Dick Whitman, meet Diana’s daughter

 Posted by on May 12, 2015 at 5:50 am  Mad Men, Season 7
May 122015


I lost my daughter to God, and my wife to the Devil.

Diana’s ex-husband is a jerk. Sure, he’s been through a lot. But he’s a jerk. And he’s a jerk Don knows well.

Don meets the daughter. Was he feigning surprise? It’s hard to understand exactly who Don is on this trip–he hallucinated Bert Cooper, after all. But he’s sharp enough to lie and sell, which, regardless of how very natural that is to Don, it still takes a crispness of the mind (as opposed to a crispiness), and we all knew it was Diana’s daughter the moment we saw her, so it’s hard to believe Don missed it.

Anyway that’s not the point. The point is, he has had a strong kinship with Diana. Their sorrow joined them, or something. But now it’s her daughter he connects with.


Hmm, let’s see. Here’s a child whose mother abandoned her, who is being raised by a father who likely resents how much she reminds him of his ex-wife; a bible-thumping, Jesus-toting, misogynistic meanie. We don’t know if he drinks and we don’t know if he hits but we know he talks smack about her mother with no attempt to keep his voice down–and we know this guy is a parent Dick Whitman knows something about.

At least the stepmother is kind, albeit misguided.

The daughter is smart–less wide-eyed, characterologically, than young BCD (Bowl-Cut-Dick) was. Dick was enamored of the hobo. This girl is looking for her prize–a bit jaded and guarded, like her mother.

And Don, confronted at the car, was wide-eyed again. Not with innocence, but with reactivated terror. For those moments, Dick was home again; unable to get the love he craves, unable to protect anyone, unable to be heard.


  35 Responses to “Dick Whitman, meet Diana’s daughter”

  1. I’m just not seeing all that subtext out of the Diana character. She seemed little more than a mirror for Don’s nebulous emotional state and convenient excuse to get him on the road.

    I thought his terror was a realization he was too close to the edge of another bad-decision abyss.


  2. The scene with Diana’s daughter reminded me of Don’s iffy parenting skills, which have been pointed out over and over through the seven seasons. (Especially in the scene with Grandma Ida, the thief; and we never have learned how Sally’s role in the legal case played out.)

    Don treats Diana’s daughter like an adult, saying, “That makes sense,” to the idea of her winning a fantasy refrigerator, when an adult of that time would more likely say, “That’s for your father to decide.”

    We’re all assuming Don will return to NY to take care of his kids, but I think there should have been more scenes with Don and the two boys after Megan left for CA to set this up. Once Sally left for boarding school, we never saw him with them by himself, other than that tiny scene with the milkshakes at Betty and Henry’s in episode 7.08. I know we saw a lot of this in Season 4. But Sally’s no longer around, so the situation has changed. And don’t forget that poignant scene between Don and Megan during the MLK riots. He said she was “better” with his kids than he was, and admitted he didn’t know how to express his love and pride in them.

    Don has a legal right to the kids, no question, but Henry has quite a bit of moral authority. He’s been their surrogate Dad for seven years. (Remember Bobby not being able to sleep for fear Henry would be killed in the riot?)

    I do think Sally will be expected to step up by the two men and society at large. (And she’ll want to, to keep Pauline from stepping in–we know what Sally thinks of Pauline.)

    (I wonder if one of the prime reasons that the kids haven’t been well-developed lately is the loss of Maria and Andre Jacquemetton from the writer’s room.)

    Finally, one more callout to Silent Gene. I really hoped MW and CW would have him act like a normal seven-year-old boy in the kitchen scene. He might have gone to his sister, but he would have been squirming in her lap, pulling away, saying something like “leave me alone.” Instead, whichever one of the poor twin actors who weren’t contracted for a line acts more like Peggy’s ‘nervous poodle’ than a real boy. I don’t know if this was a budget issue or just laziness, but Gene (followed by poor Bobby) are the least developed characters on Mad Men, and that’s now a bigger shame than ever.

    • I loved the way Don said “That makes sense”. I always talk to kids like they’re adults. I don’t forget they’re kids, and ultimately it is for her parents to decide, but it also makes sense–or does to her, and he’s just validating that she’s a whole person with legitimate ideas.
      It is a shame we didn’t get to know Gene better, but Don’s been there the whole time. They have a room in his apartment, and he probably has an every-other-weekend agreement. We did, in the late 60s-70s.

    • Sally’s role in the legal case wasn’t that important. She may have had to pick Ida out of a line up, and then it if went to trial, would have tell the judge or jury what happened. I can’t really see it being a big thing.

  3. That first appearance of Diana’s daughter – standing there on the steps – was unnerving to me. The way she was shot and positioned made me think of a ghost child in a Japanese play (very possibly intentional on director Weiner’s part, suggesting her dead sister as well). Her attitude smacked the pathos out of the situation: if she has any pain or loneliness from her mother’s abandonment, she’s not going to reveal it to a stranger; she just wants any money or property coming to her. If Don saw himself in her (and you’re probably right that he did), her brutally realistic response to him made it difficult for him to give any sympathy. She didn’t want it, just the refrigerator.

    As I said on the open thread, Don keeps meeting Archibald Whitmans in the Midwest: mean, violent, small-minded jerks who talk Jesus as they treat you like dirt.

    • Yup.

    • her pose reminded me of that famous diane arbus photo of the sisters…mimicked in “the shining” and on “the simpsons.” my thought was about how the other daughter had died, but this one remained.

      • I thought of the shining as well. She is just as much Diana’s daughter and salley is his. Last week Don said something at the bus stop about Sally being bother her parents but that it was up to her to be more. Don saw how hurt this girl was by the loss of her parent. hopefully Don will remember this and make the right decision about not abandoning his family.

  4. You’re so on to something with this …

  5. Don/Dick has met guys like Archibald Whitman often in his life and they are not all rednecks. Lee Garner Jr, Jim Cutler, Lou Avery and Bobbie Barrett’s husband were too.

    Diana’s daughter will be raised by her stepmother who will love her to the best of her ability and protect her from an abusive father. That is more than Dick Whitman ever got from Abigail. Don and Betty were parents of the year compared to Archie and Abigail. Dick Whitman never got love from either of them. I think that it is ironic that Don Draper is in the advertising business. He has never known love in his life then he sells happiness.

    Sally seems to have become a mature and well adjusted young woman. Regardless of what happens to Don/Dick, Sally will stay as close to her brothers as she can. Henry will ship both Bobby and Gene off to private boarding schools unless Don steps up to the plate.

    • “Sally seems to have become a mature and well adjusted young woman.”

      I wouldn’t go there. That’ll all bubble to the surface in her relationships, especially intimate ones. Nobody gets to see us like our lovers and children do. I’ve met plenty of people who were full of virtues in the outside world, and at home, they were nightmares and monsters. Give strangers the best of us, leaving very little remaining for those who are inside the room. Sally has that typical teenage swagger. They haven’t given us a lot to go on beyond that. What are her hobbies, interests, passions? How does she act with people other than manipulating them? As Don said, she is their daughter. It’s up to her to become something else. Not to be negative, but the morsels they’ve dropped for us don’t cause me to be too convinced she’ll be anyone different.

  6. Bible-thumping? Jesus-toting? Misogynistic meanie? Sheesh. Harsh. I dunno. I don’t see it that way.

    • agreed, michael.

    • I agree too.

      • Okay. That’s interesting. To me it screamed of all that, and here are three of you not seeing it at all, so that’s interesting.

        • Well, I grew up in that part of the world so I see it different, maybe transposing what I know into the characters, the whole person not just what is portrayed on screen. I see my Uncles neighbors driving their combines into the farm to help with haying when his combine broke down, just something you do because it is the right thing to do. The owners wife offering part of her supper because Don was hungry, it is just what you do. Extending friendship to Don, not necessary, but something you do, inclusion to a stranger. Thus the anger when they think he took something from someone else who needed help.

        • sorry…forgot to his “reply” to your comment…responded as comment #9 to the general ideas expressed here

        • I love lippsisters and I love Mad Men.

          For me, one of the interesting things about Don’s entire arc is existentialism vs spirituality. To me, Season 1 Don was the ultimate existentialist. “I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, ’cause there isn’t one”. My hope for the character is that by next Monday we will see Dick/Don gets beyond that and be “born again” in the most general sense possible.

          I’m not speaking of a fundamentalist Christian rebirth (note that I am one of those) but more of a broad healing from the internal despair that has been his true enemy all along.

          There are consistent references to “Jesus” throughout the series. To me, they represent to me not Christianity specifically (I can’t see that from Matt Weiner) but Don’s relationship with general religious themes of shame, hypocrisy, punishment, forgiveness, hope, faith, and rebirth. From Diana’s ex-husband, the preacher at the bar (referencing MLK), the Bible guy vs Uncle Mack…. there is somewhat of a theme where clearly flawed (and kind of annoying and unattractive) Christians specifically point Dick/Don towards spirituality. In Mad Men, the purest and most positive form of this spirituality is not Christian, it is Anna Draper and her tarot reading and where Don is ultimately “baptized” on a california beach.

          Dick/Don’s relationship with Sally may potentially be the other means by which this shift away from existentialism (I believe Matt Weiner once referenced his personal existentialism and his own kids in an interview).

          I do think Mad Men is beautiful in that it allows us to see different things. When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. When I watch Mad Men, that is what I see because redemption is the theme of my life… but there is one more week to go. Can’t wait.

        • Agree, I didn’t take the scene with the ex-husband like this at all. He’s been hurt by his daughter’s death and by Diana abandoning him and his other daughter. He comes home to find a strange man, who is obviously not who he says he is, in his house with his daughter and wife. Don is invading his home and opening up old wounds. The ex knows there is nothing he can do to save Diana, but he doesn’t find her a hopeless case, he knows she can still be redeemed and he tells Don that he can be redeemed too.

          I also didn’t take Don’s question, “You’re Diana’s daughter?” as his not realizing it. I think he just wanted to say it out loud. Also, in his guise as the Miller Beer rep, he wouldn’t know Diana had a daughter still living with her dad, so it was part of his role-playing to say that to her.

      • All I saw was someone furious that a stranger had come into his house and tricked his wife in an attempt to get deeply personal information about the person who has caused him the most pain in his life, at the most painful time in his life. Yes, he was a little rude to his wife, but the world was 10 years worse than when Don was furious that Betty let a salesman into the house, so I think it made sense that he was short with her. And as far as the Bible thumping goes, people lean on religion during deep loss……so it makes sense that he keeps it in his mind while confronting someone challenging him.

  7. This has been the seaon of kids who have been abandoned in some way. Don hasn’t seen his kids in at least one month and his kids will be losing their mother. then there are Rachel’s kids and Diana’s daughter.

    • There was also a small bit in a previous season where sally lost her purse shopping instead of going to a friends mothers funeral. Now Sally is loosing her mom. Funny these little things have been planted along the way and I didn’t catch them back then. At least I think it was her friends mother. I also seem to remember that the girls (sally and friends) didn’t know how to react to such a loss.

      • Trudy, you are right about Sally and her friends dealing with the loss of a classmate’s mother. In retrospect, Sally’s comment about Betty was gut wrenching: “I’d stay here till 1975 if I could get Betty in the ground.” I am still reeling from Sunday’s scenes with Betty and Sally. I loved seeing their relationship grow as Betty embraced and encouraged Sally’s independence. Has anyone else had a twinge of “Annie Wilkes” hit them since Sunday night?

      • It will quite a few years before Sally resolves this loss in her life, if she ever does.

      • …and btw, the friemd who lost her mother is the same friend who flirts with don at dinner, which prompts the bus depot conversation w don

        • Thanks! I did not know it was the same girl. Now I am sad for that girl. She lost her mom and is now looking for love, albeit in the wrong way. When I lost a my mom, I was older than a teenager, but had a similar experience. My dad was consumed by grief and it felt like I lost him too, being around me was just too hard. I felt alone in my sadness because none of my friends had an experience like mine. I found myself also looking for a man who could take care of me. I was old enough to understand that this was not healthy, but the yearning was there. I cant imaging going through this kind of loss at 17.
          This single episode of Madmen and these threads from lippsistes has caused me to look inward at my own life and the way I processed my own grief in a way that I didn’t before. It has been cathartic.

          • im sorry for your loss..it must have been a difficult time, regardless of how old you were…

  8. The little girl made me think of the girls in the hallway in Kubrick’s “The Shining.”

  9. i saw a man (cliff) come home to see another man (don) in his house who believed he and his wife were too simple to see through his (don’s) ruse. i saw cliff choosing to refuse to be polite, like his wife, and call out don on this silly tale of a grand prize that his ex-wife supposedly won. this does not translate as misogynistic to me. i see it more in line w the disbelief and indifference of people at scdp refusing to see don’s tale of the benefit of the company as closing being a wonderful opportunity for them. I see don giving the tale of being a debt collector as something that cliff doesnt fully believe but accepts bc of giving the benefit of the doubt. his wife’s naive reaction of believing don does not mean cliff hates women, nor does it translate that she is simple; it shows he has dealt with the aftermath of dianna’s sbehavior before. again, i dont see this as misogyny. it reminded me more of nick carraway’s judgement of tom n daisy as being “careless people” who let others clean up the mess they made. cliff says dianna is a “tornado who leaves a trail of broken bodies behind” much like nick saying of the selfish buchanan’s, “they smashed things” and people in their wake. cliff says he has just gotten back on his feet, yet don intruded on his wife, his surviving child (he lost a child too), and his home, and don treated them like fools…cliff says “only jesus can save” dianna. that doesnt translate to “jesus toting” or “bible beating” to me…moreso, i see it as a man who has a faith or spirituality. i dont see having a spirituality as being a negative thing that is somehow equal to being woman-hating mean person. he sends don off with the idea that there is redemption for people who have faith in life. didnt don punch a preacher for saying otherwise? didnt young don hear that same message from someone uncle mack threw out of the bordello and felt greatly impacted by this?

    • My thoughts were more on the people in the small Ok town, but yes I see your thoughts on Diana’s husband too. Don was doing a bit of a hustler act on them, trying for information not money. Diana’s former husband and daughter are still dealing with the mess she left behind and with the fall out she is continuing to leave in her wake. And while I don’t understand Dons attraction to her, and it is a very strong attraction, I do understand her husbands anger and frustration in having to continue with dealing with her actions. I suspect he justs wants to go on with his life, and why not? How spooky would it be knowing that at any given time some strange man will be at his house looking for an ex-wife who left him and her daughter, I mean she might attract a really disturbed person and his family might be at risk. It is a terrible way to live, fearing every strange person who shows up at your front door.

      • i see your points and agree with the ideas that you expressed earlier, in connection to offering a dinner and kindness as being something “you do.” this is the way i remember people in my life acting, as well. the fact that the young hustler says that the vet burned down his own kitchen is, to a certain oevel, a mute point. the only person who seems to know this “truth” is the hustler who benefits from this information. whether the vet burned his own place or not is not, in fact, irrelevant. what is relevant is that the other vets believe that someone who they regard is in need, and they “do the right thing” to help. they believed the hustler who claimed don stole, so they “punished” don. in essence, don finally gets the “punishment” he felt he needed for being responsible for the death of his c.o.

        • I had not thought about Dons need for punishment for his

          • Cat trying to use the iPad,,, anyway, I think that was a very good pickup on Dons need for punishment for his CO’s accidental death and not so accidental identity switch. I had not considered that many people have a need to be punished for their actions before they can forgive themselves. Maybe that was a watershed moment and he is free from the guilt if not the consequences of his actions.

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