Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 6, Episode 12 of AMC's "Mad Men," titled "The Quality Of Mercy."
If ever you forget that "Mad Men" is a period piece -- even with all the glorious vintage wardrobe choices, retro scene styling and historic landmark events -- then a heavy dose of stereotyping, racism and a pitch for a truly bizarre and old fashioned-sounding ad at SC&P will snap you right back to the reality of 1968.
This week's "Mad Men" had all of that, layered with enough levels of flirtation, double-dealing and hatred to make you sicker to your stomach than a five o'clock showing of "Rosemary's Baby."
Roman Polanski's 1968 horror flick played a major part in this episode, both as the film that presented the most awkward movie theater run-in ever (seriously, you could cut the tension between Don, Ted and Peggy with a knife) and the inspiration for Peggy's supposedly Clio-worthy ad pitch for St. Joseph's Aspirin.
The pitch, shot from a baby's perspective, was more than the St. Joseph's guys had bargained for in the budget department, but it did provide one truly priceless "Mad Men" moment: Don Draper acting like a baby. Seriously.
When you got past the "wah wah wah" of it all (even if you have to watch it and laugh several times), the ad was chock-full of stereotypes and straight-up racism, and coming from someone like Peggy, a bit of a surprise.
We've seen Peggy struggle to come to terms with the changing landscape in the 1960s -- from befriending a lesbian, to letting Don's black secretary, Dawn, sleep over, and moving into an "up-and-coming" (translation: totally sketchy) neighborhood. But this ad seems to take her back to square one. If only there was "a Japanese" in the office to take a picture of Peggy to show her how much she's regressed under Ted's tutelage. (According to Megan Draper, the Japanese always have cameras on hand to take pictures. This is literally all anyone seems to know.)
But crying babies and the Japanese weren't the only ones to get offended this week: "crazy little old ladies," "wrinkled old men" and "Jewish neighbor ladies" and their penchant for pushing chicken soup got shout-outs as well. As mad as Peggy was at Don for trying to embarrass Ted in front of the client, I think in the long run, she'll thank him -- "monster" though he may be -- for giving the late Frank Gleason credit for the ad and, in turn, possibly saving her reputation.
Watch the full scene, above, and tell us: Did you find this offensive or funny? And was it really a sign of the times?
"Mad Men" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.
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