I Hate Don Draper –
There. I’ve said it. It’s now out there. Public. For anyone to read, or to agree or disagree with for any reason whatsoever. I mean, why should I like him? When he was married to Betty, the epitome of a trophy wife if there ever was one, with the house in the suburbs with the white fence, the free-standing separate garage, the back yard, the two cute kids, even the poker game on the commuter train which was a regular event for Don; except for when he was shacked up with someone. Yeah, he cheated on Betty. With secretaries, stewardesses, even clients. He was the guy for whom the words – you shouldn’t, you can’t, or don’t – did not exist.
He treated his secretaries as his personal maids. They hung up his coat, emptied his ash trays, poured his drinks – you know, things that no self-respecting ad executive would ever do for themselves. Then again, this was the sixties. And such behaviors passed as cultural norms. Doubt that, ask anyone – even Roger Sterling.
Don Draper smoked like a chimney. But then everyone did at the time. We were all secret admirers of The Marlboro Man. Draper didn’t much worry about his health. He once famously told his doctor – I eat a lot of apples.
Draper, played fearlessly by Jon Hamm, never saw a bottle that didn’t make him not only crave a drink, but actually have a drink from. Lots of guys had bottles in their desk drawers – but at Sterling Cooper – people would be having a drink before their morning coffees – poured by the secretaries, had even gotten cold.
He stole a man’s identity. Granted it was a war-time, spur of the moment kind of thing. But he swapped his dog tags for those of the real Don Draper, who at the moment had just become a KIA. In that quick and silent moment, two men died and one man was recreated.
He took credit for his underlings work. Especially young Peggy Olsen. Of course she had her own cross to bear, that being young Mr. Pete Campbell – a smaller, younger, and far less nimble version of Don Draper.
The other side of that same coin was when Peggy was a part of the creative team that lost the Samsonite account. Draper cut her down with – I’m glad we work in an environment where you feel free to fail…
He made sexist comments. Of course he had learned at the foot of the Master of Misogyny, Roger Sterling who once said – Remember Don, when God closes a door, he opens a dress.
Don is mostly politically incorrect. When Roger asks Don, Have we hired any Jews lately?, Don quickly replied, Not on my watch! But that alone doesn’t mean he hates Jews. He did sleep with the Jewish department store lady.
Don Draper is as insensitive as anyone. When he dumped a woman that he’d been sleeping with, he sharply replied that Change is neither good nor bad. It simply is.
Or if a client was balking or cranky about the efforts by Don and his agency, Don would state to his own people – If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.
Yes, Don Draper is a horrible person. I’ll never be convinced other wise. When I first tuned in to this award-winning AMC TV Series, known now and for ever as Mad Men, I could only watch two episodes. I was turned off by Pete Campbell’s boyishness, by Peggy Olsen’s naivety, by the smarmy Roger Sterling, as well as the peculiarities of Bert Cooper. Plus all the smoking, drinking, and overt sexism.
I liked Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris but found that I was appalled at the way she was treated by Roger and the boys. I liked Betty, played by January Jones – I even understood some her frustrations.
What I didn’t know, at that time, was much about Don Draper. I had viewed just the two episodes in 2007. But when Ben Affleck‘s film, The Town came out in September of 2010, I happened to ask my brother who was this guy Jon Hamm, who played the FBI guy in the film. My brother was astounded. You don’t know who Hamm is?, he asked not believing what he’d heard from me.
He’s only the star of the best drama on TV – Mad Men.
Properly chastened, I managed, thanks to AMC and Demand TV, to get caught up and pronto. And now, looking back to the beginning of my life, that is the life that began with Don Draper’s face in my living room, I stand by my opening line to this post – I Hate Don Draper.
And I will close this post (and make my case) with this. Don Draper had it all and cared about none of it. Even changed his life from a that of a boy who grew up in a whore house to a guy who lived in a Park Avenue penthouse, with his second wife Megan. His situation had changed to a degree, better apartments, cars, and homes, better and more expensive clothes, fancier restaurants, and brands of booze, but his reality hadn’t changed much at all. He was a still a guy who wanted some of that, and some of this, and nobody on the planet was going to stop him. He even said – We’re flawed because we want so much more….’.
Final argument. He worked in advertising – an industry that does its best to tell lies and exclude the realities. Don described his work thusly – Advertising is based on happiness. We make the lie, we invent want.
Okay, Don Draper didn’t invent advertising. He was just good at it. No, make that very good at it. He lived in the present, and only the present. He could not very well look back into his past, as he had worked so hard to erase it. He even said, I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because (for him) there isn’t one.
Yet – at 10:00 PM on this Sunday night, when AMC throws the switch and broadcasts Mad Men: Season 7 Part II, which are the final seven episodes of the series – I’ll be there.
I’ll be parked there for the next six weeks as well. Watching the show, and in doing so, I’ll be reaffirming that I Hate Don Draper – a man who once said, I don’t hate Christmas, I just hate this Christmas. After which, he’d likely take a drag from his cigarette, and then down some scotch.
One more – I even hate Don Draper because he’s not even an original. Even the animation for Mad Men seems a lift from Alfred Hitchock’s North By Northwest as the model.
From North By Northwest – Hitchcock’s adman Roger O. Thornhill… above, and Mad Men’s Don Draper below…
Have a look at the promo video for the last seven episodes – note that Don Draper’s pants are too short…