Child’s Play

 Posted by on July 7, 2015 at 10:28 am  Mad Men, Season 7, Themes
Jul 072015

Many of the storylines in Mad Men 7.11, Time and Life, involve children: the audition, Pete and Trudy’s visit to Greenwich Country Day, and Peggy dealing with difficult life choices she has made. Early on in the episode, Peggy and Stan evaluate a group of children for an ad. In a subsequent scene, Don, Pete, Joan, Roger and Ted  pitch to Jim Hobart their plan for a West Coast SC&P office as an alternative to being swallowed up by McCann-Erickson. These two scenes seem intended to bookend each other. While it is a fairly safe bet that SC&P being absorbed by the larger agency will not be all that Hobart promises, there is nonetheless some definite negative foreshadowing worth noting.

pianoDuring their audition, the children are seated at a table in front of Peggy and Stan in a manner that is echoed later when Don, Pete, Joan, Roger and Ted are seated at a conference table in front of Jim Hobart. In the corner of the audition room, one little girl starts to play the piano only to be abruptly stopped by Peggy. In the corner of the conference room at McCann-Erickson, Don’s pitch (audition) for “Sterling Cooper West, a Division of McCann-Erickson” is abruptly interrupted by Jim Hobart. Peggy tells Stan that each child is playing with their own toy. During the meeting at McCann-Erickson, Hobart, attempting to make the idea of being absorbed more appealing, promises all but one of the SC&P executives their own “toy”: Buick, Ortho Pharmaceutical, Nabisco, and Coca Cola.

Stan telling Peggy that she “hates children” could be an indication of Hobart’s attitude toward the pentad from SC&P.

Later, Susie, one of the children at the audition, is left behind at SC&P while her mother runs another errand. Peggy allows Susie to wait in her office. The child sits at Peggy’s desk pretending to work at SC&P. At one point in the scene, Susie screams after accidentally stapling her thumb. After the pitch to McCann-Erickson, Joan observes to Pete that she was the only one at the meeting who was not offered a special client by Hobart. This only confirms her belief that she will not be respected at the new company. Thus, Susie drawing blood while play acting that she’s “at work” mirrors Joan’s fears about her prospects at McCann-Erickson.

At the end of the episode, with rumors swirling around the office, Don, Pete, Joan, Roger and Ted are forced to announce the new arrangement with McCann-Erickson to the workers of SC&P. The disgruntled reaction of the employees, like the children at the audition, makes it clear they are not interested in playing along.


  2 Responses to “Child’s Play”

  1. The parallel between Susie and Joan’s role at McCann is very clever. Does anyone know by the way whether the historical McCann deserves being treated as some kind of devil–agency? Was McCann particularly sexist or the home of mediocrity or corporate bureaucracy run rampant? Would a real Stan or Peggy have been disgusted at the thought of joining McCann?

  2. i know the partners sitting in a row at the table is a call back to the scene in an earlier season when the we’re expanding upstairs and all the partners were lined up looking out the window. But just now it also reminds me of bring lined up in front of a firing squad. The death/murder of SC&P. They are dying and going to advertising heaven.

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