Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Dao of Don Draper

While I don't watch much ordinary American TV, (and virtually never when it is actually being aired) I have been caught up with Mad Men, since the beginning (although frustrated because I like to watch things back-to-back, to their conclusion, like working through a long novel on a long weekend.)   Korean dramas give you vastly more content in one sitting.  Over the past six or eight months I have watched The West Wing and Frasier, the way I watch one of my beloved 24- or 63- or  81-episode Korean dramas. Watching a series back-to-back without commercial interruption on Netflix gets it out of your system.

Mad Men appeals to me because: 1) I grew up in that era, albeit as the not-so-unruly daughter of an honorable WWII father (not of the Korean war), who vaguely resembled Don Draper; 2) I have close friends who worked in a major New York ad agency in the late '60s and early '70s, one as a media buyer and another in creative; 3) I have media background myself, and actually covered stories of the period that were related to racial unrest and civil rights, Vietnam, counter-culture activities, and very ordinary mundane things like weddings and Kiwanis meetings; and 4) the costumes, sets and general ambiance are so palpably familiar.

I was a little disappointed as this sixth season has developed...until the last episode.  And I had the insight about something I always vow not to do: consider "the Dao of Don Draper."  Generally when something is presented as the "Dao of" I run the other way.  But there are some lessons here.

What a strange and selfish character he is.  Dapper Draper, impeccable and despicable. All story and no substance. All fiction and image. An invention of the self.  A perfect ad man. A magician. A wizard.  Until he begins to confront his own real story, long repressed.  Will he be redeemed?  Will he just continue that free-fall from the opening credits? One or the other. I hope for redemption, but a splat on the sidewalk somehow seems just as likely. Or suffering from lung cancer and cirrhosis, rejected and pitied by his family and colleagues, unable to get veterans' benefits for treatment in a VA hospital (where Dr. Gregory House is "interested" in his case). Who knows? Infinite possibilities.

But now I have to wait another season to find out.  While having plenty of time to review the series, back-to-back, ironically sans commercials, to look at the clues.

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