Posted by on September 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm  Season 4
Sep 102010

Bert Cooper: The war is over, Roger.
Roger Sterling: Why don’t we just bring Dr. Lyle Evans in here?

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

So, now we know that what Roger is saying here is that Bert has no balls, both figuratively and literally; that if they do business with “the Japs,” they all might as well have their balls removed.

What’s mysterious to me is how Bert and SCDP are the ones who are emasculated. Surely they could look at Honda as the ones who are humbling themselves before their conquerors? As Joan pointed out, “we won,” the Japanese were decimated at the end of World War II.

It’s a question about masculinity, really (plainly Roger thinks so). When is enough enough? When is winning enough to end the war? Roger doesn’t care that he won, the war is still not over as far as he’s concerned. Manhood requires, to him, that the fight never ends.


  17 Responses to “Balls!”

  1. “Surely they could look at Honda as the ones who are humbling themselves before their conquerors?”

    Yes, but the Agency must conform to Honda’s traditions. That must have bothered Roger. ‘Hey, WE won. Why should we have to beg for YOUR business?’

    I didn’t see Honda humbling themselves. They arrived, set the ‘rules’ for the competition, and expected the Americans to conform to the Japanese customs.

    And, for Roger’s attitude, please Google:

    * Laha massacre
    * Banka Island massacre
    * Parit Sulong
    * Palawan massacre
    * SS Tjisalak massacre perpetrated by Japanese submarine I-8
    * Wake Island massacre-see Battle of Wake Island
    * Bataan Death March
    * Manila Massacre

  2. The term “Japs” is a racist slur. It made me sick when Roger said that as well as other racist crap. His tirade was just as much his bigotry as his indignation over the war.

    We already knew he was a racist from his blackface escapade during “My old Kentucky Home”. I sometimes like his one-liners, but I don’t like him.

  3. For Roger the war will never really be “over.” It may have been the one time in his privileged life where what he did mattered (as in life or death) and while, as far as we know, he returned physically unscathed, it clearly damaged something in his mind.

    Do we know if he was as heavy a drinker pre-war? I doubt his family would have recognized PTSD unless he had screaming nightmares. I wonder how much of “Sterling’s Gold” will include the war years. Not much, I’m guessing.

  4. #1 – sure it’s a racist slur, but ‘mainstream’ Americans used that term consistently pre- and during WWII. It joined a pantheon of slurs that a people (name the national origin or color or religion) foisted on another (name another national origin or color or religion). My father’s relatives in Europe had all sorts of slurs against their fellow ‘white’ national neighbors, and now, Asian friends of today tell me that there are *still* slurs against Americans, Europeans, Africans, and other Asians – it’s obviously not anyone’s ‘ancient history’ to be this way…

    But, its use in the show was powerful – told a story of a man, an era, and a lot of pain.

  5. I don’t think the masculinity issue is tied to “the fight that never ends,” to the war not being over in Roger’s mind. Agreeing with the above comments, it’s more about Roger still maintaining that wartime propaganda vision of the Japanese as “the other” – as subhuman. I think really his anger is directed at having to subjugate himself (working for, taking money and orders from) to this racist vision, justified in his mind (and probably exacerbated) by the torch he carries for his buddies who were killed in the war.

  6. DDG, do you really think that pointing out that there’s a problem with Roger’s behavior is the same as ignorance over the atrocities of WWII? Really?

  7. It is difficult for us to understand what veterans sacrifice in service of our nation… and narrow vision to hold them to standards of thought and behavior evolved under the blanket of freedom they provided.

    On the eve of 9/11 we know we have modern heroes. The passengers and crew of UAL Flight 93, the men of FDNY who gave final full measure. But still members of “The greatest generation” leave us every day.

    I say recognition is superior to judgment.

    “Let’s roll.”
    Todd Beamer
    UAL FLT 93

  8. Maybe Roger is comparing Bert to Hitler. 😉

  9. Well, we do know that Bert is a something of a Japanophile. I would like to revisit his office in earlier seasons.

    Whatever is between Roger, his war memories, his attitude toward the Japanese…

    …this was really intended to hurt Bert. Hurt Bert as bad as he could.

    Disproportionate, I think.

  10. Thanks for the question, Deborah at #6.

    Maybe it’s a basic difference of opinion: I don’t think there is a problem with Roger’s behavior in this case.

    If Roger was saying those things in 2010, the racial insults he used would be unthinkable. For a vet in the mid 1960s, it was understandable.

    I don’t know who knows what about WWII. If everyone who reads this great site already knows why a Pacific vet might have strong negative feelings toward the former enemy, even 20 years later, then the list of atrocities was unnecessary.

    Thanks for the great site to learn and share opinions about this complex show.

  11. I think now that we know about the Dr. Lyle Evans comment, it seems Roger was also trying to tell Bert how much it still bothers him – the idea of doing business, subservient or otherwise, with his sworn enemies. It was that personal to him.

    I obviously don’t condone racism and I think he was acting like the spoiled brat he is and not like a soldier, but I’d like to point out that his reasons for maintaining his attitudes toward the Japanese were initially created as a necessity of war. A person has to really be committed to be able to kill a person. The propaganda in the U.S. (and that created by other countries for their purposes) to a large extent worked. Roger had to feel justified in killing Japanese people, and one way (an easy one to convince a human being) is to convince the person their enemy is less: less honorable, less than human, less worthy to live, less smart, less moral, whatever. Though it’s not doing him any favors to remain bitter, it doesn’t change the fact that he killed those people or that the U.S. dropped bombs on mainly civilians at the end.

    So to some degree, he has to maintain his reality of their being enemies even afterward, because if they are not that bad after all, then why did he fight them? Why did anyone fight? I’m sure even Roger had to sacrifice, and he sees his sacrifice mainly as losing his friends and comrades in arms. And let’s face it – maintaining the idea that he is superior is easy for someone like Roger. Especially since he did win the war.

  12. “It is difficult for us to understand what veterans sacrifice in service of our nation… and narrow vision to hold them to standards of thought and behavior evolved under the blanket of freedom they provided.”

    Soldiers do not provide our blanket of freedom; that implies that freedom’s like a cookie and warm glass of milk, and that soldiers of any nation can provide it. Our Constitution is the basis of our freedom, and our soldiers defend and protect that, above all else.

    Despite imperfect and deliberate eras of misinterpretation, we all keep America free when we all exercise our constitutionally-protected rights, including responsible gun ownership and free speech. When we hold people to standards of behavior, we’re keeping a society together; that’s what society means — maintaining accepted standards of conduct. The only reason we’re questioning Roger’s behavior is because for once he’s refusing profit for it. The minstrel interludes, the clumsy pass at Betty, only cost him decorum. This was different.

    The gun and the mouth, without just laws, lead to fascism. The reason Roger can speak as he likes, and hate as he likes, as long as his hates don’t lead to violence, is because of the Constitution he fought, and others died, to protect.

  13. I thought it was a lot about Roger’s trauma and the darkness behind his facade. I don’t think there was anything rational about his reaction at all. He was just taken back to a defining time in his life when he was overwhelmed by horrors that he will never fully process. I agree very much with you, stella7 he had to frame the enemy as subhuman in order to do what was not a choice and it’s not something he had any kind of sophisticated help with after the war ended. What could he do but put it in a box and label it as the past and go on with an American existence that’s a million miles away from any actual Japanese people. Bert may have all kinds of Japanese stuff around but we now of all people at all times know that having a bunch of Pier One imports around a white person’s office is nothing like the actual reality. For Roger this is traumatic and nobody else is experiencing it and everyone is probably lucky he doesn’t climb up in a tree and start singing old war songs. I don’t see how Roger had any opportunity to process what happened or move on from it.

  14. re-reading, Geocraker said it first and better.

  15. I’m not sure I buy this. Bertram told Roger the war was over or, in other words, to let go of his anger. Roger replied by bringing up some of Bertram’s trauma that Bertram clearly wasn’t ready to let go of. I could be wrong but think Roger’s response was more tit for tat than anything to do with feeling emasculated.

  16. stella7 and cgeye, HEAR HEAR!!!

  17. The minute I saw Roger’s new office, I laughed out loud at the two great big sterling silver balls he has anchoring his desk. It feels soooooo Sterling to say “I’ve got big balls” in such an overt way. And then compare that to Coopers having lost his balls, having a diminished sexual prowess because of their lack…..makes you wonder whose balls Roger has mounted on his desk….

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