Why Are The Emmys Honoring Rape Scenes?

Before reading this, please note that I am not trying to take a stance on whether rape should or should not be portrayed on television. I understand that it is a severe crime that happens all too frequently in the world, but I also understand that it has become a go-to plot line for many of today’s most popular and critically acclaimed series.

To begin, let me note that four of the six nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series play characters who are raped on the screen. Anna Gunn, as Skyler White in Breaking Bad, is raped by her husband in Season Two, as he attempts to take out his pent up rage in the couple’s kitchen. Joanne Froggatt, as Anna Bates in Downton Abbeycaused two waves of controversy – once when Season Four’s fourth episode was released in the UK and again when it aired in the US – when her character is violently raped in the servants’ quarters. It was one of those scenes that never seemed to end. Christina Hendricks, as Joan Holloway Harris in Mad Men, is raped by her husband when he drunkenly visits her in her office. Lena Headey, as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones, is raped by her brother and secret lover Jamie beside the corpse of their dead son, Joffrey.

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Each of these incidents mark a powerful character arc for the women involved, who end up forever scarred by the attacks.

After the nominations were announced, many fans of Scandal took to the Internet to vent about the snub of Bellamy Young in the same category. She portrays the First Lady of the United States, Melody “Mellie” Fitzgerald, who is raped by her father-in-law in a flashback.

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Another show that garnered a lot of attention from the Television Academy this year was FX’s American Horror Story: Coven, raking in 17 nominations. This twelve episode mini-series includes three separate rape scenes – the victims being Madison Montgomery, Queenie, and Kyle Spencer.

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Again, I do not believe I am qualified to judge whether or not these scenes should be so prevalent on our television screens, but it seems as though today’s most complex narratives are involving rape, and the actresses portraying the victims seem to be getting recognition for their work. Is it good that these women are helping to expose crimes that they are often forced to keep secret? In the example of Anna Bates, a married woman living in the 1920s, admission of being raped would mar her reputation and Lord Grantham would have no other option but to relieve her of her duties in order to avoid a scandal (something that household knows a thing or two about). On the other hand, is it becoming too normalized? Should we have expected Madison Montgomery to have been raped at the frat party?

I apologize if this post was a little heavier than usual, but I saw the trend in the nominations and thought it would be interesting to bring up.

A New Dawn: MAD MEN Season 6 Finale

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Like so many of our favorite heroes (Superman, Batman, James Bond, etc.), Don Draper has to return to his origins before he can move on. Unfortunately for the slick ad man, his stomping grounds aren’t as breathtaking as Krypton or Skyfall; he’s stuck with the disheveled whorehouse.

This is where we leave Don Draper at the end of the sixth season of AMC’s Mad Men. Although not as fun and exciting as their previous family trip to Disney Land, the Draper clan seem to finally understand their father. As the rebellious Sally muttered phrases like, “I know nothing about you,” and “My father’s never given me anything,” throughout this season, her little moment with Don at the end of this episode washed those sorrows away.

While the season finale didn’t put any closure on my “Don Draper is already dead” theory, we did reach an ultimatum, much like the SC&P partners did, on Don’s downward spiral. The final straw on the camel’s back is the Hershey pitch – in which he relays his childhood attachment to the beloved candy bar. By revealing his dark past, Don becomes a wide-open book. We’ve caught glimpses of Don’s humanity throughout the series – noting the Carousel pitch and his emotional breakdown after the death of his closest friend and confidant, Anna. Heck, he even had a little moment with his secretary, Dawn. Is this the dawn of a new Don?!

I’d be remiss if I ranted about Mr. Draper for the entirety of this post, especially since so much happened around the newly named SC&P office.

A very sexually-confused/frustrated Ted brings his family into the office, which sparks Peggy to become equally as sexually-confused/frustrated.

Luckily for her, she has a skimpy dress with a big, red bow just chilling in her office, along with some “Chanel Number 5,” which Cutler pins right as she walks into his office.

Meanwhile, Pete receives a telegram that his mother has married Dr. Manolo on a cruise, and subsequently jumped ship and is now presumed dead. In one of the best Peter Campbell scenes to date, Pete and Bob stand in an elevator and Bob asks how he’s holding up, to which Pete snaps, “NOT GOOD, BOB!” When the two of them arrive at the Chevy meeting in Detroit, Bob coaxes Pete to test out one of the sports’ cars, followed by jeering from the Chevy executives. Now, I was thinking this was gunna be another “lawn mower” scene, but all Pete did was back it up into a GM display, which embarrassed him enough to drop the account, giving Bob exactly what he wanted all along.

Bob’s good fortune begins to rub off on Peggy. Although she appears heartbroken when Ted decides to leave her to start life anew in California with his family, she ends the episode sitting (quite literally) in Don Draper’s seat – her dream has become a reality.

These two characters reveal powerful underlying social commentary on the times. Bob, a gay man, is now in charge of the biggest accounts in the office, and Peggy, a woman, is the firms sole Creative Director.

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The greatest scene from last night’s episode, however, comes from the Campbell home, shown above. A messy couch divides the living room – to the left is Trudy, to the right is Pete. Trudy’s side is well put together and bright, whereas Pete’s side looks like it had been ransacked and the light from the window doesn’t creep far enough to illuminate his face. Clearly, Trudy has the upper hand – another bit of commentary on the rise of women at the turn of the decade.

Like many recent episodes, the finale ended with Judy Collins’ “Both Sides Now,” a quite literal depiction of how Sally and SC&P are able to see the two sides of the tortured Don Draper.

While season six does not live up to the Mad Men we used to love (seasons 1-4), this season finale will surely bring the show back into Emmy contention – especially Jon Hamm as Don Draper and James Wolk as Bob Benson.

MAD MEN Do Favors for Each Other

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I think it’s fair to say that last night’s Mad Men was a sort of filler/catch-up episode to delve into the personal lives of the characters, since the majority of this season has been spent focusing on the structural changes to the newly named Sterling Cooper & Partners.

Peter’s mom comes into the office with Dr. Manolo, the caretaker that Bob Benson had recommended for Peter. She rambles to Peggy, thinking she is actually speaking to her daughter-in-law, Trudy, which makes Peggy vulnerable when she brings up their child – something both Peter and Peggy have sworn to never speak of again.

Later, Peter and Peggy drunkenly converse over dinner in preparation for their flight, with Ted as their pilot. Something’s kindling there…again.

Meanwhile, Don arrives home to find Megan consoling a teenaged boy, who we discover is Arnold and Sylvia’s son, Mitchell. When Sally and her friend arrive at the apartment later for their Model U.N. trip, they both are keen on the boy, who has sent back his draft card in protest, making him a 1A Lister.

Don does what he can to try and help Mitchell. He eventually makes an agreement with Ted, who has a connection in the Air Force. But it comes with a price. Ted asks Don to “end the war” between them, meaning dropping the Sunkist account to focus on Ocean Spray.

All the while, a newly single Peggy has a mouse in her house. Good plot point, Weiner. She calls to her go-to-man, Stan, but he’s over her, like, three episodes ago. Way to burn your bridges, Peg.

My favorite Mad Men mystery, Bob Benson, added another segment this week when he spoke to Peter about true love. While delivering a moving monologue, he rubs his leg up against Peter’s, which draws back Ginsberg’s question from last episode, in which he asked Bob if he was a “homo.” But he’s with Joan, right? Like, with Joan. Or maybe it’s a cover up. Or maybe, like I’ve written previously, the writers are just screwing with us and there’s no real mystery at all.

At the end of the episode, Sally’s nameless friend tells her that she had slipped a note under Mitchell’s door, causing her to panic. She tricks the doorman into giving her the keys to all the apartments in the building and heads straight for Arnold and Sylvia’s room. Once inside, she looks around and is relieved at the sight of the note. It’s the sight of another thing that will probably force her into therapy, like her mother. Sylvia is screwing Don as a way of saying, “Thank you,” for helping her son. Quite the favor.

With only two more episodes left this season, I am left with so many questions. Is my “Don Draper is already dead” theory right? Who is Bob Benson? Will Cutler and Ted stay onboard with the firm or will they split? And Peter – isn’t he still questioning his role at the firm? And can Peggy be cool again? Please?

MAD MEN Take LA

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Long before the Kardashians began their rightfully earned coups of America’s finest cities, the men of Sterling Cooper Draper Price Cutler Gleason and Chaough (name discussion later) departed from the realm of New York City for the carefree Los Angeles. And while Don, Roger, and Harry (the core SCDP group) head off to the West Coast, the former CGC executives, headed by Cutler, start to make some changes to the newly merged firm. Much like the Kardashians, Roger states, “Our biggest challenge is not getting syphilis!”

Early on, Joan is introduced to and has lunch with a mysterious executive, whom we discover later is high up in the ranks at Avon Cosmetics. Knowing that he is only in town for the next day, Joan, with the help of Peggy, takes it upon herself to secure this account – but Pete Campbell will not allow Joan, an apparent figurehead at the firm, to take on an account. Joan being Joan, however, disobeys orders and “forgets” to invite Peter to her lunch with Avon. After a scuffle and a catfight back in the office, Peggy saves face, both for herself and for Joan, by lying about a phone call from Avon directed to Joan. This shuts up Peter.

Meanwhile in LA, Harry introduces Don and Roger to the West Coast way of life. After a few rounds of drinks and a try at the hookah, Don hallucinates a pregnant Megan, followed by the ghost of a fallen soldier. The soldier tells Don, “Dying doesn’t make you whole – you should see what you look like,” which adds another tally to my “Don Draper is Dead” theory. Soon the partygoers’ attentions turn towards the pool where someone had fallen in, motionless. Flash to Roger resuscitating Don.  Please, somebody, tell me I’m not crazy for saying Don is already dead. Please.

Back in New York, Cutler assigns the mysterious Bob Benson to take the Manischewitz account with the aid of Ginsberg in creative. In a weird turn of events, Ginsberg falls ill, but Benson coaches him through his nerves to deliver the pitch – Manischewitz doesn’t go for.

The company does receive some good news, though. Ted announces that Chevy has released models of their new car and has put their firm into the final pool of applicants for their business. Just to piss us off, Cutler assigns Benson to the case. I wonder if the writers even meant to make Bob a mysterious character, or if all us viewers are simply blowing his lack of backstory out of proportion.

When Don, Roger, and Harry return, the Cutler and Ted make a pitch to call the company Sterling, Cooper, and Partners – thus sacrificing their own names, as well as Don’s. The partners all agree that it’s in the best interest of securing the solidarity and future of the company.

The episode ends with Pete taking a joint out of Stan’s mouth in the creative office and smoking it himself. As the smoke floats around him in slow motion, Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” echoes through the walls of Sterling, Cooper, and Partners. Peter has nothing else to lose, so a little puff in the office couldn’t hurt.

MAD MEN On Drugs

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In the latest installment of everyone’s favorite period drama, the crew at SCDP(CGC) calls in a doctor for some much needed psychiatric treatment. Instead of the twenty-first century approach that psychiatrists use today, the doctor simply had the ad men drop their pants and he injected them with a mystery substance. Adrenaline? Liquefied crack? I don’t know what it was, but it promised 72 hours of creative focus, but really just made a crippled Ken Cosgrove tap dance.

Much like Don says he is “feeling a lot of emotions,” the episode is one long emotional roller coaster.

Fred Gleason, the artistic genius of CGC (and Phil of the Future’s dad…), dies after suffering from incurable cancer. Awkwardly, half of the staff mourns and the other staff pretends to have sympathy for a man they never knew. That being said, the former CGC staff head off to his funereal, while the SCDP crew works through the weekend on the Chevy account – with the help of the doctor’s mystery drug.

The staff is full of energy, having races around the office and playing human darts, which leaves Rizzo with a pen pierced into his forearm. Luckily, Peggy is drug-free and cleans out the wound, leading to yet another kiss scene for Elisabeth Moss’s character. After Rizzo opens up about his cousin being killed in action, Peggy realizes he is just using her to cope with his sorrows. However, she gives some keen advice to her co-worker, saying that he needs to express his emotions. “You can’t dampen them with drugs and sex,” she adds – a message Don and Roger have yet to receive.

All the while, a random psychic, who we later discover is Fred Gleason’s daughter, comes back with the CGC staff from the funeral and tells Don that she can’t feel a heart beat on him. Yet another point for my “Don Draper is dead” theory.

Over at the Draper apartment, Megan is in a jam. Don’s kids have arrived and she needs to go to a casting meeting – but Don is all drugged up to realize he needs to come home. Dilemma!

Megan leaves Sally in charge and goes to change the world or something. However, in the middle of the night, a mysterious black woman comes into the apartment, waking Sally. She claims that she is her grandma, Ida, and that she raised Don when he was kid. Soon, Bobby is up too, and the two of them are convinced of her sincerity. Sally even gives her an awkward Voldemort hug! A confused Bobby goes on to ask his sister, “Are we Negros?” which has to be the funniest thing ever said in the history of Mad Men. You go, Bobby. You go.

Over at the office, Don is coughing up a lung as he has flashbacks to his adolescent years at the whorehouse – specifically when he lost his virginity to the prostitute Aimeé – “with two e’s and an accent.”

When Don returns home, he finds police officers, accompanied by Henry and Betty, who tell him that a black woman has robbed his and many other apartments in his complex. He passes out after Betty goes off on him. Smooth move, Don.

In a shocking turn of events slash proof of character development, Don greets Sylvia into the elevator on his way to work the next morning and the two don’t have sex! Progress.

When Ted comes back to the office after the weekend, he finds that half of the work is gibberish and that the drugged up creatives managed to spell Chevy wrong in their slapdash work. Furious, he confronts Don, but all Don has to say is, “Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse,” alluding to Joan’s stint as a prostitute to get the Jaguar account. With Chevy, the whorehouse is more symbolic, thus the flashbacks.

One of the last scenes of the episode struck me as the most tragic. Don calls his daughter Sally to apologize for not being home when the woman robbed his apartment. Sally is embarrassed because the woman was able to answer every question about Don that she could think of. “Then I realized I don’t know anything about you…” she closes. Maybe this will inspire Don to be a better father and a better person? Most likely not, but maybe…just maybe.

MAD MEN Have Mothers, Too

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In the latest episode, the ensemble celebrates Mother’s Day in typical Mad Men fashion: sex and alcohol.

While Don takes Megan and her mother on a suicide dinner with a Jaguar representative, Roger plays the “my-mother-just-died” card (a nice trade off from New Girl’s Nick’s “dead dad” card) to get with his new beau Daisy, whose profession as a flight attendant helps him land a meeting with Chevrolet.

Meanwhile, Pete tries to woo Trudy with a surprise visit, but after declaring an informal separation she was not having any of it. With his sexual needs unfulfilled, Pete heads over to a whorehouse where he bumps into none other than his own father-in-law. Clearly, the two of them are doing their best to please the women in their life on this special day.

Down the street, Peggy has just returned from visiting her mom when she begins complaining about all of the repairs that will need to go into their new apartment. From early on in this episode, we get the idea that she is getting fed up with her good-for-nothing boyfriend, Abe.

In the midst of all the Mother’s Day drama, where is Betty? Well, I don’t know because the writers don’t feel the need to keep the Francis household’s storyline moving at a consistent pace with the rest of the show. Makes me mad.

In the office, Joan, Pete, and Cooper conspicuously put the final touches on making SCDP a publically-traded corporation, but Pete lets the cat out of the bag in a fit of rage as he goes off on Don for losing the Jaguar account. There to save the day, however, is Roger, who announces the upcoming meeting with Chevy. Quickly, Don assembles the over-zealous creatives to begin their pitch.

Over at Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough, Peggy is getting cozy with her boss, Chaough, who discovers that his business partner, Gleason (played by the dad from Phil of the Future), has terminal cancer.

Don heads out to Detroit for the big pitch with Chevy and runs into Chaough in an airport bar. The two of them drunkenly give their pitches to each other and come to the conclusion that Chevvy won’t want either of them because they are both too small of companies. So, Don suggests a merge.

The next day, they mutually pitch their idea to Chevy… and they take the bate.

The episode closes on Peggy walking into her boss’ office, only to find Don waiting for her with his first task for her – to draft a memo to the city of New York announcing the merger of Sterling Cooper Draper Price and Cutler, Gleason, and Chaough.

I have a feeling that all hell will break loose next episode. Joan is already having an existential crisis after she realizes that her sexual escapade last season amounted to nothing but a title. Pete nearly tumbled down the stairs in his furious tirade against Don. I have a strong, foreboding feeling that someone is going to lose their life to that staircase – much like how in Breaking Bad, Ted stumbles over his carpet in one episode and then takes a digger into the wall in the following episode, paralyzing him forever.

So, who will fall victim to the staircase? Only time will tell. 

MAD MEN Takes on Dr. King’s Assassination

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We all knew it was coming. As soon as we learned that this season would be taking place in 1967, I had Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in mind. But I never could have predicted how powerful the episode could be – but last night, I found out.

Within the first fifteen minutes of Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men, Peggy is apartment hunting with Abe (with her money, of course), Bobby is peeling the wallpaper in his room (apparently he’s a character now?), and Don and Megan get all dolled up for the big advertising award ceremony.

As Paul Newman, who comically appears as a speak from SCDP’s tables, is introducing the awards, a man shouts out an almost inaudible jeer, causing the room to go into panic. A fade to the Francis home reveals that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been shot and killed.

Ginsberg, who had been set up on a blind date, sits in a diner when the news breaks, causing the episode’s most powerful moment of two black cooks on the verge of collapsing in the wake of the radio announcement.

If you recall, last episode the writers tried to incorporate Dawn and black culture into the show and it really didn’t work out or seem to make sense. Now it does.

Cinematically, my favorite shot from last night is when Peter and Trudy are on the phone, both of them listening to the same broadcaster unveil the news. She is ardent about the parameter she set around the house after finding out about Peter’s affair. Peter, however, is distraught that he will not be able to see his child.

Conversely, Don wants nothing to do with the kids and thinks that for their safety they should not come in to the city to stay with him for the weekend. However, Betty being Betty insists, so Sally, Bobby, and Gene come to the Big Apple.

Meanwhile, Joan and Peggy both deal with their African American secretaries in very distinct ways. Peggy gives a delayed, but genuine hug to her employee, whereas Joan goes in for the awkward, Voldemort hug.

This episode guest starred William Mapother as Randall Walsh, who plays a trippy insurance tycoon (I think). But besides his crazy rants about Tecumseh and being visited by Dr. King’s spirit, what took me back was that he also played Ethan Rom on Lost! Maybe this is intended to be a crossover episode? It would fit with Lost’s constant time jumps!

In the office, Harry and Pete argue about how their business relates to the Dr. King assassination. Harry is displeased that many of their scheduled ads will not air during the regular primetime shows because of the continuous coverage of the riots that have broken out in the wake of the murder. Pete, who we actually get to agree with for once, puts Harry in his place by reminding him that Dr. King was a man with a wife and four kids. Cooper ultimately breaks up the fight – the writers needed to squeeze him into the episode somehow.

Towards the end of the episode, Don takes Bobby to the movies to see The Planet of the Apes. His son is so fascinated by the movie – which symbolically relates to the Dr. King assassination, in that humans are doing more harm to the world than good – that they stay for a second showing. As they wait for the second feature to start, Bobby questions a black theater attendant as to whether or not he has seen the film. When he says he has not yet, Bobby (the show’s apparent new character) says, “Everyone likes to go to the movies when they’re sad.” Atta boy, Bobby.

Don later reveals to Megan that he had never loved his children the way he thought he was supposed to love them until that moment, giving Don a much more human quality (something he has been lacking this season so far).

Overall, this episode, like the JFK assassination episode, is powerful beyond words. The writers, who suffered a major loss to Homeland at last year’s Golden Globes and Emmy’s, are proving that this is the same show that audiences fell in love with six years ago. And if the acting keeps up, maybe Christina Hendricks or Elizabeth Moss can pull a fast one on Claire Danes. But let’s be honest, John Hamm has no chance – especially with Damien Lewis’ performance in the last season of Homeland and Bryan Cranston’s final season of Breaking Bad scheduled to premiere in July.