Published on Elephant Journal on May 14, 2014
Let’s talk Mad Man, shall we?
So far, the episode of two weeks ago has arguably been one of the juiciest.
Don ventures to end the misery of unemployment—ultimately, his social status change and living a lie by not sharing the fact with his wife—and return to the company that had him kicked out ever so epically.
Megan struggles to make it as a new actress in L.A., while Betty continues to grow her neurosis of being a bad mother and doubting the love of her own flesh and blood.
This is Mad Man as we know it.
At this point in the show, Don’s struggle is no longer that of a man who came from nothing and made something of himself by drawing on his talents (and also by weaving a web of lies). The Don Draper in this episode is the by-product of the formalizing of corporatization in America.
The man who would fiercely enter his company’s doors every morning now sits in angst in his own apartment trying to weigh in the alternatives before going back to work. Will his colleagues honor his return? Will they give him a cold shoulder? Will anyone notice that he’s even back? Who has Don become in the process?
Now that we have seen him somehow come to terms with his very humble beginnings, what exactly remains of him? No one really seems to care what his life story is, regardless if it’s one of a person who built himself from nothing.
Even Joan, the single mother and former office manager who slept with one of the clients as part of the deal of getting the account, sees Don as a costly proposition. Removed from his powerful position as a partner in the firm, Don has become another faceless leader of corporate America, the very ebb and flow of capitalism.
Who is Don Draper when not sitting in his office chair? He is close to nothing—even to Megan, his wife. It is hard to believe that her motives for wanting a break from him are based only on the fact that he hadn’t told her in a timely manner about having left the company.
Why is she leaving him now? Wasn’t there a noble reason for Don to not have told his wife? She doesn’t care. No one cares about Don.
Not even Peggy—his very own protege.
Don Draper has become the face of alienation. He is alienated by his firm partners, the younger guys in the art department, and almost everyone else on the planet it seems.
“But he is brilliant!” bellows Roger. Indeed he is, but the re-hiring strategy is pretty clear in that he cannot drink in the office, conduct business with clients on a one-on-one basis and, most importantly, he will now report to Lou, the same person he was replaced by—an absolute demotion of Don’s status in the company.
Will Don Draper be swallowed by the corporate life he’s so conflicted about? Or will he finally save his soul?
And that is why, whether in a corporate or not, Don Draper’s story is every modern man’s story.
Apprentice Editor: Karissa Kneeland / Editor: Cat Beekmans