• Thu, Jun 7 2012

Mad Men‘s Sexual Plotlines For Sally Draper Are Perfectly Appropriate

An insane editorial in The New York Post today posits that Mad Men “takes Sally Draper‘s sexual story too far.” (I realize that it might be redundant to call an editorial in the Post insane, but oh well.) It’s clearly some trollsome bullshit, but let’s take a look at what crack TV critic Linda Stasi has to say.

She starts out by saying that the show is doing irreparable harm to Kiernan Shipka, the actress who plays Sally:

Maybe the parents of the 12-year-old actress who plays Sally, Kiernan Shipka, are too caught up in the glamour of the show to stop the harm it has caused their child — harm that is being played out before the country.

She then backs up her statement with evidence completely changes the subject, saying that the things Matthew Weiner has done to the fictitious character of Sally Draper are “child exploitation”:

“Take little Sally’s scene this past Sunday night.

In it, she snuck [sic.] out of her dad’s apartment to meet creepy Glen (played by Weiner’s son, Marten Weiner) at the Museum of Natural History.

When she gets stomach pains she runs to the bathroom, where she pulls up her dress, pulls down her underpants, squats on the toilet and there, in close-up yet, they show her little-girl, white cotton underpants soiled with her first menstrual blood.

Excuse me? That is a violation of a child’s private moment that no man, let alone an entire nation, should see.

But, like other equally inappropriate and gratuitous scenes involving Sally, it did not even move the episode (otherwise the best of the season) forward.”

So basically, Stasi is mad at Weiner for violating the privacy of an imaginary person, and also because she doesn’t understand the show’s interconnecting themes of sex, death, and womanhood. She has similar complaints about the episode where Sally is caught diddling, as well as the one where she walks in on Roger getting a beej from her step-grandmother. “Again, this was a scene that not only did not move the plot forward, in fact, it stopped it cold,” she writes. It’s unclear what kind of plotline she thinks would be sufficiently forward-moving for Sally. Perhaps one in which she plays with her dolls and pledges to stay a little girl forever?

She’s also concerned that pedophiles are getting off to these scenes:

I can’t help but wonder whether Weiner ever considers if scenes like that excite child sexual predators. Does he care? Surely this must panic her parents — no?

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that children don’t need to do anything sexual to arouse the attention of pedophiles. Pedophiles are easy like that! Letting your kid be on TV at all is inevitably going to expose her to creeps, but that’s not what Stasi’s angry about. And as for the “appropriateness” of what happens to Sally, I must remember what it’s like to be 12 better than Stasi, because thus far I’ve found all of Sally’s tribulations to be completely developmentally appropriate. Wanting on the one hand to do new and grown-up things, and on the other to hide from those things while curled up in bed with your mother, is what being a pubescent youngster is all about. From the gogo boots, to the coffee, to the terrifying first period, I think the show has handled all of it really well.
If they had Kiernan Shipka parading around in Jon Benet Ramsey outfits and coming onto older men, she might have a point. But as they are, I think that Sally Draper’s plotlines constitute a sensitive and realistic portrayal of what it was like to come of age in the late 1960s, as well as what it’s like to come of age in general.
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  • gnatcar

    Hear, hear!

  • Nancy

    Agreed! When my boyfriend and I watched this episode, he was saying Sally was being a bitch! lol Unfortunately for him I completely related to what she went through, and made sure he knew that he is a moron. How could he not tell that she’s just realizing that her mom is a person, and rebelling against her, and looking up to new people, and then how embarrassing it must have been for her getting her period while out and alone like that, and how she just needed her mom!? GUYS R STOOPID

  • Laura Jayne Martin

    For something so simple, this line crossed out: “backs up her statement with evidence” is hilarious.

  • Sarah

    I agree. It’s not like Kiernan doesn’t know what these things are– she’s 12 years old. I know that, at least before, her parents wouldn’t even let her watch the whole episode, but only what she’s in. And it’s not really HER moment, it’s the character’s. Kiernan seems very mature in interviews, I think she can handle all of this fine. I mean, really, there are much worse shows out there.

  • Nikki

    Also, last week’s episode was very Catcher in the Rye – from the girl’s perspective. Lots of references : ​http://grapefriend.com/2012/06/04/mad-m​en-the-catcher-in-the-whiskey/

  • Jay Braver

    When I read originally read Stasi’s article, I thought it was way off. Your article does a great job picking it apart. Young Kiernan is one of the very best actor’s on a show with many great actors so I’m sure she’s getting plenty of context from those around her on how to interpret her scenes. She’s SO emotive and January Jones is SO stiff, the contrast in their scenes together is terrific. One of the best story lines on TV and definitely not harmful.