The Don Draper Reality

I was four episodes deep. Four episodes into Mad Men when I finally decided to stop and actually eat something. It seemed that my appetite had been distracted, perhaps even quieted, by Mad Men. I was eager to learn who this Don Draper was that everyone is so enraptured by. And, my, I can finally see what all the entertainment blogs, BuzzFeed, and tweets are referring to. Don Draper is a sly, intriguing, mysterious man. I mean, his name isn’t even Don! It’s Richard!

After shutting down Netflix, I noticed I felt, not excitement at being able to “get into” Mad Men like the rest of the world has, but I felt … dirty. I don’t know. To explain it just seems prudish and sheepish, but know that I am not over here blushing. With the dirtiness, came a shower and with that shower, came my realizations of why I felt tarnished.

The problem that I have come across with Mad Men is that I cannot separate the entertainment from reality. Here is this mysterious man who is this talented creative director for some huge ad agency, who drinks Old Fashions like water after a boxing match, and smokes more than a nervous drug dealer.  The normality of the situation takes a backseat to his scandalous affairs with a strange woman who wears odd wigs and throws small televisions out of the window. Not to mention the awkward kiss and “I’m married” with a client (she was smart enough to flee the scene). And it’s not to say that all of this doesn’t make great entertainment, because it does. I would have continued into episode five if my stomach had not reminded me that I am human and that I do eat.

The problem is that the entertainment being filtered through my computer is, in fact, a reality. There are husbands and wives that sit at home with their children, or even alone, with a giant question mark looming like a thunderstorm overhead. That heartache is acted out on-screen, but it, too, is a reality.

Don Draper
Don Draper

See, in ninth grade I was dating Bobby M. Totally in teen-love with him.  I mean, at the ripe age of 14, marriage is quite figuratively around the corner. No one compared to Bobby M. It wasn’t until I found out that he cheated on me (twice), obviously unbeknownst to me, that I felt that avalanche-like heartache. I remember the ache that I felt within myself did not quite compare to anything else. I had not lost anyone close to me yet, but I imagined that is what it felt like to see the defeat of life for someone you love. It was the first scar to my extremely young heart, but I never forgot it.

Which may bring some explanation as to why I felt such a dirtiness. Beyond the fact that it is a Godless show in every sense, it shows the sickening rawness of humanity. Sure, there might be some redemptive scenes that I have not had the pleasure of watching – Does Don/Richard finally feel the weight of the guilt? Or maybe he has a near-death experience? Maybe he suffers from multiple personalities and it’s all a big mistake? – I don’t know. Rather, I won’t know.

As much as I want to root for the fictional side of Mad Men, I cannot deny that there is a reality to this extremely popular show. It is an acknowledgement to those who make bank off of the trenches of a human’s heart. The 14-year-old me shares in the results, and so do the married adults who have experienced it more painfully than I ever did. Mad Men reveals the dark secrets of these characters fictionalized lives that I cannot bear to uncover with episode after episode. 

I seriously also fear that I might get lung cancer and/or liver failure if I continue watching. So. Much. Smoking.

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