Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Joan Holloway, Copywriter

That’s what I’d love to see on her business card in the new season of Mad Men, which starts screening in the UK tonight.

Firstly, I’d like her to go back to her maiden name. Greg was manipulative, spoilt, and a rapist. So why keep the name Harris? Although, the show being set in the sixties, maybe it’s unlikely that a divorced woman would revert to her maiden name. I think the change in her over the first five seasons is gradual but beautiful to watch: from a woman who plans to find a husband, stop working and look after her family, to someone who realises how much they enjoy their work, and how their identity as an employee, an individual, and a parent is more important than their role as a spouse. I also hope, after learning that he voted in favour of her prostituting herself for the company, that she has no more involvement with Roger or anyone of his ilk. I wasn’t surprised by Pete’s actions – he was prepared to pimp his newly-wed wife out so he could have his story published in The New Yorker – but I honestly thought that Roger loved Joan deep down. Don’s not exactly a moral crusader, but I was glad that he was a voice of reason amongst the men.

Secondly, since Joan was made a partner at a HUGE personal sacrifice, I think she’s earned the right to a creative job. She has such a sharp sense of wit and comes out with great lines, which some of the copywriters would take hours to come up with. She’s not a ‘meaningless secretary’ as she explains in a roundabout way (but with her acid tongue) to Peggy; she understands the business better than most of the people in the company. Her enthusiasm when she was asked to help Harry read television scripts (to work out which adverts would be suitable in which shows) was obvious, she was told she did a great job, but was then replaced by a new, inexperienced man, and it seemed so unfair. Especially as Peggy’s now left the company (though I can’t help hoping she’ll return, like Ken), they need a strong, female voice.

As for the other women in the show, Peggy is a fantastic character, and it’s been wonderful watching her develop and seeing the changes in others’ responses to her and her job. I’m not sure what she wanted to do when she joined Sterling Cooper – I would have loved to hear her answer to the ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ question – but once she was given a chance to shine by Freddy with her ‘basket of kisses’ line about lipstick, it seemed to make her mind up that THIS is what she wanted to do. I think she’s in sharp contrast to Megan, who in Season 4 describes herself as an artist and actress, worked as secretary, but tells Don she thinks she wants to do what he and Peggy do (did she really want that, or was she trying to be what she thought Don wanted her to be – like when Sally cut her hair short?). But by Season 5 Megan was dissatisfied with office work and copywriting, even though she seemed to be good at both, and left to pursue acting. I liked how Peggy appeared to be threatened by another female copywriter at first, but ended up giving Megan praise and encouragement – I’m glad she’s not one to break through the glass ceiling and then pull the ladder up after her. I first saw Elizabeth Moss in Girl, Interrupted, so it’s still strange sometimes to see her play an adult in a male-dominated workplace!

I adored Betty in the first few seasons, but it’s a shame that being part of a family home other than Don’s means we see her less now. I loved the scene when she went to a casting and was sat in a huge, beautiful gown, surrounded by younger models in modern, modest sixties dresses, and the scenes in Rome, when she looked confident and sparkling – a million miles away from the bored, Ossining housewife. Her relationship with her daughter is fascinating, and Kiernan Shipka as Sally is such a mature actor for someone so young. It’s a shame we won’t see her and her character as adults in this show (there are only two more seasons to go).

Lastly, I think Trudy is a wonderful character. I wasn’t sure what to make of her at first, but that’s probably because she seemed so alien to me. I think we see Trudy’s optimistic and warm character as a necessary counterpoint to Pete’s complaining and lack of compassion. I saw Alison Brie in the film The Five-Year Engagement (which is surprisingly good, as rom-coms go) and she rocked a British accent.

And speaking of Americans doing British accents, Christina Hendricks does a fine one in Ginger and Rosa, although the story and her character are heart-breaking. I think she’ll have no problem getting good work in life after Joanie.