Jane, Jane in the Membrane
Jane Siegel Sterling. What do we know about this vixen?
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.
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.