Why Pete Campbell is the best character on Mad Men


In defence of Pete Campbell.

Well, not him exactly. Rather, in defence of Vincent Kartheiser’s performance. Am I the only one who thinks this? It’s spine-tingling.

As we all count down to when we can dive in to the world of Mad Men again, I’d like to make a tribute to a guy who doesn’t seem to get many tributes.

There is nothing unsettling about Mad Men – the unbelievably good acting and writing, the bright colours and perfect skin, the crispy sound design – except for the show’s strong undercurrent of pure, privileged misery, which is best personified in Pete Campbell.

I’ve read descriptions of Pete as a “villain”, or a character you “love to hate”, but in the Mad Men universe nothing is that simple. Pete is an antagonist, for sure, but he’s far from shallow – in those blue eyes we see all the shades of hatred, but also of despair, and it’s amazing to watch.

It’s not just Campbell’s ridiculously pompous sense of entitlement, a consequence of a a life spent getting everything for free, being a descendant of a gilded New York governor. His sneering insults and tantrums, delivered in that slimy WASP voice under his slick hair, can make your skin crawl. It’s not even his crippling jealousy of Don Draper in Season 1, his inability to reconcile his own lack of manliness and gravitas while someone he sees as unworthy gets all the praise and the ladies. Later, in Season 5, Pete tries out expensive infidelity for himself, trying to emulate the masculinity he sees in Don. It doesn’t make him feel more like a man, and Don is indifferent. I couldn’t help but feel Pete’s shame along with him.

What really sets Pete/Vincent apart is the big void inside of him, that money, status, women and a family in the country can’t fill. He has everything he could ever want, but it means nothing. He comes to hate the world, and himself, and it’s illustrated so perfectly. Kartheiser even says in this video that he imagines Pete Campbell committing suicide before he reached old age. This video below must be one of the best examples of the whole point of Mad Men – the ultimate nothingness of materialism and the futility of the American Dream. And who better to demonstrate this, than Pete Campbell.

(P.S. If a better television sequence is ever made, I don’t want to know about it.)



A new take on opera: The Pomegranate Cycle

Eve Klein

Eve Klein


Sydney musician Eve Klein, as Textile Audio, has released an intriguing experimental opera record called The Pomegranate Cycle. I spoke to Eve about what it means to create a “woman-centred” opera.

This was first broadcast on The Friday Daily on 2SER on March 22.

You can download or buy The Pomegranate Cycle from Wood and Wire’s website here.

All The Best – The BrainWaves Choir


A radio documentary I made about the BrainWaves choir in Newcastle, which is a collaboration between Bernadette Matthias and the stroke team at Hunter New England Health. Sound and production supervision by Belinda Lopez. Broadcast on March on 16 on All The Best, which is produced at FBi and distributed on the Community Radio Network.


Bernadette Matthias

This was a major project for me and I was pretty humbled to meet Bernadette, Belinda and Bryan and hear their stories of tragedy and subsequent healing through music. It was a great experience to put this piece together and I’m pleased that people have enjoyed listening to it, and learning something about what can be achieved when people work together to find new ways to get through the dark times in life.

The Friday Daily – Treasure buried under the Timor Sea

Sunset Triangle - nate2b (Flickr)

Sunset Triangle – nate2b (Flickr)


Around 7 years ago Australia and East Timor signed an unusual treaty called the CMATS. This ensured that some important revenue – from billions of dollars’ worth of oil and gas under the Timor Sea – would be split 50/50. Up until now nobody has decided how to process the resources, which means that the treaty can now be ended unilaterally. Why would East Timor end the treaty? Because if permanent maritime borders were drawn up, all the oil and gas might belong to them.

This story was first broadcast on The Friday Daily on 2SER, on March 15.

What media diversity?


A few days ago Stephen Conroy announced long-awaited media reforms – and in one sense, all hell has broken loose. One of the reforms that is still undecided is the “75 per cent reach rule” which up until now has meant that one person or company is not permitted to own licenses to broadcast to more than 75 per cent of the Australian population. Rumours of a change prompted more rumours of a big merger in the works – Southern Cross Media and Nine Entertainment Co. So it could be great for business – but it could actually be bad for regional media. I recently spoke to Dr Vincent O’Donnell about this. He is an associate of the School of Media and Communication at RMIT, and says that regional Australian communities could potentially miss out on television content that is relevant to them. You can hear the interview by clicking on the link above.

On International Women’s Day

“This International Women’s Day I am grateful that I have lived to be 23 without dying in childbirth, being raped, forced into marriage or prostitution or denied an education. It’s not a ridiculous thing to say – it’s a tragedy of our times that not every woman around the world can say the same.”

Last Friday I posted this status on Facebook. It was completely sincere, and I was humbled by how much response I got from people, including those who shared it for their own friends. I am grateful that I live here in Australia and am taking full advantage of all the freedoms afforded to me, those fought for by all the strong women who came before. But at the same time I think we shouldn’t have to be “thankful” that women have the same freedoms as men – we should assume that all women have those freedoms, and shouldn’t have to fight for them, and if they are not being respected, then that is a call to action.


I recorded this interview with Karen Willis, the Executive Officer of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, to play on 2SER for the special programming for IWD. Even though “victim-blaming” is getting talked about a lot in the public sphere recently, conversations I have on a daily basis, even with my family (“You’re too pretty to walk by yourself at night!” says my grandmother), show that women are still blamed for becoming the objects and victims of male aggression.

On Friday morning I read this article about a proposal to introduce “pink carriages” for women and children using trains at night. It seemed to be partially Karen’s idea but since the interview had already happened, I didn’t get to ask her anything about it. My first reaction to the pink carriage idea was positive – “I would totally use them!” I thought. More secure carriages to travel in at night? Yes, please. However, while it is no doubt being proposed with the best of intentions, the pink carriage plan is a cop-out. Once again, it enforces the idea that women need to do more things to protect themselves, or be protected, from violence. In the same way that enforcing a curfew on women to protect them from serial rapists is illogical – the women are not doing the raping – segregating women on trains to protect them doesn’t put any onus on the (presumably from the looks of it) men to stop harassing them. Because I just know that if a woman is assaulted elsewhere on the train, people will ask why she wasn’t in the pink carriage.

So even though we’ve all had a gutful, it’s a conversation that we need to keep having, and having, and having, until it’s not considered reckless for a young woman to go where she pleases, no matter the time of day or night.

The Friday Daily: Why won’t some parents vaccinate?

Vaccination - Sanofi Pasteur (Flickr)

Vaccination – Sanofi Pasteur (Flickr)


The story was played on The Friday Daily on 2SER yesterday (March 1).

This would probably be my least favourite “debate”. Growing up with a doctor as parent and grandparent, it has always upset me that some people don’t trust their doctors, or worse, are sceptical of the expertise of doctors and scientists who have dedicated years to study and research.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that whenever people have a choice, some will exercise that choice and their reasons can be diverse. Vaccination is a complex issue and emotions can run high in the debate, which can prevent people from understanding each other’s position. Which is what I have tried to do.