….people will do anything to alleviate their anxiety. We will overindulge in legal and illegal substances. We will ignore what we say matters most. We will lay down and opt out. But by far, the coping mechanism that benefits the creator of the enormously popular Mad Men is our obsessing over the emotional worlds of the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
(An aside: I feel dumb writing about Mad Men. It’s pop culture/blogger catnip, but what does this post offer other than working out my own emotional reactions to a 21st century take on denial and regret? Solipsism is icky. Keep reading, there may be an answer.)
Weiner has had me (and maybe you?) on the hook for five seasons wondering how Don Draper does it. How does he vogue as upstanding citizen while smothering the part of him that is despairingly lonely and small? Remember the episode in season five when Don breaks down to Peggy after Anna’s death:
When is Don Draper going to realize that it’s not Dick Whitman vs Don Draper, but it’s gonna be Dick Whitman and Don Draper? Too terrified to let his sadness, heartbreak and tenderness breathe and heal. And Sunday’s season opener showed he’s still fighting it.
My soul sank when I saw him bed with another woman who wasn’t his wife. My brain screamed again with this shit? All this time to return to being a drunk adulterer hiding from himself? And rationally I know it’s familiarity for him but that was it. I broke up with Don Draper.
For me, what I enjoyed as entertainment (oh how I love Roger Sterling) is now torture. Hoping, fearing what happens if/when Don does or doesn’t actually accept who he is is getting to me. I can’t watch or wait for what’s next for Don. Or Peter. Or Roger. Or Joan. Or Betty. (I’m not worried about Peggy or Megan — they were built for these times.) For me, it’s too painful to watch people not deal with themselves because it’s all too close to life.
I applaud Matthew Weiner for knowing how to make viewers squirm in recognition that Don’s constipated monkey routine is fear and stagnation personified. Thankfully, I heard him when Don said “I want to stop doing this.” Ah hope. But right now in this space and time, there’s nothing more to be gained for me to keep hiding out with Mad Men.