Why Peggy and Joan Were So Harsh to Don Draper

I’ve gotten into a terrible habit of watching Mad Men with one eye on the twitter thread (#MadMen) partly because — as a tail-end baby boomer — it’s an easy way to quickly get info on some of the show’s references which escape me (this week’s opener, with Don in a theater watching The Model Shop, for instance) but also because reading people’s reactions to the show is hilarious entertainment.

Twitter reactions to that show were particularly passionate — and often profane — concerning the icy receptions Don received from Peggy Olsen (“I can’t say we’ve missed you”) and Joan Harris (“Well, nice to see you again”) when he showed up at SCDP. I threw a tweet into the mix about it and then expanded on the thought in my column at First Things:

While there might never be a good time to announce a background of bordello-bastardry, Draper’s suspension had been precipitated by a particularly ill-timed revelation made before clients. Upon his return, his fellows find it almost intolerable to be in his presence because in knowing him, they see themselves, and they are not fascinated. The illusory Draper had been a screen upon which they might project their ambitions but Dick Whitman, the benign innocent brought up among hussies, shows them too much about their own costly whoring.

Amid the men, this is difficult enough, but Peggy Olsen has a secret, unacknowledged child and only Don Draper knows it. The supremely gifted Joan Harris prostituted herself for an account, and only Draper tried, too late, to stop her. His behavior toward both women, for better or worse, never changed as their circumstances did, and that paradoxically makes his presence all the more intolerable for them, because it singes memory, strips away illusion and—given his lowly background—implies an undesirable parity. He is an unfortunate, and a nobody. And so are they.

You can read the rest here.

About Elizabeth Scalia

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