Joan Holloway

Joan Holloway

    Mad Men
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Character Analysis

(Avoiding Spoilers)

Grew Up… born February 24, 1931, and raised by her mother Gail Holloway. Her mother is difficult and overbearing, but she does try to help her daughter when she’s needed. And even when she isn’t.

Living… on her own as a single woman in New York City. After finishing college Joan moved to the Big Apple and initially lived with roommates. But her job at Sterling Cooper, a Madison Avenue advertising agency, has enabled her to get her own place.

Profession… office manager at Sterling Cooper. Joan sees to the well-being of the ad men and supervises the agency’s secretaries – occasionally having to keep both in line. Joan is very much the office “mother.” She isn’t technically a “boss,” at least not yet, but in many respects she runs the show. And as the person in charge of stocking the office’s supply of cigarettes and liquor, she’s an important friend to have.

Interests… though Joan enjoys the simple pleasure of getting flowers and chocolates sent to her desk by suitors, she is above all interested in the agency. She enjoys her position and gains satisfaction from her role in making it all run smoothly. You get the feeling that if she wasn’t there, the place wouldn’t function. When her mother asks why she works there, her response is simply, “They need me.”

Relationship Status… single. But with her hourglass figure and self-confidence, she never lacks for admirers. She has had an on-and-off affair with senior partner Roger Sterling, the firm’s charismatic head of accounts, for years. Though she indulges the occasional dalliance, Joan is looking for a more dependable, long-term partner.

Challenge… resolving her feelings for Roger and finding an enduring purpose in her life. Though she knows Roger is a playboy and essentially a child, she holds him dearly in her heart. She’s drawn to Roger in the same motherly way that she’s drawn to the agency, though she knows they don’t have a real future. “I’m not a solution to your problems,” she tells Roger, “I’m another problem.” She knows what’s good for Roger, but often doesn’t seem know what’s good for her.

Personality… confident, charming, and formidable. Joan is a realist, and can come off as rather officious. She’s quite comfortable reprimanding Peggy Olson or any of the other girls. She’s also quite capable of putting an out-of-line male executive back in his place, which few other woman (if any) in the office could ever do. Ultimately her quick wit, flashes of temper and self-assurance enable her to fit in with and excel in the male-dominated Madison Avenue work environment.


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