How Do We Still Love You, Don Draper?
The same week John Edwards admitted to cheating on his wife with Rielle Hunter, Mad Men’s Don Draper lost his (short) battle NOT to cheat on his wife. The comparisons are easy, if shallow — both dashing, charming, well-manicured, with wives that ooze kindness, morality, loyalty, and selfless struggle. While John Edwards does not have the luxury of his affair being fictional, Don Draper, nevertheless, remains at the top of our “Most Boinkable on TV” list. But how is it that we still have such a girl-boner for a character who not only cheats on wife, but also just had one of the more sinister moments we’ve seen on TV? Brief Recap: After trying hard to quit his cheating ways, Draper faltered and slept with Bobbie, the wife of a comedian the ad agency used in one of their commercials. Bobbi held their sexual encounter over his head in order to get him to pay her husband more money. Draper then pinned the woman up against the wall, slid his hand under her skirt, and did something up there — the most logical insinuation is that he fingers her — that puts the control back in his hands.
This scene showed Don Draper at his most vile, and while the writers are certainly trying to paint a well-rounded portrait of a character with vicious flaws as well as leading man appeal, I wonder if this low moment in Draper’s persona will really do much to affect his popularity with the ladies who watch Mad Men. The show has done a remarkable job depicting — and yes, glamorizing — the sexist workplace environment of the early ’60s and the unsavory power balance within that era’s romantic relationships. Is it just because Don is merely a depiction of that era that women are able to look away from his enormous flaws and still find him attractive? Betty Draper is not the type of wife you can easily vilify in order to “understand” her husband’s actions — in fact, on last night’s episode, as Don gave in to temptation, Betty stood her ground against her own admirer. And she manages to maintain her goodness without seeming holier-than-thou. It seems the attraction to Don Draper, despite his flaws, is simple. He is:
1. Magnificently good-looking. Would we find Draper as forgivable if Tom Arnold were his portrayer rather than Jon Hamm?
2. Complicated. Nothing takes the edge off a character’s wrongs like a sob story, and Draper’s sad childhood/stolen identity background has that.
3. A bad ass. When Draper told that guy in the elevator, “Take your hat off” and then removed it for him, women melted.
4. Not ALWAYS sexist. He promoted Peggy after all!
5. Guilt-ridden. Bad behavior doesn’t count, as much, if you feel bad about it.