Our Don Drapers, Ourselves

By GUSTAVO TURNER  |  August 12, 2009

And not everyone who watches Mad Men necessarily gets its uniqueness and rare depth for the medium. It's clear by now that the show's cultural impact diverges sharply from Weiner's formidable research and lofty aims (the show is, among other things, a 21st-century gloss on Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique). As Weiner told Vanity Fair, his aim was to rescue the 1950s and early '60s from baby-boomer propaganda that cast it as a period where everyone was "square and uptight and supposedly innocent, no one [was] having sex, or good sex anyway, except for maybe Frank Sinatra." Mission accomplished, but for many potential advertisers (BMW, etc.), tie-in partners (Bloomingdale's, Banana Republic), fashion editors (endless spreads currently in your newstands), and aging frat types and the girls who love them (check your local aspirational bar for Mad Men dress-up events), it is just an excuse to party like it's 1962.

The irony of this misguided interest in the shiny, slick mid-century modern surfaces of the show (if you look closely, the sets are a little flimsy, basic-cable low-budget, Chesterfield smoke and mirrors) is that it can distract one from noticing that — it bears repeating — Don Draper is not a role model. Weiner is not himself a shrugging-Atlas demigod but a brainy, fidgety kind of fellow, and his core writing staff is female — the not-so-secret soul of the show emanates from the frustrations of cunning, undaunted Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), efficient, voluptuous Joan (Christina Hendricks), and ticking-bomb, suburban Betty. But we should leave current-day ad men for luxury goods and party promoters their Tom Collins fantasies — we need all the support we can get to keep this show on the air, even if it comes from two financial-sector douchebags stumbling out of a trendy bar (true story) sharing their insight that "maybe exclusively drinking things we've seen on Mad Men wasn't such a good idea."

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