Friday, April 13, 2012

TV TOPIC: Getting Bribed by Roger Sterling on "Mad Men": Harry Crane vs. Peggy Olson?

I made the headline of this post very clear. At first I thought I might call it Gender Roles on "Mad Men," but I didn't want it to seem like I was going to go into this long diatribe about how poorly women were treated in the workplace back then, or how Peggy has impressively managed to climb the corporate ladder in spite of her vagina, or how next week Joanie will return to work after dumping her rapist of a husband, who expected her to be a stay-at-home mom during his year-long absence. No, this post is about Roger Sterling's recent attempts to get what he wants out of his underlings through bribery, and how differently each played out because of their gender.
This season, there's some dick-measuring going on between Sterling and Pete Campbell. Apparently last season, with the help of his father-in-law, Pete was able to gain some respect in the office and he's been gunning for big accounts ever since so he can retain it. To date, he claims to have brought in the most and the largest, and has subsequently decided he's the most important person in the entire company. While I don't necessarily agree, I do think he was right to ask for a bigger and more impressive office to, at the very least, bring important clients to, instead of having to always meet them in either Sterling or Don Draper's office, or the conference room. However, no one gave a crap. The oldest member of the company, Bertram Cooper, doesn't even have an office anymore, so he was more interested in piggybacking off of Pete's request than helping him.
Unfortunately, tightwad Lane Price nipped it in the bud with his usual demure "we don't have money for this you wasteful pricks" rejection speech. So in an effort to appease him and keep his own office, Sterling bribed Harry Crane, the TV ad guy, to switch offices with Pete. He pulled $1100 out of his wallet (almost $8000 today) and basically acted like he was doing Harry a favor. The ever-so-delusional Harry ended the exchange with a ridiculous clarification of whether this would be a monthly bribe, then Sterling threatened to tell Don that Harry made lewd comments about his new, young, hot, Zou Bisou-ing wife, shutting him down. In this "negotiation," Sterling was very much in control. For all Harry knew, he had another grand in his back pocket. I was not shocked by this behavior or at all impressed. But it wasn't until I saw Sterling do it again with Peggy that I realized just how much power she wields.
In the third episode, Sterling realizes he forgot to put the new copywriter Michael Ginsberg on a big, upcoming account, and loathe to allow Pete to lord it over him for all of eternity, he decides to bribe Peggy to do it secretly and pretend that he told her to do it earlier. What's incredible about this request is not just that she's expected to work through the weekend and have it ready in 48hrs without any prep, feedback, or assistance, but that they specifically hired Ginsberg to do this account because the client prefers male employees. And so Peggy realized she had him by the balls, and instead of timidly negotiating with Sterling, like Harry did, she put her feet up on her desk, leaned back, crossed her arms, and basically shook him down, as he begged for her to be merciful. Granted, this time he was unprepared and he only had $400 on him (almost $3000 today), but when he told her how much he had and she responded "Give me all of it," he groaned and she quickly threatened to take his watch too. She was ballsy, unapologetic, and opportunistic.
So it would seem, that in spite of Harry's penis, he doesn't possess any of these particular characteristics. He got where he got on a whim, whereas Peggy clawed her way through their misogyny and bravado to secure an office, an assistant, and basically run the copywriting department. And if all three of those gentlemen aren't careful, soon she'll be burning her bra in one of their big offices, while a janitor scrapes their name off the door.

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