AMC’s Mad Men is a show a lot of people just don’t get. I wasn’t a fan from day one. In fact, the first episode I tried to watch on TV—toward the end of season 2, where Joan’s fiancé rapes her in Don’s office after-hours—was a definite turn-off for the show in general. Still, as a lover of all things retro, I couldn’t avoid the Mad Men buzz. I broke down and bought the season 1 DVD in 2009, but never even opened it (it’s still unopened, by the way). It wasn’t until I discovered Netflix in 2010 that Mad Men became a story I watched, and even then, it wasn’t love at first sight. It took almost an entire season, until the scene where Betty shot the birds, to even begin to understand that Mad Men is a show about everything you don’t see on screen and how almost nothing we do see on screen is real.
A lot of people think Mad Men is a grotesque glorification of alcoholism and adultery. Indeed, Don Draper’s illicit sex life and constant drinking takes center stage throughout much of the series. Truth is, Don Draper is a lost soul. Don’s promiscuity and self-medication is but a manifestation of how lost he is.
A lot of people are lost. A lot of people sitting in church pews are lost. A lot of people with advanced college degrees and high-paying jobs are lost.
It’s rare we see a character on television or in movies as lost as Don but with so much material togetherness. Don is wealthy. Extremely, obscenely wealthy. Lost characters are usually portrayed as bums or or slobs or aimless drifters who can’t reconcile the responsibilities of adult life with their perpetual need to remain in a child-state. Not Don Draper. Don has everything most of us want—money, a large house, expensive cars, a gorgeous spouse. Yet Don Draper has nothing, because Don Draper isn’t even Don Draper. If you’ve never seen the show, this probably doesn’t make any sense. If you don’t want spoilers, you should probably stop reading now, because spoilers are on their way en masse. Read More