In a sly move, “Mad Men” broadcast its “Runaways” episode on Mother’s Day, a holiday which, as far back as the 1960s, began to give women pause. Turns out, “Runaways” was full of mother references, evoking the archetypal Moon – Luna – and its derived word, “lunacy.”
It’s no coincidence that 1970 was the release date of Frank Perry’s Diary of a Mad Housewife, whose female protagonist (Carrie Snodgress) is “fed up” – “feeding” is another good Moon word – tending her infantile husband. Too much mothering, whatever the variety, can sour a woman. “Mad Men”’s creator Matthew Weiner seemed to be saying as much last night.
Here’s the “Runaways” Mother List:
1. “Runaways.” The title hits a mother where it hurts most. When home life isn’t kind – and Betty Draper can be mean to the core – children flee. Of course, daughter Sally has been sent away to school, but her now ongoing referral to Mom as Betty is the ultimate delete-and-substitute disrespect.
2. Betty Draper. Betts is desperate to hold on to the stay-at-home-Mom moniker, as we saw a couple of weeks ago when her friend Francine described the pluses of her part-time job as a travel agent. Literally, women like Francine are “on the move.” In contrast, Betty feels like “the help,” the tasks for which are very much akin to motherhood’s responsibilities. Misguidedly, Betty has included in the mix threats of violence towards Sally and the fueling incessant anxiety in her young son.
3. Ginsberg. Ginsberg carries the lunacy principle here, as the clever wordsmith officially flipped out. He made an impromptu visit to Peggy’s apartment and aggressively wanted to “reproduce” with her, infusing her with motherhood. To top it off, the following day he offered her his excised nipple in a box. His maneuver was to give the symbolic milk of human kindness from a male body part to a woman who secretly became a mom and gave her infant up for adoption.
4. Peggy Olson. Peggy’s sitting on a couch with young upstairs neighbor Julio was a sad reminder of her birth son now long out of the picture. “I live with my mother,” says the boy to Ginsberg. Ouch.
5. Stephanie. A previous episode foreshadowed Stephanie, when Roger Sterling had to cope with a decision made by his daughter Margaret – oops, Marigold – to effectively abandon her own maternal duties to live on a hippycommune. Now, Stephanie – Anna Draper’s niece who has, through osmosis, become Don’s – appears on the scene as a flower child who is also pregnant.
In contrast with Betty who has the funds to financially offer her children the best of material goods, Stephanie is poor. Don wants to help, but Megan, envious of Steph’s youth and beauty, sends the young woman away with money. Turns out that Megan, who won Don’s heart partly because she was so good with his kids – a seemingly effortless mom figure – may not be the best mother material when it comes to witnessing the literal blossoming of a more nubile version of herself.
6. Don. Don Draper has, from the moment we knew him, always managed to compartmentalize the Feminine into Mother and Whore. With just a couple of episodes left this season, and the final ones next year, it will be interesting to see if Weiner ends it all by having the Feminine somehow compartmentalize Don through the ingenuity and creative triumphs – an equally valid sort of motherhood – of his bevy of female characters.
Astrology Television Rating: ☽ (Moon)