For all you Mad Men fans out there, last night’s series finale marked the end of an era, according to AMC. (For you non-Mad Men viewers, keep reading this…)
Set in New York, the iconic, provocative, award-winning AMC drama follows the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of Madison Avenue advertising. The show exposes and stereotypes the 1960s-70s man who works all day and drinks all night, while his housewife looks the other way and has dinner set by 6. Even the name of the show and its opening credits lend itself to this sexist era. Though during last night’s final episode, we wondered if the oh-so-dapper Don Draper was going to survive this time as he performed another one of his disappearing acts - running away from life and all that comes with it. The final credits began to roll, and we were left with the typical finale questions and comments, “alright… well what does that mean? What do you think happened?”
But that’s not the only thing that struck us this time.
After looking back at some of the final episodes of the final season, what stood out to us was the culmination of some of television’s strongest female characters - like Joan Harris, Sally Draper, Betty Draper and most notably Peggy Olson, who reopened old wounds for the nearly 2 million Mad Men viewers to see. Peggy, played by Elizabeth Moss, is a fascinatingly complicated character. She’s “a trailblazing, career-oriented woman whose personal life has been sacrificed at the altar of sexism.” She began at the ad agency as a secretary and was sadly taken advantage of by her office superior, Pete, in the early days of the show. Soon after we learned that Peggy got pregnant with Pete’s baby, who she later placed for adoption. No one knew except her family, her priest and surprisingly Don. That happened and was never talked about again - until the final season (Episode 11 “Time & Life” of Season 7). Stan, Peggy’s art director, was joking with her about kids and how he might have some illegitimate children out there, which led to this honest dialogue:
PEGGY: “It wouldn’t matter if you did! You could walk away.”
STAN: “I had a mother! And she wasn’t great, and I don’t know if she wanted me, so I understand something!”
PEGGY: “But you don’t understand your mother! Maybe she was very young and followed her heart and got in trouble, and no one should have to make a mistake just like a man does and not be able to move on. She should be able to live the rest of her life just like a man does. Maybe you do what you thought was the best thing.”
STAN: “What did you do?”
PEGGY: “I’m here, and… he’s with a family… somewhere. I don’t know, but it’s not because I don’t care. I don’t know because you’re not supposed to know or you can’t go on with your life.”
Though Mad Men is a fictional show with plots and characters woven together for the sake of drama and entertainment, the stories told are real. After watching, we can only imagine what other birth moms were thinking and feeling as those lines were delivered: “Maybe you do what you thought was the best thing.”
Over the last few decades, adoption has changed. Birth mothers can know what’s going on in their child’s life and still bravely move forward with their own life. But the reality is some people are still living in that era of shame and secrecy that Peggy alluded to: “I don’t know, but it’s not because I don’t care.”
Our hope is to erase any shame surrounding adoption and instead show how adoption can be an amazing act of love and bravery. We’re glad adoption is changing, and we hope that people begin to see adoption as a loving, caring and brave choice.