You’re as excited as I am about Mad Men’s return after a super-long hiatus, right? I’ve been jonesing for some Joan…and Don and Peggy and Roger. Five seasons haven’t diminished the fact that the show is one of the smartest things on television. And guess what ya’ll? Last night’s episode introduced a new face to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Thanks to an equal-opportunity employer advertisement, placed in The New York Times to childishly taunt rival company Young & Rubicam, SCDP was forced to integrate. Don Draper has a new secretary named Dawn. And she’s a black woman.
Now, given the track record of office hanky panky on Mad Men , I suppose I can’t blame viewers for wondering if Dawn will get any action. (Although much of the speculation seems to disregard the era’s racial and beauty hierarchy.) But it’s interesting to note who viewers think is most likely to make a play for Dawn.
A commenter on Slate magazine’s Facebook page offered: Lane is going to try and hook up with a black secretary. We know that he likes black women and he is looking for some strange.
In comments to an episode recap at The Guardian a viewer ticked off the important points gained from the first episode of the season: There will soon be a real “negro” character. Lane Price is randy, despite his wife being happier now. Lane Price (who once introduced a black Playboy Bunny to his father as his girlfriend) will be hiring a black secretary.
Elsewhere : It’ll be interesting to see if SCDP actually hires a black secretary, especially given Lane Pryce’s fondness for black women.
All over the web, folks are certain that Lane Pryce–and only Lane Pryce, who had a brief liaison with a black woman in season four–will be unable to resist Dawn’s charms. Why? Because a few dates with a particular black woman equals “a fondness for black women”? Because once you have the jungle fever, there is no turning back? Because only a certain sort cavorts with sisters?
There is something implicitly gross in this discussion. There is the idea that black women are all the same. One doesn’t like a particular, unique black woman, so much as have “a thing” for all of us. We aren’t women, but peculiar fetish objects. And once a man “catches” the fever, he can’t let it go. He is susceptible to any black woman in his vision. Of course some men do fetishize women, but loving women of color is consistently positioned as an unshakeable compulsion, rather than genuine interest.
And note that the black woman’s agency is invisible in all this speculation. Of course Dawn would want to bed one of the SCDP execs. I mean, so what if Roger Sterling performs in black face and makes racist jokes; he’s a rich, good-looking white guy. What’s not to love? Also, no acknowledgement of the very different ways society views the sexuality of black and white women. Dawn has far less latitude to be a sexual being–in the workplace no less–than Joan or Megan.
I’m going to have my eye on Dawn. I hope that Matt Weiner, Mad Men show runner, will allow her to be more than window dressing. A lot of folks are hot to see Mad Men finally tackle the racial issues of the past. But I suspect keeping an eye on the way people talk about the show’s new black character will reveal much more about the racial issues of the present.
Are you a ‘Mad Men’ fan? What do you think will happen?