True Blue

 Posted by on October 10, 2010 at 10:13 am  Season 4
Oct 102010

In Hands & Knees we find out that Pete doesn’t drive. It’s possible to take this as face value since New York City is one of the few places in the U.S. in which no one raises an eyebrow when a grown man says he can’t drive.

In dreams, driving a car stands for being the master of your own life. If you drive smoothly, then your subconscious is telling you that you’re in control of your life or that you have all the resources available to make the life you want but may not know it. Pete is often frustrated because of his lack of powerlessness. Certainly in Season 1, he was being controlled and manipulated in every aspect of his life: Trudy refused to listen to his concerns about her father helping them buy an apartment; in the office his perceptive ideas and insights were dismissed, etc. His feelings of powerlessness culminated in his acting out by using the money he got for the chip’n’dip to buy a rifle. Pete has slowly acquired more control over his life but this Season Don forced him to dismantle a lucrative deal so that Don wouldn’t get in trouble. Now, he could’ve refused Don. Instead he took the fall for him. Personally, as much as I love Don, I think Pete should have refused to do Don’s bidding but he didn’t see that as a real option. This would’ve been a very tough call indeed and likely the account would’ve fallen through anyway but Pete could’ve taken the reins of the situation. I don’t mean this in a vindictive way but rather that in relation to Don, Pete is always an enabler. He’s not the only one.

Peggy helped cover up Don’s indiscretions with Bobbie Barrett after Don crashes his car. And Faye betrays her own ethical standards by getting Don a meeting with Heinz.In short, Don always places unfair demands on the people in his life. He’s asking them to keep his secret and to compromise their self-respect in the interest of their relationship.

They’re being loyal, right? And loyalty is a very noble trait, isn’t it? But there is such a thing as corrupt loyalty, the kind that perpetuates an unjust situation by being an accomplice in someone’s misbehavior. You know you’re engaging in corrupt loyalty when you sacrifice your own principles in order to help someone else out. Another clue is that you often feel emotionally cornered. You literally do not see any other solution to the situation, at least not if you want to keep the relationship. When you’re cornered, you’re powerless.

For an elegant example of negotiating the line between loyalty to one self and loyalty to another, we can look to how Joan broke it off with Roger. In that scene, there’s never any doubt that she still loves him. There’s tremendous regard and affection for each other. But the moment of truth came when Roger called her from the hotel, begging her to join him so that she could comfort him in his lie. At that moment, Joan understood that relieving Roger of his distress and shame was wrong, not only because she lost respect for him but because Roger’s immaturity was jeopardizing not just her marriage and her sense of self but the very existence of the firm. Joan ended it firmly but with tremendous grace. She wasn’t judgmental nor did she condescend to him by trying to get him to see the truth. She just stated her terms gently and with the utmost tact for Roger’s self-respect as well.


  27 Responses to “True Blue”

  1. That Pete can’t drive was established in The Jet Set; it hampered his ability to do business in California.

  2. There is no reason for Pete to drive in Manhattan. He sees it as plebian.
    It’s not that he can’t drive — “I don’t drive.” However, insightful post. Remember Pete’s panic when Don said the Pete could take over the agency if Don fled?

    #1 Deborah — I don’t believe not driving hampered his ability to do business in CA — they came to him poolside.

  3. Barbara Walters never learned to drive, either.

    On the Don issue, it’s simple. Stars – political, fashion, business – get away with a LOT. It’s more than fame. Many just assume it’s their due and they expect they will get what they want, until someone says no. Don has acquired that same arrogance.

  4. In New York, owning a car is actually a burden; it’s an expensive pain to park and store.

  5. How common was/ is it for people who have lived all their lives in New York to never learn to drive? I’m curious because on the show no one seems to think it odd that Pete can’t.

  6. When Trudy was in a panic during the Missile Crisis, it was obvious she could drive and that Pete could not. What was less clear was if Trudy owned a car or had rented one.

    Considering that in those days nobody could drive in any of the Southern Urban counties of New York State until they were 18, even if licensed elsewhere, back at the time we discussed the fact Peggy had a drivers license.

    We assumed Joan had not grown up in New York State. So we also discussed the fact she had a New York drivers license. Was she in the habit of renting cars for long weekends? Was she driving herself to see the Hamptons beach house of her OB-GYN? Certainly Joan did not drive to meet Roger at the beach.

  7. My Grandparents lived in Jersey City, NJ (across the Hudson River from NYC) and neither had licences. They didn’t have to. They both knew all the buses and subway in and out and never had a problem. And they both worked in NYC. This was considered normal. Having a car would have been a burden to them. Even visiting us in the suburbs was easy with buses arriving each hour to our town from NY and Newark.

    On another note did anyone notice that when Roger arrived home to Jane how the furniture was in their living room. The room itself spoke of old money and tradition (wood and paintings) yet in the middle of the room was Jane on her black and chrome modern furniture. It just didn’t fit and looked so out of place – just like Jane.

  8. @Deborah: I totally forgot! It stood out for me in this episode more than in that one. I wonder why…

    @25frames a minute: I never judged Pete as thinking of driving as plebeian simply because it’s very common in New York City to encounter people who don’t drive and don’t know how. Also, driving is intimidating since it can be dangerous.

    “Remember Pete’s panic when Don said the Pete could take over the agency if Don fled?”

    In some ways, Pete prefers his powerlessness, as much as he rails against it.

    @Taiga: It’s very very common. In New York City, lots of adults don’t drive or even know how to drive. You really don’t need to.

  9. Taiga, it is normal and expected. In fact, NY issues non-driver’s licenses so that people who don’t drive can use them as ID the way a driver’s license is used.

  10. Most people don’t raise an eyebrow here in DC & close-in urban MD, either. Pete’s non-driver status is, as others have stated, unexceptional. I’m originally from Cleveland & then Pittsburgh–the parts where there are (& were) buses, streetcars, rapid transit trains, taxis, etc.

    My maternal grandparents travelled similarly to Liz Z’s in Jersey City. I remember picking them up at the bus or train station. Sometimes my mom drove or sometimes we took the streetcar to the station & then walked to a small diner for a bite on the way to our house. So many people used those buses & trains. There was no stigma as far as I remember.

    I asked my grandfather why he didn’t have a car. He said he gave it up at the beginning of WWII & never looked back. Said they were a pain in the neck unless someone lived in the country or (I remember this) in a “place like California..where they will be sorry about letting the public transportation system go to hell..” –he was talking about the streetcar scandal.

    He would be shocked by how little (or no) public transport there is now in his small town.

    Sniff. OK, now I have to leave BOK until the iTunes Fairy leaves the new episode in my queue tomorrow. Have fun tonight!

  11. I’m 24 and most of my friends drive and have their drivers license. I dont…at least not yet. My friends are astounded that I dont drive and lecture me that I should. Um, I live in NYC and unfortunately rely on the MTA (which isn’t good on my wallet since fares are skyrocketing), so I dont see a reason to rush to drive.

    Anyway, back to Mad Men. These weren’t dreams but Don and Betty both were in car crashes which were symbolic. They both couldn’t control their own lives. Good dream analysis!

  12. @9 Deborah Lipp-NY isn’t the only state that does a non-driver ID. Conneticut has them too.

    I do find it interesting that Pete does not know how to drive while Trudy does. Is it possible Trudy was groomed for a life in the suburbs, before she decided she wanted to stay in New York.

    Also, I know we’re a few years away from it, but who is going to teach Sally to drive when it’s time to get her licene?

  13. #8, I actually love driving in NYC. I know the city very well (and Brooklyn) and there’s nothing more invigorating than sailing through the park, down Madison, the West Side Highway or the FDR. But I don’t do it at rush hour and I pay close attention to 1010WINS and WCBS (traffic and weather together on the 8s). Once you figure out not to compete with the crazies and let the taxis whiz by, it’s a splendid experience.

  14. Vincent Kartheiser doesn’t drive in real life, either. My boyfriend, who is not a Mad Men fan, sent me this article:

    I think the Pete not driving thing was intentionally worked in because of this fact.

    My boyfriend, also named Vincent, also doesn’t drive. He commutes by bike and we live in New Orleans. We can’t agree with him more on this quote:

    “They’ve done a study and they’ve found that people under 30 no longer view cars as status symbols or even positive things,” Mr. Kartheiser said. “They look at them as pollutants.”

  15. The funny thing that I didn’t include in this post is that I didn’t learn to drive until I was 25 and the only reason I decided it was a good time to learn was because I had had a dream in which I was driving.

  16. @7 Liz Z. I did notice the classic interiors (no doubt done with Mona and her interior designer years before), but somehow missed Jane siting on a modern piece of furniture. It was Jane who ridiculously designed Roger’s office. I wonder why she hasnt insisted on a complete redo at Casa Sterling.

    Loved that someone on another post pointed out that Mona was probably integral in keeping their social calendar and contacts current. The lightbulb just went off, and I realized the Louise and Larry joke! (God how I loved Bewitched). You can bet your boots Mona knew Larry died!

    Re NYC born and bred not learning to drive:…still not uncommon. Neither my neice or nephew learned to drive or have any interest it. This is such a huge teenage right of passage in the burbs, but it never phased either of them.

  17. #16 I love Roger’s office except for the Op-Art. A Warhol would have been so cool (esp one of Jane!) After all, he was a Mad Man.

  18. #16, a good point about Mona having kept Roger’s social calendar… yet another reason Roger is now so out-of-touch. His social life probably evaporated along with his marriage to Mona… something he didn’t foresee while he pursued Jane.

    His life must seem hollow now. Personally and professionally… Mona probably did lots for his professional life as well — wives/women do that. They listen. They ask questions. They hold a man’s history, over the years, even their work stories. Roger no longer has that part of himself… it’s as if he has evaporated as well. Who is he?

    As for state issued IDs, I have one here in Georgia. Mine looks like a driver’s license.

  19. #12 Sally has already driven a car, courtesy Grandpa Gene. She’ll probably need a bit more practice…

  20. It so totally makes sense that Sally drives and Pete doesn’t.

  21. I really like that phrase and concept: corrupt loyalty. If it is in general use, I have never heard it.

    A great way to think about when loyalty is, and when it is not, a good approach. Thank you for this post!

  22. Massachusetts has the non-driver IDs as well, I think all the states do (after all, the people that get their licenses taken away have to have some kind of identification.) I have a driver’s license because I grew up in the sticks where driving was necessary, but now that I live in Boston I don’t drive at all. I didn’t even want to get my license in the first place because I hate driving, but, alas, my parents made me do it anyway.

  23. Thank you, Anne!

  24. In the episode when Pete goes home after his father dies, doesn’t his mother live in a large house, not in the city? If that’s true, then he doesn’t not drive because he never got the chance (unless his parents moved to the house after he was already an adult, but that seems unlikely — it looked pretty old-school stuffy).

    Somebody chime in. I only watched the early season episodes once each. Maybe it was a large, stuffy apartment.

  25. Pete not driving was a big issue in “the Jet Set” season two. It did hender business as he had to call the California clients and ask if the would be willing to come to the hotel and meet him. Don was supposed to drive and had vanished. Pete was angry at Don weeks later when Don showed back up in New York.

  26. #16 DivaDebbi – Excellent point about Mona. Wives always remember important dates and the status of friends and colleagues. I’m sure Mona invested way more into not just the marriage but also his business life. Roger just didn’t know how important she was.

    I loved the Louise/Larry joke too. I hope that Roger has a best friend from the service named Anthony (Tony) married to Jeannie!

  27. One more thing: If Cooper’s leaving, then Harry should be made a partner. He’s in the same meetings, helping make decisions.

    You know Mrs. Crane’s whispering this every chance she gets.

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