Don Draper is an ad man who is an ad for an ad man which is an ad for a man. All the men I speak to want to be him but it’s hard to emulate someone who is emulating an image of something that doesn’t exist.
Don Draper is dead. Don Draper is the name of a dead man.
The name “Don Draper” is the scaffolding with which a man, whose given name and biography is kept secret, constructs a world which leads him to The American Dream. His life, by necessity, must be compartmentalized. Since we don’t know who the real man is, we might as well call him Don Draper. Maybe the “dream” is real, but Don Draper isn’t.
Don Draper IS America: living the dream of starting over, inventing a “new” self, collecting the symbols of happiness America promises to “the successful.” But Don Draper is smarter than that: he knows The American Dream isn’t real because he is the one creating it (in his office, at a bar, in bed with a woman who shall soon be replaced by a similar version of whoever she is attempting to emulate.)
Women say they want Don Draper. But Don Draper is incapable of having a relationship. His mother, a young prostitute, died giving birth to him. He is looking for a mother. He has found one in Anna, the wife of the dead man whose name he stole. She is the only one who ever really knew him, he has said, many times. She’s also the only woman who has never had sex with him. Good for her. Because Don gets sick of all the women he sleeps with. Seeking the mother he never had, through sex, is a nauseating enterprise.
Regarding love, and the inability to feel it, Draper says:
The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons.
Women are as uncomfortable with Don as they are with those nylons.
What we inherited from Don Draper is plastered all over Facebook, Twitter and countless blogs of self-promotion.
Draper is obviously a man of heart. He loves his children. When he holds them, you can see how much he wants to love them. But he’s a workaholic, a sexaholic, an alcoholic. Half his life is spent passed out.
Don Draper is said to be a creative genius. But he is neither very creative nor a genius. True, the image of him jotting notes on a napkin, as he drinks himself into oblivion, reflects the iconic image of the lone artist. But that is only an image. His actual ideas are flat, and reflect none of the ingenuity present in the ad world at that time.
Don Draper is the image of a good provider and family man, though his wife divorces him. He loves his daughter, but also sleeps with his daughter’s beloved elementary school teacher, Suzanne. One can’t help but feel Don must love Suzanne. They even planned to run away together. But Betty, his picture-perfect wife, decides to stay home, after all, so Don’s stuck starring in the same old show, leaving Suzanne waiting for him in his car.
He remembers to call her the next day.
This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened, is probably the most self-reflective truth to ever come out of Don Draper’s mouth.
Don Draper is exhausted.
He is an artist at heart. He even starts to record his thoughts, late at night, in his (of course) Greenwich Village apartment, after his divorce. The Village is where the real artists live.
If only he had more time to write in that cheap spiral notebook of his, whose pages can be torn out so easily. If only he could express some of what he’s truly thinking and feeling.
Don wants something else from life, something to make him feel more real. That’s why he impulsively proposes to his secretary, Megan, someone he hardly knows, someone completely replaceable, like all his secretaries have been. There is something he sees in Megan. He might feel he is living more authentically since her teeth are crooked. His first wife was flawlessly beautiful. It only makes sense for his next wife to have a visible flaw. “I love your teeth,” he said to her when she told him she couldn’t get an acting job because of her crooked teeth. But no actress ever gives up acting. She is auditioning for a role. “I know you,” she said, in bed, in response to his making a statement to the contrary. Don should have listened to himself. But he had a hangover.
In the last episode of Season Four, Don proposes to Megan, maybe because Anna left him her wedding ring after dying from cancer. The Mad Men staff writers shocked their audience with this proposal. But Mad Men viewers shouldn’t be shocked. His proposal was provoked by Megan’s calm way of wiping up spilt milk.
Don was furious with his kids for making a mess but Megan stayed cheerful and calm, so unlike his first wife, Betty. Don sees Megan as the completion of the ad campaign he designed, called “Happily Ever After.”
—Photo The Official CTBTO Photostream/Flickr