We’re now less than a month away from nominations for the 64th annual Emmy Awards — announced at 5:35 a.m. PT on July 19 — and we at SheWired can’t stop thinking about a certain redhead. That would be Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, who delivered a bravura performance as sexy, ambitious, morally ambiguous Joan Holloway during the show’s recently-wrapped fifth season. Even though it took place nearly 50 years ago, Joan’s storyline reflected what women today are still fighting for in the workplace: respect, money, and power. Joan is just one of five major female characters on the Emmy-winning period piece about the advertising world, and as the Emmy nominations creep closer, we wanted to take a look at the 1966 tribulations of Betty, Megan, Peggy, and Sally, and debate the Emmy chances for the women who bring them to life.
Joan Holloway as played by Christina Hendricks
In past seasons it sometimes appeared as though show creator Matt Weiner thought of Joan the same way the men of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce viewed her: as no more than sexy set decoration. But this season Joan moved to the top of the dramatic heap with a thrilling storyline that had her confronting single motherhood and a stagnating career. When an indecent proposal arrived at Joan’s doorstep, via a sleazy car executive who threatened to derail the agency from landing Jaguar unless Joan slept with him, she was faced with a quandary — be pragmatic or proud. She chose the former and in doing so, became a partner in the firm, a wealthy woman, and a decision maker at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce. Hendricks captured Joan’s conflicting emotions with absolute aplomb. She was first furious at the offer then sad, before turning emotionally dead when consummating the deal. Jon Hamm’s Don Draper heaped judgment on Joan for her decision, but she didn’t have the opportunity to worry or look back — she had a baby to take care of and a future to carve out. A wonderful star turn for Joan and Christina.
Emmy nom chances: 4:5
Megan Draper as played by Jessica Paré
Many may have a soft spot for Jessica after her Sapphic turn in the 2001 film Lost and Delirious. But her portrayal of Don’s second wife, Megan, is a bit less laudatory. Megan is certainly more modern than Betty, Don’s first wife, as Megan bravely pursues a career as an actress and puts her foot down when Don resorts to his callous, misogynist ways (do not leave Megan waiting!). But there’s something very “little girl” about the character and the portrayal that leaves us unsatisfied. Maybe it’s that Megan seems to whine a lot. While we welcome Megan’s feminist streak and her awesome mid ’60s wardrobe, jewels, and hair, she does not leave us wanting more. That’s something that Joan, Betty, and Peggy can always manage.
Emmy nom chances: 2:5
Peggy Olson as played by Elisabeth Moss
Peggy is the ultimate ’60s career girl, climbing the brutal ladder of the male-driven advertising world. This season she advanced further than ever as a copywriter, easily managing staff and crafting brilliant campaigns. But her distracted boss, Don, humiliated her by throwing cash in her face. Peggy refused to cry and instead took action — she got hired at a rival agency and landed a big raise. It was a big step for the character, who’s been tied for years to father figure Don. Peggy also decided to move in with her boyfriend, much to the chagrin of her Catholic mother. In the season closer, we see Peggy bossing men around, and it’s a treat. While Peggy and Elisabeth are always great, we feel the character’s main dramatic challenges will come in the next two seasons of the show. This remains Joan’s year.
Emmy nom chances: 3:5
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Betty Draper as played by January Jones
It’s become sport to hate on Jones’s icy Betty, a mid-century housewife hemmed in by convention, and both comforted and angered by its rules. Betty is now on to her second husband (who appears to adore her) but she is still bored, and it’s now manifested itself in some extra pounds (Jones, pregnant during shooting, wears a fat suit). The actress does what she can in the diminished role of Betty, who has been slowly phased out ever since her divorce from Don. While some say Jones is not the strongest actress, we tend to disagree — she seems more real to us than Megan’s character and has us more hooked (who isn’t excited when they see Jones on screen?). The character is nasty and bitter, yet sweet and loving (e.g., when she tells her daughter about menstruation after Sally “becomes a woman.”) Jones will likely not get a nom this year as her role was so small, but we hope Weiner finds a way to bring her back to the forefront as the show reaches its final lap.
Emmy nom chances: 1:5
Sally Draper as played by Kiernan Shipka
Who knew that during Mad Men’s first season that little Sally Draper, Don and Betty’s first born, would become one of the show’s most important female characters? She is a perfect mix of her brilliant, beautiful, and frustrated parents — wise beyond her years, knowing much about sex and how to attract the male gaze. She already has one admirer — the frightening Glen — and has clearly taken cues on adulthood from both her mother and stepmother. Like most Mad Men characters, she lies without abandon. While we would have preferred a more exciting end of season storyline for Sally than her getting her period, Kiernan is brilliant as a girl coming of age in a fast time. We’re absolutely sure the show will focus much time on her maturation in the next two seasons. We can’t wait.
Emmy nom chances: 3:5