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Pete gun

Pete doesn’t keep this gun for very long.

Mad Men Season 1, Episode 7: “Red in the Face”

Episode summary: This episode focuses on the men. Yes, this world of advertising in the 1960s revolves around men, but I think Mad Men does a good job of training the lens on the women as well. Peggy’s arc throughout the series, in particular, is amazingly strong and in many ways parallels Don’s arc.

But in this episode we mostly see only Don, Roger, and Pete. They live in a world in which they act in the way they think men are supposed to act. They take charge, or at least try to. Don grabs Betty’s arm in a fit of jealousy (ironic). She doesn’t back away but instead challenges him: “What are you going to do? Hit me?”

In this episode, Roger is realizing his lost youth and the power he had with that, both physically and the power he had in luring women. In one scene, Roger and Don are at a bar, and the lovely young ladies at the end of the bar only have eyes for Don. Roger sees the writing on the wall.

And Pete is emasculated when he returns the “chip n’ dip” wedding present. In the line at the department store, he’s the only man. He’s doing a woman’s task. His response? He trades the chip n’ dip in for a gun. But his wife insists he return the gun, so his display of manhood is altogether too brief.

Writing prompt: In what time and place do your characters live? And what societal expectations about gender come from this time and place? In Mad Men, we have men working in Manhattan in the 1960s. They are expected to act a certain way both professionally and personally. But as you can see in the episode, these expectations cause the men to crack. They have a moment of clarity when they realize how they really want to live and how they are expected to live are two different things. Are any of your characters trapped in circumstances of time and place? How do they react to that?