Some rambling thoughts on Don Draper

Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?
--James Baldwin

You should know, from jump, that I am absolutely in love with Mad Men. It really does for a certain group among the upper class, what The Wire did for a certain group among the underclass. It has that same rejection of good and evil, that same detailed humanity that we loved about The Wire. But also, to its credit, it lacks the anger which ultimately contaminated The Wire's final season. Furthermore it rejects the naked cynicism that's poisoned efforts as diverse as Crash and Desperate Housewives. It would have been really easy to make a show panning this era, or to make another one completely romanticizing it. Instead Mad Men just bores hard down on character, character and more character.

This is sort of continuation of the Hillary Clinton post, in that respect. Last night I was watching the latest episode with Kenyatta when she said that she really wanted Don's wife to just have an affair. When I asked her why she said it was because she felt that it would help her with her issues and she might learn something about herself. She later went on to say that the difference between Betty and Don is that one gets to have all these experiences (French films, Frank O'Hara, affairs with various women) while the other is trapped at home. Betty having the affair would symbolize an attainment of a kind of power which Don wields over her, as well as a sense of satisfaction.

I found that analysis incredible. I countered that its true that Don wields experience over Betty, and that that's part of--or a representation of--his power. But the whole show is about the hollowness of said power, no? I love that Peggy is climbing the ladder, but that she isn't a feminist crusader, and isn't particularly concerned about other women--she's just out get hers. Don, for all his experiences isn't any more complete than Betty. He's just as shallow, and has the same emotional handicaps. When that dude told Betty yesterday that she was "so sad," it struck that a woman could have said the same thing to Don.

There's a "Is it all worth it" quality to Mad Men which I love--like you're cheering for Betty to move up, and yet at the same time you're thinking, "Move up into what?" Into puking into office garbage cans? INto emotional dysfunction? Into backstabbing and seducing the spouses of coworkers? Is this really what it's about? I love that dilemma--it doesn't simply ask us do we want a world where everyone can compete, it asks to question the very nature of the world. More importantly, it doesn't position one against the other, as we on the left sometimes do (like with gay marriage).

Anyway, those are my rather disorganized thoughts. Would love to hear from you guys.