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30 August 2010 @ 03:36 pm
Pete Campbell and Race  
On a few occasions, we have seen Pete comment or react to the question of black civil rights.

Pete reacts with visible distaste to Roger's black face minstrelsy. He sees the "Negro" market as a perfectly respectable way to make a buck. Pete understands that passing civil rights legislation isn't enough for "those people" because, as he says, a dog can stay at the Waldorf and black people still can't.

I've been thinking about Pete's seeming understanding or acceptance of black civil rights. Pete is almost certainly a racist---a middle-of-the-road, typical racist of the time. He probably wouldn't want black people to live in his neighborhood, attend his kids' school, or date his daughter. He wouldn't burn a a cross, but he would probably find some justification for his racism ("They would be more comfortable among their own kind.") Racism was not seen as immoral in the 1960s, but as the natural order. It would be very hard for Pete *not* to be a racist.

But one thing that Pete is aware of and understands is the desire for dignity, respect, and a higher place in the world. Pete understands what it feels like to want and not have. Even though Pete is incredibly privileged, he doesn't feel that he is. He has always felt like the underdog who had to struggle, while the Ken Cosgroves of the world get what they want easily. I seriously doubt that Pete is a social liberal, but he does understand what it means to desire and struggle, so he can empathize with black people.

In some ways this does speak of something positive in Pete's character. He sees black people as full-fledged human beings who have the same needs and wants and the same right to fight for what they want. Unlike Bert, he's not threatened, and, unlike Betty, he doesn't think this is all going too fast.

Now can Pete treat a black person as an equal in an everyday situation? We have seen him deal with black people twice. With Sheila White, Paul's black girlfriend, Pete was perfectly polite, just like everyone else.

In the other scene, where Pete is questioning the black elevator operator/bellboy, it seemed to me that Pete had no idea how incredibly intimidating he was being. The man works in the building, and to an extent, works under Pete, so while Pete was attempting, in his hamfisted way be friendly, it was a pretty awful scene.

These were limited interactions, but Pete does seem to see black people as, you know, *people.* Granted, that really isn't much of a compliment, but for a guy like Pete, who has so few virtues, this is a notable one for the time period and his social class.
 
 
 
shanghai_jim on August 30th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
But one thing that Pete is aware of and understands is the desire for dignity, respect, and a higher place in the world. Pete understands what it feels like to want and not have. Even though Pete is incredibly privileged, he doesn't feel that he is. He has always felt like the underdog who had to struggle, while the Ken Cosgroves of the world get what they want easily. I seriously doubt that Pete is a social liberal, but he does understand what it means to desire and struggle, so he can empathize with black people.

That's an illuminating insight. Now that you mention it, I can see that aspect of his personality - while Don and others have always sneered at his high-WASP background, within his family, his social circle, Pete has always been second-place and deprecated.
dancing till the world ends: vinnie madmenlynnenne on August 30th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
He does seem to me slightly less offensive than the rest of the characters.
an owl on the sill in the evening: Mad Men: Petemisstopia on August 30th, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's really possible to come off sounding like "Yeah Pete, congratulations, you're not as big of an asshole as the rest, blue ribbon!!!1" so it's good you mention that Pete is still racist. He absolutely is. But does he maybe stand a higher chance of questioning his values? I think in comparison to a lot of other characters, yeah. Even then I think he'll always be racist, though.

Good insights.
do you want orcs? because this is how you get orcs: MM: bad feminist. bad.kita0610 on August 30th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
Oh he's still an asshole. Misogyny isn't something he questions, lord knows.

OTOH, he's also a businessman- and anyone with money to spend is worth marketing to in his book. Whether that means he's less racist, I think is up for debate.

He's a great complex character though, that's for sure. Definitely not what he seemed in Ep1.
an owl on the sill in the eveningmisstopia on August 30th, 2010 09:25 pm (UTC)
Definitely one of the best characters I've come across. I think he was more or less as he seemed in episode one, only he grew since then. And that's been rewarding to watch.

Yeah, I guess Pete is egalitarian when it comes to the almighty dollar, which will always make it hard for him to be anti-oppression in the marxist sense, heheh. But he does represent a younger attitude than all the other old boys in the office. At first they teased him for it ("Never hire young people") but he's come through and been right in enough situations where they'll have to start taking him seriously.
do you want orcs? because this is how you get orcs: MM: i don't even knowkita0610 on August 30th, 2010 09:29 pm (UTC)
IDK, I feel like in Ep 1- actually most of S1, we were shown a way more simple version of him? The potential was there though, you're absolutely right. In a way, him and Don are on opposite trajectories, and Pete seems to have more decent qualities when you get down to it. Which is certainly not what I expected in the beginning. I'm glad for it though, because it makes for better TV. And sure, bc I am a VK fan, and it's awesome to see what he does with this part.

The whole generation angle is *really* well done too, IMO. It's a great way to encapsulate what each of the decades stood for, by having a character or group of characters stand in for that time period. For example, Pete is a great bridge to the 60's, whereas Peggy is fully embracing it. And smoking it. *G*
an owl on the sill in the evening: Mad Men: orlymisstopia on August 30th, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
Re. Don and Pete's core values, well, Don also has decent aspects, but he is a more confused, destabilized person. He's a pretender. Pete does not even have the self-awareness to pretend, heheh, and in a way his simplicity makes him more honest (sometimes painfully so, good lord). I haven't seen as great moments of emotion from Pete as from Don, but on the other hand he seems more sustainably adaptable, whereas with Don you get the feeling that it's just a matter of time before the gig is up. From the very first episode of S1, actually, we know that Don is an old man (see his scene with Midge when they discuss work) just trying to keep time at bay, and that gets revisited in every season. Pete is a young man growing up (awkwardly).

But though I don't think you can reduce the characters to X essentially better, Y essentially worse, I definitely agree that they have contrasting trajectories. The way Pete spoke with the elevator guy is just as cringeworthy as Paul dating a black woman for intellectual "street cred", but the way he absolutely does not understand why the tv company wouldn't want a black market ... well compare that to Don's "YOU PEOPLE" comment to Sal. Their characterizations are both within the scope of business and we should be careful not to overextend that, but within that frame we can make interesting comparisons.

Edited at 2010-08-30 09:47 pm (UTC)
falafel_musings: mad men 2falafel_musings on August 30th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
he's also a businessman- and anyone with money to spend is worth marketing to in his book. Whether that means he's less racist, I think is up for debate.

On the one hand you could say that Pete is just wanting to cash in on the Civil Rights movement. But even if Pete's motivation is business rather than the humanitarian cause - making a racially intergrated TV ad would have been a positive step towards equality, one that the old agency wasn't ready to make. And personally I thought Pete reading Ebony magazine and his comment about Lassie at the Waldorf suggests he has an interest in black people's perspective as well as their money.
do you want orcs? because this is how you get orcs: MM: fucking with your sexual preferencekita0610 on August 30th, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
Or at the very least he sees people who are not like him as *having* different perspectives, even if he mostly just wants to exploit those perspectives for money.

Yeah, I don't think he oughtta be congratulated on his open mindedness either, but he's several steps ahead of the rest of the good old boys in the office.
falafel_musings: mad menfalafel_musings on August 30th, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
Matt Weiner made a comment on 'The Inheritance' commentary that Pete was raised by a black maid. And, like Sally Draper with Carla, Pete probably recieved more warmth and consideration from that maid than he did his own mother. So I don't think black people are so alien to Pete. He is used to seeing them in a context where they are lower class, but by all signs Pete is open to change and pro-Civil Rights. He isn't stuck in the view that other races are inferior. And it's not because Pete is a closet liberal, but simply because Pete feels that in business the only colour that matters is green. One line that Pete said to Harry recently summed it up well - "I don't care if she looks Puerto Rican. Puerto Rican girls buy brassieres."
Goddess: Mad Menceebeegee on August 30th, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
Weiner also said that Pete was part of a tradition of privileged New York social liberalism, kind of a latter-day, American version of noblesse oblige.
Ashley!  It's Unisex!randomneses on August 31st, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
*Nod nod*
The Archangel Robriel: Sal is Smokingarchanglrobriel on August 30th, 2010 09:25 pm (UTC)
It makes me wonder (especially after reading "The Help" this summer) if Pete was another kid like Sally will undoubtedly be, who was basically handed off to a black nurse or maid who was possibly the only person in his life whom he genuinely loved and respected.
falafel_musings: ros/guilfalafel_musings on August 30th, 2010 10:04 pm (UTC)
Like Sally, I think Pete is, in his buffoonish way, also a bit of a rebel. He's the black sheep of his WASP family, he's stood up to his father in law and he's not afraid to go against any of the elder men at the agency. Pete himself is regularly belittled by his superiors and parental figures, and Pete is an upstart who is challenging their authority - and maybe challenging their old racist beliefs is part of that.
ever_neutral: just aim and shootever_neutral on August 31st, 2010 12:22 am (UTC)
Word. Well said.
Lsunshine_selah on August 30th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
i thought abt The Help so much @ the end of the eppy before this last one. w/carla and sally sitting in the doc's waiting room!

yes!
I want to be a genetic dead end.: Connorshakespearechic on August 30th, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
These are definitely some good insights. I've always found Pete to be pretty complex and I'm glad to see that coming out more in the show. I also feel like we have seen real growth from him from S1 until now.
chrys20chrys20 on August 30th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)
Where did Pete show distaste for blackface? A lot of people made faces during that scene, and it was because Roger was embarrassing himself.
Lsunshine_selah on August 30th, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC)
i really enjoyed reading this!
Sizequeensizequeen on August 30th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
Nazi Julie Andrews: (act) nicole kidman / chanel adbreakattiffanys on August 30th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
On one hand, I think Pete is mostly showing good business sense in that he doesn't let his personal feelings about different groups, whatever they might be, dictate business decisions that will make money. He was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Honda deal and chewed out Roger for letting his personal feelings about the Japanese get in the way of their deal. I think it just shows that he isn't of the same generation of his bosses and he sees all people as potential for business.

That said, it's not surprising that a guy who was raised in east coast aristocracy would be more open about these things. At the time, they were probably the most accepting of racial tolerance.
Ashley!  It's Unisex!randomneses on August 31st, 2010 01:03 am (UTC)
Capitalism drives Pete's urge to move towards more racially accepting ads and campaigns. That said, I think that this may make him actually become legitimately less racist outside of the ad world over time.
Sizequeensizequeen on August 31st, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
Yeah, but even capitalism left the Admiral execs unmoved by Pete's idea to market toward Negroes. Pete's acceptance of black people is motivated by more than capitalism.
Ashley!  It's Unisex!randomneses on August 31st, 2010 01:20 am (UTC)
True, I also think something else is there. That said, what is beneficial to obtaining capital for one doesn't always have to jive with another's by default. I think it's a mix of having some racial sympathies but also knowing that cold hard cash doesn't see race.
Kaylaxcollsangelx on August 31st, 2010 04:25 am (UTC)
Pete's forward thinking has always endeared him to me.