The first episode of Man Men, ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ is a well-crafted pilot in terms of its use of metaphors and motifs, which sets the tone for the rest of the series. There are two notable thematic elements within this episode. The first takes form in the role of the women, whereby not only do they explore a new sense of sexual liberation, but the men also treat them as sexual objects. They are treated as though they are beneath men in regards to the workplace. The second thematic element which stands out is a sense of living a double life and making excuses for bad habits. The audience are given small hints throughout the episode that this may be the case for many of the characters, and this is confirmed by the end of the episode.
A striking comparison of two types of women is seen through the characters of Joan and newly employed secretary Penny. Through costuming alone, we can see a distinct difference in personality types. This styling depicts Joan in a knee length, tight fitting, green dress, her hair neatly pinned in an up-do. Peggy on the hand wears a demur coloured ankle length skirt with an unflattering yellow sweater. These differences in styling lead the audience to assume that Joan is of the new-age sexually liberated type of woman, while Peggy is a good, innocent girl from Brooklyn, new to a busy city and the workings of an advertising office. The audiences thoughts are confirmed when Joan shows Peggy around the office stating if Peggy follows her lead, she’ll avoid the mistakes she made, at which point a male co-worker says hello to Joan, to which she says “like that one.”
When Peggy later visits a doctor recommended by Joan to get the contraceptive pill, further judgement is cast on each of the women. “Even in our times, easy women don’t find husbands… I’m sure you’re not that kind of girl, Joan on the other hand.”
This notion of womanly sexual liberation is also seen through the woman advertising executive Don Draper is sleeping with. She sits on the bed provocatively flirting while unbuttoning her shirt. She claims that she “doesn’t make plans or breakfast.”
Overall, the men’s views on women throughout the episode are predominately derogatory with many stating they wouldn’t want a nice girl and in order for a woman to know what kind of girl to be, men need to let them know what kind of guy they are.
This not only takes shape in a sexualised form but also through the workplace with Draper refusing to co-operate with Jewish store executive and client Rachel, dismissing the meeting early as to not let a woman speak to him in a challenging manner.
Its seems as though the women endorse this behaviour when Joan makes a comment to Peggy about not being confronted by the technology of the typewriter because the men who designed it made it simple enough for women to use.
It is again seen when Draper stands over his tobacco researcher (another woman), before throwing away her research report. He greatly belittles her and the styling of camera angles created to look up at Draper assist in creating the tone of the scene.
The second thematic element of this episode is best summed up within this quote.
“People are living one way, but are secretly thinking the complete opposite? That’s ridiculous!” the irony of this stems from the sense of the double life many of the characters are living, particularly Draper. Keeping shirts in his draw at work suggests he often doesn’t go home.
The tobacco campaign metaphor in itself and the Freudian relation to humanity wanting a death wish is exactly what Draper grapples with, making excuses for bad behaviour and living like there’s no tomorrow. “Happiness is that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay,” is what Draper lives by, whether it be smoking, sexual affairs or lies.
Just the like the close up shot of the fly trapped within his office light, Draper is entrapped within the spotlight of his work and the entanglement of his secret love life. Everything rides on him.
Sure enough, the conclusion of the episode reveals Draper is indeed living a secret double life – a suburban family home with a wife and two children.