If you're ever feeling like you've got it rough at work, watch an episode of Mad Men for a reality check. Not only do the women on this show find themselves on the underside of a mostly impermeable glass ceiling, they've got to deal with men who freely objectify their secretaries without fear of harassment lawsuits. Set just four decades ago at a Madison Avenue advertising agency, the award-winning series, which returns to AMC for its second season July 27 (following a Season 1 marathon on July 20), brilliantly blends office and sexual politics in a heady mix of great characters, intriguing storylines and superb acting.
Case in point: Elisabeth Moss, whose character Peggy Olson began as the virginal new secretary and wound up pregnant by a married co-worker. Not only Peggy she survive that, she's been promoted to copywriter, the only woman on the creative staff. But will the boys' club really let her in?
"At the same time she's learning what her place is, the men are learning what her place is too. They want to treat her like one of the boys but she's not. There is no protocol. There is no one to look up to. She's the only one. So every time something is said to her, it's 'OK, how am I going to deal with that?' Every meeting, every campaign is a new experience and she's going to have to navigate how to do it, and what it means to be a woman in the workplace," says Moss.
As a result of her tribulations in season one, Peggy has changed significantly, especially in relating to the opposite sex. "She's 20 in the first season and 22 in the second and like any 20 to 22-year-old as you go through relationships you learn a little more about relationships and men. There's an innocence that's gone, a naiveté that's not there anymore," says Moss. "She's taken a lot of hard knocks but she does get back up and learn from it. She's learned that you can fall in love with the wrong person and learned how complicated life is. She's definitely smarter but even though she's got more life experience the problems she has are bigger, so I don't know if she's making a lot of headway," Moss adds.
Not surprisingly, a steady boyfriend "is the last thing Peggy's looking for right now. She's very focused on her career. She's got other fish to fry. But sometimes when you're not looking that's when it happens," she says, willing to go with whatever series creator Matt Weiner writes for her. After all, she trusted Weiner when he broke the news about her storyline and put her in a series of fat suits and facial prosthetics to play the increasingly pregnant and dowdy Peggy last season. "Hearing you're going to gain weight and be fat—it was hard physically and emotionally," she admits.
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