Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Girls on TV: Peggy Olson (Mad Men)

Only recently I've begun catching up with the largely-hyped AMC Original Series Mad Men, about which, unless you completely avoid the media, you have probably heard a lot. One of the many things it receives praise for is its refreshingly honest portrayals of women, the three most important being of sexpot secretary Joan Holloway, disillusioned housewife Betty Draper, and unprecedented success story Peggy Olson. While Olson is characteristically underestimated by all, she manages to transition from Don Draper's secretary to his colleague, which, I'm sure you recall, was no easy feat at the time.
I've read one too many articles that have dismissed her with one-word descriptions such as the following: "frumpy", "ambitious"-- turning the focus to more overtly feminine counterparts, Betty and Joan respectively. While I adore both Betty and Joan, I feel that critics tend to tragically overlook Peggy-- I've almost come to find Jezebel's visible preference of seductress Joan over the blatantly more progressive Peggy offensive. Yeah, so sometimes she's a bitch-- she's human and every character on such a realistic show needs some weak points. But I can't do anything but admire her for skill, climbing the corporate ladder through creativity, not dirty tricks (which could be said, maybe half-heartedly, of her mysterious male double, Don). If she wasn't such a required focal point for the show, the pilot would not have revolved so much around her first day at Sterling Cooper. An outcast in both stages of her work environment, a great article I read on her suggested that her character's weight gain at the end of season one seemed to be a strong statement against the gender roles of the era-- the constant unspoken requirement of being pretty. Sudden physical anomalies aside, Peggy is promoted by her notably sexist male co-workers. These are just a few of the many reasons that I find her to be such an important, resonating character. Without her, I firmly believe the show could not go on.
So yeah, she may not be a Jackie or a Marilyn, but is that really such a hindrance? After all, I don't think anyone would want to be one of a hundred colors in a box, would they?


Actionman said...

Mad Men is a brilliant show for so many reasons. But what you touch upon in your piece is one of the strongest elements of this show. Nice job.

Bryan said...

thanks for the read.
lud et,
sounds like you do to.


design by