Please understand that this is not a dis on Jon Hamm in any sort of way. Jon Hamm rules. He is a great actor with a great work ethic who has paid his dues and earned his success. He seems to be the kind of guy you could waste away an afternoon playing wiffle ball, drinking multiple Red Stripes while quoting every line from “Anchorman.” Jon Hamm is a huge bowl of awesomeness covered in awesome sauce.
Don Draper kind of sucks. And that’s why he deserves our attention (and a man crush, at least for one month).
Don Draper is cool, smart, charming, and can rock a suit and a cig like a boss. If you put the tired cliché “girls want him/guys want to be him” into meme form you most certainly would be using Draper’s Brylcreemed mug shot. But that’s not the biggest reason why we crush on him. We crush on him because deep down he is a miserable son of a bitch. And it’s that inherent miserableness that draws us into him and keeps us wondering how his life is going to turn out.
We are in season seven of “Mad Men” and Don seems to be getting worse. In the first few seasons, despite all of his secrets, his superior attitude towards others, and all of his philandering, you still rooted for him. You still wanted to be Don Draper – really, really bad. Now he seems less together, less cool, and less hip. Because the timeline for the series is slowly approaching the 1970’s, Don is looking a bit behind the times, a little less with it and, dare I say, a little more lame. And all of that makes his character that much more absorbing to watch. Cool Don was fun. Struggling Don is mesmerizing.
The greatest example of this comes from an episode from this season (or half season, I should say – grrr), which just recently ended. Don has been relieved of his duties at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Advertising. His wife has moved out to Los Angeles to pursue acting. So how does Don while away his hours? By sleeping until noon and spending the rest of the day in his pajamas eating potato chips and watching TV, that’s how. Then, by the time evening rolls around, Don showers, shaves, and puts on a suit just to answer the door when his secretary stops by after work to bring him his mail and papers. He has no direction, no goals, nothing going on in his life… yet he pretends that he does. He is keeping up appearances that he has it all together, when in reality he doesn’t. It is sad, pathetic, and yet totally human and relatable.
Unlike the character Walter White from “Breaking Bad,” whom people seemed to root for to the very end even though he was a drug dealer and a killer, Don Draper is a polarizing figure. He is easy to love and just as easy to hate. Throughout the arc of “Breaking Bad” you understood that despite committing major felonies Walter was doing so out of a love of his family, no matter how warped things got. Family was his priority. With Don, his priority is himself. Done. End of story. And yes, that is a pretty douchey character trait, but at the same time it is something we all have inside of us (some more than others). Don is a selfish prick but so are all of us; he just does it better.
As the series comes to a close next year (again, grrr) it will be interesting to see what fate lies ahead for Don Draper. Unlike “The Sopranos” or “The Wire” or, of course, “Breaking Bad,” there probably won’t be any sort of dying or going to jail or whatever the finale to “The Sopranos” was. So it’s hard to speculate on what will happen to Don. Will he slide further? Will he rebound? Will he accept that he is a relic of a time that has now completely vanished? Whatever his outcome, Don Draper will probably go down as one of the more miserable, egotistical, and moody characters in TV history.
Unlike Jon Hamm, who again kicks all kinds of ass.