Saturday, June 23, 2018

Summer Man (4): Souvenir

This is another episode I haven't watched since the first time. Looking at again, the reason is pretty obvious to me. This is a very anti-male episode. Don is in it as a guy things happen to. He has little agency.

A big part of the problem is the Conrad Hilton subplot. It was an interesting idea. Don, in a time of uncertainty for the company, uncharacteristically makes himself beholden to a powerful client. The problem is that, having opened the door, the show never went through it.

Consider the start of the subplot, Conrad meets Don at a country club. He takes a liking to Don but doesn't tell him who he is. And then he calls and instantly goes into this pattern of implausibly demanding immense amounts and giving nothing in return. The show gives us nothing. We get no sense of the struggles Don goes through dealing with this nor of how Conrad became so incredibly successful. He's just an irritant on Don's life ... and ours.

And then there is Betty. She is supposed to have studied anthropology at a serious university and now we find out she speaks Italian. How exactly did she learn this in the first place and how did she keep it up all these years? Do the people behind the show have any notion what it takes to learn and keep up a second language?

And why is Betty so unconvincingly sexual? Was this a deliberate decision on the part of the show's creators or is January Jones just not capable of it? If the first, again, the show opens the door and then doesn't go through it.I f the latter ... well, it's sad but not surprising—the world is full of women who are incredibly sexy so long as they don't actually do or say anything.

What we do see is that Betty is already planning her exit. In a dialogue with Sally, we discover that Betty thinks that a kiss is when you first really get to know someone. In one sense, that fits her character perfectly. Another thing that fits with the possibility that Betty's failure to be sexual is a deliberate choice is that no one falls in love with Betty; they all fall in love with an illusion. Henry merely repeats what Don has already done. Meanwhile, we get these odd glimpses of an implausibly educated Betty along with other glimpses into a very plausible Machiavellian Betty.  She says at one point, "When you don't have real power, you have to delay things." The problem is that the show doesn't do much with either. And how do you reconcile the Machiavellian Betty with the ditzy victim Betty.

Is there anything to take away from this awful episode? My wife has a helpful classification: "She/he is one of those people whom things happen to." Listen to people as they tell you about themselves. There are some people who describe themselves as driven by what happens to them. You might be tempted to feel pity for such people. That is why, in fact, they talk about themselves that way—it's all a bid for attention. Don't give it to them. Be polite and then manœuver your way away from them.  Otherwise you might end up becoming like them yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment