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August 24, 2009


Bye Bye Birdie

Peggy on Mad Men

Having seen Viva Las Vegas many times, and watched in awe/horror as Ann-Margret yowled and flailed around in her orange sweater during that one sort of kooky dance number, I could relate to Peggy on last night's "Mad Men" watching Ann-Margret in awe/horror as she camped it up on screen like a crazy 8 year-old in a clip from Bye Bye Birdie [here's the clip]. Ann-Margret's mid-60's performance style seemed to be: mental sexy.

I liked the scenes of Peggy dismissing Ann-Margret's phony little-girl-but-sexy act as being irrelevant to women, and kind of insulting. Even better was the scene of Don reassuring her that, yes, the Bye Bye Birdie clip is ridiculous, but people are morons, powerless to resist Ann-Margret's tits and you have to market to them that way. I'm paraphrasing here; what he actually said was much more subtle, but that was the idea.

[Aside: In a perfect little indicator of the disturbing undercurrent of Bye Bye Birdie, the Daily News had an article today about a revival production that's coming to Broadway. The producers have decided to change a dance sequence in which the heroine cavorts friskily with a bunch of Shriners at their banquet because as Gina Gershon (who will play the character) said, "it seemed a little too gang rape-y."]

Even better was the scene of Peggy practicing her sex kitten routine in front of the mirror, then going out for some hot casual non-intercourse action with a guy she bags not by being a pretend-helpless little kitten, but by being a gutsy smart girl who's not afraid to take a big bite out of a fella's hamburger. It was pretty great.

Other highlights from last night: Don telling his wife's elderly dad to "drop your socks and grab... something", though I wish he'd just finished with "your cocks", as an ex-Army man making a joke with the phrase. This is cable, can't they say that?

Also: Roger Sterling's daughter is going to have one bummer of a wedding the day after JFK's assassination. I wonder if the reference to her wedding date (November 23, 1963) means that this season is going to include the assassination, or if we're just meant to recognize that poor Margaret Sterling's wedding is going to suck big time.

categories: Movies, Women
posted by amy at 2:17 PM | #

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"gang rape-y". God bless Gina Gershon. I'm going to see if I can use that one at work tomorrow.

Posted by: T-Rock at August 24, 2009 6:00 PM

Try to use it at a Diversity Council meeting.

Posted by: amy at August 25, 2009 10:19 AM

Frankly, I found Peggy rather disturbing in this episode. First, she assumed that Ann-Margret was 24 years old. The actress was barely 22 years old around the time of this episode.

And has she ever seen BYE-BYE BIRDIE before the beginning of this episode? If so, then she would have known that Ann-Margret was deliberately singing in that shrill manner in order to spoof teenage girls. If not, perhaps she should have watched the movie, before making assumptions about the actress's voice. And to make matters worse, she tries to pick up men in that ridiculous manner.

She sounds as if she is very insecure about herself . . . and far from being a mature woman.

Posted by: Rosie at August 27, 2009 8:45 PM

Like everyone on Mad Men, Peggy is a conflicted and flawed but compelling character.

I don't think we're meant to know if she had seen Bye Bye Birdie in its entirety or not--it sounded to me like she seen it had when she was surprised that Don hadn't.

But her comment about the clip the staff was watching so they could recreate it for an ad was just about that one clip, and how Ann-Margret's performance was shrill and annoying. I agree with her--it was shrill and annoying. Even if Ann-Margret's performance style made sense in the context of the movie, in itself it might not be a good model for an ad targeted to women if women are going to be turned off by it, which was Peggy's point.

I agree that it was a surprising when Peggy practiced singing Ann-Margret-style in front of the mirror, but as much as she doesn't want to degrade herself to get male attention, she still wants men to notice her. It's part of what makes her an interesting character. As Roger Sterling said to her in the same episode, she's the only girl in the office "who doesn't have that stupid look on her face."

So when she picks up the guy at the bar, she doesn't use that sex kitten phony stuff. She does steal Joan's line, but other than that, she's direct and smart, talks about career stuff, makes jokes like "or you could just become a robot", and takes a bite out of the guy's burger. I thought she behaved in a way that was more or less true to herself, though she did let him assume she was a secretary.

You were disturbed that Peggy's guess about Ann-Margret's age was off by 2 years? What's so disturbing about that?

Posted by: amy at August 27, 2009 9:18 PM

I found her behavior in the entire episode disturbing. I really see no reason why she should be upset over Ann-Margret's performance in that opening scene.

And I find it interesting that fans, such as yourself, are willing to pay lip service to Peggy's flaws, yet spend most of your time making excuses for some of her more questionable actions and reactions. All so that you can put her on a pedestal labeled "Woman of the Future".

Posted by: Rosie at August 29, 2009 4:55 AM

Funny. My actual "Woman of the Future" pedestal is reserved for some superwoman combination of Sarah Silverman and Lucille Bluth.

Posted by: amy at August 30, 2009 10:56 PM

My Woman of the Future pedestal is waiting for some woman to come over and dust it.

Posted by: T-Rock at September 1, 2009 11:07 AM

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