Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Don Draper

If you watch Mad Men you know that Roger of Stirling and Cooper, described Don as someone he found in "night school." The class implications have been obvious since the beginning of the series but this drove home the point even more. Don is a fish out of water and those around him hate it that he kicks their butts at every turn. (The key to his success is that the clients want results and pedigree is not a substitute.) Elites hate being upstaged by non elites. After all they are "entitled."

I'd like to say Don's character is a perfect portrayal of class struggled when someone is socioeconomically displaced. By that I mean, as a professional matter, he has risen above his class and, consequently, is professional well-placed but socially out of place. I can't really say Don's character is a classic example. Don has . . . well, a fidelity issue and as far as I know that is not a class matter. He also evidently had an abusive childhood and that too may both explain his behavior and is not, as far as I know, a class matter. He is tall, handsome and superbly dressed, all of which can help someone so inclined to pass for elite.

Still there are some wonderful touches that may go right by the audience in terms of their class origins. Don is direct, sometime brutally so. He has not developed the skill of getting what you want without appearing to care if you get it. His vocabulary does not include elite phrases such as "I have concerns," "That gives me pause." Instead he might say, "come back when you have something useful to tell me."
Don's instintively sees himself when encountering someone from the same class. Whether it is Peggy (secretarial school) the or school teacher's brother (janitor), he wants to help but knows there is danger in being entangled in the life he is attempting to escape.
Underneath it all, you have the sense that Don resents the elites and they resent him. And it is not clear that Don would take on the "correct" affectations even if he knew them all. In fact, he may know them all but he will not give in the to pressure to conform. They hate him for it. It's great!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I seldom watch television, I speculate there to be a "Don" in most of our coteries. I concur with your assessment and description of "elitist entitlement". Concomitantly, I believe that many of us within the proletariat manifest elements of an inferiority complex. Stated differently, do self-confident and self-actualized adults need the approbation of strangers? Perhaps, the line between arrogance and confidence is a thin one, indeed.