If anyone needs concrete evidence that self loathing and self hatred lead to self-destruction, Sunday's Mad Men cynical episode, "New Business," offers it. Who can forget the longing in the opening moments on both Betty and Don's faces (hers swifter and earlier than his) as each saw the dreams they had lost? This segment, "New Business," is in essence "Old Don Business." The "New" reference belongs to Megan. Through the years with Mad Men, each of the major female characters has shown caring and honor, despite difficult circumstances and lapses. This segment shines a very different quality of light on Megan.
Spoiler Alert: As in my last post, I will try to avoid addressing plot, but certain aspects will be touched. I will concentrate primarily on Megan and Don's relationship and on Don's generosity and kindness to Megan, based on guilt and desire to change his life. Megan, in this episode, is shown to be one familiar in life: With charming cover, there are those who conduct their business in life and "love" by manipulating and bleeding others for their own gain. When they do not receive what they see as their due, they blindly always see it as someone else's fault.
The genesis of Megan's blindness lies with those who raised her, but it was her responsibility as an adult to discard their toxic intrusion on her life and happiness. She did not. If this analysis seems harsh, please read on. This segment urged the opportunity to put pieces of the Megan puzzle and contradiction together, and to more completely understand Megan, her parents, and her newly introduced, pitiful sister.
1. Megan seduced and manipulated Don to become a valued Sterling Cooper colleague. Peggy spoke glowingly of her talent, but also how quickly she had reached top billing. Peggy, as we know, worked diligently, exhaustingly, often to her own detriment, to reach her status. Joan also paid a heavy price. Megan's ascent was both cunning and fast tracked.
2. Even with a beginning to a relationship that was not honest, we saw Megan and Don start to achieve closeness and happiness, and have fun together as they built. Megan's father, however, a bastard through and through, told his daughter that he had always expected more from her, and that in his eyes she had sold out. He voiced contempt that she had discarded her own goals in life. His underlying motivation was a sinister one: He would do all in his power to stop his beautiful, sensual daughter from being more invested in any man other than himself. As Megan acquiesced to her father's control and began withdrawing from her husband, Don expressed his lack of confidence and buried anger though a repeated pattern -- sexual liaisons without hope for fulfillment. We see a bejeweled and bedecked example in this segment, in shocking contrast to Diana, discussed later.
3. Megan's father's distain and jealousy propelled Megan to leave professional respect and admiration. She changed her professional aspirations, which led to the turmoil we have followed, with Don paying the bills and offering support as best he could. As Don faced professional trauma, he was rebuffed by his wife, excluded from her Hollywood life, and rejected by her "friends." (Here we are shown a fascinating exposure of Mad Men and Women on both coasts.)
4. On the deepest level, Megan is looking for a mature father's love, which she will never receive from one determined to control her completely. To continue her denial about the toll of her choices, Megan retreats into a superficial life, becoming increasingly manipulative and deceptive.
5. We have seen glimpses of Megan's capacity for kindness and sincerity; yet, they are fleeting, overshadowed by her father's seeds of overriding self-defeating ambition and her mother's self-deception and selfishness. As examples, there have been concerns for Don's children. More recently, Megan seemed sincere when she told Don on the phone, after his expression of caring, that he did not owe her anything (ostensibly because she was momentarily aware of the dance she she had insisted upon, "You support; I take; I reject you"). But this attitude is overturned when her mom enters her world once again.
6. Did Megan's mother become a consummate thief and manipulator because her husband rejected her emotionally and sexually? Or did two individuals, devoid of character, just find each other? Perhaps we will learn more in concluding hours. What is essential to understand, however, is that Megan learned manipulation and passive aggressive behavior from two pros. Her newly introduced sister is so confused and unsettled by the "family" that surrounds her that religion becomes her only source of refuge and sanity. Introduced as a character to provide comic relief, this woman and her retreat is anything but funny. Plus, if her info is correct about Mama, and Mama is banking on her latest liaison, the "lady" is heading from frying pan to fire.
7. This brings us to the PayOut Scene: Megan does not insist that her mother return what she has stolen from Don, and after blasting him as an "aging, sloppy, selfish, liar" who ruined her life, she accepts his enormous monetary settlement. This gift is offered because of his guilt, lack of awareness, and a haunting, elusive desire to stop his ever-present "free-fall" by creating some semblance of honestly and decency in his life. When Don hands the envelope to Megan, he had the same look on his face that he had when he took his daughter, Sally, to see his childhood home.
8. Megan's mother had the same mantra about Don: he has destroyed their family. What family? The bottom line is that Megan knew all about the man she seduced and married. Despite all, she and Don created something rewarding and meaningful, sustained in their personal relationship and professional expression when her loyalty to him was in tact. However, Megan destroyed her opportunities for love and success by not setting herself free from each of her parents. She remained blind to her father's refusal to let her go and the destructive lessons of her lonely, bitter mother in the use of charm and seduction to take all she could from others. Without detail, the guy Megan sexually rejects in this segment, with her 'holier than thou' look and a final gulp of wine, was a last ditch effort, one she did not want Don to know about.
With the repeated loss of love, security and sanctuary a family can offer, and before facing the emptiness and depletion in the concluding scene, we see Don turn to Diana, feeling again and again that there is something familiar about her. Diana is a brunette beauty, a fantasized version of the mother who died in childbirth, as well as the woman who loved him dearly and maturely, Rachel Menken. But above all, we learn in this segment that Diana is a female parallel to Don, a woman so guilty and soul-sick that she cannot give herself happiness and fulfillment, even though she has tasted its joy as well as its potential to heal. In his visit to Diana's "home," Don is looking into the mirror of himself.
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