Was Peggy’s happy-ever-after with Rizzo a form of settling?

If I’m being honest, I have to admit seeing Peggy and Rizzo’s relationship morph from friendship to romance (via a declaration of love over the phone) was both exciting and sweet. It was hard not to smile when Rizzo ran all the way to Peggy’s office just to hear her say “I love you,” in person.  And you just know Peggy and Rizzo are gonna make it because they started out as friends and unlike Joan’s boyfriend, Richard, Stan Rizzo supports Peggy’s career ambition.

But if I’m also being honest, Peggy’s flustered “I don’t know what to say, I feel like I can’t breath” act was seriously eye-roll-inducing. The idea that a woman is not in touch with her romantic desires until a man sweeps her off her feet and shows her the way has become a cliché in literature and film.  Peggy’s claim that she never thought of Rizzo in that way seemed doubtful and at the very least was a clear indication that she didn’t have romantic feelings for him.  In the real world people make conscious choice to keep certain people in the friend zone.

The scene would have been so much more satisfying if we, along with Rizzo, discovered that Peggy secretly harbored romantic feelings for him all along. Instead, her “I think I’m in love with you too,” epiphany made it seem like she was trying to talk herself into wanting Rizzo because he’d been such a good friend to her.  That’s a problem – sexual desire is just as important as friendship and respect in a romantic relationship.

According to the triangular theory of love (see mom, my B.A. in psychology was good for something!) the three components of love are intimacy, commitment and passion. When a relationship has all three it’s considered consummate love. To me it seems like what Peggy felt for Rizzo is companionate love which is a combination of intimacy and commitment.

Triangular theory of love
By Lnesa from Wikimedia Commons


It reminded me of a story I heard about the making of “Pretty in Pink.” Apparently, in the original script Molly Ringwald’s character (Andie) ends up with the lovably awkward Duckie and not her crush Blaine. However, both test audiences and Ringwald hated this ending so the final scene was reshot to show Andie and Blaine hooking up. As sweet as the original Duckie/Andie ending might have been, it was obvious Andie didn’t feel any passion for Duckie and therefore winding up with him would have been a form of settling.

That’s what made Peggy and Rizzo’s sudden hookup annoying because if we know anything about the ambitious Margaret “Peggy” Olson, it’s that she’s not one to settle. On the show her character has always been positioned as the primary depiction of the emerging modern woman of the 60s.  In a famous scene in season two, Paul Kinsey presented the theory that all women are either Jackie’s or Marilyn’s and all the men in the room agreed with him. Marilyn’s, it seems, are overtly sexy while Jackie’s are more demure. On the show Joan, with her curvaceous figure juxtaposed with a soft baby voice, epitomized the Marilyn mold to the point that Kinsey quipped “Marilyn’s really a Joan.”

Peggy however, didn’t fit either mold. Peggy wasn’t really a Jackie and she DEFINITELY wasn’t a Marilyn. Had she had come from a more privileged background, it’s easy picturing her thriving at a Seven Sisters college and then possibly becoming a less glamorous version of Jackie but instead, Peggy Olson came from a lower middleclass background and graduated from Miss Deaver’s secretarial school. It turns out not all women were either “Jackie’s or Marilyn’s” but in order for most white women of that era to be considered successful, they had to attract a successful husband and this meant they had to fit either the Jackie or Marilyn mold.

Women like Peggy, who didn’t fit into either box and who demanded to be taken seriously helped pave the way for all women in the workplace. Perhaps that’s why a part of me was disappointed with the Peggy/Rizzo love scene in the final episode. Peggy was always presented as the ambitious underdog but the Peggy Olson in that final episode came off as slightly ditzy.

But who knows, maybe Peggy’s character develops a more realized passion for Rizzo. I’d like to think she continued to be as focused and determined in her personal life as she was professionally.

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