Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Text Commentary

Mad Men female gaze
by Critical Commons Manager `

In this amazing televisual moment from Season 4 of AMC's Mad Men (originally aired August 29, 2010), the female gaze becomes an instrument of power. Peggy, the smart, capable copy editor who is coded in the show as "plain" becomes tired of being subjected to misogynist abuse by an overbearing colleague and turns the tables on him by challenging him to undress. She then "catches" him becoming aroused and refuses to stop looking at him until it eventually drives him from the room. While many forms of the visualization of female pleasure are allowable by the codes of Hollywood cinema/TV (and commercial pornography - e.g., faked orgasms and feigned pleasure in being the object of the male gaze), looking is rarely among them. This scene belongs among a handful of similar moments on film/TV, including the audience confrontation scene in Dorothy Arzner's Dance Girl Dance. Peggy is empowered in this scene both by fully possessing and exploiting her own ability to "stare back" at a naked man but in reasserting her own sexuality and by ultimately taking control of the space of the room.

This Commentary is related to the following Clips:
Mad Men Women Who Stare Back by Matthew Weiner (2010) The power of the female gaze is highlighted in this composite sequence from Mad Men season 4