Dan’s post makes some good points, and gets at the question that almost everything that tackles Mad Men ends up addressing: Who is Don Draper? I think we can all agree Don Draper is not a very nice man.
But beyond that bit of moral fluff, Don is a problem. We are supposed to feel sympathy and empathy, even, (as Dan suggests) for a man who took the name of a military veteran in order to dodge service and then infiltrate the social strata? And once there, was so unhappy that he simply had to bed lots of women and endanger himself in a variety of cars, in complete disregard for the family he created? To me, Don is very simple to dislike; I know this is a position that distances me a good deal from other Mad Men viewers.
Let me point to a great little microcosm of why Don is a walking contradiction. Throughout the third season, Don presents himself outwardly as a moral force, especially in his judgment of Roger Sterling. This is. . .suspect, considering his personal proclivities. When the screenwriters finally deigned to let him be Don, to mutter at the homosexual art director Sal, “You people,” and fire him, viewer response was disappointed, to say the least. Apparently, they could deal with Don’s infidelity and general dishonesty, but that instance of era-appropriate prejudice? Too much. They’d begun to think of him as one of them, a tolerant missionary from the present into the past.
And that reaction to that one instance told me that the portrayal of Don had grown complacent, that we’d forgotten his status as a middle class, mostly average suburban man of the ’50s sensibility. But he is, and he hasn’t grown very much since we’ve seen him. Matt Weiner shouldn’t be so afraid to allow Don to be disliked that he ends up white-washing him. But as I said earlier, I’m hopeful for a reinvention, myself.
Jonah: I haven’t seen Breaking Bad, but I am always hearing great things.