Monday, October 06, 2008

Mad Men: Suriviving Your Parents

After being spoiled the past few weeks by meaty episodes, this week's Mad Men suffers a bit, even if only in comparison, which is often the case with episodes that have Don on the peripheral. The unifying theme, as alluded to in the episode's title ("The Inheritance") is all that parents pass on to their kids, warts and all. Both Betty and Pete's families are given longer looks, and it's remarkable how similar they are. Both are childlike with blue-blood backgrounds, with parents who mishandled them in a way to heighten their insecurities. And both have breakthroughs in the episode, Pete's being minor and Betty's being major.

Pete's minor revelation was coming around on the adoption stance. Having his mother forbid it might have pushed him some (he even admits fantasizing a bit about her death, a la Hitchcock's Rope) but also just talking about his father's plane crash with Peggy, ironically enough, reminded him that while he and his father were of the same blood, there was little love. I found this whole adoption story fascinating, mostly because I was given up for adoption in the late sixties, and hearing it described as "pulling from the discards," is something I hadn't given much thought to.

Meanwhile, Betty's breakthrough was that she evolved into a real adult by the end of the episode. Seeing her father Gene's slow deterioration (not to mention, getting felt up by him in a moment of dementia,) forces Betty to think of herself in a different light. Daddy's the one man left who thinks she's a princess still, while Don still sees her as a child still in the midst of a fit. One of Gene's apparent episodes, however, found him seeing right through Don. "Who know what he does, why he does it?" he starts in, ending with "he has no people... you can't trust a person like that." This last statement puts Don outside the show's theme, when you realize Gene is basically saying that you don't know who a person is until you see their family, which is another way of looking at the 'inheritance' theme.

While Betty's grown up enough to see through Don's act, and send him on his way, she still wants to feel like Daddy's little girl, which is why she didn't put an end immediately to the creepy visit from Glenn (played by Matthew Weiner's son Marten,), even with all of us watching groaning out loud for her to make the call. When she finally does make the call, Glenn's mother Helen, while admitting her failure as a parent, sums up Betty's breakthrough when she says "The hardest part is figuring out that you're in charge." Seeing Helen struggle as a single mom may make her rethink the divorce angle that she's contemplating.

Even if she does rethink it, Don's already kind of running away -- taking Kinsey's place on the plane, to "Telstar" by The Tornadoes. It was originally a hit in the UK, coming out one month after the first communications satellite of the same name was launched into space, and the Ventures quickly followed with their own version. Questions of timing, of course, should be irrelevant, given that it's closing credits here and not part of the actual scene.

More on Glenn:
We're led to believe that Glenn's romantic fantasy of rescuing Betty was propped up a bit by reading superhero comics, including Metal Men -- which first saw publication in 1962 -- and Action Comics with Superman. The issue shown, is, I believe, #203 from April of 1955. Glenn is either already a serious collector, or he was already consuming comics at age five, his age when it came out. They had to go back a ways to find a cover with Superman carrying Lois, as by 1962, most the covers had him flying around with recently introduced Supergirl. Even the masculine Superman comic was already trumpeting girl power by now.

The kids playhouse, where Glenn apparently had been hanging out for a couple days, has unsurprisingly been the choice for kids to act out marriage, so it's not surprising to find Glenn there waiting for Betty to come home.

Speaking of the kids, Glenn's romantic fantasy is broken up by Sally and Bobby coming home, which harkens back a few episodes to when Arthur's romantic fantasy was similarly shattered by the arrival of said kids.


WestCoastFan said...

Great insight. Thanks for writing these reviews/recaps. I also like that you include background info on the music. Some of them are an interesting choice.

Anonymous said...

Actually, you might want to check your facts. Mad Men used the original version of Telstar by The Tornados. You can easily hear the clavioline that inexplicably wasn't used by The Ventures.

That probably throws off your date calculation, which seems a bit off too. Marilyn Monroe died August 5, 1962, this episode takes place some time after her death. The Tornados' Telstar was released August 17, 1962 and even hit #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 within four months. So I'd say that it's an entirely time-appropriate piece to set the stage as our main character, flies to an *aerospace* convention some time during or after August 1962.

Here are some sources:

drake lelane said...

Good catch... AMC was late giving me clarification on Ventures vs. Tornados.

But as to the argument of 'time appropriate,' my point is it's irrelevant given that it's not part of the actual scene, but instead just score for the closing credits. It could be from any time and still be appropriate, since time is irrelevant.