Pete, Peggy, and PDD-NOS: Part 1, Pete

 Posted by on August 17, 2010 at 5:00 pm  Characters
Aug 172010

The diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s assumes that the person being assessed feels entitled. Just because you like monologuing, and have trouble understanding the difference between monologuing and a conversation, doesn’t mean that you will monologue if something painful happens every time you try to do it. Just because you love flapping your hands and jumping up and down doesn’t mean you will do it, if every time you do it your parents scream at you to stop. The diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s assumes that you are seeing a person who has not received a punishment for ASD behaviors. Because when people are punished for things, they stop doing them.
– Amanda Forest Vivian, “Mad Men and My Dad”

Amanda Forest Vivian, who runs the outstanding autism-related blog I’m Somewhere Else, is a young autistic woman who adores Mad Men. She also believes that both Peggy and Pete reside somewhere on the autism spectrum, a concept that didn’t exist in the 1960s. And as a fellow autistic adult (albeit one not diagnosed until well into adulthood), I am inclined to agree with Amanda.

Back then, very narrow, specific diagnostic criteria for autism existed — no or extremely limited interaction with other people, no or extremely limited speech — and very few children met them. I certainly didn’t. But the diagnostic criteria that exists today for autism, including that for Asperger syndrome, does cover people like me and Amanda — those of us who are much less obviously autistic, but who have the social and sensory and monomania issues that separate us from our peers once they get to know us a little bit better. (And in case you’re wondering what the difference is between autism and Asperger’s, the most succinct way to explain it is this: Everyone with Asperger’s qualifies as autistic, but some autistic people don’t qualify as Asperger’s because of speech delay and/or intellectual disability. But most clinicians diagnosing clients from late childhood on will use the Asperger diagnosis.)

And very possibly, it would cover Peggy and Pete, also, especially there’s also a diagnostic designation known as PDD-NOS, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, which is used for people who have some autistic traits, but not enough to make a formal diagnosis of autism or Asperger’s. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter whether they hit all the markers; they hit enough of them to make a difference, to give people like me and Amanda plenty of “hey, maybe they’re one of us” signals that the other characters don’t give off. I don’t know if they presented differently as children, had more of their autistic traits “punished” out of them per Amanda’s suggestion, but I’m not going to claim that’s impossible; I, too, learned again and again to squelch, although I don’t pass for nonautistic anywhere near as easily as they do.

Of the two of them, Pete probably hits the most markers. He has odd bits of speech that he repeats continually (“a thing like that!”), and many of his choice words or phrases (“donnybrook,” “Hell’s Bells!”) seem to belong to a man decades older than he is. He’s far more stiff and formal than his brother or his father, even when there’s no need for it. And while all the MM characters have Problems Reading People (heck, isn’t that what bedevils most fictional characters?), Pete is flummoxed about how he’s “supposed” to handle entire situations. Unlike the “normals” who surround him, he can’t even successfully fake knowing what he’s doing — and boy, can I relate. In Flight 1, the defining moment was when Pete looked pleadingly at Don and asked, “What does one do?” right after his father, with whom he was never close, perished in a plane crash. What he meant was, where is my Normal Person script? I don’t feel anything for this man. Am I really supposed to act like I do?

I even think Pete’s horrible act of sexual harassment/rape against Gudrun in Souvenir was born of a desire to do what he believed other men would approve of. I shot! I scored! I’m actually a stud! The sad part is, he’s not entirely wrong about that; Vincent Kartheiser, on the DVD commentary track for Souvenir, said he thought Pete was sexually harassing Gudrun “on behalf of all the men in New York,” and it’s very true that Pete’s behavior was sadly consistent with what plenty of “normal” men would consider studly, even today. But Pete doesn’t get away with his manipulations; people see right through him, and it backfires on him. (When he tells Trudy he doesn’t want her going away any more without him, what he’s really telling her is, I need you to be my Normal Person’s eyes.) Unlike Bert Cooper, who knew exactly what to do with the information he had about Don’s identity theft and picked the perfect moment to execute it, Pete fired his Howitzer at entirely the wrong moment, in exactly the wrong way, and for exactly the wrong reason, and got treated like a nit for Bert Cooper to pick unceremoniously off his jacket.

And very likely, he wasn’t hired as Head of Accounts at the old Sterling Coo despite his excellent job performance, because he had to work so hard at being liked — unlike Ken Cosgrove, who never betrayed losing five seconds of sleep over it. It’s exhausting, feeling like all you do is study people and trying to figure out what they want and how they want it, and in the end, people aren’t fooled that you’re actually one of them. They know something is up with you; they just don’t know what, exactly, just that you make them itch. It’s hard to watch Pete in The Grown Ups, grousing to Harry about the snub, and not think that yes, despite Pete’s protests to the contrary, maybe market research would be better suited for him than being the Schmooze King of S-C.

This is what is stunning about Pete’s winning the corporate chess game against his controlling father-in-law, Tom, in The Rejected; for once, Pete manages to successfully checkmate someone, which is why he merely shrugs when Tom calls him a “son of a bitch.” Yeah. I did it. I busted my ass for 30 years to learn how to do this shit. And now they love me. A thing like that.

I do think that in the case of both Pete and Peggy, their neurological wiring gives them the ability to perceive things the more “typical” people around them don’t notice, or at least won’t admit to noticing. That’s the other side of being autistic; freed from the need to not notice things that will further separate you from your peers and bosses (because you already know deep down you don’t fit in anyway), you can draw lines between points that they wouldn’t dare to. Of course Pete would think, as he demonstrated in The Fog, Black people have money! They buy clothes and shoes and televisions and cars! Their money is as good as anyone else’s! Why aren’t we advertising to them? That his efforts to put this knowledge into practice turned into embarrassing gaffes — like cornering poor Hollis in the elevator about his choice of television sets, or springing his “Negro market” plan on Admiral without running it past Roger and Bert first — doesn’t make him any less prescient. All he needs to do is get a handle on his impulsivity and learn the chess game inside and out before he sits down behind the board. And in The Rejected, he shows that he’s learning how to do exactly that.

Next week: Peggy, and Peggy and Pete together.


  59 Responses to “Pete, Peggy, and PDD-NOS: Part 1, Pete”

  1. Pete is what we used to call a young fogey — someone whose manner and customs are old beyond his years.

  2. Thank you for sharing your diagnosis and your insider's perspective on this. I had sometimes thought of Peggy as being what I mistakenly called a "high-functioning autisitc" but hadn't caught onto it with Pete. You make a very cogent arguement. Thanks again.

  3. I'm not sure whether all social awkwardness qualifies as austim spectrum, but I do understand why Aspies would identify with Pete.

  4. My youngest sister, born in 1966, has Aspergers. We knew early on something wasn't right. She didn't speak until she was almost 3 (although with 8 older siblings, all she had to do was point to what she wanted, lol.) The famly joke is once she started talking she hasn't shut up since. Cocktail chatter, they call it. Observations come out of left field on her part.

    She has what I call a Teflon personality – things that would upset the rest of us, she more or less shrugs off. I like to think that's a gift, but it makes her vulnerable to being taken advantage of, because she wants to fit in so much. She made it through technical college and until recently has managed to hold a job in one or the other service industry. She has impulse control issues (spending compulsively, mostly things like jewelry.)

    I would definitely say Pete has some degree of Aspergers, and have said so since season 1, for the reasons you listed. Peggy? Not so much. She was shy, sheltered and inexperienced (also quite young) when she first came to Sterling Cooper but has blossomed over the past 4 years and has learned to socially go with the flow.

  5. I'm with #3 on this. I think everyone I know has phrases they fall back on, especially when they're eager to please and/or at a loss for words, as Pete often is.

    I do look forward to reading more about how Peggy fits into this diagnosis.

    Very interseting, reading! Perhaps seeing Pete as an Aspie would explain why, despite his often abhorent behavior, he remains so stainchly sympathetic (to me, at least).

  6. I should add that in her early years my sister was first diagnosed as having "minimal brain dysfunction", and later ADHD. It wasn't until much later, with special evaluation and testing, that Asperger's was confirmed.

  7. Huh. I think sometimes people read too heavy into things

  8. hi this is Amanda, I'm first of all just freaking out about being linked on here (when I looked on my sitemeter and it said, I thought I had somehow caused it by reading Basket of Kisses and then checking my own blog) but I really appreciate that people are having a positive/neutral reaction to the suggestion that Peggy and Pete have autism spectrum disorder. I have often had the experience of suggesting that characters are ASD, and being told that I'm overinterpreting, and ASD always looks a particular way, and ASD people can't ever have [insert ability here] or do [insert action here], and it's just FICTION, for goodness's sake. This response really bothers me, because it seems to imply that ASD is really obvious and is always a person's defining characteristic, and if a character doesn't seem ASD all the time to every viewer, they can't possibly be interpreted that way. So thank you all for being more measured about the idea that Pete has ASD.

    I would disagree that there's a "succinct" difference between Asperger's and autism, by the way (and PDD-NOS). It's a very messy division which we are lucky to be getting rid of in the next DSM.

  9. There was a brief discussion about this two seasons ago on another site — re: Peggy. I hadn't thought about Pete in this regard, but I thought Peggy had no social graces. Remember how rude she was to Annie, the actress? Now her behavior to Freddie and Allison lacked tact. She's very focused on her work, and seems to pick up on the superficialities of how people should behave. She's apart from the group. She admires Faye and looks upon the secretaries as things to be manipulated for the cold cream account.Taking Don's hand, bedding Pete, and not realizing she was pregnant. Something's very cold about her. She's an odd duck, and I haven't seen compassion yet. She'll be a good mid-twentieth century business woman if she can turn off the emotions. I'd like to see her fall in love. I don't know about autism or the spectrum but she needs to be knocked down a peg (sorry) and read the articles between the ads.

  10. This is really interesting! I look forward to your post on Peggy

  11. Pete may have a few quirks, but I would never consider putting an Asperger's label on him. And Peggy seems utterly "normal" to me. If they represent an accurate portrayal of Asperger's then everyone I have ever known fits the diagnosis.

  12. oh boy, I spoke too soon

  13. I've often thought that Pete seems to be on the autistic spectrum, though I don't see it with Peggy as much.

  14. Perhaps we can say that it is a testament to the quality of writing of the show that people seem to work very hard to find a way to say certain characters are exactly like themselves…

  15. I'd disagree rather strongly re: Peter, who seems to be a wholly-functioning extroverted person who can get in touch with his inner center but had his sense of entitlement override his conscience time and again (esp. in Season 1). Having seen his mother in action tends to add some weight to this.

    Peggy I'd consider. I'd posit that Peggy's affect can be traced to being a very intelligent introverted young woman that went through Catholic school in the '50s. Each time you let your curiosity and/or your creativity shine through, the environment was ready to make you feel worthless. Hence, you can get judgmental and mean, and empathy is not readily tapped (empathy would have defused the Allison situation).

  16. I think I can see what you mean. It's an interesting idea and I would like to know more. I've always thought that Peggy is observing people to decipher how to behave in different situations and trying on different behaviors in a sort of experimental way. I hadn't noticed that so much with Pete, but you make a good argument.

  17. My son (Roberta's nephew) is Aspie, and I have become adept at the 5 second diagnosis. You know–you walk into a room and think "Spectrum!" (meaning PDD/autism spectrum). It's harder with fictional characters unless they've been told to play Aspie, because the characteristic eye movements and "accent" are absent.

    But you make a very compelling case for Pete being at least Asperger's-like.

  18. I guess Pete and Peggy both strike me that way physically sometimes. It is true that they don't always move that way, but Pete's dance in 3×01, for example, is something that looks familiar.

  19. I find this discussion fascinating because my older sister, who works with autistic kids, has said she thought I had "a touch of Asperger's." Interestingly, I am a public speaker for a living, but can be extremely socially awkward 1:1, and truly understand what you have to say about figuring out the "normal script" in specific occasions. Of course, because I am gay and was closeted for years, I was always looking for ways to appear "normal," so perhaps I just got really good at it.

    We should also recognize that personality traits and behaviors rarely fall into discrete categories. Where exactly does "socially awkward" transition into "autistic spectrum"? Given the leaps in understanding of that spectrum and its manifestations in the recent past, my guess is that question really cannot be answered right now. What is the old saying? – "there's a very thin line between brilliant and insane" – likely because the brain wiring that allows for novel and creative thought is likely also susceptible to the over-firing of that wiring, say in a disease like schizophrenia.

    So it is possible that a character like Pete is not intentionally meant to represent someone with a specific neurological condition, but a combination of acting and insight has led there, although I doubt it was consciously. I would hazard to guess that the writers, cognizant of the limited time they have to tell their stories in a TV episode, are unlikely to put in superfluous facts or hints (although we are talking about Mad Men here) to a facet of a character they're not planning to explore. However, I could certainly see a writer, an actor, or some combination using real-life models for the character who are, in fact, on the autistic spectrum, but whose personalities also match what is needed for the character.

    Of course, the irony is that an actor, in building a character, is not looking for the "normal script" for a specific moment, but the abnormal, the different, the interesting – it's a hallmark of good acting.

  20. Amanda, thanks so much for stopping by and taking part in this. I hope you'll stick around.

    Yes, PDD-NOS is somewhat of a controversial diagnosis. For that matter, Asperger's as a separate diagnosis from autism is, also. That is why the APA is strongly considering removing both diagnoses from the next DSM and simply folding all autistic people into "autism spectrum disorders" and getting rid of PDD-NOS as a designation altogether.

    Some autistic people (Temple Grandin, for example) have argued that PDD-NOS has become a meaningless diagnosis, since a lot of people could be considered to have some autistic traits but not enough to qualify as "fully autistic." I was going to go into that a little more in the next post, but I didn't here because I was already…er…monologuing a bit.

  21. What an interesting discussion! I don't agree with the premise, but I enjoyed reading the posters' knowledgeable comments and thoughts very much.

    Peggy — no way. She can be cold and brusque, but her empathic skills are very high. In many episodes, she is the only one in a room full of people to "get" someone's discomfort/emotions and their origins.

    Her disconnect from her pregnancy comes from newspaper articles and media coverage of women who deny their own pregnancies, not because she is in the spectrum.

    Pete — nah, he's just a narcissistic guy who grew up in an emotionally constipated, yet entitled household. Not having loving parents, he isn't entirely clear on what "love" looks like. His reliance on scripts is more attributable, in the thinking of the day, to Freudian rather than neurological concepts.

  22. And as someone who had no clue on earth that she was autistic until she was 44 years old (and was absolutely shocked to be diagnosed as such, although after going over the diagnostic criteria and reviewing my life, I realized it was right on the money), I would agree with Amanda that it's very possible to learn enough masking techniques that "autistic" wouldn't necessarily be the first or even second thing most people thought about you when you first met them, unless you have the kind of "asp-dar" Deb talks about at @18.

    And I can tell you right now that there are a lot of older autistic adults (35 and up) who are running around undiagnosed, as I was, because until 1994, verbal autistic people were mostly thought not to exist at all, and over time, people pick up skills — social, sensory integration, etc. — that they didn't have as children. That doesn't mean they're not autistic, but it can mean it's very possible that being so doesn't dominate their presentation, especially when they're out in public.

    No, all social awkwardness doesn't constitute "autistic." Harry is socially awkward, for example, but I don't read him as autistic. There's a specific type of social awkwardness that's associated with the spectrum, one that comes with great difficulty not just at reading other people's signals, but also at putting out signals that allow others to read you as you need and want to be read. That's why a lot of people assume that ASD people "don't care" about other people.

  23. Well, a terrific direction to go, even if a little off the main track I think.

    We are now into the second half of Matt's 5-6 yr story of a changeover in generations. (Although it may be a little complicated here about which generations, there really aren't any boomers in the adults, or maybe barely.)

    Did people think this was going to be a comedy or melodrama? Have a happy ending? Out with the old sexist, racist pigs and up with the Children of Light?

    "And in the 6th year Burt, Roger, & Don retired and Utopia was achieved."

    This is definitely not what Matt Weiner does. This is not in him.

    Pete & Peggy will be just as bad as the generation that preceded them. Just in a different way.

    Back to the OP, what I think we are seeing is not DSM IV Aut spectrum or whatever.

    We are seeing the "overwhelming narcissism, sense of entitlement, and selfishness" of those generations that followed the "Greatest", at least as MW and the crew understand them. I don't really agree, having been there, but this is exactly where I expected Matt Weiner to go.

  24. And I am certain, Hamm, Moss, and Kartheiser will go along enthusiastically, being of the generations that think they are in a position to judge the 60s and those who lived through them.

    "And Peggy seems utterly “normal” to me"

    Peggy is a monster. Don has loved Betty, kids, Anna. Pete loves Trudy. As far as I can remember or tell, Peggy has never felt compassion or loved anything in her life. She is ambition and competence, mitigated by intelligence, humility, and humor. Peggy is not evil, but she isn't very good. I am not sure she even knows how.

  25. Now, altogether:I blame the Patriarchy.

  26. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cantara Christopher, Chan Stroman. Chan Stroman said: Pete, Peggy, and PDD-NOS: Basket of Kisses [Peter Dyckman Campbell on the spectrum? I'm almost persuaded.] […]

  27. Meowser – Your analysis of Pete's character makes a lot of sense to me. I've noticed how his behavior, reactions, speech mannerisms seem "off", awkward and affected, though not necessarily for lack of true feeling. His missteps (and Peggy's) at Sterling Cooper early in the series often confounded me, as in, "how can you be so obtuse?" (In contrast, Don's obtuse or unusual social responses made more sense the more we learned about his life. Peggy and Pete both have siblings who shared childhood experiences but seem more "normal" by their social peers.) I think they have unique individual experiences due to gender, social upbringing, etc. but both found a unique mentor in Don Draper (plus a few others) who saw something special in each and gave them extra chances to rise above and grow.

    I look forward to the next post!

  28. Aaaaand Bob McManus just reinforced the point I made up at @23. The appearance of detachment =/= actual detachment. I will get into this more when I do the Peggy post, but all I'll say for now is this: When you're feeling a million different things at once, many of which cancel each other out, it's easy for people to incorrectly assume you don't feel anything at all.

  29. I admit this post stunned me, because it's really something I've long suspected about Pete (not so much Peggy, but I suppose there's some truth to it).

    I never thought I'd ever tell a bunch of folks here on this, but I suppose, in light of this post, there's another reason why this post hit me especially close.

    I'm Asperger's too. I was diagnosed two years ago.

    One of the biggest reasons why this show appeals to me so much is the fact I feel a certain kind of connection to the characters that struggle so much with what they feel and what's expected of them. That tension is especially pronounced with folks that have Asperger's. I feel a certain kind of disconnect with "Neuro-Typicals" that has taken years — honestly, DECADES — to work on. I always say that people with Asperger's are either the world's worst or best actors, because we're either refusing to play a part in the world we live in, or playing a role exceptionally well. There's no middle ground.

    Pete has stuck me as a kind of guy who had "something" to him that I couldn't quite pin down; his inability to hide his feelings in a socially appropriate way (classic AS), the fact he worked so hard at being liked but couldn't make it work, the fact he seemed so oblivious to other's feelings (the lack of empathy or mind-blindness).

    I can't tell you guys how much this post means to me. God I love this community sometimes. It's good to know we're willing to explore avenues of this show others would stray away from out of fear or ignorance.

  30. I have not eloquent thoughts to share at this late hour, but this has been one of the most interesting threads of late. Thanks to all your personal insights.

  31. I am the parent of a child without a diagnosis but with autistic-like traits and I had not noticed these things about Pete and now I'm FASCINATED. Thank you for this wonderful, thought provoking post. Now I will want to interestedly watch to see if I can catch a glimpse of what my child might be like when grown.

  32. It never occurred to me that Campbell might be an Aspie until reading this post, but it does explain a lot.

    There was a Campbell quote from season 1 or 2..

    “And then I come to this place, and you people tell me that I’m good with people, which is strange, because I’d never heard that before.”

  33. Thanks for sharing your diagnosis with us. I work with kids who are on the spectrum and while I do find your article to be quite interesting, I don't agree that either of them would qualify as being on the spectrum.

  34. Yes, but John, how many autistic adults do you work with? Specifically, how many autistic adults who are fully verbal, have jobs, and live independently? We do exist, and there's a lot more of us than people think, even now (given, as I mentioned earlier, the high likelihood of not being diagnosed in adulthood if you were never diagnosed before adulthood).

    Also, bear in mind: PDD-NOS specifically refers to "having a few autistic traits, but not enough to make a formal diagnosis of Asperger's or autism." When you include those folks, you know there have to be lots of undiagnosed adults running around. (In some cases, such people have no need to seek diagnosis, because they don't experience their autistic traits as particularly disabling. And in some cases, it would just never occur to them that their collection of traits actually has a name.)

  35. I'm not denying that there are adults with autism who can live and work independently. And although I don't work with any adults, I do know quite a few who are on the spectrum and some that are autistic. I am also quite familiar with the PDD-NOS diagnosis as well since I am involved when diagnosing children with PDD.

    Again, this is my opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.

  36. Great post and subsequent thread, Meowser.

    I don't think Matt Weiner has intentionally written Pete as someone with ASD, but the similarities are striking as you point out.

    I've never been diagnosed with ASD, but from what I've read over the past few years I have ALOT of the traits that are common among ASD diagnoses and this would go a long way towards explaining why I've always felt a need to defend Pete (except for in "Souvenirs") when so many fans I talk to mention how much they don't like him.

    This site is great, can't wait to read your insights on Peggy!

  37. I agree with Mike in that I don't think Matt Weiner has intentionally written Pete that way, and that I think some of you are reading a bit too much into these characters based on personal experience; nonetheless, this is a fascinating thread and I thank everyone for sharing!

  38. Good art can do more than the artist intends. It's Matt Weiner's show but he's not the only one with input. And I take some of his comments with a grain of salt!

    So these character traits could reflect aspects of this diagnosis, even if that was not the intent.

    I've got an autistic cousin–born around 1950. On my father's side of the family, which was very far away after my father's death. (We made a few trips up to New England, none of them ever came to Texas.)

    At first, we heard he was deaf. Then the doctors thought he was retarded. Eventually, autism was mentioned. Back when "maternal coldness" was considered a possible cause. Although his four younger sibs turned out "normal" & slightly brilliant.

    He never became verbal & was eventually moved to a group home. He would visit occasionally but seemed happier at the home; his father died years ago & his mother is elderly.

  39. I agree that this was probably not an intentional decision, but the explanation here shows another way viewers can relate to the show and the character. As Joss Whedon says: Bring your own subtext. 🙂 The interpretation as presented, seems valid.

    One thing I've noticed in interviews with MW is his habit of listening to new theories and seeming to find them genuinely interesting. He doesn't come across as thinking he has all the answers or that he even knows the full histories of his characters. So, while he may or may not agree with the assessment, my guess is that'd at least see it as an interesting angle.

    And not Bridget beat me me a lot of this. 🙂

  40. Pete has odd bits of speech that he repeats continually-one of them is:

    “a thing like THAT!” ~Pete.

    In Season 2: Episode 10- The Inheritance-when Pete and Trudy are at his mother Dorthy's house after Pete Father dies-Dorthy(Pete's Mother) says or asks:"what-is-THAT?" 3 times about a pink elephant,-and I just think its a joke-kinda like explaining: what would be “a thing like THAT!”? or what is 'The Thing' or object Pete always references with his repeated saying:“a thing like THAT!”

    and the answer is: a pink elephant.

    and this is 'Mirrored' in the new episode:The Rejected

    Mad Men Rule: 'If something doesn't make sense(like say for instance 'a pink elephant)-if it's said 3 times-start looking for where it does make sense-

    EXAMPLE: 'did you get the pears' (*now say it 3 times-for fun to drill it into your head) AND like they did with saying 'what-is-That?' 3 times about the pink elephant)

    AND now think of it this way:

    did you (meaning: 'YOU' the viewer)

    get the(meaning: 'get it' as in 'oh I get it')

    pears (meaning: 'pairs' or pears/pairs -the mirror images off of previous episode of MadMen-appearing thru out the entire episode of The Rejected.)

    So then: 'did YOU get the Pairs'-lol!

    well…that's my take on it.

  41. I see the traits mentioned more in terms of awkwardness, self-consciousness and general feeling-out of placeness. Take Pete's reaction upon hearing of his father's unexpected death. I found this to be very recognizable actually. Such an event suddenly jolts you out of everyday life and you can feel detached, unsure of what you're supposed to feel, let alone do. It must be even worse if your feeling towards the person were less than affectionate. I thought it was a humanizing touch. Like with Peggy, we are often brought into Pete's experience.

    Where Peggy is concerned, we have often seen her pushing herself to take on roles that she isn't quite comfortable with, and that is the root of much of her awkwardness. Naturally she does not have the effortlessness of Joan, who plays her role to a T. Don, the master of playing roles, seems to be floundering, which could be a good thing.

    So far, to some extent, we've experienced Mad Men through the insecure, awkward figures of Peggy and Pete, who had a lot of learning to do, but who were also more open to seeing and learning new things. The characters of Don and Joan, have been presented in a more closed way, with a kind of imposing veneer of perfection, which is how Pete and Peggy must have seen them from the beginning, as they were kind of set up as their role models. Of course the veneer is now starting to crack, especially Don's.

  42. 38 & 39 –

    I didn't mean to imply that just because I don't think ASD is part of MW's intent that it isn't worthy of discussion or that it shouldn't be incorporated into someone's way of relating to the characters. In fact, quite the opposite as this thread I think articulates some of the ways I've always related to Pete despite our very different backgrounds ("Souvenirs" notwithstanding).

    Thats what I love about this show and this site, people can bring so much of their own experiences to these stories. It's real in a way few other TV shows have been before.

  43. I agree, #42 Melly. And of course Pete grew up before television, from which later generations of children learned slang and popular speech patterns.

    And as far as his not knowing what to do when learning of his father’s death, I think it had more to do with the fact that Pete and his father were not close, and the news didn’t upset him; he was afraid to let anyone know that, and wanted someone to tell him how to “act” upset. Interesting idea and fun discussion, but I don’t think Pete (or Peggy) is Asperger’s.

  44. Something struck me last night, re: Pete’s phrasing and vocabulary, etc.

    It sounds a lot like the books for boys written by The Stratemayer Syndicate, the people who did Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, The Bobbsey Twins etc.

    It’s got that stilted oddness to it, harking back to another generation.

    Pete’s old money, at least on the Dyckman side of the family. Perhaps summers spent in a old house in the Hamptons?

    Old books around — Tom Swift, et al, would be perfect for a young boy who spends hours alone.

  45. Oh, I don't think MW intentionally wrote Pete or Peggy as being AS. I'd actually be kind of surprised if he did. But since there are probably plenty of (mostly undiagnosed) AS people in the entertainment business (particularly of the PDD-NOS sort, where it might not be immediately obvious), he's probably met their like somewhere and known there was something a leetle deeferent about them, although he might not have known specifically what.

  46. Complete and utter claptrap (as Pete might say). This story is told in the days when behavior was dictated by the small local social group one was raised in. Pete behaves exactly as his upbringing dictates as does Peggy- the difference comes from their innate personality traits. I believe what each character is communicating is actually an intense self awareness that allows them to question the social mores and thereby the expected behavior of their group for any situation. Which by the way ties quite nicely back into what is becoming the theme of this season. How sad that 50 years later the result of the 60's revolution that started a globalization of the human community has led us to a diagnosis for every difference as opposed to an appreciation of the variety humans exhibit.

  47. I wholeheartedly agree, mom2ab.

    Let's enjoy the show's unique characters — not pathologize them.

  48. it's fine to disagree about the characters (I've actually changed my mind about Peggy since making the post Meowser linked), but the way you're framing it is insulting to people with autism spectrum disorder. I'm still "unique" and "different" like everyone else–I just happen to be a person who's "unique" and "different" and also has a disability. It's not "sad" or "pathologizing" to say that someone might have ASD.

  49. AWV, thank you!

  50. Why would I be "pathologizing" them by saying they might be on the spectrum? *I* am on the spectrum. I do not consider myself pathological. I have a disability. There's a big difference.

    It just really chaps my butt that people don't think verbal autistic people existed before 1994. My grandfather died in 1994. In retrospect, it's clear to me that he was autistic, but he never knew. All he knew was that people acted like they were allergic to him, and he didn't have a mean (or pathological) bone in his body.

    Or, what AWV said @48.

  51. My observation is that the characters are exploring the theme of what is expected versus what they personally desire- which creates tension in each of them that they choose to resolve in different ways. Pete appears to be finding his way by conforming and fully embracing the expected while Peggy is taking that next step into fully letting go and embracing her desires. If you want to assign it a diagnosis fine-but I think the self reflection and painful social awareness of the characters seems to be at odds with it, as for me I prefer to just enjoy the story.

  52. And for the record I have no argument that any number of physical and/or psychological conditions have existed from the beginning of time- I just don't believe it is relevant in this particular context.

  53. "Pete appears to be finding his way by conforming and fully embracing the expected while Peggy is taking that next step into fully letting go and embracing her desires."

    I don't know about Meowser but I sure wasn't assigning any of Pete or Peggy's life choices/evolution a diagnosis. Just their basic mental equipment. Although I am at this point more leery of calling Peggy ASD, because she does come from a different background and seems more socially appropriate when she's with her family and church community*, I do think that Peggy and Pete both started the show with a certain kind of off-ness that they both had to cover, and which to me kind of binds them together in the design of the show and makes them reflections of each other–sometimes opposites, sometimes exactly the same. I don't really ship them anymore but when they were crushing on each other in the first half of S1 there was this weird quality of people who seemed like strangers finding that they came from the same place. Which is quite consistent with the way it feels if you are ASD (or gay, or of a different class from everyone else) and you happen to run into someone who has the same secret.

    *This is not the case for Pete obviously–he is supposedly "with his own kind" in terms of background, but he's not half as successful as you'd expect someone with his connections to be. And he certainly doesn't fit in with his family.

  54. Now this analysis is thought provoking and meets my desire for orthogonal views…

  55. This post is fascinating. Maybe I'll have actually coherent thoughts after your next installment! But this was a great read, I'm really looking forward to what you have in the cannon.

  56. The idea that social-climbing, Deerfield-educated Pete Campbell is "autistic" is pretty silly. "Autistic" doesn't have any real meaning, so what we have here is developmentally disabled people claiming that bad behaviors aren't their fault, and looking for TV characters that make them feel this is okay.

    It's not okay.

  57. yeah because no one who goes to Deerfield can have ASD…what?

    It's cool that you think people with DDs don't take responsibility for our actions, but since that's not actually true and it's pretty apparent from the behavior of most people with DDs that it isn't true, maybe you don't need to come on here and say it. You can just be wrong by yourself at home.

  58. 'Scuse me J, have to differ with you. Temple Grandin has a PhD, and I know there are lots and lots of other well educated people out there with ASD. Autism DOES have meaning in the sense that people with ASD have a problem understanding social cues from others, that there is a lack of "Theory of Mind"

    I think, if I may speak for them, that the posters with ASD on this site are noting that they are identifying with a character's behavior rather than behaving like a character.

    Perhaps you need more education before you can make such a judgment.

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