some respect? Go out there and get it for yourself,” Don tells Peggy.

After she fires Joey, Peggy mentions it to Joan, thinking she’ll be pleased. Joan’s response: “All you’ve done is prove to them that I’m a meaningless secretary and you’re another humorless bitch.” Ouch.

It’s worth mentioning two other women who play significant roles in “The Summer Man”: Don’s two dates, Bethany Van Nuys and Dr. Faye Miller. Don’s been out with Bethany five times and she hasn’t gotten anywhere with him. But she marks Betty as a frigid bitch and goes down on Don on the way home in the cab.

Later, Don convinces Faye to have dinner with him, and she’s getting hot and bothered–but Don declines to bring her to his apartment. Don Draper, bless his Dick Whitmanish soul, is looking for something deeper: a woman instead of a girl. Compare and contrast with Peggy’s potential beaus in last week’s episode: Mark, the clueless boy who invites her family to her birthday dinner; and Duck, who at least understands that what really turns Peggy on is a business card that says “Peggy Olson, Creative Director.”

Finally, let us not leave out our pal, Don Draper. In a beautiful Cheeveresque twist, Don has decided to become a swimmer. He is, notably, swimming in the opposite direction of everyone else in the pool as the episode opens. He also knows that he’s drowning in alcohol; the echoing buzz at the bottom of the bottle is the same one he feels when he’s surrounded by water, drifting to the bottom of the pool. He is trying, journaling like a schoolgirl. He may yet become actually lovable.

He may even find a woman who understands and loves him, as the kind, brave Anna Draper did. He may become a champion of women–may understand that they are not his inferiors, but his path to salvation.

I would not bet against it. “Tell your wife she’s wrong,” I want to tell my friend. “Mad Men loves women.”

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i dont watch tv (and realize how snobbish that sounds) so i dunno these particular women, but as a member of their clan i like to support all mad women.
Ken, don't you have anything better to do, my friend? I mean, really. I watched Mad Men a few times during the first season, knew they would walk off with all the metal, and couldn't care less. I am anxiously waiting for the first installment of your next fictional effort, since I pretty much organized my reading around your entries for several months and I really miss that. But, really, the best television is still mindless. I don't even know why I have a 50 inch plasma in the living room for all the good it does me, which is little or none at all.

The bitch of it (slur intended) is that I will read anything you write regardless of what it's about, so you have me by the short ones.
Mad Men is not ordinary television. The character development, plot and historical perspective are excellent. To dismiss this show is a mistake. It stays with you and brings issues to the surface that need to be addressed.
being a mad woman almost (but, importantly, not quite) old enough to have been a character in the drama of this series, one of the things that strikes me is how amazingly true to their times these women are. the writers get the men right, too, and the dialogue and the plot (i could go on and on and often do), but the women are perhaps more what don (and roger) revolve around -- dare i say it -- as often happens in real life.

great analysis, ken. i especially appreciate how you saw don's taking up swimming.
how I love Mad Men. it gets better, more complex with every episode. I'm so pleased to see Don controlling that almost uncontrollable, wild and self destructive streak. and now he's writing! there was one moment when something he wrote was particularly, startlingly lovely. I don't recall exactly what it was, but it's clear, unlike Roger's efforts, Don's might be the beginnings of a book. there's a writer in him.

joanie is something else. all contradictions and surprises. I'm not so sure of her but she's wonderful and so capable. I love how peggy under don's tutelage and even partnership is rising fast. she's talented, able but inexperienced and young. still..she's getting it. the firing was PERFECT. I half expected that dolt to call her and Joanie lesbians in cahoots.

could it be peggy will be made creative director when don retires to becomes a writer? and what about Betty and he? will they make peace? I think so. She's SUCH a perfect politician's wife.

gorgeous episode, season, series. this is the best thing on TV, bar everything. it just blows me away week after week.
@sagemerlin -- The best television is better than the best movies now. That may not be saying much if you are looking for art.

The combination of the lack of constraints (language, nudity, etc) on the cable channels, the relatively high production values, and mostly the space/time to develop intricate story arcs with multiple levels has created an environment where excellent content is available.

HBO's the Wire was fantastic. Good include Breaking Bad and Nurse Jackie. The remainder are guilty pleasures.

I don't even bother with movies.
Not that Ken isn't a hellava writer.

And Ken, good to point out how simply awful Betty is with the children. Perhaps helicopter parenting has gotten out of hand, but the kids were treated like a total afterthought in the divorce.
Mad Men is very Cheever-esque. I loved reading his short stories, everyone had banter and cool liquor fueled simmering discontent.
Same as I have felt in some hot summer nights in suburbia. Nice recap.
Oh... now that's a close race. Betty Draper or Nancy Botwin? It's a tie, though I like Nancy better. The last time I loved Betty she was shooting pigeons in her nightgown, cigarette hanging from her mouth. Betty still doesn't "have everything"... but she wants to believe that that's all she wanted. I ache for Sally every time I see her interact with her detached and angry mother.

I look at Joanie as Machiavelli. She understands how things work. She doesn't like it, but she understands it and uses it. She has no friends, but she knows that her job is not her life, or the life she desires. I love the contrast between her and Peggy. The are each trying to figure out how to gain and keep power while the world rocks and the rules change exponentially.

I loved this episode. And I loved Don's scribblings. It's not often that we get to know what's happening in his interior world.
I read this last night and I've been working on my reply since then.

Here it is:

Ummmmmmmmm ... I dunno. Thinking about it makes my chest hurt though.

Betty Draper is simply awful, so brutally damaged ... so ... ummm ....

So yhea, thanks.
I love reading about Mad Men, particularly when it's good writing, like this is. Rated.
Oh, come on, people. MM is just Dallas all over again, prime time serial soap opera. I will agree with Nick that television has eclipsed cinema, offering film makers more time to develop more detail....but sometimes the product just ends up becoming long-winded. I am becoming disaffected from fiction in general because it encourages us to believe wholly unrealistic depictions of reality which, in turn, generate wholly unrealistic expectations. I could go on but, hey, that would be long-winded too.
Oh, how I love to be lectured...
I've enjoyed the strength, depth, and variety of the women presented on Mad Men . . . they are every bit primary characters, including their flaws.
I've long hoped that Joan would come on stronger than she does--as an astute business woman--but it looks like the one who will end up with her name over the door and Don Draper reporting to her is Peggy Olson (although I still refer to her as Zoe).
I have a hard time rooting for Betts. I'm still pissed with the ease at which she slapped Sally across the face and she sucks at motherhood but the truth about Betts is -- she is still a child herself some maybe there is hope. I'm liking the emerging Don. And Peggy and Faye.

Though there's not much worth reading in Rolling Stone magazine these days, in the recent edition there was a good essay called 'A Fine Madness.'

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/17386/196882
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The show's sense of the times is spot-on. Peggy is asserting herself and will advance her career, Joan is in a dead-end job and knows it, so she's pinning her hopes on her loser-husband. I'm not worried about Peggy, but poor Joan is in for a big loss unless she gets wise about the ways of the biz.

In 1966, the "ideal" women's physique is suddenly determined to be - Twiggy! No curves whatsoever. No breasts, no derriere, just a hanger of which to display curves, topped off with a Betty Boop head.
Total agreement. Love the show and really liked last week's as it suggested Don will pull it out of the ditch and the Peggy is going to move forward in a sound mentoring relationship. Note how the other guy was added because Don was loaded. The old boy network akin to how he got added. Peggy got it helping him put the bottle down. The old boy network of 3 martini lunches or a network built on work, respect, and performance? It was a great episode.
I think the Mad Men is the best drama on TV I've ever seen. They have managed to combine the best elements of film merged with a serial television format into something special and philosophical. As for your wife's uneasiness with how women are treated (which could also extend to minorities of all stripes on the show), I guess for me I separate the characters, who are sexist, with the show/its creators who aren't, but are instead examining these things through the prism of this particular time and context.