Mad Men is back and it brings with it some reminders: that the 1960s have an awful lot for which to answer; that Megan Draper is easily the most annoying fictional female on television since Carrie Bradshaw.
It also brought, in the season six premiere, an answer to a question I asked in a comment piece last year - a question I had been asking for some time previously: how on earth is it that Peggy Olson is a Norwegian-Catholic?
Far be it from me to nitpick, but no Norwegian (or Norwegian-Canadian) worth her weight in gravlaks could let this slip by without comment. It's not that such a thing does not exist. It does, but in such small numbers that introducing a character with this demographic peculiarity without explanation would be akin to having a member of the Corleone family in some future "Godfather" sequel announce -- without any back story -- that he is Lutheran.
Perhaps I shouldn't care, but like Betty Draper, another "Mad Men" woman, my people are Nordic. So here I stand. I can do no other.
Catholics make up somewhere between 1 percent and 5 percent of Norway's 2012 population. About 70
percent of Norway's current Catholics are the result of immigration -- much less common when Olson's family would have still been in Norway, prior to 1960 -- or have a non-Norwegian parent or are converts.
In the article, I basically pleaded with Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, to explain Peggy's particular background, the origins of her Norwegian-Catholicism. And what do you know? In Sunday night's episode, there was a scene in which Peggy was on the phone with someone. We only heard her side of the conversation, but it was clear what questions were being asked. Her answers revealed that her father was Norwegian (hence, "Olson") and Lutheran and that her mother was Irish-Catholic and that, as a result, she was raised Catholic. (Interestingly -- likely only to me -- I am also half Irish-half Norwegian, except my father was the Irish parent.)
The scene was awkward and felt as though it had been hastily written with one purpose in mind: to explain how Peggy became a Norwegian-Catholic. I like to think Weiner must have read my op-ed and realized he had erred, because I certainly don't expect anyone outside of a Norwegian to know much about Norwegians.
Of course, I like to think a lot of things...
When I originally wrote about this matter, I got a fair bit of angry mail from Mad Men groupies saying I had no business questioning the wisdom of the greatest show in the history of EVER, a show in which no mistakes are ever made. But I got far more mail from Norwegians and people of Norwegian origin saying, "Um, yeah. I was wondering about that."
And mistakes are made on Mad Men. Though it is a fine program, it is made by humans and mistakes are our forte. For example, let us contemplate Megan Draper for a moment, if we can stand it. She is French-Canadian. Yet when her parents came to visit her in a season five episode, neither of them spoke the grating, nasal Quebec French she speaks.
...the man we are to believe is her father is speaking beautiful French, with an accent not at all like his daughter's. The actor is Belgian. Then, her mother is speaking what even an untrained ear can tell is English (as in England)-accented French. The actress is Julia Ormond, who is British.
In other words, this was another mistake. The show's writers likely don't know much about the differences in French around the world, or assume their viewers don't. Either that or they couldn't find a couple of French-Canadian actors to play Megan's parents. (What? Celine Dion wasn't available?) Perhaps we can expect, later this season, an awkward scene in which Megan is on the phone explaining that her father is Belgian and her mother an English woman who learned French and who just loves speaking English with a fake French accent.
In the interim, let us all hope and pray that Megan discovers Don's affair with Mrs. Heart Surgeon, files for divorce and gets written off the show.Suggest a correction