“And you know what I’m talking about”

 Posted by on February 12, 2013 at 10:32 am  Season 2, Season 5
Feb 122013

You’re not a good man, you never were, even before we were married. And you know what I’m talking about.
—Joan Harris, Mystery Date

Greg Harris raped Joan Holloway in Episode 2.12, The Mountain King. We all watched. It wasn’t erotic or ambiguous or okay. And then she married him. And we all died inside a little.

We heard Matt Weiner say that women knew there were “bad dates” back in the day. There was no such crime as marital rape at the time, and you can find current references, in 2012, that it’s ridiculous to think that a woman can be raped by her own husband. Juries today will still hear evidence in rape cases that the victim previously had consensual sex with her assailant—as if the fact that I ever once let you borrow my car gives you eternal permission to take it from my garage.

So, in 1962 Greg raped Joan, and in 1966 she kicked him to the curb, alluding to that incident four years earlier. You’re not a good man, you never were, even before we were married. And you know what I’m talking about. It was intensely satisfying, and the audience needed to hear it.

But was it believable?

I have struggled with this scene ever since. I love it. I love it. I love Joanie’s strength, and honesty, and the plainness of her exhaustion. I love her final need to be a partner, and to be heard. I love that the woman who acceded to being replaced by an inexperienced man in A Night to Remember learned confidence and power at SCDP, and used that confidence to trust herself in her marriage.

But was it believable? Is the woman who didn’t like the way Peggy handled Joey the same woman who would tell Greg he isn’t a good man? Isn’t the Joan of 1966 still, essentially, a woman of the 1950s?

Not that she didn’t hate what happened to her. Not that she didn’t feel traumatized and wounded and freaked out. But would she truly have blamed Greg for not being good?

I don’t know. What do you think?


  18 Responses to ““And you know what I’m talking about””

  1. I also struggled with the denouement after the rape scene. Yes It is 1962, and I am old enough to remember how much more naive and trusting people were then. But there was certain behavior that would not be tolerated then as well as now.

    Having said that could two major factors played into Joan going through with the wedding:

    a) The idea of marrying a doctor, a prime catch even now, and fulfilling what she told Peggy in episode 1 season 1 of marrying well and living and retiring to the suburbs. Remember Joan did quit her job as SC and it is not hard to imagine she was not going to give that up because her fiance had not been gentle with her in Don’s office. After all he would have a lifetime to learn and he would not have to rape Joan after they were married.

    b) A major LOSS OF FACE of not going through with the wedding. Notice in season five when Joan blew up at the secretary after the process server served her with divorce papers. Joan has an awful lot of pride and would not want the word to get out the marriage would be called off between her “and her doctor.” And she is a very private person and would not want the office to know her business.

    As we know after her scene in the lobby, Don is an exception to the rule. He is the one person that will keep her confidence but even he she could talk about the rape.

    There are many awful things that have happened in MM; this is at the top of the list imho.

    • Couldn’t have said it better. Joan is a pragmatist– we saw that even in the pilot episode. She does what she has to do to maintain her image. Her liaison with Roger seems to have been totally under the radar at Sterling Cooper. We never heard gossip about it. It doesn’t seem that she was ever “in love” with Roger. She enjoyed the sex, but never expected more out of him and saw him for the child he is. She wants to maintain the fiction that Kevin is Greg’s child, probably because at that time, illegitimacy (a truly archaic term these days) carried a stigma.

      We shouldn’t have been too surprised that she slept with the Jaguar dealer. Once again, she did what she needed to do, to get where she wanted to go.

  2. Perhaps as well, Joan thought that it would change, and that once they were married and had a child, and he was a perfect doctor, it would get better. But it didn’t, and he continued to decide things without her.

    If he had changed, been a doting husband, even after joining the army, it would have been different, but she just got sick of waiting for him to change and include her in anything he decides, including having sex with her.

  3. Oh, I think this scene was fan service, no question about it. But I also think Joan having the baby in the first place was fan service. In fact, the Joan pregnancy story line always felt like they were going to have Joan abort, but changed their minds because of threats and pressure from fans for Joan to Have Roger’s Baybee. (If there’s going to be an abortion storyline on this show happening to a major character, I have a feeling it’s going to be Megan, because fans aren’t as emotionally invested in her as they are in Joan or Peggy.)

    The way I wrote this off in my mind is assuming that the rape we saw in Mountain King isn’t the only time Greg raped her, just the only time we saw, and that there were probably also a bunch of times when he didn’t physically force himself on her but made it very difficult for her to say no, even if she was ill or tired.

    • I’m confused. Which scene or scenes are fan service?

      • Deb was asking in the post whether the “you know what I’m talking about” scene was true to Joan’s character, or whether it was for giving the viewers the satisfaction of seeing Greg getting what was coming to him (i.e. fan service). I do think it’s the second thing. But I can deal with it, because it rights a story line that was threatening to lapse into soap opera (will Greg find out it’s Roger’s kid or won’t he?), which I think was also partly created in the first place to please fans who wanted Joan to have Roger’s kid regardless of whether it was in character for Joan or not.

    • I took Deb’s point to be that while the scene of Joan telling Greg off is extremely gratifying – for us, the audience (after all we all LOVE Joan) it is perhaps a stretch for her character to say what she said. In fact maybe the scene may be more for us to enjoy than for moving the plot or developing the characters.

      And I agree with Deb that Joanie’s words in 1966 seem a bit out of sync with her earlier outlook and commentary but I think it passes the believability test.

  4. I agree Meowser. I think it is safe to say that Greg was a bad actor on a number of occasions and what we saw was part of a pattern but we were only there to see it in 1962.

    This show is so good at balancing the way people really are – even strong characters are a blend of contradictions and rationalizations. Joan is the ultimate pragmatist, the doer, the fixer. She is a realist and knows that what you see is probably what you get. The practical Joan could see the real Greg coming from a mile away.

    But Joan, like Don is very capable of suspending what she sees in hope that the appearance and the ideal of the marriage to the doctor will actually work and that he would actually change. It is painful but a relief for us to see the “real Joan” throw the jerk out once and for all.

    I had the sense that part of Joan’s pain is that she knew this had to happen and she is angry with herself for not throwing him out a long time ago.

    • I agree with you, Davies and Meowser. There was a discussion on here about Joan saying she hadn’t slept all night and had been thinking before she told Greg it was over. I felt like she had been planning–not thinking. Joan is pragmatic and clear thinking. She knew many things about Greg were wrong–besides his being a rapist. We saw that during the dinner party with his coworkers and how she was after Greg joined up without telling her, and when he said she had never known what it was like to work for something and not get it.

  5. Perhaps Joan decided to overlook Greg’s violation, because she knew he felt a tinge of jealousy from Roger’s ‘I thought you hated French food’ comment. Could it be that she thought retroactively that he was somehow justified in his madness? As sharp as our Joanie is, she has a number of times displayed a sense of being sooo pliant to men. Sign of the times, maybe? It doesn’t explain every instance, however.
    Our Joanie is somewhat of a masochistic. She doesn’t have low self-esteem.
    Does she feel at her core that she doesn’t deserve total happiness with men, as compensation for being ridiculously beautiful? I don’t know.
    She has gone out with her share of duds, and that makes her like any other woman. Bad luck? She chooses wrong? The smartest people, at times make the dumbest decisions. Its tragic.

  6. Also: Joan may be getting the “consciousness raising” story line that a lot of people thought Betty was going to get. Finding out that Greg lied about having to go back to ‘Nam may have been her “click” moment (which Ms. Magazine would document in one of its first issues in 1972 as being the moment a woman realized that she deserved better from men). I think of Joan as being the Helen Gurley Brown wing of second-wave feminism (use your feminine wiles to wrest power from men), rather than the Betty Friedan wing (be so good at what you do that people forget you’re a woman) that Peggy seems to belong to.

  7. It’s interesting that you mentioned her reaction to Joey’s insults, because that’s exactly the reason I do buy that she would ultimately blame Greg for the “bad date.” To me, that storyline between Joey and Joan is all about Joan’s deeply buried anger over her husband’s awfulness. It begins with a sort of reenactment of Greg’s crime — Joey, resentful of Joan’s air of confident power in the office, tries to put her in her place sexually, going so far as to sneer that she’s “walking around like you’re trying to get raped.” Then, back at home, Greg passive-aggressively throws his own resentment in Joan’s face one last time: “Just pretend we’re in some midtown hotel and we both snuck out for the afternoon” — an echo of his insecure blather about Roger and his insistence that “this is what you want, right?” during the rape scene.

    For me, though, the most telling scene is when she goes off on Joey and the rest of the men in the creative suite: “I can’t wait until next year when all of you are in Vietnam. You will be pining for the day when someone was trying to make your life easier.” This from a woman who had previously been so jittery about any talk of war and death, because it reminded her of what might happen to her husband. (“I don’t want to hear it. My husband’s gonna be in uniform any day now.”) To me, this turnabout says that something significant has changed in Joan’s outlook — Joey’s comments have forced her to confront how angry she really is, how much she hates being powerless and abused. And I think it’s not just the SCDP guys but Greg she’s talking to in that scene: “When you’re over there and you’re in the jungle and they’re shooting at you, remember you’re not dying for me, because I never liked you.”

    • Yes, I think so, too. I think her complaint with how Peggy handled Joey didn’t have anything to do with Joey being fired, but Joan wanted to be the one who got him fired if anyone did; she thought Peggy doing it left them both open for more harassment, instead of what Peggy thought, which was, “Screw them, I can just keep firing their asses one by one by one if they don’t behave.” Also, the fact that Peggy could just fire him and Joan couldn’t probably made Joan face once and for all that Peggy was the number one woman in the office now. Joan can only fire other women.

      Peggy basically couldn’t win that one; if she didn’t fire Joey, Don would have accused her of being a wimpy whiner, and if she did, Joan would accuse her of caring more about being queen bee than about what happened to other women. Of course, what Joan doesn’t know is how Peggy dealt with harassment from a man she couldn’t fire (Stan); if she knew that, she’d know that Stan thought of Peggy as anything but a “humorless bitch” to draw cartoons about.

      • The current couple male generations probably appreciate working for Peggy differently than Stan’s and Joey’s did. I certainly appreciate how Peggy has dealt with Stan and Ginsberg and how she gave Joey a chance to “make up” with Joan. Joey blew it, he had a chance to be decent and apologize and when he revealed more of his thick skull, Peggy cut him loose. She even softened it a bit: “It’s just a job, Joey” (and a temp job, at that.)

        When she called Stan out on his “liberated” posturing, I doubt that Peggy expected him to develop a crush (she wanted to shut his mouth and get on with her weekend). I have little doubt that she regarded the crush as a bonus. It certainly helped to get him off the asshole track and get to work.

        At series’ start Joan and Peggy were definitely women-of-the-50s, but look how they have gathered power and position! We must regard both of them as trail blazing gradualists who have done it with machetes instead of carpet bombs.

        • When Joan met Greg she was office manger/secretary, then she worked at the department store. When she kicked him out she was chief finanical officer, even though she hadn’t gotten a raise it was a more powerful position.

    • I think you are absolutely right. Joan would certainly have encountered a lot of of sexism and harrassment at work and her losing composure was out of character.

  8. The most interesting aspect of that scene for me was Gail’s reaction. Even after they found out about Greg lying she was still trying to persuade Joan to stay with him. Once Joan made the decision Gail didn’t say anything and from her staying with Joan afterward we can assume she supported her–their sniping at eachother was just part of their relationship. I think Gail had known all along that something was deeply wrong. She supported Joan’s marriage the best she could while Joan wanted to stay married. Once Joan decided to leave Greg we saw what Gail really thought of him. Hope we see more of Gail next season.

    • I will be disappointed if we don’t get at least a few Gail/Joan scenes in S6. And its clear, from the way each greets the others snipes, that that way of interacting is just business as usual.

      I suspect Weiner purposely cast Gail’s character with those edges that bother so many of us now – much like Betty in her nastier moments with Sally. I’ll bet if he were asked about Gail he’d say, like he’s said about Betty, that “she’s not so bad”.

      As for her advice about Greg, she knew that trying to make it without a husband is a tough road.

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