We're two weeks into the new season of Mad Men and already we've witnessed the event that may signify the ultimate spiritual and mental collapse of series lynchpin Don Draper.
No, I'm not talking about his post-Christmas party tryst with Allison, his loyal secretary (loyal to a fault, it would seem), though that certainly did set many tongues a-wagging among those fortunate enough to list "watching TV" in their job description. Certainly it was low ebb for Don, who in the past had at least managed to tastefully confine his dalliances to other men's wives and his kids' teacher. Indeed, many would consider his awkward handing over of Allison's Christmas "bonus" lower still.
Then again, this is 1964. Who couldn't use a hundred bucks?
No, the incident to which I refer occurred all the way back in the first episode, when Don displayed an affection for prostitutes (again, not exactly shocking for the era...or the profession), specifically those of the slapping variety.
Now I'm sure series creator Matthew Weiner -- when he's not bitching at January Jones to put on some weight -- intended this act of masochism to represent Don's accelerating slide into despair and existential crisis; that the man who proved so adept at manufacturing and living a false identity (at least until he left his super secret documents in his DESK AT HOME) would begin to unravel when he lost one of the only things giving him a sense of self: his family.
Yeah. Look, I hate to tell Mr. Weiner his business, especially when it's been working so well so far, but the psychological underpinnings of Don's childhood have never been all that compelling (his mother was a prostitute and now he works in advertising...do I have to draw you a diagram?). At the very least, they paled next to those of the real weirdos, like Pete Campbell and Bert Cooper. But we always liked Don for representing that bygone era when lunch consisted of four martinis and desert was a half a pack of Luckies.
That Don and the rest of the crew at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Waterhouse represent a bygone masculine age (well, maybe not that dork Harry Crane) has been remarked upon ad nauseum since the show began. Men of my generation cluck our tongues at such blatant insensitivity. We recognize the pitfalls of romanticizing an era when philandering was winked at, alcoholism was a job requirement, and the Voting Rights Act was still a year away.
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But there's always a part of us that wonders: what's it like to never change a diaper?
Which is why Don's...well, let's not call it a "fall from grace" so much as his abdicating Milton's diabolical throne...is so upsetting. I wouldn't say we were mad that he's as prone to vanilla fetishism as the next pizza-faced loser with mommy issues. Just disappointed.
We really should have seen the warning signs last season during Don's extended California fandango, a sequence about as out of place as banjo solo at a Mayhem show. In the end, it accomplished two things: robbing Christina Hendricks of valuable screen time, and increasing our dread that the show is about to drift into Battlestar Galactica levels of metaphysical wankery.
I'm now taking bets on when Don's suicide attempt will take place. My guess: on or right before the season finale. Probably following the blockbuster Advertising Age story about his "Dick Whitman" past.