On Don Draper

A Man's Man: Don Draper

A Man’s Man: Don Draper

After watching the entire first five seasons of Mad Men in two weeks I  realized that I fucking hate Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and that despite all the talk about how cool and suave he is, I have found him to be nothing but a philandering, obnoxious, selfish, disloyal, sexist, unpleasant asshole incapable of love.

He is handsome. He is sexy. He is a panty creamer. Absolutely. But that is were the fascination ends.

Let’s recap Draper: he cheated on his first wife Betty (January Jones) at every opportunity and when he got caught he only apologized because he did not want to mess up his perfect little white picket-fence life with the good, gorgeous and dutiful wife and the model kids by his side (and not because he really regretted what he had done).  As a matter of fact, he kept cheating on her while he was temporarily moved out and supposedly regretting what he did and he continued to sleep around when she forgave him.

After she eventually found out about him and his secret past and his affairs, he threatened her and called her a whore. When she had gained weight due to emotional problems and a health condition, he called her a fat whore.

He uses people and treats them, especially women, with the same care as the cum stained tissues amidst his luxury satin sheets. For years he took advantage of and disrespected Peggy (Elizabeth Moss), talking down on her and letting her do all the work while taking the credit for it, including awards. Despite her stellar work he  pays her a fraction of what he pays his other, mostly untalented, male copy writers; she landed them account after account and when she asked for a raise or at least recognition he reached for his pocket, threw a handful of dollar bills in her face, literally, and patronizingly told her that she would go to Paris after all. He never apologized to her and on the same day he threw a wad of money at her face like she was a whore, he made Joan (Christina Hendricks) partner after having her sleep with the head of the Jaguar account

He is a lousy father to his three children whom he treats like puppys in a pound he occasionally agrees to take for a walk and he is never there while their mother dearest goes psycho on them.

After all the quality women he has met so far, he chooses to make his sweet-brained secretary Megan (Jessica Pare) his wife whom he pretends he is totally in love with (as if he could) and who of course gets billing before Peggy at his firm for the sole reason that she is pretty and fucking him.

Yes, the 50s Sucked for Everyone Who Wasn’t a White, Straight, Male

This is what the culture was like in the 50s and 60s. I understand. However, it seems as if the admiration for the magnetic, charming sexist, straight, white, racist homophobe Playboy was not just confined to that era.

A Hard Drinker - err Thinker too

A Hard Drinker – err Thinker too

Don Draper today is a source of fascination and admiration in our pop culture. Ask Men asked why people want to be like Draper.  The answer was evident: he is, after all, a real “man” because he is so unlike the chronically unmotivated, sexually clumsy, socially inept, economically immobile, and childish boys in most of today’s movies such as Knocked up and The 40 Year Old Virgin; movies filled with “men” who are really boys and obsessed with fast food, video games and bodily functions.

As if there were only two kinds of men: the chic, suave, handsome selfish assholes like Draper who treat getting married or being a father like it’s doing someone else a favor, or the Seth Rogen, stoned-all-day slacker with no motivation or checking account. Uh-huh.

A Man’s Man

AskMen praises Draper’s “masterful manhood” and most importantly his professional and upward mobility above all, because god knows upward mobility and “the accumulation of wealth” as someone once told me after I asked them what they wanted out of life, are the things that truly matter in this country and define one’s manhood. 

It doesn’t surprise me that despite all his other very serious character flaws such as his infidelity, his disloyalty, his lack of compassion, his misogyny and cowardice the one thing people know him and admire him the most for is the fact that he is good with hot women and upwardly mobile. Nevermind that he regularly fires people for things that are his fault or things that he does himself but judges others for.  Or that he fired a gay employee because he did not want to sleep with a client, or when he made his secretary and long term friend sleep with a client to get the account, and when he drove a business partner and close friend to suicide by refusing to give him a break after that friend had a temporary laps in judgment.  Nope, that is no big deal. As long as he is sexy and rich doing it, it’s endearing. 

The only things he is criticized for are his chain smoking, his alcoholism and generally unhealthy vices. He is rarely, if ever, criticized for his deep misogyny and just the shitty way he treats people in life. Ironically, his wife Betty is considered the least popular character on the show while Don the most popular, even though he is the philandering asshole.

A Woman’s Man

As AskMen put it “even those who consider themselves died-in-the-wool feminists — admitted that Don Draper represents just about everything they want in a man: not only is he tall, dark and handsome, but he is commanding, enterprising and always — always — in control. When we have, on occasion, pointed out to these same women that he is inwardly unavailable, hopelessly uncommunicative and serially unfaithful, many of them have conceded that, as one friend put it, “he would probably make a lousy husband and a bad dad in real life.”

Umm…no. I don’t know who all those legions of feminists are that AskMen is referencing here but no feminist would find a manipulative, abusive man like this “everything they want in a man.” In fact, I doubt that any woman with an ounce of self respect and aversion to abuse would want a man like Don Draper in their lives.

Aside from his aforementioned blatant and obvious misogynistic and cruel ways (qualities I cannot imagine many people finding attractive or enticing), Don Draper – as a partner – a husband – insistently wants his women to be someone that they manifestly aren’t, which is classic emotional abuse dynamic. Draper does not respect his partner’s agency and consent and he is someone who continually asserts to know their partner’s needs and desires better than themselves. Thing is, someone who is emotionally manipulative, sexually coercive, and conditionally affectionate will never just be okay with accepting their partner’s feelings for what they are, or respecting their boundaries.

When you watch Don Draper interact with women – his lovers, girlfriends and wives – what you really see is a horror scene, set to romantic music.

So, when AskMen asserts that Don Draper is what women really want, especially feminist women I a) highly doubt that the editors over there at AskMen know diddly about what either women want or what constitutes feminists and b) I am horrified that there are young men, lots of young men (and even women) watching this show and then reading articles like this thinking that this is what women want, that this is what women should want and that this is how men should behave because… this is what women (allegedly) want.

They walk around thinking that these kind of relationship dynamics are the norm, healthy and desirable. That if you are a man and you act like this, you are cool  – and that if you are a woman accepting a man acting like this, you are romantic, when in reality Don Draper and his behavior isn’t a model for romance. It’s a blueprint for abuse.

It is certainly not what woman want. Or what women who want to be in emotionally healthy relationships with men who respect their agency and boundaries, should want.

It is ironic that the editors at AskMen agree with one of the male copywriters in the show who once told Draper that women basically just want a man and that they’ll buy anything that’ll help them get a man

Apparently assholishness is very complicated

Apparently assholishness is very complicated

Of course AskMen portrays Draper as the kind of guy not only all women want, whether they know it or not, but also as the kind of man most men wish they could be. You know, being “able to drink and smoke with abandon, womanize with impunity, […] rule over everyone while being ruled by no one [despite being] an alcoholic, a chain-smoker and a depressive introvert.”

Note again, that nowhere are Draper’s misogyny, lack of compassion and bigotry mentioned as character flaws.  Apparently in the world of Men, that is a non-issue.

So Why Does Everyone Want to Be Don Draper? 

Because in essence not much has changed from the 1950s/60s with respect to the patriarchy and how our culture sees the two genders. I bet a lot of men watch this wishing things were that way again.

It is not surprising. After all, we live in a culture that considers “men” who are self-reliant, shrewdly ambitious, emotionally inaccessible and philandering misogynists to be the ultimate hallmark of masculinity.

draper 4

The article laments manhood and white, male privilege of the 50s as a lost opportunity; a fall from greatness that still somehow appears to linger in the hearts and minds of men today who look at it fondly exclaiming that “if only things hadn’t changeda man could still be a man“.

Ah, the 50s and 60s – the decades where men could be men instead of human beings who are no better, or less, than any other human being around them, male or female, black or white, straight or queer, thin or fat, handsome or ugly.

Progressive Masculinity

That is, of course, a very outdated and primitive notion of what constitutes masculinity. Or is it?

The patriarchy teaches young men, even today, that anger is safe and manly. Hurt equals weakness. If anyone questions your masculinity you must fight. Be assertive, be in control. Only a sissy pussy is not in control and so forth.

Don Draper is the opposite of that and according to AskMen, those are the hallmarks of not only real masculinity but also success, attractiveness and sex appeal.

The brilliance of the show is that no matter how redeemable Don Draper is made out to be and no matter how much sensitivity and vulnerability he is shown to possess, at heart he is a sexist and a bigot and overall terrible human being who does not believe that women (and gays and blacks) are deserving of and entitled to the same rights as men. He does not see them as equals, no matter how much he may ultimately care for one of them on the personal level – such as Peggy or even his own daughter Sally.

His misogyny is so rooted in him, such a fundamental part of his core, that he cannot part from it. And the writers don’t try to. They do not try to all of a sudden make him an advocate for equal rights or an enlightened man who really  stops to check his immense white, male, straight privilege.

For Draper, women being nothing but child bearers, sexual conquests, housewives and neat accessories at parties to show off are a given that will never change.

The fact that our pop culture of today looks at someone like Draper and laments his greatness and masculinity that somehow seems to be amiss amidst all the equal rights mumbo jumbo, says a lot more about how far we have come (or not come) in that area rather than how bad things used to be.

When people look at a black man like Obama running this country and yell “we want our country back“, Don Draper and the world of Leave it to Beaver and housewives like June Cleaver are what they are referring to. That’s the America they want back. The America that was great for no one but straight, white men; for the Don Drapers of the world.

The truth is that the masculinity of men in the 50s and 60s and thus of Don Draper  – much like the masculinity of men today – is a mask; a facade hiding a person deeply out of touch with who he is on the inside.

It is also a mask that allows them to navigate the world unhindered and thus without ever having to question the status quo. After all, why would you question a world that is so perfectly suited to and tailored towards your needs as a straight, white man?

draper 6

On a personal level, feelings and emotions are tools that help you deal with life and when you constrict them the results are people like Don Draper in the 60s and a culture that considers everything Draper stands for, some 5o years after he stood for them,  as the gold standard of masculinity and success ultimately.

Mad Men is a brilliant show and I thoroughly enjoy it, but the hype about Don Draper is just that. He is nothing but a pretty face in a nice suit attached to a big dick.

I enjoy following his journey but boy, I can’t stand the guy. Especially after he got married to his office bimbo and penile-equivalent Megan – whom they are trying to pass up as a really interesting person – I lost whatever little hope I had that there may be a worthwhile human being behind that spineless, quivering soul of his.

In Mad Men, Draper is portrayed as a complicated man. Even Hamm, in his recent Rolling Stone interview, admits that Draper is a “complicated man”. Someone lost in the woods, halfway through the journey of his life, who ends up exploring hell. Only that Draper is not that complicated man going through hell.  Unlike Dante, Draper is part “The Inferno” – including, and especially, his fucked up sense of masculinity which – more than anything – is the source of his ruin and distorted sense of self,  rather than its consequence.

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