Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mad Men's Phantom Wives

Sunday’s Mad Men season finale was entitled, “The Phantom.” Naturally, everyone thought that it referred to the ghost of Lane Pryce.

Then, when Marie Calvet declared that her daughter’s pursuit of her acting career was like chasing a phantom, the meaning shifted.

In the largest sense the show chronicles an important shift in American culture, the arrival of the Vietnam counterculture and feminism.

Admittedly, Matthew Weiner’s timing is off: feminism was not an important cultural force in 1966. Nor did 1966, as one critic noted, see wave of divorces that were to follow in feminism's wake.

Mad Men shows us the breakdown of the American family.  In the final episode we see one of the basic aspects of that breakdown: the American wife is vanishing before our eyes.

Housewives and homemakers are being driven into extinction, in one way or another.

Since the episode places women in central roles, the phantom in the title must be the American wife.

Marie Calvet notwithstanding, her daughter is becoming a phantom wife.

Allow me to backtrack. At the end of the penultimate episode we saw the partners cutting down the corpse of Lane Pryce and laying it out on a couch.

By the time the new episode began Lane Pryce was a distant memory. Don did pay a visit to his widow and offer her a check for $50,000… which was Pryce's investment in the firm.

Dramatically, that was surely not sufficient. We did not see the partners or the staff mourning a partner who had hanged himself in his office.

The writers threw in a line about how Pryce’s widow did not want a memorial service, but that was a cheap trick, an excuse for bad plotting.

Many reviewers found the final Mad Men unsatisfying. I suspect that they were responding to a glaring flaw: no one at SCDP knew how to acknowledge or commemorate the passing of Lane Pryce.

It doesn’t have a hidden meaning. It’s dramatically offensive and inexcusable. It cast a pall over the episode, not the one the writers would have wanted.

The last episode paid lip service to Lane Pryce, but it was really about vanishing wives.

Don Draper stated it clearly when he told Megan: “You want to be somebody’s discovery, not somebody’s wife.”

Several critics have noted that Don’s rotting tooth, called a “hot tooth” represents Megan. He is trying to hold on to someone he loves but who is causing him pain. Eventually he succumbs to the pressure and gets Megan the job she wants, in much the same way he succumbs and has his tooth extracted just in time… before it produced an abscess that would have infected his jaw.

Some critics have suggested that Don has agreed to allow Megan to pursue her dreams, thus that he is going to become more uxorious, a more compliant and supportive husband. He is willing, as one critic noted, to sacrifice his desire for a traditional housewife in order to make her happy.

I see that as a phantom wish. As the season ends Don Draper is ready to move on.

When it comes to Megan's happiness, we have already been told, by Marie Calvet, that Megan does not have the talent to make it as an actress. And why do you think that career success and a failing marriage will make her happy?

The metaphor of Don’s hot tooth coupled with his last scene says otherwise. As Megan takes her star turn Don is being hit on by two beautiful women in a bar.

He may be alone. He may feel abandoned, but not for long.

Forced to choose between real women and a phantom wife Don Draper is most likely to choose the former.

Of course, Megan herself is still loving and seductive. When she gets drunk she insists that she is more than happy to continue to make love with him.

Unfortunately, she is too self-involved to see that her husband is in so much pain that he has no immediate interest in sex.

Think about it: Megan does not want to be either wife or mother. She wants to fulfill her creative potential while being a great lover. Put them together are you get concubine.

As metaphors go, the toothache is lame, to say the least. Maureen Ryan suggested, correctly, that it shows the producers trying to tell us what to think, as though we are not smart enough to figure things out on our own.

And then there is Marie Calvet, Megan’s mother, herself another example of a phantom wife.

Marie has decamped in New York without her atheist husband because he refuses to celebrate Easter. Circumstances allow her to consummate her lust for Roger Sterling, another man whose young second wife became a phantom. Who among us still remembers her?

As for the other women in the episode, Peggy Olson is happily ensconced in her new job at a new advertising agency. She is hard at work on a new cigarette, presumably Virginia Slims.

When last seen she was looking out of a motel room window in Virginia watching two dogs copulating in the parking lot. Clearly, the episode takes place before motels had on-demand videos.

Peggy is is not on the road to matrimony.

Former wife Joan Harris is now on the way to divorce.

Then there is Beth Dawes, Pete Campbell’s former paramour, wife of Pete’s friend, insurance salesman Howard Dawes.

After running into Pete on the train, Beth calls him to tell him that she is not going on vacation, but is going to check into a psychiatric clinic to have another round of electroshock treatments. She wants to tryst with him before undergoing treatment.

Since last we saw Beth she had fallen into a depression and had confessed her infidelity to her husband. Her appalling husband was sending her to a psychiatric clinic to have, as the show put it, “her memory erased.” She has had the treatment before, suggesting that her life as Howard's wife is less than happy.

In 1966 electroshock was an accepted treatment for depression. It was done on an inpatient and an outpatient basis. While the treatment produced some memory loss, the show’s contention that Beth would have had her “memory erased” was simply inaccurate.

Yet, the image of a woman without memory presents yet another version of the phantom wife.

When Pete Campbell visits Beth after her first treatment, she does not remember who he is. So Pete talks of their affair as though it had happened to someone else. He adds that he has discovered that his own marriage is more phantom than real.

The only woman in this episode who seems to be functioning as something resembling a wife is Trudy Campbell.

But now that the Pete has revealed his liaison with Beth to Howard, Trudy is the only one who is in the dark, who is living in a fiction about her marriage.

After Pete gets himself beaten up by Howard and the train’s conductor, he arrives home to tell Trudy that he had fallen asleep driving home from the train station and drove his car into a ditch.

Dutiful wife that she is, Trudy suggests that Pete should rent his own apartment in Manhattan, the better to avoid the dangers of commuting.

Trudy Campbell is the only functioning wife in the show, but, as a wife, her days seem to be numbered. Her wifedom is more phantom than real.


Expressjodi said...

Great expectations

Life is full of surprises, particularly if you are a newly - wed . Expressjodi you a glimpse into the future and tells how to be prepared to face married life

Love is all about romance whereas marriage is a lot about responsibility. When two different individuals from different backgrounds live together, differences of opinion on things like spending habits, career, having and raising a baby, sharing household responsibilities etc, are bound to crop up, the key is to broaden your outlook and accept all the changes that marriage brings, and to remember that marriage is a momentous change for you and your spouse. And, fear not, over a period of time, you will find a way to make it work.


With marriage comes a whole lot of responsibility. "From the time you ger married, the decisions you make will not be yours alone, but your partner's as well. This is because your choices will impact both of you. But this doesn't mean that you're tied to a ball and chain. "It only means you have a companion with you for life. In fact, in your capacity as a spouse, you become your partner's caretaker, friend, confidante and even punching bag etc.


Arguments over money are bound to happen, so be prepared for it. And unless you establish some ground rules for dealing with financial issues, you will continue to have these arguments. Bear in mind that you are now a part of a unit, and no longer flying solo.

In - laws or outlaws?

if you thought that marriage is all about sharing your life with your significant other, think again, and this time, factor in your in - laws into the equation. When you're used to a particular lifestyle, moving in with your in - laws can be a rude shock. You will be required to make changes in your daily routine. Like waking up a little earlier to help around the house or rescheduling your plans on weekends or even modifying some of your eating habits. these might seem like an additional burden, particularly if you are a working woman. Remember to keep an open mind when it comes to handling your in - laws. They may be rigid in their ways, but there is always a way to work out a compromise.

Sharing space

Marriage involves sharing everything - whether it is sadness or glad tidings, chores or finance, which can be a difficult task. This is why marriage necessitates an equal contribution from both side. " Sharing is absolutely essential for a happy marriage,. Besides making it easier to run the show, it also brings you closer to your partner, and cement a bond in a way that only experience can.
Differnces of opinion

Shaadi brings two different individuals together, as well as two sets of arguments for everything. Remember that your husband is as new to the marriage and the relationship as you, and he is facing the same issue for the first time as well.Irrespective of the nature of the relationship, any two people are bound to have differences of opinion at some point of time, It is how you handle these differences that mtters. The best antidote for deviant interest lies in adapting to the situation. "Be carteful not to retaliate for the sake of it,"

Planning for the future

As a single independent working woman, you may be used to your lifestyle, going on holidays or splurging on the latest pair of Jimmy Choos. But married life is a journey and you need to plan carefully to get to your destination. "Planning is the key. Make sure you and your husband are on the same page as far as long - term goal are concerned," "Whether or not you plan to have a baby or deciding on investments for the future and are thing that you should discuss in advbance, if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises in you married life,"

Expressjodi said...

Brahmin Shaadi
Historically, the Brahmins in india were divided into two major groups based on geographical origin of the people. The Brahmin groups that lived to the north of the vindhyas were referred to as Dravida Brahmins. Each group was further divided into five sections according to the regions of their settlement.

The Sagaai or the engagement ceremony symbolises commitment However, the South Indian Brahmin do not lay stress on the presence of bride and the groom in their Sagaai, rather it focuses on commitment between the parents of the groom and the bride. 'Latto' i.e., 'engagement plate' Which consist of coconut, flowers, turmeric, betel leaves and betel nuts hold more importance, in their engagement ceremony. The Maithil Brahmin bride of bihar makes her wedding affair stand apart by receiving the blessing from the Dhobi's (washerman's) wife - a compulsory tradition in the Bihari Brahmin wedding.

In Haldi ceremony turmeric powder is mixed with milk, almond oil and sandalwood and applied to the bride and the groom. In Kashmiri Pandit this ceremony has a twist becuase cold, white yoghurt is poured on the bride as an alternative to haldi. ritual is followed by a special custom called Shankha (shell) Paula (coral) in bengali Brahmins, where seven married women embellish the bride's hand with red and white bangles, the shell is supposed to calm the bride and the coral is believed to
be beneficial for health. Mehndi is also applied on every bride's hands during the Mehndi ceremony. However, a Bengali Brahmin bride applies alta (red dye).

After the ceremonious arrival of the groom, the garlands are exchanged between the groom and the bride, while the priests chant mantras. Jaimala is the symbol of unifying two souls into one. But in tamil nadu, "Oonjal", a unique jaimala ceremony is performed and could be best decribed as a tug of war. In this ceremony, the women sing songs to encourage the bride and groom to exchange the garlands while the uncles persuade the soon to be couple not to Exchange the garlands.Before the ceremony of jaimala, the bride makes a majestic entry in Bengali weddings.

Mangal Phere
Fire is considered the most pious element in the Brahmin weddings and seven circles around that fire holds the seven promises that the nuptial couple make to each other amidst the Vedic mantras. The Brahmin wedding is deemed incomplete without the seven rounds around the sacred fire. Unlike other Brahmin weddings, in Gujarati weddings only four pheras are taken which are called the mangalpheras where the pheras represent four basic human goals of Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Miksha (religious, moral, prosperity and salvation). Likewise in Malayalee Brahmin weddings, pheras are taken only thrice.

Post wedding ceremony vidaai
After pheras, the bride's family and friend bid her teary vidaai (farewell). The Kashmiri pundits make their vidaai even more special. their charming ritual, "roth khabar" is performed on a saturday or tuesday after the wedding. In Roth
khabar, the bride's parents send a roth (bread decorated with nuts) to their son - in - law's family. But the bride accompanies She stay with her parents and returns only when someone from in laws comes to fetch her back.

Griha pravesh
The new bride is greeted by her mother - in - law with Arti and tilak. The bride, who is regarded as the Goddess laxmi, enters the groom's house after the groom's house after kicking rice - filled pot. In Kannada Brahmin marriages, the groom changes the name of his wife in the name change ceremony where he decides a name for his wife and inscribes it on a plate containing rice with a ring. In Bihar, a very strange ritual is performs at the groom's place.