The Curious Case of Bob Benson
Ever since Bob Benson showed up coffee cups in hand, wandering the halls of SC&P, people have been speculating about who he is. What do we know about Bob? His dad may or may not be dead. He has impeccable taste in beach apparel. He is really good at lying, and quick on his feet. He's caring. We finally discovered his deep, dark secret this week; he's gay.
For those think that Bob is fakin' it to get something else, read on. From Tom & Lorenzo's Mad Men fashion blog (which is a must read for character insight through the costuming and design on the show)
"To all that we would like to say this: In 1968, homosexuality was a recognized mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. A gay man in 1968 could not only be fired, he could be jailed, institutionalized, subjected to electroshock therapy and even chemically castrated. The idea that any man in 1968 would pretend to be gay is akin to the idea of someone pretending to be a Jew in Weimar Germany."
They do an absolutely wonderful job breaking down Bob's character, and were the first to postulate that he might be homosexual. Coincidentally, the episode aired right during Pride weekend in Washington DC, my current city of choice. This is my second Pride weekend here, and my world view has changed quietly but rapidly over the last year. I live and work in gay-friendly neighborhoods, and have immersed myself in the culture here. I've seen gay couples (of all races, ages, types) walk down the street, celebrate anniversaries at my restaurant, pay for over-priced bougie food at Whole Foods, take HIV tests, run, dance, cook, basically, live their lives as any one else does. I actually assume everyone is gay until proven otherwise. Going out to bars is extremely awkward. But this is my new normal now, and it happened organically, simply. I can't imagine the kind of courage it takes to risk your career, your reputation to find love (or sex, affection, anything etc).
Ultimately, I am disappointed that Bob even HAS a secret. Bob has been nothing but charming and helpful this entire season. We've mistrusted him from day one, thinking he was going to harm Joan, that he was climbing the ladder, that his actions are motivated by personal self-gain. I wish Matthew Weiner would have just let him be. We've been trained now to mistrust these characters, to immediately get to their inner Dick Whitman existentialist core. Maybe that's why there was so much Megan hate last season? She seemed...happy.
And finally Bob, because we're all wondering- why Pete Campbell of all people?! Especially with Roger walking around. "To Bob Benson, Pete is a fussy, droll, highly emotional, well-dressed, slightly effete, old-money WASP who left his wife, frets over his mother, and just recently started smoking pot. It’s the Niles Crane effect." Thanks, Tom & Lorenzo. Also, anytime Frasier is referenced, my inner British man does a pirouette. Tastefully, of course.
There goes my theory that this is the same Bob from Twin Peaks. Or maybe not. #lynch4eva