25 May The Allure of the “Don Draper” Male
If you watch Mad Men you know Don Draper is pretty messed up but also cool af.
Don appears perfect on the outside but beneath his suit and shirt he’s flawed. His mind runs wild with ingenious thoughts and yet, at times, he doesn’t make the best judgment calls (probably because he’s an emotionally charged alcohol). Nonetheless, the Don Draper male attracts all kinds of women. He’s the charming guy you want but who you so badly need to fix. He’s unpredictable, somewhat vain and unforgiving but behind his frozen expression he fascinates a room.
The thing about the Don Draper male is that he is and isn’t a mystery. He’s someone you know or have seen walking the streets still you understand very little of. He lives inside his own head and gets by flawlessly. You can only assume of him.
The problem with the Don Draper allure is that it’s a dangerous feeling. He’s like a pandora’s box that once you open it, you run into unexpected problems. But first, you try to fight it. No man could be this twisted, can he?
The thing that gets me about Don Draper is the same thing that gets me about Tony Soprano, Walter White, Hank Moody, Jax Teller and Dexter Morgan. Networks like HBO, AMC and Netflix are famous for creating these broken male anti-heroes who do a great job at wooing the living room. All these men are “Don Drapers” in their own right. Most men even share similar vices like murder, alcoholism and adultery –yet our when the screen turns on our eyes remain focused. We admire these men and through this we glorify them. The allure is that they try to do good while simultaneously doing a shit ton of bad. And just like that, we’re enthralled.
I chose Don Draper as the subject focus for two reasons, he’s the latest TV character to have his chapter closed and his character is the oldest when we speak of time periods. Don is the perfect embodiment of a powerful man in 1960s Manhattan. He’s the accurate representation of the alpha male thirsty for power, mad about his job yet bound by his vices of drinking, smoking and one night (sometimes week long) stands. What we grow to learn is that Don has become this man by escaping his depressing family life post-Korean war.
Men, like Don Draper, have a suave that cultivates the audience. He is the man you fall in love with at first glance then realize down the road that he’s consumed by a personality disorder. He is the perfect arm candy because everyone wants him but solely being his lover doesn’t suffice. The problem is, he has no focus — after all we are talking about the man who slept with 18 women in a span of five seasons. The problem with Don is he doesn’t see you, he can’t reciprocate emotion — rarely do any of these TV antiheroes. These men see only themselves until, of course, something bad happens and their feelings begin to twist and pull them apart. Still, however, we empathize with the undeveloped misogynist, the serial killer, the drug dealer and the mafia boss.
What I find most interesting, as a woman, is that these men become attractive to us and not physically per se but, rather, because they are nothing less of the alpha-male we expect them to be — even while every other female character isn’t hated by the audience. Most times, as the viewer, you wish you were their wives and not the unaffectionate Betty Draper or nosy, cheating Skyler White. Granted, these women have to deal with their husbands wrongdoings but still, we hate them — I do at least. I think I hate most female characters in these shows because they embody what I hate about myself. The neediness, the want for affection and most of all the desire to have to be “all ears”. It’s like watching yourself unfold in real time. Yet we feel we could do better.
The case I’m making is that Don is a badass and yet we love everything about the richness of his character and the sleekness of his persona. Most people don’t want the guy who tries to play it safe, Peter Campbell who? Basically there is no escaping Don, you can move on with your life and tell him where to go but part of him has a hold on your soul. Wanting “bad” feels good and it’s what gets most of us to be attracted to this type of man in the first place. That want never really goes away is what I’ve learned. The allure of this male comes directly from him even when he’s being indirect — laws of attraction I suppose.
So the next time you wonder why your attracted to this type of man, its because you want him as a challenge. You are not weak, despite your portrayal…you are trying to manipulate the situation, not him, to see which outcome suits you best. In return, you will learn that you cannot make the man, only he can do that. The allure rests in your imagination of what he appears to be and what you hope for him to become — that’s ultimately what allure is, it’s mysteriously attractive … like Don.