Answerability

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In reflecting more about this week’s episode of Mad Men, I realized there was something else I overlooked with regard to Betty and Carla.

When Betty and Don returned home, as Carla was leaving she suggested that Betty talk to Sally about her behavior. Betty asked what Carla meant and Carla demurred and Betty said: “Carla, you brought it up.”

In the first place, it strikes me now that Betty was speaking to Carla the way she speaks to her children,and I’m not a fan of that, but also this was another example of a white person demanding that a black person furnish them with information even when the black person has made it clear they’d rather not. It’s upsetting because it prioritizes the white person’s momentary convenience over the black person’s comfort and right to keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves if they want to.

(The other two examples I’ve covered are Pete grilling Hollis about his tv and Don in the first episode with the busboy at the bar.)

I’m definitely interested in seeing more from Carla, particularly since 1963 was an interesting year for race and racism, and she’s probably the most prominent black character on Mad Men. It’s interesting how much Mad Men shies away from race even when there are obvious, plot important reasons to explore it. I don’t know if the writers have something planned or if they’re actually just nervous to tackle the issue, but it seems like sometimes the script just blurts out “Racism exists!” without going into it in the ways that say, gender issues are explored.

I suppose that’s better than having a very special episode or ignoring it altogether, but I hope for more.

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6 Responses to “Answerability”

  1. doostyn Says:

    Um, let us not forget Roger Sterling’s cringe-inducing blackface moment. That had to be a very nervous-making scene for the writers to write and discuss.

  2. gnatalby Says:

    Yeah, I actually didn’t like that scene, it seemed like a time that the script blurts out “Racism exists!!!’

    Like, what did it mean? Why were we seeing it? What new thing did it tell us? It just seemed a like a very provocative image for no clear reason.

  3. doostyn Says:

    I think race and its ‘ism’ will be a continuing important aspect of the show, or at least I hope so. As it stands, these people are able to easily exist in an almost-exclusively white world. But you know, times they are a-chagin’ yada yada yada. It is interesting that we are starting to see television depictions and office talk of Vietnam, which is sort of in its infancy, but there’s been no talk of Civil Rights struggles, which were also on people’s minds at this time…but maybe the Sterling Cooper folks don’t find it suitable watercooler conversation.

    Another, way less over-the-top than blackface exploration of racism was when the bearded dude (don’t feel like looking up his name, can’t remember) had a black ladyfriend, and Joan was all beeeeetchy about it (but it’s Joan, what do you expect?). Her character (the black ladyfriend) seems to have fallen completely off the map though, and wasn’t deeply explored as a character herself, so I’m not sure this is “tackling” the subject.

    Speaking of characterization, I too wonder why Carla, as you point out, hasn’t been defined as a person beyond her duties at the Draper household. Not every character has to be delved into deeply, but she’s played in some important plot points…I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her.

  4. Renee Says:

    I think you can see that race is going going to be an issue. I remember Pete trying to convince someone to advertise in ebony as a way to increase sales. On more than on occasion he has been pictured with the magazine. I believe it is a hint of things to come.

  5. BigLittleWolf Says:

    After last night’s episode, I think there’s more in store. We saw interaction between Carla and Betty picking up, not to mention Betty’s nonchalant remark “maybe it’s not time for civil rights yet” (something like that) – other ignorant remarks at the fund raiser about the South, Carla’s attentive listening on the radio. Even the teacher Don sleeps with wants to raise the civil rights discussion in class.

    I believe – and I hope – Mad Men will interweave these issues and tackle them. I don’t doubt it will be uncomfortable viewing territory for many. And eye-opening.

  6. gnatalby Says:

    @Renee: I definitely hope you’re right, but I’m still concerned that all the racism will be seen through white eyes.

    Like BigLittleWolf says, there were many more racial tones in this week’s episode, with Dr. King speaking and the murder of the girls in Birmingham, but it’s all shown through the eyes of the white people around.

    And I know that’s sort of the Mad Men world, but it doesn’t have to be. Like, if the show only took place at the office that would be one thing, but we see people’s home lives too. Carla can’t have a home life we see? They couldn’t have kept Paul together with Sheila so that we could get an activist black woman’s perspective?

    I’m definitely interested in seeing how it plays out, and I know that every show doesn’t do everything, but I love the way Mad Men talks about gender, and I’d like to see the same complexity brought to race, which seems difficult if none of the main characters are black.

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