Disabilities

 Posted by on September 24, 2009 at 11:30 am  Season 3
Sep 242009
 

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prevents employers from firing someone because of a disability. You know, like a missing foot. The British version is the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA 1995). The ADA would apply to a British company operating on American shores, even if the employee is also British. “American” in this case means located in America.

There were essentially no rights for a disabled employee in 1963. The notion of civil rights for disabled people didn’t get introduced into our cultural dialogue until the 1970s.

And let’s be very clear about something: Guy is perfectly capable of doing his job. “Can’t golf” is the lamest weakest excuse in history. Saint John Powell and his evil cohorts just don’t want to see him around. They don’t want to feel uncomfortable. They don’t want to be reminded. And they don’t want other people, specifically clients, to be uncomfortable. They don’t want anyone to see a guy (guy/Guy=everyman?) with a visible disability and avert their eyes in that discomfitted way people do, and potentially lose a sale. Golf my ass.

And Guy has no legal rights in this matter.

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  58 Responses to “Disabilities”

  1. Roger put it in helpful terms when he was railing at Pete for the Admiral matter: X percent of business comes down to "I don't like that guy."

  2. What I think is very absurb is that he lost a foot, not a whole leg. Which means he would have been able to get by with a wooden foot that noone would have noticed, a cane, and a slight limp. I understand how it was back then, but it could have appeared that he simply had gout, as his disability wouldn't have been as pronounced as others would have been. So it was probably more the people he worked with than the clients in that decision.

    Unless told, even back then, I don't think the clients would have been that bothered by a man with a distinguished British accent and a cane.

  3. I love how Matt leaves no stone unturned in exploring how-we-got-from-there-to-here. Or should I say "no footpath unexplored?" :) Civil rights, women's rights, childbirth, drug use, the beginnings of gay actiivsm–I probably wouldn't have even thought to include disabled rights. And yet it's so important, because it could happen to any of us, anywhere, anytime.

  4. I know I'm going to be showing my age with this question. If that was prevailing attitude in the 1960s, then what happened post WWII, when you had a large number of healthy, mentally functioning men, who were missing a limb. Did they live off veteran's benefits, or was this attitude limited to advertising and in another field it wouldn't have been an issue.

  5. #3 Exactly what I was thinking. And this show gets slammed for not examining things.

  6. Guy was The Golden Boy, representing the post-War generation. Able to meet the brash Americans on an equal footing. Back home, bombed out cities were being rebuilt, post-war austerity was in the past. He was one of the Young Ones! (As in the Cliff Richard song, not the crazed BBC2 series of the 80's.)

    No doubt, many of the war wounded found jobs of some sort. With his education, Guy could surely find work, although he would be at a disadvantage when war stories were traded. A drunken American secretary on a lawn mower is a less worthy opponent than that Jerry who shot down your Spitfire during the Battle of Britain.

    His bosses want somebody who can put his best for forward!

  7. With Powell it must be all about appearance. Now that Pryce has done all the hard work at SC, they can shuttle him off to Bombay. For all his impressive resume, Guy was installed to be the perfect figurehead. Any physical flaw must disqualify him.

    Another ironic parallell with JFK. For all his handsome youthful charm, he was actually desperately sick through much of his presidency with Addison's disease and back problems that kept him in pain. All of which was kept secret from the public to maintain that perfect image.

  8. Someone mentioned on another comment board that the Brits and Scots apparently do a lot of business on the golf course. They walk the course vs. using the carts. Hence the golf comment, I guess.

  9. Even with the ADA, you'd be surprised at the accessibility issues that need to be addressed on a daily basis, butit is the human factor that you have to handle more than anything.

    I'm in a wheelchair and can tell you that there are still a lot of folks who are uncomfortable around me. I'm 23, and paralyzed from the middle of my boobs down, no movement and no sensation. Even now when it is much more common to see disabled people in public a lot of people don't know how to behave. I do not consider myself any worse off than most most people. I work, I drive, I live alone and am completely independent. The two most common things I hear from other people are a) You're too pretty to be in a wheelchair (I'm certain that's not a factor), and b) So you were in a car accident (No, I had a spinal stroke when I was 12). Like anything else it's important to have a sense of humor. After awhile you don't notice the stares any more.

    #4, one of the best movies dealing with people returning from WW2 and getting back to their normal lives is The Best Years of Our Lives, which I highly recommend. One of the three soldiers it follows was an actual WW2 vet who lost his hands, and it's a great film, now available on DVD and on TCM every so often. It was one of the first films to deal with this subject, and was directed by William Wyler and won Best Picture in 1946. I graduated with a Film History degree last year!

  10. I don't think it's appearances so much to St. John Powell but rather a Machiavellian business approach. He is quick to cut his losses once someone is of no use to him, regardless of his/her talent. Look how quickly he cut Duck loose in Meditations in an Emergency after realizing Duck didn't have all his ducks in a row. Pryce is his go to guy to clean up messes and establish order, but he'll never do more than that for PPL. Guy was the guy to run things, but he can no longer run.

    And ironically, I'd bet Guy would have agreed with Powell's decision. He probably agrees that his life is over. British social hierarchy didn't even begin to really change until the late 1960's and it's still a country of titles, even if many of them can be bought these days.

  11. It's hard to describe the sense of aversion toward the disabled during that period, but it was real, and palpable.

    For instance, parents were advised to abandon and institutionalize Down's Syndrome babies and autistic children for life. And they did. (The example of Jacqueline Susanne's autistic son, for one.)

    One never saw wheelchairs on the street (because sidewalks and buildings hadn't been retrofitted for wheelchair use yet, a wheelchair wouldn't have made it further than one block, if that.)

    Or in schools, for that matter.

    Although it was widely known that he'd been disabled by polio, even Franklin Roosevelt — who was both powerful and wealthy — made sure to never be seen in a wheelchair. His son helped hold him upright for speeches, when necessary.

    Why civil rights for the disabled didn't begin after WWII, I don't know. But if even the President of the United States wouldn't appear to be disabled in public, you can judge the level of aversion in the period for bringing disability into the light.

    There was a sense of shame attached to disability, and usually, the disabled were encouraged to stay out of sight, unless of such exaggerated personal appearance as to be employed in literal freak shows. (I remember one attached to a carnival as late as the early '60s.)

  12. #3 and #5 — I know we like to paint MW as an all-knowing explorer of issues, but I'm not convinced he's examining anything more than the cold-bloodedness of Powell and Ford.

    If there's a weakness in the storyline of Guy losing his foot, it's the "blatantness" of it as a deux ex machina for so many things — Joan being a better doc than Greg, Joan perhaps returning to SC, Don and Roger feeling a little less disenfranchised, Layne staying on and forging a new relationship with Don and the rest of SC, even Pete catching Peggy.

    So, while we may be examining the rights of the disabled (which can only be a healthy discussion to have) I don't buy that the writers intended the the treatment of Guy as anything more than a way to make the Brits seem even less sympathetic than they already were — the golf comment is so obviously absurd that even Don finds it ridiculous.

  13. #9 I love, love, love BYOOL. I think it was one of the first films to honestly portray to the folks back home the idea that, yes, your guy is going to come back irrevocably changed and it will be difficult for him to readjust to civillian life. He may be physically disabled, or he may have emotional scars, or both. Another reason I love it is because it's like looking into a time capsule of "the way we were." Like MM one of its very special qualities is that you see an America there which has now completely vanished.

    And yes, two of the things I think must be difficult about being disabled are that so many little things we take for granted in our daily lives are huge challenges and that human factor you mentioned. Thanks for giving us your perspective; I'm grateful for whatever education I can get. You sound like you are doing a terrific job!

  14. #12. The creators of Mad Men are good at multi-tasking. They can advance the plot while commenting on social issues.

    Then serve up a side dish of really black humor.

    All of which keeps us busy here!

  15. There were so many moments I loved in this episode – one of which was the hospital scene between Powell and Don. I took Don's incredulous reaction to Powell's unequivocable statement about Guy's non-future, as symbolic of the American tradition of optimism Don embodies, in contrast to European (both western and eastern) pessimism and old-think. I think that if the tables had been turned, and Don was Guy's boss, it would not have been the end for Guy.

  16. #3, “that’s life. One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawn mower.”

    #4, It’s not that no one would hire a disabled person, although there were (and are) barriers. It’s that nothing legally prevented you from firing someone for being disabled.

    #9, thanks for pointing out that the ADA is not a global solution. Just like everything we see in Mad Men, we can see both how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.

  17. Deb–Love all the gallows humor this episode is generating. The foot puns are also just going to keep on coming. Who knew Matt had a foot fetish? :)

  18. Ummm, maybe this is Matt Weiner's way of pointing out that business gets carried out on a golf course. It's the links where men are men, spoils are divvied up and no one gets a mulligan. I think the point he is driving home is that in the end, it isn't your accomplishments or expertise that matters. It's how well you fit into the inner circle, playing the aristocrat on the golf course. Guy no longer fits. He can't sit in the frickin' gold cart all afternoon. He can't press the flesh or chit chat between holes. He's useless to them now.
    That explains a lot in the world of modern business.

  19. Guy's career most certainly would not be over by losing a foot, but we have to remember that the PPL people are determined to show the SC folks who is in charge. A man with a handicap does not present the strong, stiff upper lip image that St. John and company want to portray. They want no muss, no fuss, no gimps (I'm being sarcastic here), no allowances for a weakness.

    But there was a famous British Hollywood actor — Herbert Marshall — who had a wooden leg. Great scene in Gloria Swanson's autobiography when they have their first rendezvous and he is up front about showing it to her.

  20. You know who else has a crippling handicap that keeps her off the golf course? Peggy.

    Before you get your torches and pitchforks out, remember I'm talking about 1963. Women were as about as welcome on the golf course as they were in the men's toilets (to be honest, in male business foursomes they still are).

    Peggy's career is being atrophied by her lack of social interaction with the frat boy office. The only thing she gets to do with them is smoke pot. I want her to overcome that very much, but she's got a long way to go. I know people like to point to Mary Wells and the other pioneering women in advertising but for every one of them there were twenty who were blocked; and Sterling Coo isn't exactly the most progressive agency in the world.

    • Fnarf, the book Ad Women talks about the opportunities for women in the ad world. Most were in research or creative (we have seen women in both places at Sterling Cooper). But NEVER in accounts, for exactly your reasons. It would be "unseemly" for women to fraternize the way account men did.

  21. "So it was probably more the people he worked with than the clients in that decision. "

    I thought that at first, too. But then I remembered that the clients from Admiral had heard the gossip about Burt Peterson's flameout. Guy's accident would be too big and interesting a story to keep under wraps in the general business community.

    By the time the survivors of the polio epidemic were coming of age in the 1970's, things were a bit better for the disabled.

  22. "By the time the survivors of the polio epidemic were coming of age in the 1970s, things were a bit better for the disabled."

    Mmm, not really. The ADA wasn’t until 1990, and even that is still controversial in some parts of the business world. And they still haven’t put wheelchair cuts in all the sidewalks here in Seattle. Saw a fellow just the other day who was forced to wheel out into the street and ride with traffic for more than a block to get where he was going.

  23. “Can’t golf” is the lamest excuse in history."

    Um, really? Lamest?

    This summer I was visiting my grandma and somehow accessibility came up. She said something to the effect of "In the old days, handicapped people didn't make a fuss about it". Like it is some huge inconvenience to her for buildings to install ramps!

  24. Horrible thought: what if it had been Pete? No more dancing! I guess now Don is a shoo-in for the job they had teed up for Guy.

  25. The reaction to Guy losing his foot remind me of Betty in 1×2 when she is freaking out over the idea that Sally could have been badly scarred by her crashing the car. It's shocking to see disfigurement treated as a fate worse than death. How it's the end of Guy's career or how it would have meant Sally becoming a depressed lonely spinster.

    I've worked with disabled people and I know how much zest for life they can have, so it's awful to see this society condemning them to being invalids with no future prospects.

    I liked Don saying "I don't know if that's true." It made me think of Anna Draper and her one-leg. Don would never consider Anna as worthless as PPL now considers Guy to be.

  26. ooh falafel, I had forgotten about Anna's leg! Good catch.

  27. Thanks for changing that Deborah! Sorry for being so snarky about it :)

    • Abby, (a) not snarky, (b) 100% right.

      I love that my little bit of research has turned into a lively discussion of disabilities and the way people with disabilities are treated. Love it. For those of you interested in the subject, there are some GREAT disability blogs out there. I have learned so much from the blogosphere.

  28. Oh wow…did someone mention that before about Anna Draper having a limp? I hadn't even thought of that. Thanks, falafel.

    What I do love about Mad Men is that it makes me realize just how new certain attitudes are about many things in society. I remember Betty's comment about Sally and thought, 'wow, that's harsh.' At first, I thought she was being so supeficial and a bad parent. It definitely changes how you see a character once you realize that their attitude about a lot of things is reflected in the prevailing attitude of the time.

  29. Well, Fnarf, I did say "a BIT better."

  30. #22 Fnarf, I don't think Peggy got much exposure to women's golf in Brooklyn or at secretarial school. I didn't learn until college, even though my parents both played. But there were certainly women who golfed, and famous women golfers (see the movie Pat and Mike).

    I just hope Guy comes back, if for nothing more than to prove to St. John and crew that you can be footless in the ad business.

  31. #12 Yes, I realize the plot device at work here, and the theme of everyone (literally) losing their footing. And, yes, I think MW’s primary aim is to be a good storyteller. That said, it’s great whenever he brings up issues, which, although they may be peripheral to the grand design of MM, still have a deeper, societal resonance.

  32. #11, Once at a restaurant our waitress told my parents “It’s so nice that you take her out.” We just sat there because how do you even respond to something like that other than laughing? I also had a halo when I first got out of the hospital and when a person asked what it was for my step dad told them I had a brain transplant and we weren’t sure if it stuck yet lol

    It’s all about a sense of humor, knowing when to be serious, when to laugh or when to put someone in their place. Besides without this human factor I wouldn’t have anything to put in the book I’m working on!

  33. @36 brenda, oh, I know all about Babe Didricksen and so forth. But those were sporting figures. Golf, as it features in business, is not a sport; it's a way for men to get together out of the office — on the course, in the locker room, and in the clubhouse bar. Peggy would not be welcome at any of those places if she had a roomful of trophies.

    Note that Augusta National, home of the Masters golf tournament, still doesn't accept women members today. They took their first black man in 1990; many other prominent golf clubs, like Forest Lake Club in Columbia, SC, do not. Jews likewise were not welcome at most clubs in the 60s (wealthy Jews typically responded by forming their own clubs).

    Likewise, in Britain, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the governing body of golf outside of the US, is male-only and until last year white-only; I don't know if they accept Jewish members or not. Knowing Britain, I'd guess probably not, at least not in the 60s.

    You couldn't find an institution more dedicated to white Anglo-Saxon male privilege if you tried.

  34. #12 What would you have Matt do, have Guy give an impassioned speech or something? It’s an hour tv show, and it manages to cram in a bunch of “issues” without getting smarmy or pat or preachy, nor having it feel crammed. It’s supposed to be up to the audience to decide what it all means.

  35. Fnarf, family legend has it that my grandfather golfed with Cab Calloway because it was the only club that would take Jews and black folks. (I don't know if they actually golfed together, but going geographically it would make sense – Westchester County and the surrounding areas.)

  36. @42 Nomie, do you remember the name of the club? Do you think it's where Duck golfs, with the Jews at Grey, if he golfs — and I'm going to guess that Duck golfs.

  37. I thought PPL got rid of Guy because it was a reminder to the clients that SC was an unsafe place to visit!

  38. Wondering if you may have seen this as a metaphor for the American Revolution. The British are coming, they come just before the 4th. Ken Cosgrove, a tall, pale, white guy (Washington?) riding the lawnmover (boat, John Deere, farmers with no training) across the office (Potomac?). Then that vehicle takes out the leader of their army, the ever-so-appealing-and-therefore-threatening Guy McKendrick (insert some famous British general I don’t know here) for the Battle of Brooklyn/New York. The Americans drive them back, unfortunately by chopping off their foot with a lawnmower.

    Just a thought.

  39. I think MW and co were certainly using the “can’t golf” as shorthand to show how awful the PPL people are.

    Most people would have heard of Douglas Bader who, despite being a double amputee, was a fighter ace in WWII. The most successful film in Britain in 1956 was the biopic Reach for the Sky. Douglas Bader worked for Shell Oil, was a fundraiser and, most notably for this post, was famous for playing golf. Seriously, with a man like that as a role model, Guy would go far; the PPLs are just horrible.

    #8, Scots are Brits and so are English and Welsh people.

  40. I get the notion that the prevailing attitude in the 1960s was to not hire disabled people, but this was not true across the board.

    Here’s a clip from 1972, of the final show at one Washington DC radio station, of The Joy Boys (Ed Walker & Willard Scott).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9IxNqYIbUE

    In the video, Ed Walker (who has been blind since birth), recounts an episode from earlier in his career, about being blind in the workplace.

    By the way, at the time this video was done, he had been at this station since the mid-1950s and the only reason he and Willard were leaving, was because the station was changing formats.

    As it turns out, Ed has now been on radio or TV in the same media market (DC) nearly 60 years, which in the broadcasting industry, is a rarity – even for sighted people!

    In November, Ed will be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. It’s an honor that he richly deserves, since he is an incredible talent. http://www.radiohof.org/

    It may be true that some fields, like advertising, were reluctant to hire disabled people back in the day, but my friend Ed Walker, is a remarkable exception.

    He’s definitely not disabled – he’s just blind.

  41. My great-uncle lost a foot in a farming accident and had a wooden foot and continued to farm and do whatever–no cane, and no limp unless you observed closely–his foot didn't flex so when he walked one foot just stumped along a bit.

    The whole "can't work" is nonsense–he was the golden boy and the old vipers just used the foot as an excuse to shove him aside. It does give you insight into how awful they are–god forbid anybody be competent. Draper better watch his back.

  42. Speaking of expected physical perfection, I still have a feeling something will be 'not perfect' w/that Baby Gene…and thinking of imperfect children in 1963 gives me a shudder…

  43. @39 – was thinking the same exact thing. I am enjoying the discussion on disability, but I think the incident goes to show how out of touch the Brits are. Here they are thinking that golf is such an important part of business at SC, and yet we have never seen the characters on the golf course? Never to my memory. Granted there have been a few scenes set at country clubs, but otherwise, golf is not a part of the ritual of doing business at SC. I think the whole situation is indicative of how out of place and clueless the Brits really are, similar as to how they came for a visit right before the 4th of July.

    I am also reminded of S1 when Pete tries to "out" Don with Bert Cooper for having a double identity. Cooper could care less so long as the quality of the work is good. Contrast that with the Brits, who will get rid of a guy because he lost a foot. It's clear that the PPL and SC cultures are not merging well.

    I wonder if MW is setting the stage for an eventual upheaval of PPL, especially if there is any type of lingering legal trouble or frustration because of the tractor incident. As we see the firm under British rule, the folks at SC are no longer wooing big clients (like American Airlines), dropping huge opportunities (like the new Penn Station) and shaking down trust fund babies for business (HoHo and his Jai Alai campaign). With the capital Don, Bert, and Roger have the acquisition (assuming they still have most of it) and with Don possibly landing the Hilton account, perhaps they will have enough to shake off the Brits and buy back their firm (and maybe add Don's name to the wall?)

  44. @45 Judy, I fear the same thing, or maybe even worse. I don't think Baby Gene is going to survive to the end of the series.

  45. **Fnarf, family legend has it that my grandfather golfed with Cab Calloway because it was the only club that would take Jews and black folks. (I don’t know if they actually golfed together, but going geographically it would make sense – Westchester County and the surrounding areas.)**
    It sounds like Metropolis- http://www.metropoliscc.org/

    I grew up two blocks from their golf course and Cab Calloway lived not too far away back when my grandparents bought the house around 1950.

  46. The notion that Guy, Golden Boy and heir apparent, could no longer "reign" at Sterling Cooper because he lost his foot STRONGLY reminded me of the tradition of Celtic kingship, in which the sovereign had to be unmaimed. If the king lost a limb, he ceased to be sovereign because his wellbeing affected the wellbeing of the country. So, for example, you have the story of Nuada Silver Hand, who lost his arm – and the kingship – until his clever physician Diancecht created a functioning prosthetic made of silver.

    Sadly, Guy won't be getting a silver foot with articulated toes any time soon. Even if he did, it probably wouldn't help his case with the "golfers."

  47. Could Roger's reference to Burl Ives have anything to do with one of Ives's character's lines in his late 50s/early 60s films? I've tried to find anything like what Don said in the film clips. If not, is there a HUAC tie-in? Or is it a Weiner family inside joke?

    • area, could you refresh my memory about exactly what the reference was?

    • I caught it too, but can't remember it, but I remember I didn't get it. I wondered if it was a lyric from a then-popular song.

      Here are some records (thanks, Wikipedia) from 1963:

      # The Lollipop Tree (1963, Harmony HL 9551)
      # Singin' Easy (1963, Decca DL 4433)
      # The Best of Burl's for Boys and Girls (1963, Decca DL 4390)
      # Walt Disney Presents Summer Magic (1963, Buena Vista BV 4025)
      # Burl Ives Presents America's Musical Heritage (1963, Longines Symphonette Society LW 194-LW 199, 6 records)
      # Walt Disney Presents Burl Ives' Animal Folk (1963, Disneyland ST 3920)

      Singles:

      # I'm the Boss / The Moon Is High (c. 1963, 7 in., 45 rpm, Decca 31504)
      # True Love Goes On and On / I Wonder What's Become of Sally (1963, 7 in., 45 rpm, Decca 31571)
      # On The Front Porch / Ugly Bug Ball (1963, 7 in., 45 rpm, Buena Vista 419)

      While we're at it, films:

      # The Spiral Road (1962)
      # Summer Magic (1963)

      And if you're wondering, Rudolph and that Holly Jolly Christmas was not until 1964.

  48. sorry for posting on the wrong discussion page–

  49. A man with a wooden foot might look weak. Just like Hooker said the guy with the glasses ( his name escapes me) looks weak for wearing glasses.

  50. If hooker thought the guy with the glasses (his name escapes me) looks weak for wearing glasses. I can only imagine what what they might think of a man with a wooden foot. Also, Guy would be off of work for a substantial amount of time. Could PPL wait that long? Don only took 1/2 a day off for the birth of his son.

  51. [...] Guy’s lawnmower incident there was an interesting post about the Americans with Disabilities Act and what rights he would have had in today’s [...]

  52. Deborah, THAT'S the quote i nominate for a shirt: “That’s life. One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawn mower." ahaha

    Also, I agree about business on the golf course. It's still like that today! I have a friends who works in finance in Connecticut and he's going to be learning tennis, golf and sailing — what the rich kids do. It's all about networking.

    But I DO think Powell's ending Guy's career was a cold exaggeration of this. I think it really is a vanity thing for him. Ick!

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