Friday, April 20, 2012

What to Make of Don Draper

For 4 years, we were treated to a womanizing-absorbed in his work-doesn't care about family Don Draper, a man that was supposed to represent the free living 1960s.  We were viewing a man that was living a life as another man, and all the while we didn't know who the real man was.  We barely caught a glimpse of Dick Whitman.

The only thing we really knew?  Don Draper was unhappy.

Always speculation and contextual, this idea was always at the center of every affair, of drunken session, every glimpse into the life of Don.  It wasn't until the episode "Signal 30" that this notion was finally voiced, and by Don Draper (or is he Dick Whitman at this point?) no less.

Sitting in the car with Pete Campbell, Pete having just slept with a call girl at a "sorority" and accusing Don, of all people, of judging him, Don says, "Roger is unhappy.  I never thought you were."  Don, for his part, had remained steady at the bar, drinking and not straying from his new wife.  Thus we get the idea that Don's previous infidelities were because of his unhappiness with Betty, and that now that he had Megan, he is unhappy, and is actually more interested in having a child with her than in sleeping with a hot young co-ed.

But is it that simple?  And are we supposed to take one moment of strength as a complete change in character for a man who has lived his life one way, and is now suddenly desiring to live it another?

It might be a bit premature to blame all Don's troubles on Betty, even though she is apparently a horrible person who is now destined to wear Lee Adama's fat suit, which may be a fate worse than death.  Sure his marriage sucked, but that is never a reason to be unfaithful and to ruin other people's marriage, in the process using his own unhappiness to make others feel the same way.

So is the new transformation back to the original man genuine?  And if so, can we cheer on Don Draper as a man now?

With all things considered, I believe that we have to assume that Don is a new man, and that his attempts to be good are legitimate.  If we want and hope and pray for bad men to become good, it's natural to be a little suspicious.  One act does not a good man make, but it could lead to one becoming good.  It's a beginning, and that's all that you can ask for when it comes to responsibility and ethics.

Maybe Don was in an unhappy marriage, and that led to his indiscretions.  It doesn't excuse them, but it could help to explain them and contribute to his search for love and feeling elsewhere.  He has made a conscious effort to start over with a new woman, who knows his true identity and doesn't hold it against him.  This could be what Don needs and what is going to help him along his path.

But until he shows a pattern of ethical behavior, it is still proper to be cautiously optimistic and know that he has a better chance of becoming good than Walter White.

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