Paul Kinsley throws a party at his Montclair apartment and invites his Sterling Cooper office mates. Paul fancies himself a little boho, a little more broadminded and cultured than his peers. During the party, Paul wears a neck scarf and carries a pipe. 'Nuff said. Poseur Paul introduces Joan Hollowell, head of the steno pool, to his (surprise) black girlfriend, Sheila, the manager of a local supermarket. When the ladies are left to talk, Joan first patronizes Sheila, intoning that maybe one day she'll be able to "pull up in a station wagon" and shop at the supermarket, as well as work there. When Sheila points out that she has already shopped there, as she grew up in the suburb, Joan turns more nasty: (paraphrasing) It's great that you and Paul are together. When we were together I wouldn't have thought he would be so broad-minded. It's left to the viewers' imaginations what else Joan may have said, but later in the office Paul confronts her and she accuses him of dating Sheila merely to seem "interesting.".
Now, it is clear to me that Paul certainly is a showy, pompous ass and just the type to think hanging with Negroes is proof of sophistication. It is also clear that Joan is a Queen Bee sort who doesn't take kindly to female competition or being left behind by a former paramour. But it is also more than clear, given Joan's insistence on putting Sheila in "her place," that Joan is particularly offended by a former beau moving on to a black woman. She digs with the "maybe one day you'll be able to shop there" and "he wasn't that broad minded" thing and takes care to insult Sheila out of Paul's hearing.
The meaning of the interaction between Joan and Sheila seems obvious to me, especially given the early 60s time frame. The Civil Rights Act had not been signed. There had been no Freedom Summer. Blacks in about 11 states could not vote. Is it such a surprise that the average American held racially biased beliefs? To me, it is no more surprising than the sexism that runs rampant in the show. But many of the comments on "Mad Men" forums are ambivalent about the racism in the show's recent episode....Joan is not a racist, see, just a little bitchy. Part of the problem is that the character, with her pneumatic body and take-no-prisoners attitude is sort of a riot grrl favorite of the show's fans. No one wants to brand someone they like a racist. It's more comfortable to find other explanations for bad behavior toward people of color.
I was personally surprised and deeply disappointed in Don's reaction to Sal. The way he said, "you people," just shocked the hell out of me. It seemed extremely out-of-character for him. Don has a lot of flaws, but he's always been pretty accepting of other people, regardless of their lifestyles or situations. My heart broke for Sal, especially because I think he really thought Don would be an ally in this situation. I don't blame Don for upholding the firing (though I agree with others that it's really Harry that deserved the firing), because it was too late. They can't afford to lose that client. But I still thought (and I think Sal thought) that Don would be more sympathetic to the situation.
I'm sorry, but this show seems to me to be warming up to jump the shark. I really feel the writing has slipped.
Don's treatment of Sal is not just cowardly and cruel, it's also inconsistent with his behavior from ep 1 and through the season. I can sort of respect the writer's not caring if we like the characters, but Don's jerkitude lately just seems to be a default setting. All the characters getting the airtime are growing more and more loathsome, while anyone either appealing or just funny is either made less so, forced out, or just ignored.
As someone who's heard the disparaging "you people" more times than I care to count, I didn't see/hear it as Don being disgusted with gay people, but rather as him being fed up with all the people he's had to butt heads with in this ep and the season overall: Connie, Bert, Roger, Peggy and Betty just to name a few. I think Sal just got caught in the crossfire.
That was an entirely distressing episode. Sal is fired because of a repulsive thug from Lucky Strike. That man was just vile and poor Sal standing in the park, pretending to be at work did make me tear up. I understand that Don had little choice, Lucky Strike is a huge account, but I hated that he blamed Sal. Actually, I kind of wanted to dump a bucket of ice water over Don's head to help him clear it. Don didn't always fold to clients like that, but I guess this is evidence of Don-the-contract-player. Ugh.
I caught the rerun just in time for the "you people" scene. I guess it didn't leap out at me as homophobic on first watch because Don just seemed disgusted with everyone -- Sal, Harry, Lee Garner Jr (Lucky Strike guy) -- basically his attitude is that they're all just a bunch of unprofessional bumblers. But sure, I can see the homophobia. Still, considering the way Don handled Sal and the Bellhop, and considering it's 1963, he's still miles ahead of the average guy on this count.
Don didn't behave very well this week, but his firing of Sal didn't seem sociopathic to me. It seemed necessary. Unless Sterling Cooper is supposed to close its doors.
I didn't see any hypocrisy in Carla opening the door-- it's her job. Ossining was all-white but that doesn't mean it was segregated per se. Interesting observation but MW has made that point much better in workplace situations where the segregation was real and overt (the television account). Maybe because I lived four years in the south, I thought the way the women were trying to understand it was more a comment about north vs. south and their experiences of the issue. It just isn't an issue for Betty, which is not something anybody could say in Birmingham.
I wasn't so bothered by the "Carla works for me" line. I thought first she was commenting on the tone, and then reminding Bobby that it wasn't up to him to say what he had for dinner-Betty made the decisions about whether he got salad or not.