"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, April 28, 2014

Quick Thoughts on Don Draper and Mad Men

The beginning of last night's episode of Mad Men mostly concerned Megan's off-screen melt-down as an actress in Hollywood.   She has apparently done poorly at auditions, then stalked the directors, weeping, asking for second chances.   Not good.   Her agent complains to Don and asks him to come out and calm Megan down.   The explanation for her failure... she has lost her confidence.

Confidence.   Isn't that the key idea behind the whole show?   In the beginning Don Draper oozed confidence... as a man, and as an advertising "genius."   He's the smartest guy in the room, the best-looking, the sexiest.   He can win any account, get any girl.   His main attribute is confidence, which makes sense, because at bottom he is a confidence man in the old-fashioned sense of the word.... a fake, a phony, a charlatan, a grifter.   He has lied his way to everything he's ever gotten... his career, his marriages, his affairs, his money, his position, his reputation.  

So if I had to sum up where Mad Men is going as it slouches toward its conclusion, I think that it is a story asking the question:  "What happens when a con man loses his confidence?"   Put differently, what happens when a man whose life is built on confidence and energy and coolness is humiliated?

Because that's what happened in a small way at the end of this episode... Don Draper was humiliated.   His partners basically said to him, we're going to make an offer that any self-respecting adult man would refuse... you can come back, but you can't drink, you can't be alone with clients, you have to run your ideas past a dullard for approval, and if you break any of our rules we shitcan you.   He says "OK" because he's desperate.   Right before he said it, I shouted at the screen, "Say 'No!'"   Because no one in his position ought to have to crawl to people like that.

And I think that's what's happening in the series as a whole as it goes forward... we are going to see a proud man unravelling before our eyes.   Don Draper will be humiliated, brought low, shattered. 

It makes for tough viewing and, frankly, not very appealing television.   Who are we supposed to admire in this show anymore?   Don't we have to admire someone in order to want to watch?

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