Don favors pool laps to lapping pools of rye. Out of breath, out of shape (ok, not really…this is Hollywood), the physical and mental push of exercise is helping Don to center himself. As he respectfully pushes the limits of his physicality, he feels safer and stronger in himself. He can even entertain the idea that he might be able to have some control over how he feels. We see Don writing in his diary, his narrative voice superimposed as he chides himself for being like “a girl” for this touch of interiority. At one point, he refuses the advances of Dr. Faye, stating that ‘this is as far as I can go right now.” In Winnicottian terms, Don’s is “containing” himself (for now), no longer spilling in an alcohol-induced delirium. He is back to being in charge and encouraging others to do the same, i.e. he advises Peggy to step up to plate regarding an impudent copywriter and not hide behind his authority.
As Don better contains himself, he becomes less of what Allison the lesbian activist would call “vegetable soup.” In regard to Abe, a bohemian revolutionary admirer of Peggy, Allison summarizes her feelings about men as such:
“It’s like men are this vegetable soup
And you can’t put ‘em on a plate or
eat ‘em off the counter,
so women are the pot.
They heat ‘em up, they hold ‘em, they contain them.
But who wants to be a pot
Who the hell said we’re not soup?….
But you know I wouldn’t have helped Abe out if I didn’t think he was some very interesting soup.”
The more open-minded Peggy questions the rigid notion that men are the soup and women the pot. As the final scene of MAD MEN suggests the pot of gendered identity is certainly astir. The closing scene showcases the prowess of the firm’s ladies: Joan, Dr. Faye, and Peggy. Leaving for the day, music in the air, each one regally floats on to the lobby elevator. There they stand, together yet apart. Like dueling ballerinas atop a jewelry box, they wait for the dance to begin.
And wonder who will take the lead.