The XX Factor

Babies on Mad Men

See all of Slate’s coverage of Mad Men, Season 5 here.

Christina Hendricks poses after ringing the opening bell with the cast of ‘Madmen’ at the New York Stock Exchang

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.

In the context of the show the appearance of Joan’s tiny baby Kevin in the office was a revelation. We’ve seen the Draper children bouncing around the waiting room in a we’re-off-from-school kind of giddy mood, but Kevin landed with more of a Biblical bang. He is Roger’s kid, for one thing, and when Roger held him all he did was blow smoke in his face and proclaim the baby to be less interesting than his mother. Plus little Kevin gave us an opportunity to recall Peggy’s sin. She too had a baby with a colleague that she doesn’t acknowledge, and when asked to hold little Kevin she said she couldn’t because “my hands are dirty.” All great and efficient drama.  

But as a viewer I worry that in the long haul Kevin will take some of the fun out of the show for me. One of the great pleasures of Mad Men is imagining an era where not just workplace mores but domestic existence operated by utterly different rules. Remember the famous scene of Sally walking into the kitchen with the dry cleaning bag over her head, and Betty only worrying about whether the clothes from inside the bag had gotten dirty? That’s the alternative world I like to indulge in for an hour on Sundays.

But this premiere set us up for a kind of modern mommy drama that’s exhaustingly familiar. Washington Post blogger Jen Chaney says Joan is going to be a “mommy blogger’s dream” this season and I’m worried she’s right. Joan collapsing on the bed, Joan cooped up, Joan complaining about the post-partum emotional roller coaster, Joan nervous that her colleagues don’t need her anymore, and then Joan perking up when Lane tells her the books have been held together by “spit” in her absence. It was wrenching when it happened on Friday Night Lights or even Sex and the City but that’s because those shows take place in our era. But do I really need Mad Men for that?