It’s been a long held personal edict of mine, nearly a slogan, that “Peggy is the best Mad Man”. I think…I think that’s one of my favorite sentences. It both conjures and contains. The inevitable questions…But what about DON?! John Slattery! The gay one that isn’t in the show anymore!
Peggy is the rarest of all animals of the post post modern world: the tv character who changes.
Don Draper isn’t the star of Mad Men. Don Draper is Mad Men. Don is the pure blankness of the mirror that reflects all of the true, faulted characters around him. Betty’s vanity and paranoia, Campbell’s ambition, Allison’s struggle toward personhood, Joan’s campaign to accept the realities of the mundane…they are ALL attempting to swim faster than the ship of history can drag them by their throats into the (un)certain future. In the acknowledgement of this, the furthest thing from the furniture, the lucid dreamer in the underwater puzzle is Peggy. Roger Sterling is the silver-age dinosaur. The world is moving beyond the post-war hegemony, and Roger has to die with its supremacy. Peggy, with her anti-capitalist, beatnik associations, androgynous personality, and most important, her proclivity for getting high, is the only star of Mad Men.
Peggy isn’t the future, Peggy is the present. Peggy isn’t now, she’s in anticipation of now. She’s expecting something that can’t be defined, but doesn’t have to be because it has…potential. We may not be doing it consciously while we’re watching Mad Men, but nevertheless we’re flipping forward in the shoebox of instant photos our grandparents and parents took that hid themselves in the dark recesses of the Mad Men’s closets. The flash fiction documentary of these people now all old if not dead, is faded and collecting scratches; our grandparents’ sins in slow-motion rewind. Who cannot be blamed… for the gin, for the neglect, the rigidity?
On film you get to be as good as your worst best qualities, in opposition to your best worse qualities, married to the eyeballs of history, and broken down into brackets.
It’s not important that Peggy gets high because it’s subversive or hilarious, or any of the other diminutive and asinine qualities we’ve assigned to drugs. It’s important because Peggy is straddling the problem of time in itself, by escaping the Peggies of the past, and only becoming kissing cousins with the Peggy’s of the future, the Peggy of 1965 is the true, changing quality: the mercury in the tincture. Peggy is the variable in a vessel full of controls.
Peggy is the only Mad Man, that when you see where she’s going, you still can’t tell where she’ll end up.
Peggy is the best Mad Man.