Saturday, March 10, 2012

Don Draper - The Man You Hate to Love...

We've all heard of someone being the person you "love to hate". They are usually the delicious villain in a story - the person who we are all free to throw our collective fears, anger and complicated jealousies at and it's okay to hate them because they are clearly meant to be irredeemably bad. There's something very cathartic about this sometimes - something very human about wanting a foil we can cast our dispersions upon.

I know plenty of people who love the television show "Mad Men", and plenty who like it, but feel conflicted about why. And plenty of women who love Don Draper or hate Don Draper and never quite feel good about either. He's not the guy you love to hate. Rather, he's the guy you hate to love.

Besides being terribly good looking, Don has the ability to be just plain terrible.  He cheats on his wife in the first few seasons, often seemingly for very little reason at all.  His moral are questionable at best.  He's actually pretending to be someone he's not.  He has dark secrets.  He can be somewhat abusive.  The only thing Don seems to care about most of the time is chasing after some illusive idea of being able to avoid his own existential angst - and this guy has enough existential angst for at least 10 men combined.  

And yet...

Don also is wanted by ALL the ladies.  And not just because he's fabulously handsome.  Because there is just something about Don that every woman sort of responds to on this deep level.  All women seem to want to be THE woman who can tame a man like Don.  

When I say every woman, I'm also speaking for myself here.  Somewhere around the middle of season 4 I quit trying to avoid it and just admitted to myself that I really really like Don even though he's terrible half the time.  Maybe more than half the time.  But then he shows just enough humanity, and just enough vulnerability that he redeems himself.  Sometimes. 


Anyway, I'm very much looking forward to some new Don Draper later this month. 

I'm often surprised by how much psychological insight I can gain into myself by what books, movies and television shows I really respond to.  I bet if you thought about it you could tell a lot about any given person by what "stories" they respond to.  Books, movies, plays & television - and the majority of all performing arts are really about emotion and an experience of listening to a story, or having some kind of meaning portrayed to you in a cathartic way.  Even dance and music do this, art of all kind certainly does.  Even things we think of as purely humorous or silly are still helping us through an experience of emotion. 

Strong characters like Don Draper - characters written with rich inner lives and complicated motivations are full of meaning for us because they help us understand ourselves better or they help us understand those around us better.  If we let them. 

Every day life is this complex and meaningful experience that we are all trying to make sense of, enjoy and make meaningful all at the same time.  A lot of our time is used up on things we have to do just to survive.  The rest of our time has to be devoted to things that provide a richness of existence of us, either through things we accomplish through our work or play or ways in which we feel that we contribute to the greater good, or in the ways that we begin to understand more about ourselves and by extension - everyone we come in contact with.

Which is all a very complicated way of saying that I never feel guilty about the little bit of time I spend on a television show that I love.  It's much more important to our over-all experience in life that we do some of these things as we live out each day.

Which is all to say that I'm okay with my complicated love of Don. 

1 comment:

Suzanne Barker said...

I like your commentary Lezlee. I love Don too. Even though he is who he is. He does seem very good and yet very flawed individual.


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