Early on in of Mad Men episode 7.09, New Business, Don’s secretary, Meredith, tells Harry Crane that she’d be afraid to got o California because the “the Manson brothers could be running around.” Taking place in May of 1970, the The Tate-LaBianca murders committed by, as Harry quickly corrects Meredith, the “Manson FAMILY” would certainly be front and center in the minds of many. However, as nothing on Mad Men is random, it’s hard to imagine these were throw-away lines added strictly to be a period cultural reference or, as some reviewers have postulated, an inside joke about past predictions that Megan would get somehow caught up in the Manson murders of the late 1960’s. Instead, this seems to be a deliberate device in an episode that focuses on outside intruders and dysfunctional families.
New Business opens with an awkward moment between Don and Betty as Don loudly makes himself at home using Betty’s blender to mix milkshakes for the children. From Betty’s perspective, this is an intrusion of sorts and precedes a shot of Don reflecting on how his former family is no more.
The storyline of Don’s latest love interest, Diana (“Di”/”die”), is particularly dark and creates an air of foreboding. Don intrudes upon her life and finds out where she works after talking to her former manager. In an exchange during an intimate moment that, on the face of it, seems almost banal, Don tells Diane that she smells “incredible.” She replies that it’s because of the shampoo she bought from Avon — a company whose marketing strategy relied heavily on “home invasions.” Diane adds: “I bought it in my living room” At the risk of being overly analytic, it’s notable that the victims of the Tate-LaBianca murders also euphemistically “bought it” in their respective living rooms at the hands of home invaders.
Diana’s familial dysfunction is revealed by her subsequent sad admission to having lost one child to illness and abandoning the other.
A chance encounter in the elevator of his apartment building with Arnold and Sylvia Rosen reminds the audience of how Don’s invasion of their home disrupted two families.
The “Pima” Ryan character clearly invades Stan Rizzo’s world in a number of ways. She arrives uninvited (from his perspective) at the agency, at one point, appears suddenly in his office, and finally manipulates her way into his dark room. Arguably, Pima also disrupts Stan’s “family” life by seducing the art director knowing full well he is in a relationship. Furthermore, there’s something eerie about the dark hooded models quickly shown being posed by Pima for her Cinzano photo shoot.
Finally, Megan’s mother, Marie, commits the ultimate act of home invasion when she arranges to takes all of the living room furnishings in Don’s apartment. At one point, Megan and Marie note a wine stain left on the bedroom carpet during Don’s tryst with the TWA fight attendant from the previous episode. The red stain could easily be mistaken for blood. That Marie is leaving Megan’s father is yet another example of family dysfunction depicted in New Business.
The episode ends with Don, who has been pushed away by Diana and formally ended his marriage to Megan, returning home to an apartment that is both literally and figuratively empty.
Author’s Note: I realized as I was writing this that I ran the risk of being as overly aggressive in interpreting the symbolism of New Business as Charles Manson himself was in deconstructing what he saw as hidden meanings in The Beatles “White Album.” Yet, there it is.