‘Mad Men’ Season 7: we need to talk about Ginsburg & fictional mental illness


SPOILERS for last night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Runaways.”

I have to say, Mad Men’s Season 7 has been really good so far. And by “good,” I mean that stuff is happening, it’s not just Don and Megan’s petty BS. I mean, Megan is still around (unfortunately), but Don is over her and that gives the audience an excuse to be over her too, and to see her for the petty, childish, superficial woman she always was. The way she got rid of Don’s pregnant “niece” (really Anna Draper’s niece) was probably one of the worst things Megan has ever done, and she just did it out of spite, because Don wanted to see Stephanie and take care of her. And because Stephanie is beautiful.

Last night something interesting happened. Megan (who was stoned out of her mind) persuaded an inebriated Don to have a threesome with her and her stoned hippie friend. It was… interesting. I couldn’t even tell if Don thought a threesome was going to be a sexy thing. He just seemed to go with the flow, and he didn’t even care about it in the morning. Which pretty much means his marriage is dead as a doornail. Also: remember, the Charles Manson stuff is just about to happen chronologically. Is it wrong to want Megan to be killed?

But really, the craziest thing to happen was the final culmination of everything that has been quietly building for several seasons with Ginsburg, the young, talented copywriter who always seemed a little bit “off.” Many attributed his oddness to a Don Draper-like streak of genius. Most attributed his oddness to the fact that (as was revealed several seasons ago), he was born in a concentration camp during WWII. But the signs have been there – Ginsburg has a profound mental illness that he was only able to “contain” because A) everybody is stoned and B) he actually is talented. But Ginsburg’s freakout about the computer and then his… presentation… of his bloody nipple in a box, given to Peggy. Were you expecting that? I was not.

So, do you think Mad Men treated Ginsburg’s mental illness in a fair way? I thought it was moving to see Peggy so upset and Stan trying to help his friend (“I’ll ride down with him!”). It felt like we always knew Ginsberg (beautifully played as always by the very talented Ben Feldman) was going to crack. But the way it happened was just so… unsettling.

PS… Wax Jon Hamm!!

Photos courtesy of WENN, Getty.

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38 Responses to “‘Mad Men’ Season 7: we need to talk about Ginsburg & fictional mental illness”

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  1. Erinn says:

    Wax Jon Hamm is pretty decent, actually.

    More importantly, why have I never heard of Ben Feldman? He is soooooooo good looking!

    He’s two days short of a decade older than I am, and I don’t even care.

    • Esmom says:

      He (Ben Feldman) is handsome but I have a hard time getting past his resemblance to Scott Baio!

      • Erinn says:

        Oh nooo…he does have that look, doesn’t he? I’m just going to try and unsee that and go about my business haha.
        He actually has a similar coloring and look to my fiance – I clearly have a type.

    • Talie says:

      I thought the same thing… that wax figure actually looks damn accurate!

    • Katherine says:

      Unless they transform Megan into Abigail Folger not sure how she’d end up dead – unless she just disappears and they add her disappearance to Manson lore.

      There was, however, a young girl named Stephanie who was pregnant and sort of homeless who got involved with the family in the week before the Tate murders. I think she was offered a place to stay at the ranch so she took them up on their offer. She had nothing to do with the murders but Manson tried to use her as his alibi. Her parents were still alive though and scared that Manson followers would try to kill them once Stephanie came home.

      Ginsburg has had mental health issues all along. Interesting plot line. Even for the time, his living with his dad and the way it was presented gave me an odd vibe.

    • Anne tommy says:

      I think he played the rather annoying guardian angel in the TV series drop dead diva- btw the large and beautiful lead lady of that should be a bigger – no pun intended – star: Brooke Elliot

  2. Sagal says:

    I thought he was on the autism spectrum. When he showed Peggy a his cut-off nipple, I was floored. The writers often do that each season.

    I’m excited to see what happens to each character. I wish Stan & Peggy would get together already! He’s so attractive.

    • The other Peggy says:

      Totally. He’s always been classic Asperger’s Syndrome. But then aspies have a much higher rate of schizophrenia than the rest of the population.

    • imsupposedtobeworking says:

      There’s kind of a fine line between some of the symptoms of autism, and some of the symptoms of schizophrenia, and sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference. And autistic people, bless their hearts, are more prone to mental health disorders in general.

      There is a distinct difference between the two, as we all know. But they get mixed up sometimes because: generally, people with autism suffer from a rigid thought pattern, and quirky interests/conversation which can be misinterpreted as delusional. And people with schizophrenia suffer from delusions that can be misinterpreted as rigid patterns of thought, or quirkiness.

      Ginsberg dd not seem autistic to me. He didn’t have any of the mannerisms, or the rigid patterns of thought. Or, if they intended him to be autistic, they didn’t do a very good job. I thought it was a well-written, well-acted portrayal of a man who was suffering from schizophrenia, which is often a progressive onset disorder. The way he played that scene, where he calmly and enthusiastically explained how he solved his problem, and thanked Peggy by giving her his nipple (what a weird sentence to type!) was brilliant, and exactly what you might see when someone is living in an alternative reality (schizophrenia).

      I find the similarities between the two disorders fascinating. And awful. I did not sleep well last night. Stan, shaken and trying not to cry as he rode along with his little buddy got to me.

      • Esmom says:

        Yes. My son is on the spectrum and my grandmother was supposedly schizophrenic. She was pretty high functioning, so the diagnosis never seemed entirely correct to me. Now that my son is a teen and I see how his challenges have unfolded and manifested themselves, I’ve been starting to think that my grandmother was actually on the spectrum rather than schizophrenic but that she never encountered a medical professional who truly “got” her. I know my own family never really tried to help her — mostly out of fear and ignorance, I think — so that she was forced to muddle through life largely undiagnosed and unsupported.

        In any case, I see much overlap between the disorders based on my experiences with both people and on my reading about them.

        Agreed about Ginsberg not being on the spectrum. And what an amazing portrayal by the actor of the descent into full blown psychosis.

    • Eleonor says:

      I’ve screamed like Peggy seriously, it was one of the most freaking thing I’ve seen on a TV-show or even in a movie.
      I don’t know what Ginsberg can have, but I tend to agree with whom think to schizofrenia.
      And I will haunt Matthew Wiener if he doesn’t show what happens to Ginsberg. Seriously I will take a damnd plane and kick him in the a#@ !

  3. Esmom says:

    Ginsberg’s breakdown was unsettling to say the least. But not unexpected to me. His “martian” speech a few seasons ago was the beginning of his outward unraveling, I think, and the computer was the penultimate trigger.

    From what I understand of schizophrenia, this has been a pretty realistic depiction of the onset of the illness. But given the time period, I don’t have much hope for successful treatment for him, poor guy.

    I also think Peggy’s reaction to and handling of the nipple incident was pretty realistic. After my initial reaction of horror, I was crying a little bit with her.

    • mom2two says:

      I agree. I think when mental illness, such as schizophrenia (which seems to be the issue with Ginsberg), is in full swing-it’s meant to be unsettling, so if you felt that way, Mad Men did it’s job. Given the time period, I also have to agree, that Ginsberg would not be getting successful treatment.
      Ben Feldman has been one of the stalwarts on this show since he first debuted. I could not help but root for Ginsberg. I hope we do see Stan and possibly Peggy follow his treatment.
      Mad Men is having a really good season so far.

    • Eleonor says:

      Me neither; I always had the feeling his character has something “unsettled”, I don’t know how to explain it. I have to give Ben Feldman credit he is a good actor.

    • Dawn says:

      This. Plus I really felt bad for Bobby telling Sally that he wanted to go back to her school with her and that he always has a stomach ache. Not to mention Betty telling Sally that she would break her arm. Good stuff last night for sure!

    • Lindy79 says:

      I was thinking the exact same thing, back to the martian/camp conversation with Peggy.
      I wasn’t fully sure where they were going with it this season. It was heartbreaking. I really hope though that they stick with him and don’t just write it out and that’s it.
      Given the time period though…he’ll end up institutionalized or given shock therapy which is just tragic.

  4. ManchurianGlobal says:

    I thought it was pretty cartoonish and out there with a little bit of WTF mixed in, but I’m sure there are plenty of news articles from that era about people who went mentally unstable over those giant new computers. Ginsburg always struck me as bipolar 1, but the whole mental breakdown manifested by way of new machinery was probably not the most elegant or dignified way to wrap up his storyline.

  5. Talie says:

    It’s good to know that Ginsburg was actually crazy, because the seeds have been planted.

    And yes, I always feel an ominous tones in the scenes with Megan. Out there alone in the Hills, with a bunch of strangers in and out of her house.

  6. Just Passing Through says:

    I loved the final scene after Don crashed the Phillip Morris pitch, when Lou and Jim were getting into the taxi and Lou says to Don, “You’re incredible.” and Don says, “Thank you.”

    Don is back. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  7. Merritt says:

    I really hope they don’t go the Charles Manson route with Megan. i hate the character, but to insert her or any character in that tragedy is just wrong. I really hope that the show runners are just screwing with the audience, to make us think it will happen.

    • Migdalia says:

      I think Matthew Weiner is just effing with us big time especially after last night’s episode. When blonde 7 months pregnant Stephanie came to Megan’s the night before her big party in the hills I was like “omg it’s going to happen, but why not for the finale? Why now?”. Then Don was going to show up that night so I was like “nvm”…oh but he has to stay for work so he can’t make the flight “ahhh.” but then Stephanie was “kicked out”, don made the flight the next day and the party went in full swing. I particularly psyched myself out again when Don left with Harry to the bar and STILL thought the Manson murder was going to happen. I, too rather hope it’s not going to happen to Megan as much as she can be annoying.

  8. Tig says:

    I was so horrified by that scene is Peggy’s office with the “present” that I screamed a bit. And poor Sally- now she gets hit in the face with a golf club??? I really feel they have turbo-charged Betty’s story line- how did she get so visibly angry so fast?

    And pls no kill off of Megan a la Sharon Tate- that’s just too horrific. Can’t believe 2 more episodes and then having to wait a YEAR!

  9. Deb says:

    I had the exact same thought about Megan and the Manson family. I hope Don IS back and kicks some serious ass on those two dipshits. Lou in particular, god I can’t stand that guy.

    • Beatrice says:

      I loved the end when Don showed up at that meeting, like Yesssss–Don is back! I also hope he kicks Lou’s ass.

      That Megan organized threesome was strange, but I thought it showed that Don is pretty much over Megan, but she’s over him too. Can’t wait to see what happens to her.

  10. MourningTheDeathOfMusic says:

    I still miss Ben as Fred on Drop Dead Diva.

  11. Janeite says:

    I was sad about what happened to Ginsburg. I thought he was funny and quirky and off the wall, but I had no idea there was true mental illness happening. I assume he’s schizophrenic and that paranoia about the computer in the office was his breaking point. Peggy’s reaction was touching too, as was Stan accompanying him to the hospital.

    And I’m not sure what’s happening with Megan. She seemed much more grounded when she first got involved with Don and I liked her much better then.

  12. magpie says:

    I had no idea the actor Ginsburg was so cute.

    • Santolina says:

      He’s adorable, but Stan is HAWT. I’m a Stan and Peggy shipper, I’ll admit it! Poor Ginsberg — I wanted him to have his day, in a genius-y sense. I really hope Weener doesn’t kill off half the cast and make the other half go bonkers. Last night’s ep was so shallow, compared to the sensitive, nuanced character-driven stories of past seasons.

      • magpie says:

        Yeah, I’d love to see those two together too.

        Even though the new episodes aren’t as good as the early seasons, it’s still great TV in my book and I’ll watch it to the end. I think something big is coming up, or at least I hope so and that it doesn’t end in ambiguity like The Sopranos.

  13. Kcarp says:

    I was standing at the kitchen island when the “nip slip” went down so I didn’t get a good view of it.

    I watched 6 seasons in the span of a week so I think I need to go back and watch to digest the mental breakdown.

    I wish I would have watched since the beginning I love Mondays seeing what all the different sites say about the episode.

  14. launicaangelina says:

    This hit so close to home for me. My favorite cousin was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was a teen. He died last September after living on streets for over a decade. He would self-medicate with street drugs and never tried to maintain his disease properly. He ended up with a serious infection and died. It broke my heart to see a young, vibrant and creatively talented person change so dramatically, live a tragic life and die horribly.

  15. Lucy2 says:

    I never realized he was that far gone- honestly I never paid too much attention to his character before, but wow that was surprising!
    I doubt that they’d write Megan into an actual event, but I could see her meeting a similar terrible fate. I don’t know if something bad is going to happen to her to make Don change, or if she’s just going to continue to slowly drift away from him until she’s gone and he is alone.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    “Is it wrong to want Megan to be killed?” No, it’s not. I was REALLY hoping that was going to happen while Don was out with Harry.

  17. Maritza says:

    That giant computer makes such a noice that it would drive anyone crazy. I sure hope they bring Ginsburg back, I always thought he and Peggy would end up together.

  18. Becky1 says:

    I think this season has been good thus far-definitely better than the last one. I was surprised and yet not surprised re: Ginsberg. The seeds were definitely planted in earlier episodes. I still don’t hate Megan-I know I’m in the minority but I really don’t think that she’s that bad. She was cool with Stephanie coming to stay with them until Stephanie said that she knew all of Don’s secrets. Considering Don’s history I don’t think her reaction was that out of line.

  19. Santolina says:

    They’ve posted an interview with Ben Feldman about his character’s bizarre turn, and it’s actually kind of comforting…