Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Live Blogging Mad Men:
"And you, sir, are no John Galt"

Who is Don Draper, besides being Dick Whitman?

On the one hand he is a self-made man who has ably demonstrated Galt’s creed: “I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

Just ask his half brother, or his poor wife and children.

I was surprised when Ayn Rand was brought into Mad Men via Mr. Cooper. Other than on The Simpsons, she’s not a sixties cultural touchstone that turns up in TV shows the way Kennedy/Nixon, The Apartment, and Maypo might. The fact that this week--in fact I believe it's today--is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged makes it all even more intriguing.

Personally I don’t see Don as a Rand hero at all. For one thing he isn’t good enough at his job. Her heroes are extremely competent to brilliant at what they do, and Don’s creative ideas just aren’t that good. Does anyone remember Bethlehem Steel?

"Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong." Francisco d'Anconia

What Don is good at is impersonating a life, something Rand would have contempt for. He didn’t earn the Purple Heart, he didn’t marry a soulmate, and he supports the system he works in, even if he is good at manipulating it. He hates Kennedy, maybe because he senses another poseur like himself. As Robert Dallek tells us, Kennedy’s image of youth and health was an illusion: “Films at the Kennedy library . . . . suggest that the variety of ailments Kennedy had struggled with for a long time—spastic colitis, osteoporosis, prostatitis, urethritis, and Addison's disease (a malfunction of the adrenal gland)—may have been the principal contributing factor” for his hands shaking. Very little, we all learned later, was what it seemed in Camelot.

“To me, there's only one form of human depravity--the man without a purpose." Hank Rearden

Draper doesn’t take his responsibilities as husband and father, two honorable roles, as a true purpose. Becoming a partner in an ad agency might be purposeful to him; leaving his family and starting a more sincere life over with Rachel might be a purpose.

At the end of the day, if Don is going to fulfill a TV destiny as a latter-day Rand hero, he must become what he now only pretends to be.

“A is A.” John Galt

Pop over to newcritics tomorrow at 10:00 ET as we watch the all-important penultimate MM episode.


blue girl said...

You know, I've missed so much of the show that I figured Don Draper had been shown somehow to be talented and competent -- a star and that I had missed it. Guess not.

I have to say that I felt last week's show was pretty good. But, one thing that bugged me was how they set Draper up to be such a star and he seems to be such an empty suit. Being good looking, striking those dramatic poses only gets him so far in my mind.

There *are* empty suits in advertising -- normally the account execs. Just typical wheeler dealers that have no depth.

But, creative directors are usually talented and competent. And interesting.

They need to develop his character more. I hope they do.

peteski said...

I concurr (concerning Draper). Male Model Syndrome? Maybe if Don IS Batman, I might watch again. He does do a good Adam West ... with a lobotomy.

We've given up on the show.

I found it just a snail-paced soap. Are these New York ad guys or Des moines insurance salesmen? I can't tell. Babylon never seemed more like Bakersfield. McMann and Tate seemed way more dynamic.

And I thought the show got way to all caught up and lost in "look at the way we were" factor.

ps. the ep we stopped was when the mousey secretary turns out to be the sharpest creative on Mad. Ave. Compared to the other dolts, its not surprising.

Me, Annette said...

Don Draper may not be John Galt, but if we turn to the Fountain head, is he possibly Dominique Francon? She married the mediocre Peter Keating and maintained a level of mediocrity, herself to maintain her sanity...until she meets Roark.

I have not watched MM since the first episode as I found the characters annoying and dull. Following the blogs has been much more entertaining.

M.A.Peel said...

Are these New York ad guys or Des moines insurance salesmen? I can't tell. Babylon never seemed more like Bakersfield.

LOL! The thing that amazes me about this show is the enormity of the spectrum of its like/dislike. Viewers haven't been this polarized since the days of Gump/Anti-Gump.

BG, I agree that CDs in real life are the most talented and interesting people there are.

Annette, no, it turns out that Don is not some genius waiting for something/someone to set him free. He's an opportunist who changed his identity and then has to worry about about keeping it.