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the best little boy in the world
June 12, 2013 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Legendary Mad Men blog "Mad Style" sets out to explain Bob Benson to a twenty-first century that is apparently ill-prepared to understand him.

Here is what we surmise about Bob Benson, based on the above: He’s an upper-middle class over-achiever from a family of them but he’s more than likely estranged from them because he’s gay, which partially explains why he doesn’t work for the family firm and also explains why he can be so flexible about whether his father is alive or not. Like a lot of gay men, he is fascinated by people who work in a creative field, even if he’s not creative himself. Like a lot of well-closeted gay men, he is a smooth liar from years of experience; very good at fooling the eye with distractions and cover stories. But because he’s constantly spinning tales he can’t always keep track of them and a close observer can occasionally pick up inconsistencies. Like a lot of over-achieving well-closeted gay men, Bob is operating under “Best Little Boy in the World” syndrome, a term which comes from the seminal coming-out autobiography of the same name, published in 1973, and so well describes a certain type of middle-to-upper-class gay man that it’s considered an honest-to-god measurable syndrome today. Basically, it comes down to this: there is a certain strain of gay men who have an overwhelming urge to be over-achievers in all areas of their lives. In school, they are A-students and members of every club and organization that will have them. They are athletic, scholarly, friendly, and helpful to everyone around them, constantly seeking excellence and popularity in order to deflect any questions as to why he doesn’t date. They are always extremely clean-cut, if not downright conservative in appearance. They quite often stay in school to get advanced degrees because the atmosphere allows them to continue to put off any questions about their personal lives or plans outside their education or careers. After school, they throw themselves into their careers with the same fervency they used to get through school. If a gay man is both a Best Little Boy and estranged from his family, he is more than likely an extremely lonely person; possibly even someone who’s bad at reading personal cues and engaging in emotional intimacy. These types of gay men still exist, but there were far more of them back in the days when staying in the closet was less of a personal choice and more of a necessity.
posted by gerryblog (158 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think Tom and Lorenzo are premature. There are still two episodes left this season; Bob Benson's sexuality is far, far from a done deal.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:32 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Someone said he was Peggy’s son, time-traveling back from the future.

I KNOW this can't/isn't it...but I want it so badly to be. End the season Mad Men takes a major left turn and strays into LOST style territory.
posted by Captain_Science at 12:36 PM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Tom and Lorenzo's incredible Mad Men reviews are, quite literally, the only reason I'm still watching Mad Men at all.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:36 PM on June 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Someone said he was Peggy’s son, time-traveling back from the future.

It was staring us right in the face this whole time!
posted by gerryblog at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2013


Bob Benson's sexuality is far, far from a done deal.

Didn't he almost overtly express his love for Pete Campbell in the most recent episode?
posted by cell divide at 12:42 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, unless he's being teed up to be some sort of world-class swindler, I'd say the scene with him and Pete was pretty unequivocal.
posted by jquinby at 12:44 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Didn't he almost overtly express his love for Pete Campbell in the most recent episode?

Yeah- and Tom And Lorenzo address the possibility that he could be bisexual or merely pretending to be gay in the article (both are astonishingly unlikely).
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:44 PM on June 12, 2013


Tom and Lorenzo's incredible Mad Men reviews are, quite literally, the only reason I'm still watching Mad Men at all.

YMMV obviously but we've been discussing the merits of the T&Lo reviews in the Mad Men threads we've had this season.

I think there's much better discussion out there - Sepinwall, Heather Havrilevsky, Vulture.

Even Mad Style has been spotty this season, though sometimes I agree they're quite good.

I think their fame has gone to their head a bit, especially the way they argue with commenters in their own discussion threads.
posted by sweetkid at 12:44 PM on June 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Someone said he was Peggy’s son, time-traveling back from the future.

During the first episode I got the impression that Peggy was time-traveling from the future. I guess it's because Elizabeth Moss didn't have the character down-pat yet. My theory was dashed when we met her family and neighborhood. I am down with imagining Bob as Peggy's son as a consolation prize though.
posted by bleep at 12:45 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Didn't he almost overtly express his love for Pete Campbell in the most recent episode?

No. He made a weird sexual movement after Pete made it clear he thinks gay people are degenerates.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:48 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


He made a weird sexual movement after Pete made it clear he thinks gay people are degenerates.

I think you're missing like a truckload of subtext if this is what you think happened.
posted by sweetkid at 12:50 PM on June 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I believe everything TLo say in the article, but I still think there may be yet more to his story. I don't think those two things preclude each other.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:51 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


is akin to the idea of someone pretending to be a Jew in Weimar Germany.

That .... doesn't make sense.

I haven't seen the most recent season of Mad Men (no cable), but there was a thread recently where the theory was advanced that Bob Benson is the face of corporate facelessness that will inherit the world .
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:52 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


sweetkid, I saw what happened, and my entire life/career is based in researching LGBT history. I think there is very little possibility that what we saw on Sunday night was as straightforward as is implied. Mad Men does not work like that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:52 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


For a time, Peggy’s friend Joyce seemed to be the likely candidate to fill the role (and a likely candidate to actually be at a place like the Stonewall in 1969), but she was limited as a character in a lot of ways and can’t provide the stark contrast that someone like Bob can.

You wash your filthy mouth!
posted by Artw at 12:53 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


sweetkid, I saw what happened, and my entire life/career is based in researching LGBT history. I think there is very little possibility that what we saw on Sunday night was as straightforward as is implied. Mad Men does not work like that.

huh? I think I said the opposite of what you think I said.

It's not as straightforward as "Pete makes it clear he thinks gay people are degenerates."

What do you think I said?
posted by sweetkid at 12:55 PM on June 12, 2013


I'm just saying there is no evidence from that scene that Bob is gay and/or interested in Pete.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:56 PM on June 12, 2013


I'm just saying there is no evidence from that scene that Bob is gay and/or interested in Pete.

Sure, he just has Wandering Knee Syndrome.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:57 PM on June 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm just saying there is no evidence from that scene that Bob is gay and/or interested in Pete.

I thought the point of the scene was to let the audience know that Bob is gay.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:58 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, we’ll see, but I think you guys are all missing the fact that there’s a whole season arc that doesn’t point to that at all. This guy has other motives, and Mad Men has NEVER treated sexual orientation with that kind of hammer over the head nonsense.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:58 PM on June 12, 2013


He just really likes coffee.

Anyway, aren't we all missing the most important plot turn of the episode? Peggy has a cat now!
posted by Artw at 1:03 PM on June 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen, did you read the FPP? Do you disagree with like the whole thing? Because they talk a lot about LGBT history.

Also I still think your initial comment made it seem like you read the scene as straightforward, not mine.
posted by sweetkid at 1:03 PM on June 12, 2013


Mad Men has NEVER treated sexual orientation with that kind of hammer over the head nonsense.

Quote from episode one of season one:

"So we're supposed to believe that people are living one way and secretly thinking the exact opposite? THAT'S RIDICULOUS!" -Obviously closeted gay character

Mad Men just ain't that subtle.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:03 PM on June 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


I picked up The Best Little Boy In the World off the bookshelf of a cousin away at college when I was 11. It was where I first heard about blowjobs. I, too, didn't think jam would help.
posted by Diablevert at 1:04 PM on June 12, 2013


that kind of hammer over the head nonsense.

He came on to a co-worker. What about the scene was hammer-over-the-head nonsense? To my mind, it would be more nonsensical if his motives were something mysterious, like he was a spy from another company or hired by Trudy to infiltrate Pete's life or something...
posted by cell divide at 1:09 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you guys are all missing the fact that there’s a whole season arc that doesn’t point to that at all

Just to point back to the FPP, I think they do a good job of integrating basically all of Bob's scenes into a narrative that begins and ends with his life as a closeted gay man:
He hangs around outside Pete’s office frequently. When questioned on it, he claims he loves the light. When we actually see his office, it’s tiny, dark and windowless, which tends to back up his excuse. He visits a whorehouse with Pete and stands outside in the hallway while Pete gets his rocks off. When the prostitute comes out, he offers to pay for Pete. There is no indication he had sex with any of the prostitutes. It’s implied he waited there the whole time. He has happily gone to the store to get Pete toilet paper. He brings Pete up in conversation frequently (“Doesn’t Pete Campbell have a beach house?”) and claims to be very interested in his well-being (“He’s a very generous person and I think he’s going through a rough time.”). He constantly flatters Pete and speaks highly of him. He stays at the office later than most of the employees. He is friendly with a gay man and wasn’t shy about admitting it in the office. He claims that this gay man just nursed his father back to health but he earlier told Ken that his father died. He has developed what looks like a fairly close platonic relationship with Joan (a woman not prone to close platonic relationships); to the point that he jokes about her mother being at the track and thinks nothing of offering to handle Kevin for her. When Joan’s mother tried to suggest a romantic relationship, Joan said knowingly, “He’s not interested.”
I could imagine some additional twist, of course, but I don't see how one is required. Especially as Bob is a pretty minor character, I don't think there's going to turn out to be anything else going on here, and honestly wouldn't be surprised if he's gone from the agency without explanation next year.
posted by gerryblog at 1:12 PM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The linked essay really hit home why I have such large oversized feelings for a relatively minor character, the creeping feeling that if things went a little differently I might have BECOME Bob.

Also I wrote this.
posted by The Whelk at 1:25 PM on June 12, 2013 [17 favorites]


How will Kens loathing be affected?
posted by Artw at 1:28 PM on June 12, 2013


Also I wrote this.

Can you feel it, The Whelk? My knee against your knee? This is the moment I fell in love with you.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:30 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Beloiters like myself are tickled that he's supposedly a grad (although I'm not sure the Beloit->Wharton MBA route is all that plausible, myself). The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has discussed the theory he's a spy and noted that he's part of a cluster of Wisconsin shout-outs.
posted by dhartung at 1:31 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bisexual seems too small a word, as does omnisexual. His sexuality part of who he is but not all of who he is.

Who he is, aside from the best little boy in the world, is a pleasure seeker; one who seeks to give & sup on the pleasure of others. Sex would be nice, enjoyable, & a hunger created & sated, but secondary to other feedbacked in pleasures.

Given the societal pressures, he & Joan could have a great arrangement of a marriage; he gets a foot into partnership, she a stable lovely husband who isn't a turdy product of the times.

He seeks pain and discord to deploy relief, renewal, lessening of burdens, pleasure. But not gluttonously; helpless sorts who always need help, but strong ones teetering under some personal burden they may have no one to share it with.

If there is a simple name or Name for this, I do not know it.
posted by tilde at 1:41 PM on June 12, 2013


she a stable lovely husband who isn't a turdy product of the times.

Maybe she wants sex though.
posted by sweetkid at 1:42 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doesn't preclude mindblowing sex, he's just not ruled by the immediate need for it.
posted by tilde at 1:46 PM on June 12, 2013


I feel like you're writing fanfic or something. It doesn't really connect with the episode or FPP.
posted by sweetkid at 1:50 PM on June 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Might just be a perspective issue. I didn't bring it up before because TV is not that subtle; but if "he's a liar" & "Bob =\= Gay" it's another possibility, especially how the agency grows & contracts in the series (in the other thread, talked about breaking out Peggy Pete and Ted).

Maybe he did pull a Mr Ripley and Bob is some Dick Whitman without demons.
posted by tilde at 1:54 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


For me, the only really important thing about Bob Benson is that he's played by the fantabulous James Wolk. I wanted to kill myself when Lone Star was cancelled after like .67 episodes.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:55 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


yes he is really fabulous. I hope he becomes a major star. Or just gets a LOT of work because I really like watching him.

He also played a gay guy on Happy Endings, and the interesting thing is that Grant, his character, was so well liked by the Happy Endings gang that they all got really possessive about him, and then when the guy dating him (can't remember his name) broke it off, they were all upset. It was eventually revealed that Grant made himself so likeable to the friends/everyone in his life because of his deep insecurities.

I'm definitely not saying YEAH I KNEW HE WAS GAY but that whole thing was playing in my mind since I found out he was cast as Bob.
posted by sweetkid at 1:59 PM on June 12, 2013


Or just gets a LOT of work because I really like watching him

Meaning I would support him having a Kyle Chandler - ish career over a Tom Hanks - ish one.
posted by sweetkid at 2:00 PM on June 12, 2013


Sure, he just has Wandering Knee Syndrome.

Maybe just wide stance.
posted by stopgap at 2:00 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


yes he is really fabulous. I hope he becomes a major star. Or just gets a LOT of work because I really like watching him.

He was also super good in that less-than-super-good miniseries Political Animals on USA last summer.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:05 PM on June 12, 2013


Also, dreamy chin clef.
posted by The Whelk at 2:07 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


he has so many gifts.
posted by sweetkid at 2:09 PM on June 12, 2013


Well, we’ll see, but I think you guys are all missing the fact that there’s a whole season arc that doesn’t point to that at all. This guy has other motives,

I think the whole season arc points to exactly this.

Unfortunately the whole "is Bob gay?" question had been speculated on so much that I think once the reveal happened, there was a tendency for some viewers to think "it has to be more than that."

Bob has appeared oddly (for the characters on this show) altruistic and helpful to others, but there is no one he has shadowed the way he's done Pete. In fact the general helpfulness has been used to cover the special attentions he has paid to Pete. This was effective for us (as viewers) in the same way it was no doubt intended to be effective for the straight people surrounding Bob in the office. I said this in the other thread, but there are times (most notably the scene in Joan's apartment) when he shows an interest in Pete that could not be directed toward some kind of manipulation because Pete isn't there to hear it.

What other motives do you see hinted at on the show, threeseventeen? I mean (sincerely asking) what mysteriousness about Bob is left unexplained by the fact that he is gay?
posted by torticat at 2:51 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


sweetkid, I saw what happened, and my entire life/career is based in researching LGBT history. I think there is very little possibility that what we saw on Sunday night was as straightforward as is implied. Mad Men does not work like that.

Not... straightforward. Hm.

Mad Men is the show that had Don with a terrible tooth infection see the ghost of his dead brother about whom he feels terrible guilt.

The ghost looked at him meaningfully and said PERHAPS IT'S NOT THE TOOTH THAT'S ACTUALLY WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU. Because, you see, the tooth infection symbolised the terrible guilt he felt about his brother.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:07 PM on June 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen, did you read the FPP? Do you disagree with like the whole thing? Because they talk a lot about LGBT history.

I'm curious about this, too! I found T&L's argument to be pretty compelling (especially the point that it would be crazy for someone to pretend to be gay in 1968, especially going so far as to hit on one's boss), but this is a history I only know tangentially.

BTW, another really great work that touches on the gay (mostly lesbian) scene in NYC in the 50s and early 60s is Audre Lorde's memoir, Zami.
posted by lunasol at 3:11 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Turns out it WAS the tooth. Or maybe HIS SOUL.
posted by Artw at 3:11 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also to comment on the actual Mad Style part of TLo's review, I have to say I disagree with this:

He and Pete are speaking to each other in tones of grey and blue here, but not quite matching up.

I'd say they're matching up pretty exactly, though I don't know what to make of that. And Bob blends with Pete & his office in a similar way in a previous scene (screenshots in Mad Style here). It's the one when Bob gave Pete the information about Manolo and told him "your wellbeing is an interest of mine" (a line he repeated in the love speech in the last episode).

Again I'm not sure what to make of that, but I feel like TLo are bringing their own conclusions to that bit of analysis instead of seeing what's there. Could be wrong though.
posted by torticat at 3:11 PM on June 12, 2013


Turns out it WAS the tooth. Or maybe HIS SOUL. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(I added exclamation marks to convey the significant eyebrow I just raised I would hate you to miss any nuance)
posted by Sebmojo at 4:41 PM on June 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


This guy has other motives, and Mad Men has NEVER treated sexual orientation with that kind of hammer over the head nonsense.

Hmm, he has motives in the same way that Don Draper has multiple agendas. Just as everyone in the show does. I'm not saying there's no more to Bob Benson's story than just he's gay and loves Pete, I just think this reveal is something the show has been working toward - and T&L point out clearly why.
posted by crossoverman at 5:47 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


/finds nothing in Memory Alpha, debates checking Memory Beta. Or TV Tropes.
posted by Artw at 5:51 PM on June 12, 2013


I haven't seen the most recent season of Mad Men (no cable), but there was a thread recently where the theory was advanced that Bob Benson is the face of corporate facelessness that will inherit the world .

He can be two things! He can be gay and the face of corporate facelessness!
posted by crossoverman at 5:59 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


He can be gay and the face of corporate facelessness!

Andy Cohen?
posted by The Whelk at 6:14 PM on June 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I ended up really liking their explanation of their thesis, but jesus christ, was this unbearable: "We’ve always felt like, with these posts, we were jumping into the conversation and offering the fashion and critical analysis that could only come when two gay men, one with a fashion background and one with a film degree, get together to talk about the show on their predominantly fashion-oriented site."

I still think there was a lot of ambiguity in what Bob was saying, and it's not at all clear whether he was saying he's in love with Pete or if he thinks Pete is in love with him. I think he's definitely gay, but his actual speech lacks bright line clarity about his feelings for The Hairline.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:19 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


i think the most impt thing, is that the caginess that we are reading, is the queer need to live a double life--benson is a spy, but he is a queer spy in the land of heterosexuality--an irony that is foundational to queer life (cf the cia/fbi situation)
posted by PinkMoose at 7:40 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I still think there was a lot of ambiguity in what Bob was saying, and it's not at all clear whether he was saying he's in love with Pete or if he thinks Pete is in love with him.

He was talking about himself (although alluding to Manolo) when he says things like "what if a guy did everything he could for you". It's pretty clear he's not alluding to Pete - Pete never helped Bob. Bob helped Pete. Bob wanted to get into Pete's good graces by always being there for him. Who else but someone with a giant crush offer to buy a grown man toilet paper?
posted by crossoverman at 7:59 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, but if he's talking about himself, then it would be Pete in the role of his mother who inadvertently falls in love.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:13 PM on June 12, 2013


That is, himself as the person helping--ie Manolo.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:13 PM on June 12, 2013


Right, he's trying to see if Pete is interested, to see if Pete is in love or what his feelings might be. But I tend to think people only fish for that information if they are interested themselves. I think the way it was played suggests Bob is in love and hopes Pete is, too.
posted by crossoverman at 8:26 PM on June 12, 2013


he's trying to see if Pete is interested

Well, he's trying to find out if Pete could potentially be interested. He's asking (nearly begging) him to consider it. I think he knows that at the present time, Pete is not in love with him, or at least not consciously so. He knows Pete sees himself as straight.
posted by torticat at 9:25 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


This guy has other motives

As TLo point out, in 1968 there are no other imaginable motives for making a pass at Pete. It's unthinkable. Maybe if you're a young'un you wouldn't think so, but if were alive then you'd know that real or not Pete could completely destroy his life with a word. He could go to jail for that.

and Mad Men has NEVER treated sexual orientation with that kind of hammer over the head nonsense.

Like the completely understated way that Sal danced out the Ann-Margret song from "Bye Bye Birdie", or the was-he-or-wasn't-he attack on Sal by Lee Jr. Uh-huh.

The only equivocal character on the subject of sexual orientation on the show is Don, who is equivocal about everything about identity, including plain old identity identity.

No one else is. Gay is poison in their world, full stop. Virtually every American at that time, except for gay men themselves (and even a significant self-loathing number of them), was absolutely certain that gays were degenerate child-molesting miserable recruiting perverts who would be better off dead. It was in the medical science; in Bob's position electroshock is the least of the things he has to worry about, getting caught.

TLo's piece on this is better than the show they're talking about at this point. And Bob is gay.
posted by Fnarf at 10:13 PM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bob has brought Manolo to Pete. Pete has called Manolo a rapist, and wants him gone. When Bob lets Pete know that Manolo doesn't work that way, Pete digs in. I think Bob senses a man who doth protest too much (and I do too) and wants to test Pete.

What's even more interesting about the Bob character is on top of the gay, he's utterly ruthless. He blithely goes along with Pete's head-chopping of innocent Manolo, who Pete's mom loves, who is a lovely man, but no problem, gone, because Bob has opened a door (by knee-jobbing Pete and not getting punched in the nose!) both to Pete's sexuality and to his own career-climb.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Bob senses a man who doth protest too much (and I do too) and wants to test Pete.

Oh okay, I can see that. I definitely thought Pete's reaction was interesting, and there was a door left open there to... something. (Left open by the writers, I mean.)

Fnarf, not sure what you mean that Don is the only one equivocal about orientation; you can't be talking about his own? Because if you're talking about having some amount of tolerance/open-mindedness toward others, I think we've seen that in other characters to at least the degree we've seen it in Don.
posted by torticat at 4:51 AM on June 13, 2013


Totally agree that Don is dense. And, as we see Don decline (I mean really, stalking Sylvia in the hallway? It's the early seventies, he's on top of the world, why isn't he at the disco with Bianca. etc?) Bob is now the man to beat, in terms of shrewd, manipulative, duality, etc. I think Pete is going to end up like the straight gay guy in Far From Heaven, the Todd Haynes movie.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a good analysis, but I have a beef to pick with this:
The only non-gay people who surfaced in the scene at this time were motherly fag hags
You cannot talk about Stonewall and then claim that the gay scene was made up of gay people and fag hags, with no mention of trans people. Honestly, it pinged when they started writing about stonewall in terms of 'the gay community' alone, but then to go on and explicitly say "and no one else was there" is pure erasure. Not okay.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 7:04 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


...Peggy’s son, time-traveling back from the future.

...Mad Men takes a major left turn and strays into LOST style territory.


Season 7 jumps ahead to 2069 but all the fashions and decor stay the same because of a "retro" trend. Ida Blankenship's corpse, still wrapped in Harry's mother's afghan, is released from amber and revived; rejuvenated, she initially comes back to SC&P as a copywriter, but amid growing dissatisfaction with the profession, she takes up a new career in acting, just in time to be cast as the 43rd incarnation of The Doctor.
posted by CyberSlug Labs at 7:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just realized that Sally is only a few years too old to be the Kirsten Dunst/Michelle Williams characters who "accidentally walk in" on Watergate in the (underrated) movie Dick.
posted by sweetkid at 8:23 AM on June 13, 2013


The only equivocal character on the subject of sexual orientation on the show is Don

No, this is wrong. Consider how differently Don reacted to the possibility of securing clients through sex. With Sal and Lee Garner, Jr., he expected Sal to go along because, in his mind, what difference could it possibly make to Sal? Then he fired him when Sal wouldn't do it. With Joan and Herb Rennet, he went to her apartment to beg her not to go through with it. He doesn't show the same revulsion from homosexuality as other characters, but I wouldn't say that he is equivocal.
posted by stopgap at 8:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


By "equivocal" I meant merely that Don is probably the only straight character on the show who understands the need to conceal who he really is, and who doesn't particularly judge anybody else for what they do. "Just protect yourself", he says to Sal, after seeing him with the bellhop. Everyone else, it is pure revulsion every time. Don doesn't have room for revulsion in his made-up identity, only armor.
posted by Fnarf at 9:40 AM on June 13, 2013


Fnarf, exactly. I said "dense," but you said it better.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:42 AM on June 13, 2013




Well, borrowing from Sys Rq's comment in the other post... do you think that Megan, Peggy, or Joan had reactions of pure revulsion? I wouldn't say so. Megan seemed mainly amused. Joan was pretty cold in turning down her roommate, but revolted? and on the other hand she hangs out socially with Bob.
posted by torticat at 10:42 AM on June 13, 2013


By "equivocal" I meant merely that Don is probably the only straight character on the show who understands the need to conceal who he really is, and who doesn't particularly judge anybody else for what they do.

Except his wife, for kissing people as part of her acting work.
posted by raysmj at 10:45 AM on June 13, 2013


Except his wife, for kissing people as part of her acting work.

Comes with the narcissism territory. Don doesn't care about other people so long as, in his ego-mind, they don't reflect directly on him. Megan, as his wife, is his main reflection, and as such, she is not allowed to live a life that he thinks could reflect badly on him. Narcissism's internal consistency depends entirely on the narcissist themself, not on anything external viewers could see as conflicting. In this, Mad Men is really excellent; they nail it, right down to Don's decline as he ages and his egocentrically-defined worldview becomes increasingly out of sync with the external world's. He can't figure it out because he's trapped in himself.

More on topic, I thought TLo's insight was great, and also think Bob was coming on to Pete. Will be interesting to see how it shakes out, although my immediate reaction, spoken out loud when they focused on Bob's dreamy eyes trying to draw in Pete, was a sad, "Oh Bob, you picked the wrong man..."
posted by fraula at 10:55 AM on June 13, 2013


I thought Don's problems with Megan's sex scenes were more about his revulsion around prostitution. And Joan's thing, too. Probably also why he seemed conflicted about firing Sal (as i remember) though that wasn't really his choice.
posted by bleep at 11:12 AM on June 13, 2013


That whole scene with Bob was long and bizarre. I didn't get it. What was he thinking?

Unless he's betting that is another Best Little Boy just like him? Could be.
posted by bleep at 11:14 AM on June 13, 2013


The series ends with Sally walking in on her husband Glenn and Bob Benson.

Glenn: "Don't you ever knock?" FADE TO BLACK "Don't Stop Believin'" starts playing.
posted by drezdn at 12:32 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


OMG, Sally is MARRIED??
posted by thinkpiece at 12:36 PM on June 13, 2013


Does she have a sword?
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on June 13, 2013


I still think there was a lot of ambiguity in what Bob was saying, and it's not at all clear whether he was saying he's in love with Pete or if he thinks Pete is in love with him. I think he's definitely gay, but his actual speech lacks bright line clarity about his feelings for The Hairline.

It's funny, I read that little speech as not being about him and Pete at all, but as him trying to convey to Pete something that he (Bob, ugh pronouns) has learned through the life experience of being gay.

Like, I thought he was talking about the complicated relationship between a senile WASP and her caring, gay, and extremely handsom nurse. And alluding to the idea that this complicated relationship parallels a certain type of complicated relationship between, say, a beautiful over-achieving Beloit freshman and his extremely generous and distinguished Art History professor. Who made him feel so welcome on those cold Wisconsin winter nights.

In any event, my #1 takeaway after "Bob is gay" was "I bet chickenhawks think Bob is pretty." He also seems really comfortable in mentor/mentee relationships, which might be how Pete comes into all this. Like, my last mentor wanted to fuck me, therefore you probably also want to fuck me. I will now touch my knee against your knee so that you understand I'm OK with that option.
posted by Sara C. at 2:46 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Like, I thought he was talking about the complicated relationship between a senile WASP and her caring, gay, and extremely handsom nurse.

Interesting and plausible theory.

And alluding to the idea that this complicated relationship parallels a certain type of complicated relationship between, say, a beautiful over-achieving Beloit freshman and his extremely generous and distinguished Art History professor. Who made him feel so welcome on those cold Wisconsin winter nights.

Wait wha?
posted by sweetkid at 3:07 PM on June 13, 2013


I'm extrapolating that Bob, himself, had a similarly ambiguous and possibly/probably sexual relationship with a similarly inappropriate person at a similarly sensitive time in his own life. With probably too much of a flourish.

It would be almost boilerplate stereotypical for Bob to have had a sexual relationship with an older man at some point, which would have been outwardly a mentor/mentee relationship but also something more. I mean, the college professor angle was just my own imagination.
posted by Sara C. at 3:09 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh wow Sara you articulated exactly the sense I was getting, watching it. I guess that's why I felt confused because I don't think anyone has hit on that yet, unless I missed it.
posted by bleep at 3:14 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


And such an arrangement would've been much more common, something that Edmund White complains about in the Cleveland chapter of " States Of Desire"
posted by The Whelk at 3:18 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


It makes sense that he was talking about Manolo and Dorothy and not him and Pete.

But then why the knee bump? It was right after that speech.
posted by sweetkid at 3:21 PM on June 13, 2013


I read the knee bump as a testing the waters or a plausibly deniable proposition.

Like, "I know you just called gay people degenerates, but on the off chance that you are gay and just covering really hard, please know that there is this thing we could share." Like, if Bob had knee-bumped Sal, they probably would have started making out. (Actually, wasn't there a similar subtle gesture between Sal and the Belle Jolie lipstick guy?)

Though, yeah, obviously Bob is infatuated with Pete based on other things he's said this season. I liked Tom/Lorenzo's idea that he probably doesn't have great boundaries on romantic/sexual stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 3:26 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Testing to see if Pete would be repelled. Which he was not. I think Bob senses Pete might be um, receptive at some point in the future. Also, Bob is extremely confident and aggressive and plotting all his moves. I think he's got Pete in his sights. Blackmail? Who knows but something's coming ...
posted by thinkpiece at 3:28 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


no of course it was testing Pete. What I mean is that if his speech about caring was about Dorothy and Manolo then the knee bump is a bit out of place. Like "accept the complex relationship between Dorothy and Manolo. But also would you kinda consider me as a sexual option?" seems more out of place than if it had been him saying "I think I could care for you, Pete, and would you kind of consider me as a sexual option?"
posted by sweetkid at 3:31 PM on June 13, 2013


Yeah, I kind of saw it as both things. It's definitely a proposition, but the general topic of the conversation is Manolo.
posted by Sara C. at 3:48 PM on June 13, 2013


Yeah, Elliot caressed Sal's hand in a very similar way.

I think the speech was definitely about both Dorothy and Manolo and Bob and Pete, but Bob's wording is really, really careful. It is not actually ad admission of anything, much less a declaration of either sexuality or love--rather he seems to be fishing out Pete's feelings toward him.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:49 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the speech was definitely about both Dorothy and Manolo and Bob and Pete, but Bob's wording is really, really careful.

yeah yep
posted by sweetkid at 3:53 PM on June 13, 2013


The pretext for the speech was Dorothy and Manolo, but it wasn't about them I don't think. Here's what Bob said (courtesy of Slate; I haven't checked it):
“Couldn’t it be that if someone took care of you, very good care of you, if this person would do anything for you, if your well-being was his only thought, is it impossible that you might begin to feel something for him? When there’s true love, does it matter who it is?”

The last part of it doesn't even describe Dorothy and Manolo; obviously it's possible she could begin to feel something for him, she already does. And the "true love" as described, in Dorothy and Manolo's case, would be going from Manolo to Dorothy (he takes care of her) not the other way around.

Also (I think I said this before in one of these threads), the speech echoes something Bob said to Pete in an earlier episode, "I want you to know your well-being is a concern of mine," but intensified in the later speech.

Certainly Bob was leaving himself plausible deniability, but I think it's also clear whom he's talking about. And I definitely think it's a declaration of love, though carefully worded. If Pete understands the knee nudge (which he does), how else could he interpret the "very good care, would do anything, wellbeing is his only thought" stuff?
posted by torticat at 5:06 PM on June 13, 2013


The last part of it doesn't even describe Dorothy and Manolo

Of course it does. The scene only works because the line could easily be about either Manolo and Dorothy or Bob and Pete.

The "couldn't you?" isn't meant to be predictive, it's meant to be hypothetical. It also definitely refers to Dorothy loving Manolo and not the other way around -- he is the one devoted to her, so she has come to love him.

That said, yes, it is about Manolo and Dorothy, but it's also about Bob and Pete. In the subtext, Bob is in the Manolo/carer role and Pete is in the Dorothy/lonely person role.

The scene would be a massive non sequitur if the statement wasn't about Manolo and Dorothy on the surface, because the whole scene is about Pete being disgusted by Manolo's attentions to Dorothy and Bob's attempts to explain the attraction. However, the subtext is that he's also coming out to Pete, and the even deeper subtext is that he's suggesting a similar pattern for their relationship. He cares deeply for Pete, and he hopes that Pete could love him, "no matter who [he] is".
posted by Sara C. at 6:14 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


The "couldn't you?" isn't meant to be predictive, it's meant to be hypothetical.

Yeah, I agree it means that on a surface level, I just think it's more apt on the predictive level applied to Pete-->Bob. But it is really the "true love" part that I think doesn't fit Dorothy and Manolo. Look at the logic: As an expression of true love, A cares devotedly for B, a person you might normally expect to be uninterested in A. Resulting from the care/true love, B begins to feel something for A. That's the scenario he describes, and what doesn't fit is that Manolo isn't caring for Dorothy as an expression of true love.

But yes, of course, on the surface the whole thing is meant to sound like he's talking about D&M, and Pete continues that charade when he responds. It's just when you look closely that you see it doesn't actually fit, careful as Bob is trying to be.

But I'm not trying to be argumentative; it doesn't really matter if it applies to both or only one pair of people. Mainly I was responding to e.g. It makes sense that he was talking about Manolo and Dorothy and not him and Pete and It is not actually an admission of anything because I think it's fundamentally about him and Pete and very much an admission. With plausible deniability (that however doesn't hold up to close scrutiny). If that makes sense.
posted by torticat at 6:54 PM on June 13, 2013


The "true love" thing bothered me in both interpretations, since nobody in either the urtext or the subtext is feeling anything of the kind. While I'm sure Bob is infatuated with Pete, and he might even think he's "in love with" him, they barely know each other and their relationship isn't one where "true love" could possibly be part of the equation. True love is not something that describes coworkers wondering whether the guy in the office next door might also be gay.

That said, I really liked what Tom & Lorenzo said about someone like Bob potentially having no idea how intimacy works. I don't think we're entirely meant to read his line about "an expression of true love" as a face-value indication that this is actually a "true love" situation. Even if Bob maybe thinks it is.
posted by Sara C. at 7:05 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


While I'm sure Bob is infatuated with Pete, and he might even think he's "in love with" him, they barely know each other

I agree, it's silly. However, it is what he said. And it applies (in his addled brain, and once you sort out his muddled scenario) to him as a caregiver to Pete. TLo also described Bob as "obsessive" and I think that's part of it.
posted by torticat at 7:18 PM on June 13, 2013


While I'm sure Bob is infatuated with Pete, and he might even think he's "in love with" him, they barely know each other

Bob has been working there since at least Dec 1967 to Sept 1968. He's around Pete all the time. He goes with him to brothels and just waits around. I think they probably know each other pretty well.

I don't know what your standard for love is, but Bob could well be there by now.
posted by crossoverman at 7:27 PM on June 13, 2013


Just thought of a simpler way to say what I was trying to say above. In Bob's scenario, one person is in "true love" and the other is beginning to feel something in response. With regard to Dorothy and Manolo, both of those would describe Dorothy (at different points) and neither would describe Manolo.
posted by torticat at 7:59 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bob Benson is one hell of a smooth operator. He got to take Pete's temperature on the gay thing -- because let's face it, he's infatuated with Pete -- knowing full well that Pete would be just open-minded enough not to fire him for it, and just vain enough to be flattered by the advance. Look at Bob's face as he walks out of the room. That's a man who's not worried about a damn thing.
posted by evil otto at 1:42 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm just hoping Bob won't be at the end of a gay-panicky Pete's rifle if he takes his advances up a notch.
posted by moody cow at 4:55 AM on June 14, 2013


Now that Pete has been shown/teased with the rifle in the "Next time..." scenes, the one thing we know is that he won't use it! Also from those scenes, that was one of Don's stronger "WHAT?" reactions.
posted by mikepop at 5:17 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


So Trudy got the chip n' dip in the divorce, and Pete gets the gun? Seems fair.
posted by orange swan at 5:22 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Although I think there is still a chance Pete might end up discharging the gun in a relatively harmless way (like shooting the ceiling while cleaning it, or shooting out a window by accident).
posted by mikepop at 5:25 AM on June 14, 2013


I never watch the "Next time..." scenes, so I did not know that. Interesting it makes an appearance, though.
posted by moody cow at 5:27 AM on June 14, 2013


Yes, they show him sitting on a couch in the office, I think polishing it? I'd have to re-watch. I don't pay much attention to them except for the amusement factor.
posted by mikepop at 5:44 AM on June 14, 2013


Okay, just applebonged the season. Bob & Joan but likes Pete a lot. Maybe love; but deep something whether my thriving on giving pleasure or mentor/mentee theory above ....

He (Bob) got Don to open up! "We talked at the Xmmas party. You really know your way around Pennsylvania. "

Finally, the red star shirt theory is dead. Err, alive. If not already dead.
posted by tilde at 8:48 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah the whole thing about the t-shirt. Yet another case of your micro-managing boss shoe-horning in his bad idea about something he knows nothing about, even though he hired you specifically for your expertise. Micro managers: please stop micro-managing. Go to therapy, take up knitting and just stop
posted by bleep at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Um, was Next Week on Mad Men all from previous weeks of Mad Men? WTF?
posted by Artw at 12:10 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


six things:

a) this entire episode is about closeting and uncloseting isnt it
b) why is pete letting bob stay at the company
c) i said this on the other thread, but the cruelty of hte Miss Potters scene, and the stuff that Rhomboid brought up in the other thread, makes me wonder--is this a second generation thing, Sally negotating Don's turmoil, Bob as new Don, Peggy as refusing the mentee role, and you know--Don might be a monster, but Ted is intensely problematic here as well--i don't think he's just a nice guy, but he is a different (slicker, less agressive) kind of person than Don.
d) -if the company collapses, Pete will work itself out, and he is taking Bob with him (see question one) and Henry can work thru LA, and Peggy will do what Peggy does, but, what is going on with Ken?
e) what are the other girls schools around that place, that Sally could go to? What does Betty know?
f) who knows Don's secret now?
posted by PinkMoose at 12:25 AM on June 17, 2013


Interesting to note that Bob doesn't even seem to be a best little boy in the world, after all. Or, he might be some strain of it, but not as described by TLo (upper middle class, college overachiever etc.). The implication of Duck's summary seems to be that he didn't even go to college (though we don't know for sure).
posted by torticat at 3:04 AM on June 17, 2013


Okay then, Pete owns him now. My goodness. I thought about him being another Don Draper but I'm not sure if I ever posted it here.

Glen! Ha!

Yeesh, Ted. "I don't know what's going on, honey, but you have to pull back on the throttle a little" Megan - reading as a precursor to Ted flying accident "accident"?

Lol, Ken got Dick Cheney'd. Will help his writing, I guess.
posted by tilde at 10:41 AM on June 17, 2013


Glen is awesome.
posted by Artw at 10:46 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also Sally needs to have Peggy train her up in stick-knife fighting.
posted by Artw at 10:47 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Internet is killing us Monday-evening Amazon watchers today whereas it's been largely quiet this season, in terms of twitter/comments/etc. What gives. No wait, don't tell me.
posted by bleep at 11:19 AM on June 17, 2013


Maybe he did pull a Mr Ripley and Bob is some Dick Whitman without demons.

tilde should get some sort of prize.

Like, my last mentor wanted to fuck me, therefore you probably also want to fuck me.

Sara C. too.

Here is what we know about Bob Benson: He went to Beloit and then got his MBA from Wharton. He worked in finance for a year, he hated it, and his family has worked for the same financial company for three generations (since this is all so easily checked by the people he told it to – Don and Pete – we’re going on the safe assumption that it’s accurate).

lolz.

b) why is pete letting bob stay at the company

b/c he owns him now, and bob is good at his job. i'm not sure why Pete apologized tho. that seems out of character.

Lol, Ken got Dick Cheney'd.

I almost lost it when Ken got peppered. Are they GameofThroning us?! ... Whew.

Um, was Next Week on Mad Men all from previous weeks of Mad Men? WTF?

I thought that was fantastic. The clips are all 2-second non-sequiturs anyway.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:24 AM on June 19, 2013


and FUCK YEAH, GLEN. He's back, baby!
posted by mrgrimm at 10:24 AM on June 19, 2013


Or, he might be some strain of it, but not as described by TLo (upper middle class, college overachiever etc.).

I actually think Bob's Mr. Ripley side is quite in keeping with the "Best Little Boy" thing.

The West Virginia thing is very telling, I think. Growing up in the south, I knew two types of gay men:

1. Working or lower class guys who found some type of career path that isn't "working at the mill", like operating a salon or working in the hospitality industry. The idea is to have something you can do yourself, with little needed input, ideally largely in cash and super-scalable so you don't need a ton of capital. You need no education, no connections, and nobody's permission to exist. A lot of these men move to cities and go into a more "Manolo" type career path, waiters, maitre d's, companions to the elderly. But usually not an "overachiever" type context.

2. Guys like Bob. "Best Little Boys In The World". Not all these people were upper-middle-class, at all. The thing about being an overachiever is that you don't have to be from any particular type of family. In fact, the thing that really stands out in the BLBITW personality type, to me, is that these guys are NOT doing the things expected of them because of family background. They are the first in their family to go to college. Or they go to State U and manage to parlay that into something nobody in their circle would think to do (I'm thinking here of my former theatre teacher who went to LSU for English, like you do, and then SURPRISE moved to New York to be a playwright). It's not a middle class "ticking all the boxes" sort of achievement, it's an "I have to get the fuck out of here" hyper-achievement. I think this type of personality is totally in line with Bob's trajectory of getting to the big city SOMEHOW and forcing his way into business through sheer personality. It's unusual that he would use subterfuge to do it, but if he started out with very few options, it's not impossible. Keep in mind that this is still a world where you can get a white collar job without a college degree.
posted by Sara C. at 11:43 AM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yep, Sara C., I was just about to post that West Virginia + possibly gay = demon generator.

It's also, I think, shown by cutting off ALL ties with everyone in their past, completely. There is no conversation about possible siblings or parents, and any family that comes crawling out of the wood work is treated like Adam Whitman.

So Don, a little Mr Ripley, and a whole other dimension of issues.
posted by tilde at 11:57 AM on June 19, 2013


Um guys I had a thought:

What if Bob isn't so much another Don Draper, as another Peggy Olson?

Peggy also doesn't have the education level or class background that most people in her field do. She also started in an administrative role* and moved up due to having a strong mentor who wanted to see her succeed. She's also incredibly talented and mostly skates by on sheer force of awesome. I can definitely see an alternate universe where someone like Paul Kinsey refused to work with her and was told to take a hike.

*Interesting that Bob's background at Brown Brothers is described as being a "servant boy", and it's implied that moving up is some kind of perverted quid pro quo. While people probably assume that Don slept with Peggy, at least her very existence isn't assumed to be some kind of degeneracy.
posted by Sara C. at 12:23 PM on June 19, 2013


But she doesn't lie her ass off about everything* - her name, her family, her history*, her education. She faces up to her problems instead of running away. She fights instead of accepts. She takes what (who) she wants. She thought she was supposed to sleep with Don, and didn't mind the prospect, but was fine with Pete instead, and further conquests after.

*baby not included.
posted by tilde at 12:53 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


*baby not included.

Pete's mom seemingly turning psychic and asking about the Pete-child was one of the moments of the series.
posted by Artw at 1:09 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


*Interesting that Bob's background at Brown Brothers is described as being a "servant boy", and it's implied that moving up is some kind of perverted quid pro quo. While people probably assume that Don slept with Peggy, at least her very existence isn't assumed to be some kind of degeneracy.

It's outright stated that he was having sex with his boss, who would take him on trips to Europe, and that sex was the only reason for his employment.

While people probably assume that Don slept with Peggy, at least her very existence isn't assumed to be some kind of degeneracy.

I think Megan's existence at SCDP was. And she did good work.

While I don't buy is the pick-up attempt of Campbell by Benson. I can understand the "i used to fuck my old boss" thinking, but he is ensconced as an account man. He wants protection, and probably is attracted to Pete, but it seems waaay too risky. Regardless of any of the lies, his job status and what he did at Brown Brothers is more than enough to get him fired from SCP or whatever it is called now.

Pete basically said "I don't want to work with this guy," and the partners said "tough shit." Bob has acquired some power. Why throw it away by exposing your hand? I don't see why on Earth he would bring in Manolo either. That really stretched credibility for someone who was supposed to be such a good con man. Hold your secrets close to the vest.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:44 PM on June 19, 2013


his job status and what he did at Brown Brothers

Is it? I mean, lying about his credentials, yes. But jumping from an administrative role to a managerial role wouldn't have been unheard of at the time. It's nothing different from what Peggy did, or what Joan did. He's also been at SC&P presumably doing good work for the past year, and this seems like somewhat of a "don't ask permission, ask forgiveness" situation.

I mean, unless I'm drastically misremebering what Duck actually said about Bob's job at Brown Brothers. I remember the term "manservant" or "serving boy" being used, but that's really just a judgment about a man who would do administrative work. It's not like Bob was the elevator operator.
posted by Sara C. at 2:02 PM on June 19, 2013


Interesting (and of course, he's always double-fisting).

"Wolk has no comment on his character's motivations: "Matt [show creator Weiner] has told me things about Bob that I can't repeat. I'll only say that at every moment, Bob is striving to be his best, and I always keep that in mind." In fact, Wolk prefers that Benson remain ambiguous. "If Mad Men went on for 10 years, and if it were up to me, Bob would continue being mysterious. I love characters that catch you off guard." He mentions Aaron Stampler, Ed Norton's character in Primal Fear, and Keyser Söze (Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects). "They're so much more interesting."

Aaron Stampler and Keyzer Soze, eh? Methinks Bob's plot line is going to get a bit darker. They are teasing that gun angle, but I bet it's something more symbolic. I would not be surprised to see Bob push Pete down an empty elevator shaft. "He just walked in!" (Oh, nevermind.)

I remember the term "manservant" or "serving boy" being used, but that's really just a judgment about a man who would do administrative work. It's not like Bob was the elevator operator.

It was my understanding he was the secretary (perhaps the first "personal assistant") for the VP. Not a man's job at the time, and not likely to go into accounts.

his job status and what he did at Brown Brothers

Is it?


I think so. The fact that he is gay, or was the gay lover of a boss ... sure, Stonewall is coming, but I can't imagine SCP keeps him on. Dunno. The fact that he lied about his job at Brown (i.e. a secretary and not an accounts "man") seems enough by itself.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:17 PM on June 19, 2013


Duck said "man servant of one of the VPs" which I took to mean a household employee of someone at Brown Brothers Harriman, not actually employed by Brown Brothers Harriman. I didn't hear anything that suggested "secretary".
posted by bleep at 3:00 PM on June 19, 2013


I took " manservant" from how it was said and the phrasing to mean " Something like we'd call a " personal assistant" but we all know is just a fig leaf for a relationship ." thing. Kept boy with nominal title ( or he could have literally have been a valet, like imagine Bob being ' employeed' as a kind of young Jeeves to a aging Wooster using the " I'm old and rich and europeian so of course I have things like manservants and valves at all times" cover.
posted by The Whelk at 3:26 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that he is gay, or was the gay lover of a boss ... sure, Stonewall is coming, but I can't imagine SCP keeps him on. Dunno.

Sure, but that's not firing due to not being qualified or due to the "truth" of his previous position. That's firing due to being gay. Which is up there with lying about credentials in terms of things that are actually likely to get him fired. "Used to have an administrative job that isn't really proper work for a man" is way down the list at this point.

But, yeah, this all sort of depends whether Bob was a secretary or a pool boy. Duck makes it sound like the latter, but we don't really know the truth. I mean, you uncover a bunch of lies about someone, when you get to the part with legs of course you're going to assume the absolute worst, that Bob was some kind of "kept" hustler in the entourage of a high-ranking exec.

I, too, took "manservant" to mean more personal staff than executive staff, but it's really hard to tell what his actual job actually was, since we have his inflations on one side and Duck's shock on the other. Meanwhile, if you really think about it, Bob's move up the career ladder isn't all that different from Peggy's, Joan's, or Megan's. The real hinge it all turns on is Bob's gender and sexuality.

(I mean obviously except for the lying. The lying is wrong, fireable, and obviously shocking in a more innocent time when people largely are who they say they are.)

And of course it should be obvious by this point that this Brown Brothers VP is the "father" that Manolo nursed back to health.
posted by Sara C. at 3:52 PM on June 19, 2013


Keep in mind the Brits or anyone else never refered to Moneyponey (their male secretary) as a manservant. I think that would have been extremely odd.
posted by bleep at 4:19 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind I also forget what his actual name was.
posted by bleep at 4:20 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


MoneyPenny.
posted by sweetkid at 4:20 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh right. It's been a long day and I forgot how to spell "penny".
posted by bleep at 4:22 PM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm supposed to be on vacation guys stop me from writing a Jeeves-like Bob ( then called James Jackson) "helping" rich American ex-pats in Europe in the late 50s backstory fanfic.
posted by The Whelk at 4:27 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


What? I'm not stopping that. I look forward to reading it.
posted by sweetkid at 4:28 PM on June 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but that's because he was one of them. The Americans certainly had plenty of dismissive things to say about it.

And also, keep in mind that Duck isn't speaking as someone who knew Bob or worked at Brown Brothers when he did, but speaking as someone who was trying to vet someone's resume and quickly discovering that the candidate isn't who he says he is at all. It's also relatively clear that Bob was known to be gay (and not in an inclusive way) at Brown Brothers, which would color both what Brown Brothers told Duck and how Duck chose to frame the information to Pete.

Almost all the exposition we have on Bob, we know through an unreliable narrator. He could be a well-meaning West Virginia State grad who inflated his credentials as a defense against the fact that he was a known queer at his last job. He could be a pretty hillbilly street hustler who bilked an old man out of his fortune. We have no idea. All we know is that most of what we've been told about Bob isn't strictly true.

One thing that comes to mind is the way Pete framed Don's secret identity as being "a deserter" back in Season 1, whereas I don't think that's necessary the way that we the viewers think about it. We see Don's actions as understandable, if immoral. Pete sees them as monstrous. There could be similar shades of grey about Bob's identity and the reasons he did the things he did.
posted by Sara C. at 4:29 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]




Penistone?

Keep in mind the Brits or anyone else never refered to Moneyponey (their male secretary) as a manservant

Isn't Moneypenny James Bond's female assistant (or secretary to M, whatever)?
posted by mrgrimm at 10:05 PM on June 19, 2013


Okay, so I've see the idea that Pete let Bob stay because now he owns him a number of places. And it's wrong. Really wrong.

Pete is afraid of Bob.

Pete found out about Don way back when, and no one cared. Don kept getting away with everything, despite lying about it. Pete doesn't understand that, and resents it. When he tried to do something about it, it backfired and became "What is the deal with you Pete, come on man".

Now he's just tried to grab Chrysler and get Bob off of it and was told point blank that Bob's staying and he's replaceable. Now he finds out that Bob, like Don, has lied about his entire background and gotten away with it.

Pete doesn't out Bob because he has learned that that doesn't work. He is afraid that if he tries, Bob will be fine and he will be hurt by it. When Bob asks for a day's head start, Pete is dismissive - he doesn't actually believe that Bob is going to cut and run, he thinks Bob is asking for a day to turn this around and hurt Pete with it. He says something like "Who knows what damage you could do in a day" and that he knows not to mess with "people like you", people like Don.

Bob is a liar who gets away with everything and everyone loves, like Don. Pete doesn't understand it, resents it, and has learned to fear it. He wants to stay as far out of Bob Benson's way as possible, not to try and control him.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:52 PM on June 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or, he might be some strain of it, but not as described by TLo (upper middle class, college overachiever etc.).
...
I actually think Bob's Mr. Ripley side is quite in keeping with the "Best Little Boy" thing.


Eh, TLo acknowledged exactly what I said:

No, he wasn’t the upper-class striver we figured him to be and

In retrospect, certain things about Bob make a lot more sense, such as the idea of sending a deli tray to Mrs. Sterling’s funeral. No upper-middle-class striver would make a tacky bungle like that.

But yes, some BLB qualities still describe Bob.
posted by torticat at 6:38 AM on June 20, 2013


Pete doesn't understand it, resents it, and has learned to fear it.

vibratory, I mostly agree with your comment (I think! Still somewhat reserving judgment on all things Pete and Bob!), only I think there is a bit more to it. Pete definitely felt he had gained something on Bob, something more I think than just neutralizing a threat. He paused after walking out of Bob's office following that conversation, and smiled to himself. Then he greeted Clara brightly and went into his office.

(This is contrasted with the way he had charged into his office earlier, head down and angry, snapping at Clara, just after he had failed to get Bob taken off Chevy.)

I don't think Pete smiles like that unless he thinks something has just worked out to his advantage. Yes, he fears Bob; but he also feels that he's learned how to handle this kind of person, and that his knowledge may actually work to his benefit this time.
posted by torticat at 6:49 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe this is the wikipedia talking but ...

Okay, FAR FETCHED theory (and you thought my pleasure seeker thing was weird; I didn't mean to imply he had no motivations outside that but that it complemented what he was doing well; the 'manservant' bit seemed to fit more plausibly but I'll get into that later) is this:

From day one, we've seen Peter Campbell pitting himself against the awesomeness that is Don Draper; trying to be good like Roger (and eventually Ken) but also creative like Don to an extent. He's a young man in the series with ambition, with an idea of "how things are supposed to go" to men with his briefcase of white male WASP privilege. He just can't do it well (the girl who threatens to leave if he doesn't get less handsy at his bachelor burlesque, the au pair he rapes, the friendly relationship he tries to establish with Don, then the bombing he tries to pull of Don, getting fired in the process. Trying to keep it up with Peggy but she doesn't want to and moves on past him. The clumsyness with which he handled his external affairs and getting kicked out by Trudy, trying to talk to her about her father and getting her to break it fully. She's trying to follow the same rules, pretending where she should, but he pushes it too far.)

Additionally, there is alot of shit he gets from (got from) his parents. Belittling his job. Refusing to loan him money or take care of him like they do his brother (money for DUI, but not apartment). His dad was a jerk to him, and his mom seems to not like him either. Despite her recent claims to no longer denying her self - why? Bud is the older brother; could he and Peter have different fathers? Did Peter's mother have an affair, a quick jaunt into not-denying-self land, and he a product of that affair; his father resented him for not being his natural child and his mother for simply being born (and thereby illuminating the affair?)? Or is Bud not her husband's child (pre marriage affair) so she loves her Love Child more, and wishes she'd never gotten pregnant with her jerk of a husband's child (Pete)?

Is this one of her senile revelations to come? How will he react to being brought up falsely, as an unwitting liar similar to Don and Bob?

The proto thought of this has been tinkering in my mind lately, since the "sour little boy as a child" comment. But hell, if you'd been treated like they treat him wouldn't you be sour too, perhaps? It got fully booted to the fingertips after I started reading the wikipedia entry about the TV series Soap - one of the characters is named Peter Campbell and is killed while some threads about extramarital affairs are being unwound ...
posted by tilde at 7:26 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bob fucking Benson. What the fuck?
posted by Artw at 10:45 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh, they sure are painting Bob and Joan there, despite Roger's "evaluation". Or maybe Joan is knowingly using him to keep Roger at a distance. "I'm letting you into his [Kevin's] life, not mine."
posted by tilde at 5:45 AM on June 25, 2013


Yeah I got into an argument over the various permutations possible with the Joan/Bob relationship, they're friends, they're both in on it, Bob is seducing Joan, etc. There's not a lot of concrete evidence either way, which is I think the point- we're supposed to be as confused as Roger is as to Just What Is His Deal.

On one hand I really want Joanie to have a guy friend ( or A Friend, period) and a Not-bearing-but-we're-not-gonna-say-we,re-not thing would benefit both of them...and I'd like to think Joan is totally on the ball when it comes to interpersonal matters like this. ...on the other hand, Bob is basically a supervillian and his motives are shadowy and unknowable aside from being an A 1 Amazon Plus Would Buy Again manipulator. So it can go either way.
posted by The Whelk at 7:06 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


It occurred to me today that Maybe Manolo isn't even gay. Maybe that's just something they tell people so they'll think he's "safe" around their rich grannies, in a Three's Company kind of way.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:41 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's just so interesting because at first we all kind of found Bob funny, then there was something ominous about him, then it was like "oh maybe not ominous he's just gay" then something ominous DID happen with Manolo, but it was mostly played for laughs/mild discomfort in the background of the finale.

Stuff like this is why I think this show is just out of the park brilliant.
posted by sweetkid at 10:44 AM on June 26, 2013


Oh yes. So many switches and turns in that finale, all expertly building on what went before.
posted by Artw at 10:52 AM on June 26, 2013


Maybe that's just something they tell people so they'll think he's "safe" around their rich grannies, in a Three's Company kind of way.

Eh, this isn't the Three's Company era, quite yet. Remember when Bob told Pete "Oh, no, he doesn't swing that way?" Pete countered with HE'S A DEGENERATE?! And remember that Pete is one of the more politically liberal characters in a politically liberal industry in a politically liberal part of the US.

I don't think pretending to be gay is really that great a plan if you want to set yourself up as a con man.
posted by Sara C. at 10:53 AM on June 26, 2013


I'm frankly still confused about whether Manolo really was a con man who murdered Pete's mother for money, or whether that's just a conclusion he jumped to and there are no real answers to the question of why his mother died. And if Manolo really did do that, whether Bob had anything to do with it at all aside from purely circumstantial "Oh, I have a great recommendation for a nurse."

Like, was it played for laughs because Pete knows deep down there's actually nothing to the fact that Bob and Manolo conspired to murder his mother, and he was just speaking out of anger? Because being an accessory to murder is a pretty serious accusation.
posted by Sara C. at 10:55 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe next season featuring some Strangers on a Train type action when she turns up again?
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm frankly still confused about whether Manolo really was a con man who murdered Pete's mother for money, or whether that's just a conclusion he jumped to and there are no real answers to the question of why his mother died.

I think the whole scene with Pete and his brother on the phone was perhaps unnecessarily convoluted. I like the resolution--Pete and his bro decide it would cost too much to pursue Manolo, and, you know, "she's in the water now ... with father"--but it was awful opaque.

My understanding was that Manolo was definitely a con man (Manolo was an alias, I think?) and I had the impression his behavior after he discovered Pete's mom had no inheritance strongly indicated foul play. But like most things, I don't think anything was definitive (other than Pete and bro not wanting to spend any time or money pursuing justice.)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:33 PM on June 26, 2013


It's all pretty ambiguous, but to me it doesn't make much sense. In another thread someone suggested that a professional con man would have found out the family fortune was gone. But assuming maybe Manolo missed this (maybe he skipped research because Bob recommended her) why go through with the Panamanian wedding and a murder? It seems like it would be easier to just make off with whatever jewelry was left and cut your losses. Or does the family still own the house at least? Would that be worth enough to risk the murder?

And assuming it was murder, wouldn't Bob know this was Manolo's M.O. when suggesting him as a nurse? Let's say Pete's mom had never alluded to any "romantic entanglements" - Pete would have been pretty happy with his mom being taken care of and in good spirits. But oh yeah, then she suspiciously falls off a ship. This would suggest it wasn't murder since Bob wouldn't want to jeopardize his relationship with Pete (especially if Bob also truly harbored deeper feelings for him) and thus would not set up his Mom for a con where she ends up dead. (Unless they thought the fortune was so vast his job wouldn't matter anymore. But in that case they would have done the research and found out this wasn't true)

But then again, everyone is assuming Bob's lines about Manolo nursing his father back to health since he also says his dad is dead. But maybe he was foreshadowing what was in store for Pete's mom. Ok, probably not but it all makes for a bizarre side plot.
posted by mikepop at 1:45 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's just as likely that she either really did fall off the boat and die, or sent that telegram herself. Mad Men reminds me of the Sopranos in that everyone is so quick to fill in the gaps with these elaborate scenarios that amount to the show asking you to do the heavy lifting via fan fiction. I don't know if that's the intent or if the intent is to show that just like in real life sometimes you don't know and you have to accept it. Like Pete and Bud did.
posted by bleep at 1:55 PM on June 26, 2013


Next time on Mad Men: Pete and Bud chase a half-dead Russian through a snowy wood.
posted by bleep at 2:00 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


My thought about what really happened also hinges on the fact that we know Pete jumps to conclusions when it comes to people with identity issues. He's not exactly a reliable narrator in situations like this.

Like, she could have legitimately slipped. Nothing about the circumstances proves that she was murdered.

Also, Manolo's alias isn't really like a Sketchy McGrifter type alias, but an ethnically neutral take on his real name. I mean, aside from the fact that it sounds totally made up and silly, of course.
posted by Sara C. at 4:16 PM on June 26, 2013




Mad Men season six finale back and forth part 1

I'm just glad someone mentioned the apron. Bob was fucking rocking it.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:55 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


i would so watch a Pete & Bob spinoff called "Not Great, Bob"
posted by mrgrimm at 8:56 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


We should take this to the new offices.
posted by Artw at 8:57 AM on June 28, 2013


You can't fool me. I'm not falling for that second-floor trick.

3 Ways 'Mad Men' Season 6 Was All About Class Warfare

Bob Benson: Opportunist.

"I'm doing fine, Nixon is president, everything is back just the way Jesus wants it to be."
posted by mrgrimm at 9:15 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


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