There’s a scene in a recent episode of Mad Men in which Megan Draper (Jessica Paré) has a threesome with her husband Don and her new friend Amy. It would be easy to claim that this scene represents Megan’s free spirit, and that she embodies the progressive movement of the 1960s. It would also be false.
In fact, this scene and Megan’s detachment in the morning after imply that Megan isn’t as progressive as she thinks she is. Born into privilege and dependent on Don’s finances, Megan hates the fact that she’s old-fashioned, so she dabbles into what she believes will make her appear bohemian. She calls herself an actress, dresses in the latest trendy fashion, and throws hip parties for her guitar playing friends. When no one’s watching, however, she asks Don for money and puts up with his philandering.
So much of Mad Men is about the construction of identity, and about trying to be someone you’re not–someone you think you ought to be. The female characters, especially, grapple with this, especially as conceptions of womanhood became complicated in the 1960s. Megan is perhaps the most interesting precisely because she can’t accept who she truly is. Whereas Betty has at least come to terms with the fact that she’s a terrible mother who never wanted children, and Peggy recently acknowledged her loneliness and isolation as a career driven woman with no family, Megan hasn’t realized the extent to which her entire public appearance is a facade.
There are some viewers, however, who believe that Megan is a “new woman.” They suggest that while she indeed loves and depends on Don, she gives equal attention to her career aspirations, and uproots traditional order with her bohemian lifestyle. These viewers, I think, are missing the point. Unlike Stephanie, Anna Draper’s niece who genuinely embodies the counter-culture, Megan is a spoiled rich kid who wants a taste of that life without any of the consequences Joan Didion famously wrote about in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Megan presents herself as a radical while she lives comfortably out of Don’s pocket, which means that she’s not radical at all.
What do you think? Am I being too harsh on Megan, or is she as fake as I make her out to be. Cast your vote in the poll below.