Just a Dance?

Mad Men presents many themes; perhaps the most notable of the episode entitled, “The Hobo
Code,” is the clash of individuals, particularly with regard to the relationship between the men and women of the office. However, as the scene at the bar shows, the dynamics between men and women extend far beyond mere office relations and demonstrate the conflict between Pete and Peggy’s attitudes.

The scene opens with an anonymous hand inserting a quarter into a jukebox. As the record is set, the music begins to play and the camera shifts to girls from the office as they jump and scream. The song, “The Twist” (or “C’mon, Baby, Let’s Do the Twist”), seems to inspire the women to begin dancing, though the men soon join the excitement. As the camera angle widens, the viewer sees Peggy at the focal point, giddy with excitement. In the same shot, conversely, is Pete’s silhouette, gloomy and shadowed. The opening sequence serves as a preview of the light-heartedness of the couples and the harsh reality Pete creates for his relationship with Peggy.

The shot then widens so the viewer’s focus is not on an object of the room but on parts of the
room. The increased focus on individuals (gives) the viewer a more in-depth look at each character’s personality. As the shot of the room is broken down, we see each separate couple, all of whom act slightly differently. The camera first catches Hildy with Harry Crane, with Hildy acquiescing to dance with Harry. Contrasting their innocent flirtations are Joan and Paul Kinsey, who through their facial expressions and sensual body movement seem to be attempting to seduce each other. Their dance is especially fascinating because Joan tends to play the leading woman (in the office and sexually) while Kinsey portrays the alpha- male, even if he is often undermined by other minor characters, like Cosgrove. The camera shifts back to Hildy and Harry who, while appearing to have fun, seem to have a sexual chemistry. Meanwhile Ken
Cosgrove dances promiscuously with a girl in a golden yellow dress. The sequence of couples emphasizes the relationship between men and women in the 1960’s as the battle for dominance in and out of the office begins. It is also a glimpse of the emerging sexual culture as the couples are all somewhat flirtatious, and even Hildy and Harry’s plays at being platonic are later shown to be more than simple flirtations when they wreck his marriage. Interestingly, the light-hearted, dancing couples are juxtaposed with the grim relationship between Peggy and Pete.

The camera then shifts back to Peggy, who though she appears to be having fun, is dancing alone
(or possibly with a couple of the other girls from the office). Doing “the twist," the camera once again distinguishes Peggy from the crowd as she turns to look at Pete (or so the camera shows). Pete, still sitting alone, stares morosely into the dancing crowd. He is completely detached from the merriment around him. Cutting back to a shot of Peggy’s face, she is filled with an air of confidence as she moves closer to Pete. This confidence may have been inspired by the alcohol she had consumed, or possibly, by the success of the Belle Jolie ad, which, if the latter, ironically, is also the downfall of her relationship with Pete. The shot becomes a full-length shot of her body, tempting and inviting. Pete still has not moved, but the camera moves closer as Peggy does, serving to distinguish them from the others. Peggy seems to notice his lack of movement but continues to be assured that he will dance with her as she whispers an invitation to him. Even as Pete answers, he remains stoic, signaling with only a shake of the head and shifting eyes. The lack of movement is made more dramatic by the music, the dancing behind Peggy, and Peggy’s attempt at seduction when she dances over to him. The camera bounces between the two as understanding dawns on Peggy. As she heads back into the crowd, the bodies that she was once isolated from now engulf her. In the same way, Pete’s departure is in the background of the gyrating bodies. To Pete, Peggy appears to be as anonymous as those dancing around her as he makes his departure, though the camera captures her shocked sadness. On the verge of tears, her body continues to move to the dance as she tries to blend back in with those around her.

The scene, although characterized by a seemingly trivial situation, displays deeper emotions and
the emerging culture of the 1960s. The dancing couples are flirtatious and lively, although the scene seems to hint at a subtle power struggle especially within the context of dance. The women may have begun the dance, but the men, traditionally, would be leading the dance, which gives rise to the question of who is actually in control. Pete and Peggy’s relationship, however, is characterized by a pervasive seriousness, which is mainly seen in Pete’s attitude. Unlike many of his male cohorts, Pete seems to be primarily dominated by an internal struggle for power, whether it comes as a result of being a husband, an elite upperclass, or a male, junior executive at a Madison Avenue, advertising agency. Peggy, on the other hand, as shown in her attempt at seduction is completely unaware of his struggle and her role in it. She fails to recognize and take part in the struggle for dominance that even many of the women, like Joan, notice. When Peggy blends back into the crowd, she seems to finally accept the struggle, though a bit late. The
next day, she goes back to her normal business, and she and Pete ignore each other for another day.

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