Peggy always wants a mentor

 Posted by on April 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm  Mad Men
Apr 212015
Mad Men, The Strategy: Don and Peggy work on the Burger Chef campaign

Photo Credit: Courtesy of AMC

Sterling Cooper was, if not Peggy’s first job out of secretarial school, certainly a very early job; she was 21. She immediately took to Joan as a mentor, and Joan immediately treated her as a protégé to be groomed. Part of the hostility between Joan and Peggy, especially in Season 1, is that this was a poor fit for that kind of relationship.

In The Suitcase, we learned that Peggy’s father dropped dead right in front of her when she was quite young. It’s no wonder, then, that Peggy seeks the guidance of a father-figure.

Don fulfilled that role beautifully. As difficult, and sometimes cruel, as Don has been to Peggy over the years, he’s always been fully a mentor; recognizing talent, grooming abilities, encouraging growth. If he’s also slapped her down, well, Peggy wants a Daddy, not a buddy, so a slap-down isn’t the end of the world.

Peggy went straight from Don to Ted. If Ted is closer in age, and more romantic than fatherly, he’s still a mentor, still someone who nurtures her talent and praises it.

When working for Lou Avery, Peggy is totally at sea. She has no idea how to work for someone who is just her boss. She doesn’t understand what to do, because she’s never done it. Part of her hammering and hammering at the “conversation piece” idea for Accutron in the beginning of Season 7 is that she’s accustomed to great work being acknowledged as great, and she really has no clue what you do next in this situation.

Peggy wants her mentor back. She wants great ideas to be the rule.

Did you park your white horse outside? Spare me the suspense and tell me what your save-the-day plan is.
Peggy to Don: The Strategy

Most of Season 7.1 is spent with Peggy hating Don, but she needs his mentorship, and she needs the simple gift of someone with ideas.

NOTE: This was written before The Forecast aired, but I think it’s so consistent with my understanding of Peggy that she can’t stand doing her own performance review. Without Daddy reviewing it, it’s just not good enough.


  16 Responses to “Peggy always wants a mentor”

  1. While I think there might be some father issues, the way I’ve always read it is someone who lacks complete confidence in herself. Remember, she didn’t go to college and doesn’t have a sales background. She showed up looking for a secretarial job because that’s the job she was expected to get before she got a husband and raised her family. Then suddenly she’s pushed into a whole new world (both in her work life and her personal life) with a far different set of possibilities and expectations then the girl from Brooklyn had any knowledge of how to handle.

    And on top of all of this, she enjoys the life she has now, which means there’s a part of her that’s constantly terrified she’s going to screw something up and everyone is going to realize she doesn’t belong and send her back to the life she was supposed to have.

    She’s been winging it since the start of the show (she didn’t even have time to figure out how to be Don’s secretary before she got pulled into creative) with no way of gauging whether she’s doing it right or not beyond someone specifically telling her. So when Don tells her that she’s doing good work or she’s not, then she can relax and just focus on doing the work without constantly second guessing herself and wondering how close she is to screwing everything up.

    • I agree and think this was illustrated particularly in Waterloo when Don goes to Peggy’s hotel room to tell her she’s giving the Burger Chef pitch. He KNOWS she can do it, and I think she does, too, but she needs him to tell her that she can.

  2. Not only does Peggy want a mentor, but she even at times behaves like her mentor, although we never see her having anyone to mentor. Peggy came close to mentoring Megan, and then was furious when Megan decided that she no longer wanted to be a copywriter.

    When Peggy leaves SCDP and becomes copy chief for Ted at CGC, we often see her emulating her mentor, but that is Don. She use Don’s “If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation” at the Heinz pitch (which Don overhears). Shirley has to remind Peggy about how to treat Ed and Mathesis because she criticizes their work in the demeaning way that we saw Don do to his copywriters.

    A good mentor provides guidance, advice and challenges the mentee to do and be better. The mentee wants to be like the mentor. Ted thought of Peggy as his protege, but I don’t think that Ted was much of a mentor to Peggy. Did Peggy ever emulate Ted? Ted praised Peggy, but what did Peggy learn from Ted? Peggy learned more from Don than Ted. Even Freddy was a better mentor to Peggy than Ted because he was the first one to recognize Peggy’s potential when she referred to the waste can of lipstick-blotted tissues after the Belle Jolie focus group as “a basket of kisses.”

    Peggy tells Don that she wants to be the first woman creative director at the agency. That makes me think that she is ready to move on from being mentored to becoming a mentor.

  3. She did mentor Phyllis and Phyllis gave her advice about treating her copywriters better. Then Phyllis vanished with the merger.

  4. Yes, and I’d add that Freddy and Duck were somewhat of mentors to her as well. Definitely Freddy—I’d argue that in the early stages of Peggy’s secretarial career, Freddy noticed her potential before Don did, although I do think Don would have noticed eventually. (Freddy also helped her find her place at the first meeting she attended)

    Freddy was something of a friend/colleague too, but he was the one she turned to when Don wasn’t giving her the respect she needed (Season 5?) and she had to start seeking out other job opportunities.

    Earlier on (Season 3), Duck was the one who helped her out. True, he recruited her, rather than the other way around, and he was also interested in her romantically. But he helped her see that other jobs were available to her and she didn’t have to feel stuck working at Sterling Cooper.

    “Part of the hostility between Joan and Peggy, especially in Season 1, is that this was a poor fit for that kind of relationship.”
    True. I think as seasons have gone on, we see Joan as the one Peggy turns to when she needs to vent. Or one of the people, anyway. Peggy doesn’t have a lot of friends from what we’ve seen—she hung out with Joyce for a while (and they may still be friends off-camera) but she tends to innundate herself with work, so if she needs a work buddy, it’s usually Stan or Joan. Not that Joan is a “buddy” exactly, but she has become someone who Peggy seeks out for certain kinds of advice or simply for a sounding board. For instance, when Don proposed to Megan, Peggy went to Joan to vent. And when Peggy worried that Abe wanted to break up with her (after he urgently requested a weeknight dinner), she went to Joan to see if she was reading the signals right.

    • Regarding Duck as Peggy’s mentor:

      Recall that he was poaching Pete at the same time that that Hermes scarf arrived at her desk (Pete knew exactly what was going on, there).

      Trying to bag them both was “revenge” for SC/PP&L booting his ass out the door.

      When Duck successfully bedded her later that afternoon – she gave in partly because of a confidence-damaging slight to her that I can’t remember just now.

      • Yep. Don was pretty brutal to her request for a small raise. Really she just wanted to be

      • True, Duck definitely had his own agenda. But I liked when he told her, “This what opportunity looks like.” So she would know to be less scared of change and learn to seek out what was best for her. I think it still took her a while to learn, but she slowly started learning that she had worth beyond just what Don saw in her.

  5. I think the really interesting thing about the Joan/Peggy mentorship deal, is that they still kept/keep at it! One mentoring the other for things they don’t want or need!

    I feel like Freddie is Peggy’s true Dad figure. “ballerina” anyone?

    I think Stan is Peggy’s Roger…

    I think Peggy also wanted to mentor Ginsberg and Dawn, but neither wanted it…

    I think Don is more like *your older sister’s boyfriend who helps you with your homework, is sometimes nice to you, and often frustratingly ignores you or teases you.*

    I think maybe that’s why I think, it’s not impossible for those two to to get together in the end. I don’t get a dad vibe, or relative vibe between them.

    • Freddie is an important mentor, too, good catch.

    • Those two are already together, in every way.
      Except one.
      When Don leaves advertising the one person he will like to have around is Peggy.
      It’s a forever relationship.

    • I had never thought of Freddie as a father figure before. I’m confused. What do you mean by “Stan is Peggy’s Roger?”

      I could see Don as more of an older brother than the older sister’s boyfriend. Don and Peggy are so close, it’s familial in some way.

  6. I completely get that Peggy wants to have Don back as a mentor, but part of that role, and a not immediately an obvious part, showed up in The Forecast. I believe Don was serious about doing Peggy’s evaluation, yet she didn’t see that, even being miffed that he wasn’t being entirely serious in his handling of it. I think she missed his attempt to broaden her view of things, that the job isn’t just the job. She seemed to insist that the focus in the session be narrow in scope, even suggesting that he was confusing it with a deeper, “meaning of life” inquiry.

    In the series pilot, when we first met Don, he was stymied in his preparation for a big meeting with Lucky Strike, over what to present and how to present it. I recall that he told Midge, “I’ve got nothing.” This was the sense of things at our introduction to Don. Except for a much later vague reference in the recent episode when Cutler’s Dr. Feelgood got Creative hyped up on speed, when Don asked for artwork for a soup campaign in the late 50s (which turned out to be an ad for an oatmeal account) and Don’s pre-SC work for Teddy the Furrier, we haven’t a clue, really, about any of Don’s work or the trials connected to its creation. Obviously, he had been effective at his job, since he had become Creative Director at Sterling Cooper, so he must have done a lot of good work. It surely couldn’t have been without occasional challenges. Also, in the pilot, Roger even alluded to Don’s having once again pulled a chunk of brilliance, out of thin air, when the meeting with Lucky Strike looked like it was headed for a spectacular crash. What I’m getting at is that even a talented mentor can have dry spells and be overwhelmed by professional concerns.

    In his session with Peggy, I got that she wanted things to be straightforward and all business. I think she missed what Don was trying to do, in a relaxed, conversational way, between two professionals with a history, who respect and admire each other. She missed that and by leaving in a huff, she didn’t even get the more focussed, serious session she desired. How would it have gone, had Peggy not bolted from the room? We’ll never know, but I’d like to think that Don would have respected the process and Peggy, and she would have obtained a better result, had she just rolled with the flow.

    • I totally disagree. Don didn’t give a shit about Peggy’s performance review, it was just one more person whose brain he could pick about the future.

  7. Don has always been Peggy’s mentor. She has learned from Don not only success, but failure as well. She has seen Don fall on his face. Don was there when Peggy hit her home run with Burger Chef. Peggy, after all has survived in a pretty cut throat industry. She has also seen Freddie and others in the business fall on their face. She has seen the effects alcohol has on people. Peggy has fallen on her face too, and gotten back up. She has learned that from Don. That is the biggest mentoring job that Don has done for Peggy.

  8. […] it’s only getting her into a worse and worse situation. Peggy, on the other hand, has always had a mentor, has been building a reputation in Creative for ten years, and has her own, “one of the […]

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