It’s a Jungle Out There

 Posted by on April 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm  Season 5
Apr 252012

Two 1966 movie reference are allegories for the domestic tribulations experienced by Don/Megan and Roger/Jane in in Far Away Places.  One film, The Naked Prey, is a study in savagery that takes place in Africa.  Born Free, set on the same continent, takes a much softer view of surviving in the wild.  Abe mentions The Naked Prey before getting into a heated argument with Peggy at the opening of  the episode.  Later, Peggy has a drug induced encounter with another man while watching a screening of Born Free.

That both of these films are part of Peggy’s storyline establish her as a focal point for the relationship struggles of the respective married couples depicted in the episode.

The Naked Prey follows a group of men on safari who are killed in horrifying ways after insulting a local tribe.  Given “The Lion’s Chance” by the tribal leader, the main protagonist, Cornel Wilde, is and let loose to be hunted by a band of warriors.  Peggy’s argument with Abe (who brings up The Naked Prey) links the film to the marital spat between Don and Megan.  As in The Naked Prey, Don spends a good amount of the story hunting for Megan. At one point, Don angrily chases her through their apartment like the warriors who chase Wilde’s character.

Born Free, as its famous musical theme would indicate, is a “feel good” film about the challenges a lion must face to survive in the wild.  Peggy’s  brief encounter with the man at the movies is initiated through drug use and presented as a much less emotionally volatile experience.  This is similar to how Roger and Jane’s LSD induced breakup unfolds.

It’s worth noting that at the peak of their respective domestic “battles,” both Roger and Jane and Don and Megan are shown lying down on the floor next to each other in similarly composed high angle shots.  Of course, as with Peggy’s Born Free encounter, Roger and Jane deal with their domestic situation in a pleasant and detached manner.  Like the magazine ad featured in the episode, Don and Megan deal with their marital differences in a diametrically opposed fashion.

Interestingly, while Don and Megan resolve their dispute (for the moment), Roger and Jane seem destined to part company.  By calling Abe near the end of Far Away Places, Peggy seems to be choosing the former approach.  However, a final shot of Peggy taken from the conference room pointedly shows her walking in the opposite direction of Megan (and, presumably Don).  So, it’s not yet clear how the relationship dialectic presented in Far Away Places will ultimately synthesize for Peggy.


  18 Responses to “It’s a Jungle Out There”

  1. “Peggy has a drug induced encounter with another man”

    This is hardly a “defense” of Peggy, but she was high, not drunk. A little Mary Jane might enhance the encounter but not lower the inhibitions to get started.

    Others have pointed out that it was the first situation that day where Peggy had things firmly in hand (metaphor intended). She was induced by frustration.

    A nitpick, I know, but that’s what we do here.

    • I concede your nit and would alter post but don’t really care for how the alliteration of “drug enhanced encounter” reads. :)

      However, I’d still firmly assert that the “drug” element was deliberated included here so as to parallel this part of Peggy’s storyline with Roger and Jane’s.

  2. Maybe I am overthinking this but the film Born Free always ties into the episode’s theme of abandonment when Peggy seems worried that the cub, which is abondoned by its mother, wont make it on its own

    • I think it’s valid to point out how other elements of Born Free tie in with Peggy. For instance, during the theater scene, a character from Born Free can be heard talking about first dates at the exact same moment Peggy is having her own “first date.”

  3. Fight or flight, baby. Fight or flight. Everyone for him/herself.

    The year of living dangerously is 1966.

  4. I heard and saw the “movie” mentions in this episode as an echo of Ginsberg’s Cinderella pitch in “Mystery Date”. He described Cinderella as “wounded prey”.

    Every man for himself, indeed. Every woman, too.

    Nice work, Matt!

  5. I remember seeing “Born Free” at the Stage Door theater on Mason street in San Francisco at the behest of my 4th grade teacher. My mom drove me and she was displeased about it because she thought it was on Masonic not Mason, making it twice as far to drive me (and pick me up). The Stage Door is now a dance club called Ruby Skye.

    This has not much to do with Matt’s post but that’s what I remember about it.

    The setting of both films is Africa but the themes are man’s cruelty to man, and man’s charity towards animals. Reading a synopsis of “The Naked Prey” the story is implausible. African natives devise a cruel torture because the safari party won’t give them a bribe? So I looked it up, the story is loosely based on something that happened in the US in the 19th century, based on the experiences of explorer John Colter, who was pursued by Blackfoot warriors through frontier Wyoming in 1809.

    Of course Colter was trespassing and had killed some Indians earlier. Instead of killing him, the Blackfeet captured him and then gave him a head start to run for his life. Even though he had murdered others of the tribe.

    I am frequently amazed at our stories of xenophobia. Even Bridesmaids was ruined for me when they attribute food poisoning to eating Brazilian churrasco. More likely they’d have gotten it from a hot dog stand.

    • I had read that The Naked Prey was actually based on something that happened in Wyoming as well.

      Having seen the film, I think that even though the tribal warriors are clearly the “bad guys,” director Cornel Wilde does a good job of treating them with a certain amount of dignity. OTOH, the white safari members are portrayed as intruders who eschew local customs to their peril. Of course, Wilde doesn’t attempt to make a statement one way or another on colonialism in the same way that Apocalypto (a film definitely influenced by The Naked Prey) does at the end.

      Just my 2 cents…

    • For the triiva fans, John Colter was the first white man to discover what is now known as Yellowstone Park. For a time, it was known as “Colter’s Hell.”

  6. Although NY state is only metaphorically a jungle, the abandonment of Megan by Don left her from that moment subject to the law of the jungle that the movie The Naked Prey encapsulates. And as the abandonment of Elsa and the line from the movie “back to the drawing board” illustrates it is that the mindset or the emotion attached to being abandoned cannot be wiped away with a magic wand.

    Yes both Megan and Elsa have either returned or become a part of civilization but that in no way will remove the scars associated with being subject to the laws of the jungle, at least not for a long time.

  7. In 1906 Upton Sinclair wrote a fictional book called The Jungle which describes and highlights the horrific conditions that existed in meatpacking plants and slaughterhouses in Chicago from the point of view of a recently landed immigrant who feels like a fish out of water in America and is put in danger everyday he works at the plant because of unsafe working conditions. A secondary theme becomes the production of unsafe beef that arises out of these working conditions and the corruption of the meatpacking owners.

    But Sinclair by his own admission wrote the book to shine the spotlight on the exploitation of workers and the evil of capitalism in the meat-packing jungle but as it turned out the majority of readers saw the main theme of the book as the need for the meatpacking industry to make working conditions much safer for their workers and to turn out a product that was not harmful to the public. In turn public pressure led to the passing of the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 by the federal government.

    After the passage of these acts Sinclair said, “I aimed at the public’s heart and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

    So bearing this scenario in mind could the scene of the abandonment of Megan Draper in a HJ parking lot in MM to produce a shocking, gut-wrenching, emotional-charged moment in time for TV viewers take on greater importance by being the casus belli that stimulates pressure on government to pass more stringent laws that impose higher fines or penalties on anyone who abandons someone as Megan Draper was abandoned by her husband Don?

    • Oh come on.

    • I don’t see how you could see leaving an adult alone at a hotel /restaurant as a crime

      • If you abandoned an adult in the middle of a desert without food or water would you consider that a crime? If an adult deliberately left his or her young child in Disneyland all day without adult supervision, should that be considered a crime? Should abandoning your family to run off with another man/woman be considered a crime?

        Imho, abandoning someone against their will should always be a misdemeanor or crime regardless of where it happened. Just because nothing life-threatening occurred does not make the act any less serious. And let me be crystal-clear, when I am talking about abandoning someone I am talking intentional or deliberate abandonment where the one abandoned becomes subject to the law of the jungle or becomes very vulnerable as a result of the abandonment. By driving off and leaving Megan in the HJ parking lot and not returning immediately, for all intents and purposes Don Draper had abandoned her. And one of the key aspects of deliberate abandonment is the person who is being abandoned is not prepared to be abandoned or prepared to face the consequences of being abandoned.

        What I find fascinating is that some of the same people who do not consider abandoning another adult in a HJ parking lot as criminal are the first people to assert that driving without a seat belt should be a misdemeanor or a crime, smoking a joint in the privacy one’s bedroom should be at least an offense worthy of a fine, and watching internet porn on your computer should be viewed as an illegal activity.

        Megan called Don a “pig.” Because it is TV she couldn’t say what she really wanted to say but suffice it to say it would have been a lot worse if it were real-life.

        • You’re really overstating your case. Of course it shouldn’t be a crime to leave an adult alone. None of us should be prisoners of our relationships, and no adult should need the consent of another to have agency over his or her own body. You cannot legally compel me to donate an organ or to take a job, and you certainly can’t legally compel me to stand still and not walk/drive away.

          What I find fascinating is that some of the same people who do not consider abandoning another adult in a HJ parking lot as criminal are the first people to assert that driving without a seat belt should be a misdemeanor or a crime, smoking a joint in the privacy one’s bedroom should be at least an offense worthy of a fine, and watching internet porn on your computer should be viewed as an illegal activity.

          In fact, we’ve discussed none of those issues here, so you have no idea whether the people you’re arguing with hold those opinions. In this case, what you find fascinating is derived entirely from your own imagination. I suggest you dial down the straw man thing.

        • I suggest you consider that brevity may help your various arguments and hobby horses. I end up skipping 80% of 80% of your overwhelmingly many posts because you go on too long. Just a thought, that you’re welcome to ignore.

    • While what Don did to her was truly horrible, he did leave her at a hotel with a room that was already reserved for them. She is a grown woman who somehow made it from Canada to NYC on her own. This was a “crime” in a relationship sense but not in a legal sense. This is a minor detail but in the middle of the argument, he did tell her to get in the car and she refused. I think I would have too but she knew he was leaving in anger.

      This brings up an interesting point to me that he would not leave his children alone at a strange place. So he seems to pick and choose the moments he treats Megan as a child and treats her as an adult.

  8. Had time to digest the jungle aspect of the episode which has led me to believe that playing off Matt Weiner’s main theme for the year as being “every man for himself” that this week’s episode was all about SURVIVAL, with various aspects of survival being explored in the 3 vignettes.

    a) The Peggy episode

    Ginsberg: Survival as a displaced person who feels he has no home port to call his own (historical adversity)

    Peggy: Survival and rebounding from temporary setback (land on one’s feet)

    b) Roger and Jane episode

    Roger: Surviving the truth (Matt Weiner calls it an epiphany)

    Jane: Financial survival (maintaining the status quo)

    c) Megan and Don

    Megan: Surviving the law of the jungle (come out the other side)

    Don: Survival of his marriage (by the skin of your teeth)

    For Ginsberg, survival has been part of his long-term biography and not a temporary episode.

    For Peggy, survival has been about climbing up the ladder in a male-dominated culture that favors male copywriters.

    For Roger, survival in his words can be described as being on shore leave for the past 20 years.

    For Jane, survival is no more than preserving her lifestyle that she has grown accustomed to under Roger.

    For Megan, mere survival has never been her goal; she always expects to thrive whether it be on her own or attached to a life partner.

    For Don, survival is all about living life like there is no tomorrow (Don’s own words) and still rising the next day.

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