Ron Mattocks finds inspiration and wisdom in unlikely characters: Don Draper, for instance.
The other night I was telling my wife, Ashley, about an idea I had to start an anonymous blog where I would be a complete asshole, but yet still arrive at the generally correct conclusions on the chosen topic. For instance, I’d claim to envy Charlie Sheen for being able to balance porn stars and fatherhood before alluding to the imminent downfall of such a lifestyle. That’s not a perfect example, but as I explained things further to her, my ultimate motivation for such a project came down to a feeling that I had pigeonholed myself as a writer into this wholesome, Clark Kent-like persona specializing in cutesy, mildly amusing stories about life as a stay-at-home dad.
My impetus for such an idea was spurred on by my attempt to catch up on the current season of Californication, which if you’ve never watched, follows the infamous exploits of the well-intentioned, yet decidedly-fucked-up writer Hank Moody (played by David Duchovny). For brevity’s sake, I’ll skip all the (many) gory details except to say that Hank is a complete asshole who truly loves his teenage daughter and her mother, but has a penchant for poor decision-making when it comes to booze, drugs, and other women. To give you an idea, Hank is now on trial for statutory rape, but even though the charge is technically true, it’s not his fault …kinda.
I’m not sure what it is, but like a lot of people, I’m fascinated by male characters who straddle the duality of being both genuinely good and morally flawed at the same time. Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the 1960’s ad exec with lady-killer looks and a troubled past on TV’s Mad Men, is another one who falls into this category. The guy cheats on his wife as often as he drinks (which is a lot), and yet still proves to be a good father along the way.
The aspect of characters like Moody and Draper that I marvel at is how they can exhibit remorse while weathering the consequences of their bad behavior only to turn around and make the same poor choices all over again. And here’s the real kicker—we continue to love them in spite of it and so do the characters they hurt over and over again.
Watching these shows, I’ve wondered to myself what it must be like to play the part of an asshole—I mean for real. This question has been so strong of late that it has since brought on the sudden impulse to suck down a handful of Marlboros, reserve a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at the library, and place an order at my sister’s Etsy shop for a vintage electric typewriter on which I planned to write really fucked up shit that I would then scan into my computer and use for my new, in-your-face blog.
Ashley, however, didn’t think this to be such a hot idea.
This sort of annoyed me, partly because she was so sure in her feedback, and partly because the UPS guy would be showing up any day now with an 80-pound, Smith Corona from the 1970’s. She conceded that it would be a lot of fun to unleash my inner Hank Moody on the world, but she’s also known a lot of people who have gone this route and wound up taking on that make-believe role a little too seriously. She continued her thoughts by asking why I needed to be anonymous all of a sudden. Why not just write honestly on the blog I already have? Ashley then named off a handful of popular bloggers known for being candid without being complete jerks about it.
My wife’s reasoning, whether I wanted to admit it or not, was sound. The secret identity aspect already bothered me to a slight extent well before I mentioned anything to her. Remaining anonymous to protect your family’s privacy is completely understandable, remaining anonymous just so you can say whatever you feel like without impunity felt somewhat cowardly. I mean, it’s easy to flip someone off from behind the steering wheel of a moving vehicle after they cut you off, but how likely would you be to give that someone the bird if they did the same thing on the way to the check-out line? How is this any different online?
Even so, her point about using my better known blog to sharing my honest opinions, no matter how controversial, failed to convince me completely. Cutesy stories mixed with the occasional heart-felt piece about life and fatherhood is safe and unlikely to raise other people’s ire. It’s that kind of content that has helped get me paid writing gigs so why take the risk of scaring people off with my blistering commentary?
But where then do I write about the tough issues? Where do I take on controversial aspects of politics, parenting, society and pop culture, and do so unapologetically? Where can I be bold and unabashed in challenging mouthy dads who demand respect while doing nothing to prove they deserve it, or feminist tripe that rails against men while using backlash emotions to ignore the truth? Hank Moody and Don Draper wouldn’t back down in speaking their minds and the masses would cheer them on. Me? I’d be deemed a first-class nut case, earning a labeled of the “Gary Busey of Daddy Bloggers.”
Last night, Ashley told me that my stepdaughter, Allie, was upset over some boy telling her she was ugly. Apparently, according to the teachers, this boy is the most popular kid in the third grade and everybody wants to be him.
I wasn’t impressed. “Sounds like a punk-ass bitch to me,” I said.
“Allie thinks he was just joking around,” my wife added.
I took this to mean Allie was making excuses for the little turd because she wanted him to still like her, and I responded with a few unrepeatable thoughts Hank Moody style. This in turn garnered a stern rebuke from Ashley. Winning!
Throughout life, I’ve always hated those guys who intentionally acted like jerks knowing women would fling themselves at their feet in an attempt to seek male approval. No way was I letting my stepdaughter fall into that bullshit cycle, especially this early in life. I pictured myself lighting up a cigarette and telling her verbatim that she should walk straight up to that boy and nut-punch him as hard as she could. Then I’d tell her that boys like him are nothing more that weak pussies who grew up to be selfish assholes that continually fucked over the people they claim to love. Ironic.
At the bus stop the next morning, I said nothing of the sort. Instead, I told her that she was the prettiest girl in her class and she should ignore any boy who says differently. Plus, those boys qualified as being so stupid natural selection would take its course and they would die at an early age anyway …or at least they’d have to repeat the third grade. Okay, the last part I didn’t say either, but I sure as hell wanted to.
By the time we walked out the door, however, I had already accepted the fact that I’m not an asshole (not intentionally at least). I have made basically good choices in my life, and of the many poor ones, I’ve learned from them. I love my family through my actions, which means I don’t have to sift through the frequent guilt that would come as a result of hurting them all the time by being a jerk regardless of my altruistic, yet misguided intentions.
I am not Hank Moody, or Don Draper or any other fucked up character in TV-land, and trying to be otherwise would be like that part in Superman III where the “Man of Steel” turns evil. Talk about weird, it’s bizzare watching the Big Blue Boy Scout go from Superman to super jerk as he proceeds to get sloshed in a bar, hit on women, and blow off those in need. It’s something as a coincidence for me that this asshole-e-o behavior came to a head during a mildly existential fight scene between Superman and his wholesome alter ego, Clark Kent. Clark of course wins, restoring the world greatest superhero back to the guy who fights for truth, justice and all that other wholesome, American stuff.
There are, however, some commonalities that Hank Moody, Don Draper and Clark Kent all share. They know right from wrong; they love and fight for their families; they’re bold and passionate about what they believe; and they don’t sacrifice their basic identities to become something they are not. To me, these are the essential fundamentals for being a good man in today’s modern culture. If nothing else, that at least makes watching assholes somewhat redeemable.
Now, what to do with this carton of Ultra Lights and that monstrosity of a typewriter due to hit my doorstep any day now?