The Hangman’s Noose

 Posted by on May 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Season 5
May 312012

The Other Woman: Joan has decided to accept the partnership. We see her in Pete’s office, and as she rises to leave, we see a detail of her dress that wasn’t obvious at first. The neckline is actually a scarf that comes all the way around the neck and hangs down the back.

Like a noose. Like a noose at the end of the hangman’s rope.

In a very different meeting, between Peggy and Ted Chaough, Peggy also has a scarf wrapped tightly around her neck, but as far as we can see, there’s no “rope” detail.

Both women have been strangled by work. Joan has been hung out to dry, she has been condemned, she has been sacrificed–all metaphors that work perfectly with a dress that strangles and hangs her, as if from the gallows.

A scarf around the neck does something else as well—it divides head from body. Both Peggy and Joan have to cut themselves off from what they feel to do what they know is best for them. Both have made a “head” decision that requires a “heart” sacrifice. Both are, therefore, divided at the neck. Peggy has a clear demarcation in the Chaough scene, and later wears a cowl neck when resigning.

Joan hangs herself for Pete and the partners, and then goes to meet Herb bare-necked. He hangs her, and divides her, a second time, with an emerald necklace.

(Credit where credit is due: To Kevin Lee for the awesome screenshots, and to Roberta, for noticing the necklace as a second hanging and the cowl neck on Peggy.)


  55 Responses to “The Hangman’s Noose”

  1. Brilliant analysis. How about a lariat, too? It’s thrown around a neck to draw something in.

    Furthermore, what does it say about Joan’s career-long statement that “men love scarves”?

    And what of men always in ties, including Cooper’s ever-present bowtie?

    • Well, as usual Deborah, I am in awe.
      I thought that was a very unusual detail on Joan’s dress. It resonated, but I couldn’t make sense of it…Wowza.

      • that’s exactly how i felt, divadebbi…i just couldn’t put my finger on it…great analysis, deborah!

        who do you think would be responsible for those costume choices…automatically, i want to say costume director (janey?), but there is a pause…would it be script direction?

  2. The scarf reminded me of a leash.

    • Me, too.

      • I wonder if BUFF will expect their arrangement continue as long as SCDP partners with Jaguar. If so, she would be like a pet.

        It also fits in with what becomes Jaguar’s ultimate tagline — Joan is something beautiful BUFF can truly own, so long as Jaguar stays with the firm. I’m worried about the next two episodes.

    • I also thought of a leash.

  3. Holy Cow! You’re right! Dang, that Janie Bryant is brilliant!

  4. Just throwing this out there as pure speculation — do you think this ties in at all to the noose Don was drawing in the partners’ meeting a few episodes back?

    • Wow….great catch!

    • You just blew my mind.

    • Good one!

    • not exactly on topic, but this has been bothering me since Don doodled that noose – how can he casually do this when he was ( at least somewhat) responsible for his brother’s suicide by hanging?

      • Casually? Or obsessively?

        • so then, are we to interpret this behavior as Don’s ability to repress Adam’s suicide and this doodle is the unconscious expression?

      • I do not like this conviction that family members are to be held responsible for the suicide committed within the family unit. In fact it’s really offensive.

        And to this particular instance, Don is only a half-sibling who had been gone from his “family” for nearly 20 years. If he had any obligation at all (and I do not think he does) to Adam, it was minimal. If anyone should be held responsible for Adam’s mental state and suicide, it is his parents.

      • it’s these sorts of parallels that makes me love this blog!

  5. Excellent!

    Your points about dividing head from body reminded me of Joan’s advice to Peggy in Episode 1. About putting a paper bag (with eye holes) over your head, looking in the mirror, and “be honest.” I really cringed at that advice. I’ve heard that some men have made jokes about girls they’ve been out with–that someone who’s not too attractive looks great with a paper bag over her head. It seems such a crude, misogynistic thing to think or do, and I was disappointed that Joan would subscribe to it. Even though I realize what Joan was saying was different—cover the face to make sure the body is looking as good as it could. (To please men who will see it)

    Last week’s episode made me see what we’ve seen before—Joan really sees herself fitting into a man’s world. She doesn’t want to try to reinvent the wheel. As others have pointed out, she made her decision (in the episode) based on what options she felt were open to her at the time. She wasn’t happy about it, but she did it, to insure a future for herself and her son.

    Peggy of course is going for a career in a male-dominated field, copywriting, but she’s determined to go as far as she can in her career. If one company can’t do it for her, then it’s time to cut the losses and try somewhere else.

    • You know, about the bag advice, I’ve heard people give this advice in recent years and when I was in college in the 90’s I was told that one sorority on campus allegedly made a habit of segregating the “pretty girls” in one room and the “not pretty girls” during rush and then once they had their pledges they would line them up in order of appearance from “prettiest” to “least pretty.” They also allegedly also had the girls stand in their underwear would use a marker to circle the less attractive parts of their bodies and encourage them to work on them. The person who told me this was in a sorority but not that specific sorority so it could just be made up or an exageration but the thing that made me suspect it could possibly be true was when I ran into a friend from high school in the store one summer and saw that she had a key ring from that specific sorority, I remarked to her “oh I see you are “blah, blah” sorority,” and her first reaction was a stricken look and then an “I swear Lisa (my real name) we are NOTHING like those girls at University X (my school).” If there wasn’t something fishy going on there I don’t think I would have gotten that reaction. It is scary how these ways of women putting themselves and other women down with this body image stuff especially since these girls were supposed to be “sisters.”

      • I’ve also heard similar things about a sorority at my school forcing girls to stand on a table in their underwear and circle “imperfections” with permanent marker. I believe it.

  6. I saw Joan’s scarf dress as calling back to the time when she sayshayed down the halls of SC, in a position lower than the one she holds now (and was much more ogled). She wore dresses with the same detail then, and she seems to dress more mature now.

    After all, one of her first piece of advice to Peggy was that men love scarves 🙂

  7. What I love about this blog is that you and your commenters catch things that I don’t (even on my 2nd or 3rd viewing) and then I read it and I’m like “Of course that’s what that means!” Really great catch of a really great detail, like Peggy’s pantyhose-colored dress when she was pitching Topaz.

  8. A noose in jaguar print.

    • The noose interpretation resonates, but my first thought was leash too.

      • I noticed the animal print and knew that had to be deliberate, but thought it had several levels. I love the attention to detail in this show!

  9. OMG, this makes me feel like I’m back in Norman O. Brown’s undergraduate lit class trying to make heads or tails of Finnegan’s Wake (unsuccessfully). This is not addressed to any poster in particular and all the speculation is a lot of fun, but seriously do you think that MM is this thought-out? I’ve never met anyone involved in the MM creative process and I’m pretty late to the show, so I can’t really say. On Inside the Actor’s Studio, Jon Hamm said that the creative process was like riding a train; basically, you’ve got to hang on for dear life to arrive in the station at the end of filming. Oh and btw (not to change the subject), that was one of the few coherent parts of that show (which was edited to bits and at moments kind of inappropriate to boot).

    • Sometimes it’s exactly this thought out, and sometimes the train ride has powerful subconscious stuff attached and we get to make it conscious in the act of viewing.

      • I agree with you completely about the subconconscious part. When you create something new, you invest the sum of all your life experiences into that new thing on every level. In my life, I’ve felt/seen that in creative processes of all kinds, writing prose/poetry/analysis, creating visual art, making music, etc..

        If you’re talking about the MM writers and actors (even editors and directors), this level of scrutiny from so many commenters on this blog regarding symbolism seems totally acceptable to me. It’s all there on screen in the words and acting. That’s what I love about MM. The quality is just tremendous – for television, amazing.

        Also, the costumes are perfect for MM. I guess I need to go online elsewhere to read/watch interviews with Janie Bryant so I can find out more about her background and modus operandi, and also to learn about MW’s input in terms of the costumes. I’m sure that what I’ve heard/read about Bryant’s work is incomplete, but I have a close relative who’s a costumer/costume designer in theatre and movies (not sure about TV) and I really respect her skills. There’s a massive amount of searching and shopping in second-hand stores involved in this kind of period work. Sometimes maybe you go with the most appropriate stuff you find that can be altered to work for your actors. I’m just not sure about the amount of symbolic intent in costuming. It’s there of course, but it might not be as detailed as some are supposing in this thread.

  10. I was happy to see someone else connect the dots between Don’s noose and the scarves on Joan and Peggy. I gasped at Joan’s jaguar-print hangman’s scarf, and then again when I saw Peggy was wearing a noose-scarf too. I wondered if anyone else would draw the same connection.

    • I thought it looked like a man’s tie, only on the back instead of the front.

      • Ruthie, I had the same take on Joan’s dress till I took a closer look. It does have a noose look, doesn’t it? I think that’s a coincidence but the jaguar print was a nice touch. I did find the Topaz stocking sampler dress to be an awesome observation! My mind went to Don’s brother when I saw the noose sketch.

  11. I’m pretty sure Peggy was wearing the Hermes scarf that Duck gave her, It’s been folded to look like a wide band, but I recognize the print.

    Interesting – Duck offered her a job too, but not anything like what the position Ted offered.

  12. What a fantastic and keenly observant analysis. “He hangs her, and divides her, a second time, with an emerald necklace.” “Divides her”–wow.

    For me, one of the most uncomfortable moments is when Herb gives her the necklace, and in doing so deftly dips the pendant–albeit just for an instant–into her cleavage. Such a subtle and glittery act of possession.

    • Great observation Deb and right on the money Xiola. I remember thinking the emerald necklace (while certainly a nice necklace) is not given out of affection (how can it be?). It is an adornment or accessory such as one would associate with a car – a thing and a possession. Let’s be clear, Joan appreciates nice things but her expression says it all. This episode was good but oh-so disturbing.

      Even Megan’s friend on the table acting out the jaguar – as if on a leash. Women were portrayed as things so fast and often that I lost count. Still reeling here in Denver . . .

  13. Great comments! The noose-scarf brought to mind another “backside” detail from Joan’s wardrobe: the red dress with the big bow at the back that Roger asked her to wear at the Christmas party. He told her (I don’t have his exact wording) it made her look like a present — implicitly a present to be unwrapped. Mission accomplished here, Roger.

  14. “Peggy has a clear demarcation in the Chaough scene, and later wears a cowl neck when resigning. ”

    great observation – it was pointed out in Tom & Lorenzo blog that Ted was more progressive because he was not wearing a tie like the SCDP exec’s but a turtleneck instead.

  15. The hangman’s noose is also symbolic of a lynching. And what is the purpose of a lynching besides to kill the victim? To satisfy the bloodlust of the mob by acting outside the law or convention. Isn’t that what the partners did?

    Was Don the town marshal whose job was to keep his prisoner locked up so the mob should not get at her? Instead the mob broke into the jail in the dead of night, took away forcibly to hung from the highest tree, eyes all bulging out and shouting at the top of their lungs that justice was being served.

    Don was asleep at the switch and allowed it to happen. He should stopped the mob. At least this is how Don may see Joan sleeping with the Jaguar executive.

    But Joan gets the last laugh because from the ashes of her corpse rises a phoenix. It is only through death that Joan can be reborn.

    • Don Draper as Atticus Finch. Sally Draper comes into the office with the SCDP partners and says ” Hey Mr. Campbell, please say hey to Tammy for me.” At that moment Pete realizes he’s been a misoginist pig and Joan’s honor is saved.

  16. I never saw this as a noose at all. As soon as I saw it, I thought “man’s necktie worn backwards”. Just the cut of the silk, with the points at the ends, looks much more necktie than noose. But worn in this way, it is liable to choke its wearer in a way that a conventionally worn tie wouldn’t. But it’s the wearer’s own doing–it’s her choice. I thought, Is she playing the men’s game, but in the way of a woman? And is this “the other woman?”

  17. I’m not sure where the origin of this episode’s title comes from; but when Jeff Buckley’s “The Other Woman” popped up on my iPod recently, it fits very well with Joan’s life to date and could have been an influence on why Joan chooses this particular time to make a move (Did Roger Sterling participate in this discussion? / I’m not going to stand in the way but I’m not paying for it):

    “The Other Woman”

    The other woman finds time to manicure her nails
    The other woman is perfect where her rival fails
    And she’s never seen with pin curls in her hair

    The other woman enchants her clothes with french perfume
    The other woman keeps fresh cut flowers in each room
    There are never toys that’s scattered everywhere

    And when her baby comes to call
    He’ll find her waiting like a lonesome queen
    Cause when she’s by his side
    It’s such a change from old routine

    But the other woman will always cry herself to sleep
    The other woman will never have his love to keep
    And as the years go by the other woman
    Will spend her life alone

  18. I just happened to notice that Adam Whitman’s noosewear reminds me of a necktie. Nothing gets past ol’ Frank.

  19. Deb,

    Amazing post and insights! I wonder if MW and Janie Bryant could have also been referencing the Tarot card “The Hanged Man” (I know this is up your alley Deb, so please correct as you see fit).

    One interpretation of the card is that once you see things from another perspective you can understand their true nature. In a negative sense, I’ve had this experience with people. In that there have been people who I thought were helping me but who were actually either trying to screw me over or trying to further their own interests in the guise of furthering mine. I wonder if this could be the case with Joan and Peggy.

    Lane tells Joan to take 5% of SCDP instead of $50K in the guise of helping her secure her future. But Lane’s real motivation is to hide his embezzlement and the fact that the company is in debt $50K not ahead $50 K as he told the partners. And if Joan sleeps w/the Jaguar creep it will secure Jaguar and Lane can pay off his debts. But if anything goes wrong down the line (like Jaguar falling through or Ken leaving and taking his accounts after Peggy quits), Lane’s lies will be revealed and Joan may eventually end up with 5% of nothing. So Joan could end up with a “Double Hanged Man.” From the Tarot perspective, she’ll see Lane’s actions from another perspective and realize their true nature. And she would have also hung herself, sacrificed her dignity for nothing.

    For Peggy, there’s the question of whether Ted hired her for her talent or to screw Don over. If it’s the latter then Peggy could be in trouble. What will Peggy do if once she joins Ted’s firm she hears a rumor that “Olsen wasn’t sure whether to leave Draper, but after one night with me she thought I was better and that sealed the deal.”? I wouldn’t put it past Don obsessed Ted. Then Peggy will have her “Double Hanged Man” situation. She’ll see Ted’s true nature and the motivations behind the flattery of her talents. And she would have hung herself career wise. She can’t go back to SCDP not will she like working for Ted.

    • The Hanged Man is hung by his feet, not his neck. Very clearly, in this episode, we see scarves across necks, so in this case I think not.

  20. I see your point. I was thinking more metaphorically than literally.

    Also, in “Indian Summer” Adam hangs himself by the neck. But once Don hears of Adam’s death the life he saw as one of plenty becomes barren in his mind. A kind of “Hanged Man” moment, the same life looks different to Don once he realizes he has almost no one who truly cares for him.

    • Sorry Deborah, the above reply was to your reply, internet connection was cut for a few moments and my post came here.

  21. was it brilliant fashion foreshadowing? this week’s episode puts a new twist on the ‘noose’ in the office.
    Mad Men is just plain amazing.

  22. Interesting that is tonight’s episode, not one word is said about Peggy. No What are we going to do without Peggy” or anything like that. In a way, that’s the way it is when someone leaves, especially to work for a competitor. It’s like they never existed.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.