Are We Don Draper?

Are We Don Draper? March 28, 2012

SPOILER ALERT! If you are not caught up on “Mad Men”, you may not want to read this post.

The 2-hour premiere of Season 5 of “Mad Men” is out and countless reviews and reflections are in. One of the most striking scenes in the premiere is when Don’s new wife Megan tells him, “Nobody loves Dick Whitman. I love you. That’s why I threw you a party.”

Megan knows his secret—Don really isn’t Don. He’s Dick. At least she knows this secret, and she loves him regardless, and throws him a 40th birthday party celebration–which he loathes. I think he also loathes the burden of his dual identity.

This scene with Megan reminded me of the episode titled “The Good News” in Season 4, where Don tells Anna Draper (the wife of the dead man whose name he took) that his real (and now former) wife, Betty, rejected him when she found out he was really Dick Whitman. He confides, “I could tell, the minute she saw who I really was, she never wanted to look at me again. Which is why I never told her.”

Anna consoles Don by saying, “Oh, Dick. I’m sorry she broke your heart.”

To this Don replies, “I had it coming.”

Seemingly, up until now, according to Don at least, Anna is the only one who ever really knew him and accepted him, and then she died. As he told Peggy in the episode titled “The Suitcase,” Anna was “the only person in the world who really knew me.” Though Peggy disagrees with Don, we do know that Don or Dick struggles with revealing his identity for fear of rejection from those closest to him and repercussions with the authorities.

Don’s person/persona, of course, is built on incredible ability and creativity, sex appeal, raw determination to succeed and survive, and is shrouded in mystery.

Saturday Night Live has produced a spoof on how men can get women the way Don Draper does (“Don Draper’s Guide to Picking Up Women”). Jon Hamm (Don Draper’s character in Mad Men) plays the part. In the end he reveals the secret for how they might succeed: they have to “Be Don Draper.”

In the end, how many people are really like Don Draper? Not in the sense that we have his abilities and charm or personal history, but in the sense that we live dual or multiple identities to varying degrees.

Do people really know us? Do we want to be known? Do we hide behind our abilities, our tastes, our associations? Are we those things?

What happens if we cease to perform at a high level? What happens if those seemingly close to us see our weaknesses and our dark sides? Will they reject us, too?

Perhaps his struggle is ours in one way or another. Perhaps, after all, we all are Don Draper.

This piece is cross-posted at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and at The Christian Post.

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