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Jane, Jane in the Membrane

December 12, 2009

Jane Siegel Sterling.  What do we know about this vixen?

Jane's forte: Asset management? Her presentation needs no work.

Not really very much. She’s young and educated.  She appears to have slunk into Sterling Cooper for the specific purpose of finding a husband and finding one quickly. Jane cried to Roger at the right time, and he tossed Mona to the lions.  That wasn’t fair but it happened.  Jane’s now portrayed more as a teenage girl pretending to be the socialite wife to a monied advertising exec. We’ve seen she can’t keep up with Roger in regard to the apparent alcohol consumption requirement of their social status. Though Jane seems inept in this societal role, she’s been unarguably successful as the gold digger, the woman who marries for money and status.

Is being a gold digger necessarily a bad thing to be though?

The original gold diggers were the steam that drove the turbines that powered the engine that pulled this country and all its railcars of Manifest Destiny to the Pacific Ocean. The digging of gold then was desperate and dirty, yet hopeful and necessary work according to the Captains of Industry of the era. The desire for gold represents what capitalism is mostly all about. It was the reason the West was settled (and many Native Americans were unsettled, and murdered, and such) and the capitalists prospered, so in time, America did too. Gold mining was grueling, dangerous labor and many modestly paid (ahem) people of color and ethnicity spent their lives and deaths in the mines for the eventual betterment of us all.  Bertram was certainly correct when he told Don we get to see the world from a perch upon the shoulders of others.

This toil and sacrifice of course also benefitted a few lucky people of the time.  For example this fine young specimen of female pulchritude married into a wealthy family to rescue her father from a crush of personal debt and she became the gold mining lioness of the Dakota Black Hills when her hubby lost his footing and tumbled from a fictional cliff in a favored dramatization of mine.

Alma Garrett gets the gold, husband hits the dirt

After the Gilded Age and WWI, a certain variety of young woman in America couldn’t help but marry into money; all the proper people had so much of it.  Well-connected young pale men were speculating on stock and buying on margin and lighting nickel cigars with five dollar bills, the times they were a-roaring. Then suddenly the times weren’t.  The Depression starved quite a few Americans and made hobos and gypsies out of many others.  The now less-well-off Well Off but still Well Off! decided the prescription for these tough times would demand hard work, of course, and the tightening of belts, for sure, and okay, maybe if you’re going to keep whining about it, we can spare a dime, but we aint’ your brother, pal.   Banking regulations for us and hard work for you; that’ll cure what ails ya, America!

The Entertainment Barons thought they had just the perfect sugar to aid the swallowing of such bitter medicine.  Americans would find hope for a better future in sentimental treacle invoking nostalgia for the recent past. Americans needed musicals. The Gold Digger series of the early thirties, produced by Warner Brothers, would lift us out of the gutter and entertain us while we helped them rebuild their fortunes. Comely young women were shown to be, literally In The Money, and they sang and danced about it.

And with the stimulating help of the next War, certain fortunes were rebuilt and America sailed into the 60’s. Most of our dinghies were rising on the prosperous wake of their battleships and yachts. Money was everywhere proper again. Rich pale men began to accessorize. I want a new Cadillac, I want a new wife. The latest model of each chief, right now!

Those demands created the market and gold digging was back in fashion. After all, if wealthy men can desire young women as arm candy then certainly some women will desire and aspire to be that arm candy. It was simple market principles at work. The times were lucrative, gold digging became almost the expected default behavior for the right kind of young attractive women.  Marry upward, enjoy the life. The term gold digging became ironic by the end of the decade, Dean Martin worked it for some sexist chuckles. He had a whole chorus line of them, every week just out there for his money. Poor Dino.

So back to Jane. There’s only so much we know but we can guess enough of the rest. Her parents lived through the Depression.  They were successful enough to get Jane polished and give her a shot at bettering herself. And bettering yourself in a free-market capitalist society means securing some money; some real money if possible. Money is power, and the power usually is used first to ensure a life of less uncertainty and less fear.

By marrying Roger she doesn’t have to worry about eating sad, sad sandwiches at her desk.  She doesn’t have to worry about scraping up rent for a dimly lit, over-the-garage apartment.  And Jane doesn’t have to worry about needing to show up every day at a job that she’s over qualified for.

We all would like to live free of those types of anxieties, no?  Can we hold that same desire against Jane?  She evaluated her assets and put them in play and she’s earned some freedom to assume a different role; a role that won’t be hampered by an anxiety about money. Will she take this opportunity to become some great force of good in the world, or will she be content to play dress up and look pretty for Roger and his friends?  It looks more likely the latter, but who knows? She’s still incredibly young, maybe she’ll get it together in the next few years and surprise us, maybe she won’t.

Hopefully at the very least, Roger will teach her how to hold her liquor better. You would think by being with him, Jane would have to assimilate that particular skill of his very naturally, probably just through osmosis.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Ruth permalink
    December 14, 2009 6:06 pm

    There’s something very atavistic about Jane – she’s a primal animal, fighting for survival with sharpened claws, seeking consistently (as per her challenges to Joan) to be the alpha female in the pride, mate of the most powerful man in the pack. [Perhaps that’s what appeals to Roger’s inner Tarzan?] But this is the 1960s and gold diggers must suffer for their sins…instead of glorying in their ill-gotten gains they must suffer slow painful retribution. Can we fast forward Jane to the 1980s and fit her into a slot in Dynasty? Or is she doomed to a lifetime of rich dissatisfaction…

  2. Ruth permalink
    December 14, 2009 6:36 pm

    I forgot to say what animal Jane reminds me of.

    Like gold diggers, hyenas have had an unfairly bad press. They work hard (Scottish proverb- don’t marry for money – ye’ll borrow it cheaper), perform as you have pointed out a useful social function, but despite their best efforts, fail to get the respect they crave. Female hyenas also have a difficult relationship with lionesses.

  3. Ruth permalink
    December 14, 2009 7:15 pm

    Finally, a photo of a beautiful hyena. Compare to the above photo of Jane & see the striking similarity in head tilt & prey contemplation expression. Surely this can’t be coincidental….

    The attached article
    is interesting…. a short extract….

    Hyenas: To Know Them as to Love Them

    Hyenas have a terrible reputation in Western culture. However, scientists who study these animals at close range have a different view. Hans Kruuk (1972), whose field studies of the 1960s completely changed our understanding of the life of the spotted hyena, has written:

    . . . there is a magic about hyaenas which can only be understood by those of us who have watched them, for some time. There is now a growing band of us, who came to the African bush with all our prejudices, with all that ‘common knowledge’ about hyaenas which proved so totally wrong, and who just fell for the spell of animals which were so totally different” (Kruuk, 1990, p. xiii).

    Unfortunately although these ground-breaking studies were made in the 1960s the results of same only became popular knowledge in the 1970s. The fate of the 1960s hyena is sadly documented in John Schlesinger’s Darling (1965)… see link to scene in which a (very charming) hyena, having successfully caught and eaten her prey, contemplates her future fate….

  4. Ruth permalink
    December 14, 2009 7:21 pm

    Photo of eager young intern hyena with glossy brown fur and alert expression referred to above didn’t attach for me but is available to view at

    Thanks for your post – I hope you aren’t too hurt at the Jane Hyena comparison. I love hyenas – viewing Jane as a hyena has been highly therapeutic in coming to terms with her as a character. I am still searching for a photo of a hyena in a black and white check dress and oversized hat.

    • December 14, 2009 9:13 pm

      Well here we have Ruth, breezing on in, with every sandwich imaginable (I had never tried a reuben made with zebra before; gamey but oddly satisfying), and some cake too!

      I try to shy away from the animal comparisons for the most part but Roger started it by making Mona the Lioness so I applaud you for running with it; running with it swiftly much like a gazelle.
      Run gazelle run.

      I think you convinced me with the cute photo, I imagine a pencil in its maw and I do see some Janie, but the hyena would probably button its blouse better.

      Julie Christie is always the icing of course; don’t remember that film well but the tagline was, “A powerful and bold motion picture . . . made by adults . . .with adults . . .for adults!” I’ll watch it again when I grow out of this second childhood I’m currently in.

      Seriously fine rebuttal, Ruth, well done! I watch Animal Planet for hours at a time. You had me at “hyena”. (eye flutter)

    • December 14, 2009 9:23 pm

      I’m not much of a fashionista; do you recall, have we seen JSS in stripes yet?

  5. Ruth permalink
    December 15, 2009 4:04 am

    Just gorgeous…I’d always viewed Jane as a spotted rather than a striped hyena..but now you are making me reconsider and of course a radical change of look between decade’s start and decade’s end was inevitable for the fashionable woman in the 60s… this brings us back to the initial question posed by you – will any alteration in Jane be more than fashion deep – put another way, if leopards can’t change their spots, can hyenas?

    Btw, that hyena is definitely a Jackie rather than a Marilyn.

  6. less of me permalink
    December 15, 2009 12:03 pm

    You’ve made me a hyena fan!

    I’m not a Jane fan; she was tough to defend. She didn’t need to bring down the married lion and wreck the pride. She had time, options, useful lethal skills. Of course there is always some assumed risk with isolating and pouncing on a younger, unproven, unattached cat. She got her teeth into the first sure thing that crossed her path, screw the collateral damage. I admire her efficiency and self-regard, though not her lack of compassion.

    Back to my rhetorical ?, it’s classic nature versus nurture, I guess. And I think Jane probably can’t completely change her nature but could probably tweak and sculpt it to a degree. I don’t necessarily believe it has to be mostly one or the other if she utilizes more of her gray matter. And if Roger decides to refine her selfishness a bit.

    Throw out all the Ick Factor from this — I think a minor, subtle, suppressed reason for Roger remarrying young is maybe a desire to make up for the fathering he feels he didn’t provide his daughter as she grew up. He appeared sincerely wistful of how quickly Margaret went from baby to wife. Maybe he thinks he can shape Jane into a better hyena.

    My traditionally conditioned inner-cynic scoffs, “You Fool, it’s strictly all about mounting the hot, young female and defying death one sex act at a time.” Maybe.

    Ruth, you’re my muse of the moment. Thanks. Later.

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