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September 4, 2015

I have a problem with Don Draper

by Allison Waldman, posted Oct 19th 2009 4:02PM
Donald_DraperI'm really, really ticked off with Don Draper. After last night's episode, I'm firmly convinced that Mad Men's Matthew Weiner is out to make Don the biggest jerk around. There are so many things to hate about Don lately, but let's just take a second look at last night's Mad Men episode. Don is practically flaunting his newest dalliance in Betty's face. When she asked him if he was sleeping at home, he said no and used Hilton as an excuse. Does he really think that Betty is that dumb?

Apparently, he does. Or perhaps he thinks that he can talk his way around her even if she were to confront him about cheating on her. Of course, Betty's still obsessed with Henry Francis, so who's she to squawk, right?

But the thing about Betty is that I don't know if the Francis incident is true desire on her part or just a way to act out over Don's lack of fidelity?

Back to Don the jerk: why on earth would he keep all those "top secret" keys to his past in a locked drawer in the house? Why would he be so sloppy as to leave the key in his bathrobe pocket? Don's a careful person; he nearly lost it on the train when Miss Farrell showed up unexpectedly. He doesn't like to be caught short. Therefore, would he really be so forgetful about the key to the drawer that hides his life from the world?

If Weiner wants us to believe that Don is basically self-destructive and wants to get caught, then perhaps keeping all those items in the house adds up. Another person told me that Don keeps the Dick Whitman box because he is drawn back to looking at the stuff and remembering who he was.

That's logical, except that photos are one thing, a divorce decree is another. The dog tags of Richard Whitman and Donald F. Draper are enough to get Don arrested for fraud! Why not leave the photos in the desk and put the legal documents and incriminating evidence in a safe deposit box in Manhattan where Betty will never know about it?

You see why I have a problem with Don Draper? He's too smart to be screwing up like this. It's all well and good to give Don feet of clay, to make him selfish and arrogant, to toe the line on turning the hero into a complete asshole, but you can't lose the viewer in the process. Lately, I've been hearing too many people telling me that they're getting fed up with Mad Men because of how Don's turning.

What do you think? Do you have a problem with Don, too, or am I overreacting?

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I totally agree he's become such a big jerk, not that he was a saint before, but at least we rooted for him. In fact, I wrote up an entire post about his 'jerkitude' before I knew about yours!
Please do read and comment if you are so inspired...

October 20 2009 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is the 60s people, times were different. What is Betty going to do? The stigma of divorce was not what it is today just look at how they treated Helen Bishop. Don is not unique in his jerkness, just about every man on the show is the same way. A couple of weeks ago Pete basically raped the german nanny, Roger constantly cheated on his wife, Joan was basically raped a few episodes ago by her husband. Peggy is probably the only woman who has managed to avoid being a victim even though she has Pete's baby.

October 20 2009 at 12:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Observer's comment

"This is the 60s people, times were different. What is Betty going to do?"

Eventually marry "up" by snagging one of Rockefeller's key aides, after first getting a fat settlement out of Don by holding his box of secrets over his head while using his not-so-secret philandering to be the sympathetic party in the divorce proceedings? Maybe even biding her time and in a decade or two using her eventual new hubby's clout to start forging a political career for herself (She's had a taste of it and has the brains, narcissism, manipulativeness, and grasping nature for politics)?

Betty's going to be just fine. Not necessarily happy, but fine. ;-)

October 20 2009 at 4:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Anyone who can justify Don's actions after he abandoned his family last season is just plain blind. All of Betty's actions have been a result of Don's apathy toward her and his family. Betty, at least, has emotionally checked out of the marriage, whereas, Don was never invested in it.

October 20 2009 at 11:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I feel the same way. I truly believed after the finale in Season 1 at the Carousel pitch meeting that Don was going to change. But here we are, 2 seasons later and the guy hasn't changed at all. What was the significance in that meeting if Don was going to continue to be the guy he is?

October 20 2009 at 9:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Also not to be forgotten is that Betty is hardly a helpless victim here. Betty is an emotional thug. We've seen her accost both her young children already in lashing out in her frustration. And Henry Francis isn't the first time Betty's eyes have wandered. She has opened the door to infidelity at least twice before as well as having actually taken the plunge on one occasion. 'Just getting back at Don' is fine as a motivation, but not as a justification.

Betty didn't lose her nerve or her anger to confront Don over her discovery. Time just allowed her to tame her more instinctive desire to strike out hard and fast so that her more manipulative side could take the reigns so that she can nurture her anger and resentment, as well as savor her own perceived righteous outrage, while waiting for a time when she can exact a fuller measure of hurt from Don.

Betty is woman who is used to being pampered and spoiled, but is furious and frustrated that somehow it still feels like it's not enough. And of course, that must be somebody else's fault.

These are two very broken people, neither one really a good fit for either a halo or devil's horns.

October 19 2009 at 11:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank you. The storyline makes no sense.

October 19 2009 at 11:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jill's comment

Yeah but, who's to say it makes no sense? Maybe it's supposed to make no sense. Maybe that's the point.

I never understood why people would say, "So-and-so shouldn't do this" on TV...they're fictional characters. The person who writes them can do whatever they want. It doesn't make it right or wrong. Now, you might not like it or agree with it or do it yourself.

Don't we all want to be surprised by TV? Have some unpredictability? And I agree that as good as someone can be about keeping secrets, there's always a slip up somewhere. Or, with the keys, maybe the point is that Don is getting a little too comfy with his secret keeping? Maybe he's a little full of himself and thinks he's invincible, which leads to sloppy thinking about the keys?

And a safe deposit box makes sense, unless you want them easily accessible for some reason - I know my dad used to keep a box like that. There's something human about wanting to keep important things close. Don probably would sit in his study with a drink and look through the box once every few years. Plus, isn't that really all that's left of Dick Whitman - the contents of the box?

I get the point you're all making, but part of the experience of fiction is to open yourself up to what someone else is saying through the fiction, not about how we can mold the fiction into our little box of what makes sense.

October 20 2009 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
charles melrose III

Why do reviewers find it appropriate to express moral outrage with the behavior of a fictional character? It's silly and no reader who understands the creative function cares about a reviewer's ethical or moral reactions. The creators of the character intentionally have created a complex non-linear character for a host of dramatic reasons. Note--dramatic reasons. The personal strengths and failings of the characters--remember, they're not real people--are the vehicles through which the writer creates. Recognizing that he might be a jerk is ok, but being ticked off as if he's personally offended you? Please. This isn't middle school. Let's all show a little sophistication about what's going on and why the writers do what they do.

October 19 2009 at 11:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to charles melrose III's comment
Clara Escher

I agree totally. Jeez Louise, I can't believe some of these moralistic comments I've seen all over. I feel like I'm in a Southern Baptist revival.
I absolutely love Mad Men!!

October 20 2009 at 4:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not to mention the number of STDs he is exposing the mother of his children to.

October 19 2009 at 10:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Never got the attraction of Draper or Soprano. I like my anti-heroes to be interesting and a pretty boy robot and a dumb palooka don't qualify. Until Season 3 of Dexter he was a fairly fun anti-hero (the Smits season signaled the end).

October 19 2009 at 10:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i think the message we are supposed to be getting is that don just doesn't care anymore. he got sloppy with his box of secrets and hiding his newest affair because he really doesn't care if betty finds out or not. his family no longer matters.

October 19 2009 at 9:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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