Thursday, April 29th, 2010
86

Sex Offender Week: Performing Don Draper

DONAnd why not, while we await the return of Mad Men this hot summer (and its accompanying cultural romp), return to the vexing problem of manliness that is Don Draper? Right here on Sex Offender Week!

We all want to like Don Draper for reasons other than his glamour. We want to find reasons to like him other than that he's pretty and suave and charismatic-we want to make him, more or less, the Ideal Man, the "why aren't more people like this?" guy. We talk about him as a kind of zenith of masculinity, something everyone agrees men should be striving for. This seems weird to me.

On the one hand, there's no denying that Don is attractive in an almost universal way. In addition to his physical beauty, he is extremely well-dressed, has great taste and a growly voice that makes you want to call him "tiger," is generally in control of things, has money and is successful, yadda yadda yadda. And indeed, lots of straight dudes express a no-homo desire to want to be Don Draper. Makes sense, right? If there are two things we can agree on as a society, it is that 1) incest is wrong, and 2) being Don Draper would be awesome. ("Don Draper is the coolest TV character of all time," says professional reviewer person Paige Wilson.)

But there's also a kind of practical consensus among straight dudes that becoming Don Draper, as opposed to being Don Draper naturally, isn't really a workable proposition, and they may be right. After all, to do so, you would have to make a conscious decision to change the way you look and act, to trade in your khakis for wool slacks. (And become, you know, emotionally cold). And if this seems "affected" to you, then you can never pull it off-a self-conscious Don Draper would be unappealing. But logically, we shouldn't feel this way. After all, the idea that intentionally dressing up like Don Draper would be illegitimate is contradicted by the character's own backstory. "Don Draper," in the show's reality, is a character constructed by Dick Whitman, and intentionally designed as a paragon of attractiveness, a way out of the social location he was born into. Dick Whitman, pre-paragon of masculinity, decided to do exactly what many of Draper's male admirers find so difficult: fix up and look sharp.

"Mad Men," which I am writing here to praise-not-bury, is well aware of these contradictions in Don's character, and exploits them to the hilt. It's just the way we take Don that's odd. Because let's be honest here: objectively, Don Draper is mostly an awful person. He cheats on his wife relentlessly, is a workaholic and an absentee father to his children, lies about who he is, abandons his former family (and, arguably, causes his brother to hang himself), is a borderline alcoholic, and is in general awfully prudish, judgmental, and bigoted for a sexually licentious fraud of a man. If this was your OKCupid profile, you would not be attracting Don's caliber of women. (Or would you?) But we find ways to forgive or excuse him. The easiest is the argument that this was just how it was at the time, with the assumption that the present-day incarnation of Don Draper-the real one, the one we could be friends with, or date-would be at least less awful in his attitude toward women and minorities. But that's kind of a cop-out, a way of letting us unproblematically idolize Draper without dealing with his unattractive qualities.

We ignore these problems because Don's overriding redeeming quality is his decency, his display of the kind of good morals the show seems to make us nostalgic for (even though there were lots of crosses burned on people's lawns back then, and even though there is lots of decency about now). Don protected gay old Sal, even though he also thinks the gays are gross; Don gave Peggy a job, even though he also refused to pay her as much as her co-workers; Don tells young people not to talk dirty with an old lady in the elevator, and refuses to engage in public displays of promiscuity, even though he forcefully fingered his mistress in a restaurant bathroom in order to close a business deal. This is to say that we're happy with a dude as long as he's generally nice to people he's face-to-face with (hand-to-groin being another story), and it doesn't matter if he's blithely unaware of larger issues that haven't already been more-or-less resolved by the culture. It's easy to see why dudes would be OK with this, since they mostly benefit from a culture of low expectations. And given how rarely dudes manage to rise to even this level of bare competence (not we dudes, of course, not you and me-I mean other dudes), you can understand why some women (not all y'all women, you lovely readers and commenters!) would be willing to settle for it. But as a model for what we should aspire to, Don Draper seems like the wrong guy.

Because Don Draper-or our idea of Don Draper, at least-is as much of a fantasy as whatever the name of the character Megan Fox played in Transformers was. (Lilly? Roxanne? Princess Helplesstina?) He's an honorable salt-of-the-earth macho dude who prefers spending time with women to spending time with men and is also a successful, moderately wealthy business executive. If only he could also morph into both a vampire and a majestic stallion, he would be some sort of walking embodiment of the female libido. Ladies get this, mostly, but it's a new thing for guys. While women are, of necessity, more adept at coexisting with unrealistic romantic ideals, dudes are just getting used to it, and it's confusing, especially if you try to take the fantasy literally (as we tend to do). For women, the request for real-world men to be more like Don is a reaction to that low bar-setting: at least don't be total assholes. But for men, being Don Draper seems achievable, somehow. He's not an action hero, he's a businessman. And hey, many of us are already businessmen! We should be able to match that.

But matching is not really what we're being asked to do. Absent the purty face of Jon Hamm, the sort of women likely to be a Don fan wouldn't be terribly interested in Don Draper as he is actually constituted, e.g. a guy who didn't go to college and has generally retrograde attitudes toward women. (To date, at least; boning is another story, as it always is.) Rather, any Draper-hunter is actually looking for someone of her (or his!) own social location who can convincingly enact the idea of Don Draper.

And it's that "convincingly" that's the key. It's the tough part, the thing we need to figure out here. It is fundamentally impossible to be Don Draper, even for Don Draper; you have to consciously decide to transform into him. But for dudes fixated on authenticity as one of the few remaining stable masculine values (which, if taken to its logical extreme, leads to Greenbergism, but has its good points otherwise), this isn't really a practical possibility. How do we wear that suit comfortably? How do we put on that fedora in a way that seems true to ourselves and convincing to others but only embodying the good parts of Draper's personality? Because fedoras are actually, you know, ridiculous. (Unfortunately!)

Is there a way to break out of the weird emo box a lot of guys have worked themselves into-the very box that makes it necessary to have a guy like Don to idolize-without becoming total sexist assholes? It would be a way, maybe, that preserved the pleasures of Don's obviously appealing masculine traits, a way that expanded on his sense of decency and humbleness, while dropping the way these things excuse his self-centeredness, his general blindness to anything not right in front of his face. But that makes him sound like a pussy, right? And that's precisely the problem. Don Draper may be an awful person, but he is definitely not a pussy. If he was, he wouldn't be nearly as attractive.



Mike Barthel has been a music writer, for Idolator and other places, and is currently the worst. He has a Tumblr.

86 Comments / Post A Comment

mathnet (#27)

Dude, this was great, but I don't even think they were in a bathroom. Weren't they in a hallway at the restaurant?

barnhouse (#1,326)

Indeed they were.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

I thought it was like the hallway outside the bathrooms. Whoops!

mathnet (#27)

I would never want to marry Don Draper, but I'd totally bone him, so yes. But what I wanted to say is that the qualities you mention in your last paragraph don't actually seem pussy-making to me at all. Seriously. Somebody, please teach boys how to be men.

City_Dater (#2,500)

Yes, this.
What makes Don Draper attractive (in addition to being played by the sexy, adorable and charming John Hamm) is his confidence. He has consciously constructed himself to fit into a certain world far above his circumstances, which would make most people jittery as a sack of vibrators, yet he doesn't betray any public uncertainty about himself or his assumed role.

NicFit (#616)

Boyz 2 Men

barnhouse (#1,326)

The thing is, though, he is as jittery as a sack of vibrators, under all that panache. And then Betty finds him out.

I once found a sack of vibrators in my friend's sister's apartment. Just sayin.

cherrispryte (#444)

The mental image of a sack of jittery vibrators pleases me.

Yeah, you say that now.

wb (#2,214)

I don't want to BE Don Draper. I just want to be able to rock a tie like him.

Abe Sauer (#148)

right?! when i dress like DD I look more like the guys hosting the halftime show for sunday night football. so depressing.

garge (#736)

It is all in the fabrics and tailoring .. get an off season high qual suit on sale, find a great tailor and release your inner DD!

NicFit (#616)

Regarding the "weird emo box", lose the scarf, buy some kick ass early rap vinyl, drink some vodka (neat) and *have a good time*.

Louis Fyne (#2,066)

Sex offender week = let us now praise self-flagellating men crossed with a celebration of female libido. Do those two intersect often in the real world?

alannaofdoom (#4,512)

I'm sure there's a website for it?

1. It's all about being the right balance of nice guy/asshole. Like Vince Vaughan, but less bro. Like "Swingers"-era Vince Vaughan.

2. Fedoras are ridiculous. Women are always saying that men should still wear hats, but if you were a hat, you automatically become That Guy With A Hat. And that guy is a douche (see: Jason Mraz). Even if it's not a paired-with-jeans-and-a-vest-but-no-jacket hat, you're still That Douche In A Hat.

Kakapo (#2,312)

Not if you find YOUR hat and you wear it only outdoors.

Even then. (Sorry!)

MrTeacup (#4,677)

"And if this seems 'affected' to you, then you can never pull it off-a self-conscious Don Draper would be unappealing. But logically, we shouldn't feel this way."

It seems affected now, but that's mainly because standards have changed. Asking "Why do we take Don Draper, a problematic character, to be the zenith of masculinity?" is missing the point, the real question is "Why are we nostalgic for a time when there still was a zenith of masculinity?" Don Draper embodies the opposite of authenticity and not just because really he's Dick Whitman. Trying to live up to any ideal is in itself trying to be something other than what you are, so by definition, it's inauthentic. The whole point is that, not only is kind of a bad guy & not really the ideal man, he's even more radically a fraud as Dick Whitman, and yet despite that, he still manages to be successful at being Don Draper. This is because in having an ideal, it's understood that no-one really achieves it. It's like a Platonic ideal that doesn't exist in reality, we only ever approximate it, never truly embody it, and yet somehow, that's OK, that's enough.

In contrast, the cult of authenticity, which seems to not demand anything or judge us, only asking us to be ourselves, is paradoxically must more oppressive because it's fundamentally impossible. We can never be unmediated, unselfconscious individuals spontaneously expressing just who we are free of all external influences in the same way we can never be the Ideal Man, except this is decidedly not OK. Authenticity can't be approximated, it must be embodied here and now or it means nothing, otherwise you are just a fraud. So wanting to be Don Draper is really wanting to live in a more forgiving world, where our failure to live up to a standard still carries with it a certain nobility.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Good heavens, what a stupendously great observation. Please write a book about this.

As a long time opponent of authenticity and someone who tries instead to be good from time to time (sort of like living up to an ideal) I like this a lot.

Your observation reminds me of Ford's Christopher Tietjens who is an outcast for actually living up to the ideals set by society for him instead of luxuriating in the forgiveness of near universal failure to do so.

[applause]

saythatscool (#101)

This was really spot on.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

But from the perspective of (most of) the show's characters, Don isn't a failed stab at an ideal: he IS that ideal. The men on the show very much want to be Don Draper, especially Pete. What you're depicting in the first paragraph there is the perspective we as viewers have on Don, as someone who becomes more noble (but less commanding) with a fuller knowledge of his life circumstance. For his male co-workers, though, Don is still just as commanding as he seemed to us from S1E1. That means that we don't want to be Don Draper, we want to live in a TV show where everyone around us has a full and sympathetic understanding of our character and so is willing to forgive us more than is reasonably possible in reality.

Maybe we're just working from different ideas of authenticity? I think Don is appealing to modern audiences precisely because he seems authentic in a way that is much harder to access in our own lives. But in the context of his own time, Don would have appeared to be the opposite of authentic: a Madison Avenue suit, conformist and bland and unquestioning. (Witness the reactions when he met that boho chick's friends.) Contemporaneously, Dick Whitman is WAY more authentic than Don Draper. And that seems like more the problem, to me. Authenticity is something that is always outside ourselves because, as you say, we are so aware of our own "fraudulence" that it is difficult to feel like it exists within ourselves. That seems to be more the attitude to overcome.

MrTeacup (#4,677)

"But from the perspective of (most of) the show's characters, Don isn't a failed stab at an ideal: he IS that ideal."

No, I have to disagree. I think all the major characters take different positions with respect to the masculine ideal, but basically everyone knows what really goes on behind closed doors. The wives know their husbands are cheating. In fact, the only one who takes the ideal literally is Peggy, but she's portrayed as a wide-eyed innocent in the process of losing her naivety, precisely because she takes it too literally. Joan is the opposite, fully aware and even complicit herself in the hypocrisy, exploiting it for her own benefit at times and yet somehow still comes across as a decent, sympathetic character. Pete's admiration for Don is mainly because he knows what he can get away with–that's what makes him so odious. For Pete, you pretend to be the ideal because it gives you license do whatever you like–cheat on your wife, impregnate a coworker and leave her to deal with it, maybe rape the neighbor's au pair if you want, etc. Beyond his actual behavior, his cynicism is what makes him unlikeable, to us and to Don, but we like Don for his sincere (but flawed) devotion to the ideal.

"But in the context of his own time, Don would have appeared to be the opposite of authentic: a Madison Avenue suit, conformist and bland and unquestioning."

At the time, I think this would have been a fairly marginal viewpoint, but yes, and this is basically my point. In wanting to conform to an ideal, Don is the opposite of authentic (in the boho sense), which makes him appealing to us because he represents a different idea. The boho impossible life plan of authenticity and self-expression has gone mainstream, and has turned out to be as oppressive and totalitarian as what it wanted to replace, generating anxiety for individuals and entrenching consumer capitalism even further. Mad Men wants to move us beyond that by looking to the past, but avoids whitewashing it. It accepts the boho critique of 60s culture, by putting all the horrors and hypocrisy out in plain view of the audience, but rejects its alternative (today's dominant culture) by valorizing something else, which Don represents. But we shouldn't be confused into thinking that this makes it a reactionary regressive nostalgia piece, if anything, it wants to continue the bohemian countercultural project. I could go on but I feel like I'm hitting the limit of acceptable word count.

What "My Number Is My Address" said: I read somewhere that the difference between a bohemian and a dandy is that a bohemian disregards the rules that mainstream society can't afford to ignore, a dandy follows rules that mainstream society can't afford to observe. I think there's definitely something to that.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Jesus! No no, do go on. In a book, like I was saying.

Dang.

mathnet (#27)

OK, I'm just gonna say it. It's all about posture. Learn to dance, dudes! I'm not talking about the falsely confident BRO/JOCK stance. I just mean, have some kind of weight to yourself, that you control with some kind of grace and environmental awareness. And I really think dancing is the most direct route to that kind of body-brain-heart-soul integration? But, I don't know. Maybe martial arts if you're squeamish? Really, though. Knowing your body, knowing what it can do, conveying that whole notion to other people at will, being able to lead with a tender but firm push or pull or nudge or look. . . that'll get you laid, married, hired, loaned-to, or whatever it is that you're working toward.

sox (#652)

YES. THIS.

the teeth (#380)

I love the 'guys, it's really simple: all you gotta do is …' comments that show up on these sorts of posts. You aren't wrong, but 'have more physical charm & charisma' is about as easy, and as trainable, as 'be smarter/more genuinely empathetic/better looking'.

brad (#1,678)

wasn't cary grant a circus performer, or some such thing, before the acting? he knew exactly how to move. really, if i cared enough, and i don't because i already move with a hulky yet feline grace that belies my fondness for period movies, i would study cary grant to learn how to obtain a lovely bride. which again, is irrelevant in my case because my wife is an image of such beauty that when she wakes up all puffy with sheet lines chiseled into her face, i still think i'm the luckiest man alive.

Baroness (#273)

Well said. Things like grace, bearing, carriage, whatever you want to call it, strongly makes an impression on people. It's interesting that it's rarely mentioned as an attractive attribute, but it is. Physical grace in a man is underrated, hard to describe.

And one marvellous thing about Jon Hamm's acting- there are moment where he becomes Dick Whitman again, like when Betty confronted him about his secret past. He seems to physically deflate, Don dissolves, and there's a frightened Dick Whitman. "Bearing" is sort of an odd aspect of persona, but Hamm is wonderful to watch when he shows how he can also turn off Draper's grace and magnetism.

More man-grace examples, please. Since I refuse to watch Mad Men.

I'll go with the way James Dean turns around, but he was always tortured manboy at best.

carpetblogger (#306)

This post, and these comments, should be required reading for all dudes.

Meanwhile, back to the bag of vibrators.

Is this lusted after "confidence of movement" the reason why (male) athletes are desired by women and idolized by men? This is true starting in high school (or before).

LondonLee (#922)

I once had a girl tell me she thought I must be good in bed because of how I danced. Unfortunately she never gave me a chance to prove her theory.

LondonLee (#922)

Burt Lancaster was a circus acrobat I think, Cary Grant started out in vaudeville where he probably would have learned a lot about movement, timing etc.

Isn't the whole point of Draper that he's a man of his era? And thus, unfathomable for today.

And I mean Draper, not Whitman.

mathnet (#27)

(Draper was unfathomable for his day, too, as we find out.)

Yes, exactly. A romantic, unsustainable ideal.

scrooge (#2,697)

If you have to figure out who you want to be like, you're already on the wrong track.

mathnet (#27)

I disagree! If you spend your entire life pretending, then that's obviously a big problem. But if you see something appealing that you want to emulate, I think it's a perfectly valid form of learning to 'apprentice' yourself and 'fake it 'til you make it.' I mean, we're humans; we model and copy.

scrooge (#2,697)

True, we all have our idols. Mine is the Duke of Wellington. But I've had to face it: I'm just not Waterloo material.

Tablefornone (#3,264)

If only he could also morph into both a vampire and a majestic stallion, he would be some sort of walking embodiment of the female libido.

What in the hell?! If you really think that fucking a sparkly vampire horse is what a woman wants to fuck I think we've found the roots of your troubles with the ladiez.

Tablefornone (#3,264)

Too many fucks in that sentence… Or maybe not a enough. Whatever, you get the point.

janine (#248)

Maybe not a sparkly sub-type, but there would be some takers for the Eric from True Blood sub-type, cause you know, push-ups.

Tablefornone (#3,264)

Guh, I'm almost willing to have my lady rage stricken from the record for egregious typos.

alannaofdoom (#4,512)

I was thinking EXACTLY THIS – but much less coherently! – last week. Excellent, excellent, excellent post, Mike.

mathnet (#27)

Everything on your list is developable.

mathnet (#27)

(@the teeth)

the teeth (#380)

Oh, for sure! Absolutely! And we really ought to try'n develop all these things, and not just because (all of them) will help us get laid more: these sorts of improvements make us better, or at least happier, humans. And also: that really was a fantastic comment, if only because in like 50 words you answer 'what does Don Draper have that you lack' completely separate from the complicated manliness issues and contemptible aspects of his character. Which are really only tangentially related to the question, and all too easy to get caught up in.

I guess my point is that developing these qualities is difficult. It's not easy. Unless it is! Some things come much more naturally to some people. And the thing that's particularly tough about physical grace is: it only works if it's 'natural.' For some lucky few, it's naturally natural … for most of us, we need to work at it, hard, for years and years, before we naturally carry ourselves w/ some small measure of Jon Hamm's bearing. Which you probably don't disagree w/ … I just (unfairly, probably!) read a bit of a "c'mon, you dummies: it's easy!" tone in yr comment.

krstl1 (#4,679)

For anyone interested in discount educational products and furniture, I found a great site ( http://appleschoolsupply.com/ )! They have a huge selection, their prices are phenomenal, and their customer service is second to none!

LOL. First spam ever seen on The Awl.

lotsoftreble (#2,715)

What would be the most gracefully manly way to handle this?

scrooge (#2,697)

I want a desk that teaches calculus. Cheap.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

@krstl1

Don Draper disapproves of your advertising pitch. It's dishonest and it's a turn off.

Who's your audience? Certainly not a bunch of childless cat ladies and geighs living in New York. You should be logging on to WowowowoW or mylifetime.com and getting to know the overworked, overstressed mothers of the world. Listen to her ramblings about the latest episode of Army Wives. Let her rage about how DH doesn't pick up around the house. And then, and only then, can you pitch her your school supplies.

roboloki (#1,724)

i come across exactly like don draper every time i sext krstl1.

Bittersweet (#765)

I'm an overworked, overstressed mother and I'm still not interested in discount educational products. (Or Army Wives.)

keerquie (#3,346)

I'm so glad I'm gay so I don't have to worry about whether or not my confidence will get me a wife.

"While women are, of necessity, more adept at coexisting with unrealistic romantic ideals, dudes are just getting used to it, and it's confusing, especially if you try to take the fantasy literally."

I thought this was very interesting. I also see this often with the (right kind of) gay men I know. We don't expect each other to be such elaborate performances of masculinity. Once this is broken down, life is so much easier.

Also, if you want to actually dance, without the awkward self-consciousness of the masculine-performing men, try a gay-dominated party.

Not having to live up to the expectations of Don Draper-style masculinity is probably my favourite part of finally coming out.

Oh, but I still think Don Draper is so fucking cool. It's interesting. Like, I see all his bad qualities, yes, and his hypocrisy. But he's so fuckable AND I want to be him. Maybe it's not that easy being gay.

It's the coats and hats. They give everything the air of glamour. Even the photo that you used for the artwork depicts Hamm in a classic trilby despite the fact that most of the times that hats appear on the show is when he is handing them to his secretary. Imagine Bogart in the closing scene of "Casablanca" without his hat and trench coat. Actually don't It hurts.

For all of the horrible health implications, smoking and drinking scotch all day is pretty stylish as well. The problem is that even if you have a chance of looking like Don Draper, which most of us don't, the booze and tobacco is not the training regimen that you're going to need to follow.

missdelite (#625)

Hippies obliterated the Don Draper archetype, for better or worse. This makes me wonder what'll happen to him once Flower Power hits Mad Men. Will he don the love beads or fight it tooth-and-nail?

Anyway, it's not possible to be a modern DD in the age of ubiquitous thong sandals, plaid bermuda shorts and "Chill, dude" attitude without looking like a pretentious ass.

"Hipster Don Draper", mi amigos, is an oxymoron.

You have a point. I don't think you can adapt mid-century modern clothes and get shaved in a barbershop and look like anything but a slightly less dorky RenFest enthusiast. You have to adapt the sophistication and glamour of your current period.

missdelite (#625)

Thing is, our current period eschews sophistication and glamour. Even wearing a tie after working hours comes off as stuffy and uptight. And how many times have you seen a male celeb on the red carpet look slightly worse for wear, as if he doesn't know what to do with formal wear, accessories and his hair? And the shoes, oh god the shoes.

On my first day teaching a bunch of undergraduates, I decided to dress decently, if for no other reason that because I didn't look old enough to buy beer. The senior professor took one look at me and shook his head in disgust. "You know, we had the 60s so you wouldn't have to wear a tie." Which is to say you are right, missd.

the teeth (#380)

And wearing a tie is so much better if it's not a requirement. Silly man. (Or woman, but I'll confidently bet 30:1 that the senior prof was a male.)

melis (#1,854)

I'm sorry, the guy wearing a nice hat in the midst of sandal-wearing, shorts-festooned, "chill-dude"ing hippies is the pretentious ass? Respectfully disagree.

missdelite (#625)

@melis: He's like a peacock in a hen house. The majority dictates what's hip/cool/in for each generation and anyone who flouts the rules without a hint of irony is effectively thumbing his nose at its adherents. If he's lucky, he's merely ostracized. If not, he gets his ass whupped (and his hat stolen).

City_Dater (#2,500)

But if he's comfortable in his body and that hat looks like part of him, not an affectation he picked up from watching Pick Up Artist videos, he's getting more female attention than the "brahs" in the horrible shorts with their unfortunate toes hanging out of their sandals.
And chances are he has the confidence to actually converse and flirt with women, rather than grunting and hiding behind his buddies or resorting to insults to get a woman's attention.

I've been on way too many bad dates recently.

missdelite (#625)

@City_Dater: This is true. How a guy wears his clothes makes all the difference in the world, but when it comes to fashion trends, it bodes him well to incorporate one throwback element (like a tie clip or straw fedora) as opposed to a more literal interpretation like a Tom Ford 3-piece suit replete with watch fob, walking cane and spats.

Unless he's a Noble Peace Prize winner, in which case he can do whatever the hell he wants.

missdelite (#625)

ETA: "Nobel"

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Straight up: Sex Offender Week is stupid. Long articles that ramble like crazy and I'm still not sure if Andrew Cuomo's son Rivers raped anyone…

Long articles need to be engaging and capture the mind like a novel plot.

Just my .02

Cool story, bro.

Madmen is a fun TV show on a non-premium cable network – which means I get to watch it. It's kitschy, cheerful, and well acted. Nice scripts, some laughs, some drama, slick production, it's got a totally hot guy and a totally awesome babe. And it's the America you think you/your parents grew up in and you miss it terribly despite the awfulnesses of 1963. It is a good show.

Abe Sauer (#148)

"on a non-premium cable network"; hey, that's my criteria too! But yes, I have some older relatives who kind of grew up in what one might call a Draper household and they LOVE this show and love cooing at the cloths but also saying things like "Remember when dad did blah blah blah JUST LIKE THAT?! Those were the days!" It's more amusing than the show itself.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Wake up. I need amusement.

LondonLee (#922)

Before Don Draper we had Alfie Elkins. We all wanted to be him too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXzdiwZ-96c&feature=related

Annie K. (#3,563)

I love it that an essay on reactions to a made-up TV guy turns into a discussion on how to live — in yourself and with other people — with grace.

Aristotle would be proud.

Annie K. (#3,563)

What? You didn't spend your college nights trying to figure out the Nichomachean Ethics?

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

That was an excited and happy !!!

Flippanter (#4,696)

A cynic might offer that Don Draper (or Tony Soprano or Sciento-Detective, M.D.) is more attractive than any real-world imitator could be* because the narrative structure in which the character is embedded is his Delilah: the viewer sees more, hears more, knows more and understands more about the character and his circumstances than the comparatively blind, deaf, ignorant and mystified character ever could — not likely with respect to any capricious, self-pitying person in the real world. Nietzsche (sorry, but bear with me) reminds us that happiness is the feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome: what could be a better summary of the state of mind of the viewer of an acclaimed cable television scripted drama series, acquiring new insights every non-advertising minutes?

Also, it is kind of depressing that everyone has so thoroughly resigned their moral authority that the only behaviors that they feel confident condemning or approving are the sexual activities of fictional characters or, in the case of Buddy Holly Glasses Nerd, the aestheticized sexual activities of various songwriting personae. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the twentieth century contained more important things than the birth of modern advertising.

* Let the record show that the commenter gracefully eschewed the hackneyed opportunity to dig at hipsters, slack-bellied bloggers and fantasy football aficionados.

the teeth (#380)

Oh, Shoot! That link to Bonhoeffer reminds me that I (confidently!) condemn nazism. Fascism in general, even! Also, I approve of eating cake. And pie. And pretty girls baring their shoulders in the park on a sunny day: I totally approve of that. Yes, there's so much more to judge in this big ol' world beyond the humping proclivities of teevee characters & pop musicians. Thanks for the reminder.

Flippanter (#4,696)

I think I have a picture of him wearing a hat if that would help.

A performance assumes you have an audience. An audience is other people. When determining an identity, you should focus on the "I," not other people.

Likewise, the problem with someone being Don Draper is you aren't Don Draper. By being him, you are still defining your "I" by another person. Don Draper already exists, and you are not him. Appreciating certain things about another person, and seeking to incorporate them in your "I" and becoming someone else are two completely different things.

(Also, you're confusing your understanding of the Dick Whitman to Don Draper transition because the story is not complete yet. Don Draper is still flawed. Mad Men is largely about his journey to self assertion.)

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