why are we rooting for someone like don draper?

I’ve gotten a lot of gifts as a new mom. Nipple cream, breast pads, gift cards, onesies… but if I had to pick one thing all new moms should have it would be  this:


If I have done one thing pretty much constantly since giving birth, it’s breastfeed. But if I’ve done two things pretty much constantly, it’s breastfeed and watch things on Netflix. Every new mom should be gifted a subscription to Netflix streaming. (Nipple cream, too.)

Currently, I’m about halfway through the second season of Mad Men. I’d never seen it before because we never had AMC, and a large majority of my friends are really into it, so I felt like I was left out of some exclusive club.

But not anymore! Several years later, I’m finally at the party, y’all. Will someone take my coat and hand me a cig?

I know what you’re thinking: Lindsay is going to blog about all the horrible, misogynist themes of the show. How predictable.

Well, the joke’s on you! That’s not what I’m going to blog about! That’s too easy. While it’s true that, based on the content of the show, women must have been treated pretty poorly in the 60s (and evidently all married men screwed around on their wives, most likely because Internet porn wasn’t invented yet) that’s not why I’m blogging about Mad Men. 

I guess I have to give props to the show because it makes me feel things I don’t want to feel. It makes me uneasy. It makes me question things. I’ve sent out a handful of texts and tweets over the past few days asking real, honest questions about why in the hell are we rooting for Don Draper? 

Being that I’m only a season and a half deep in this thing, I’m not entirely sure why we want to pull for a protagonist that lies, steals, and cheats his way through life. But so far, this is what I gather.

Don is running from a supremely dark past. And, I’d argue, a lot of us have that in common with him.

Even though it feels like I’m the only person on the planet who hadn’t seen Mad Men, maybe there are other people out there who have yet to get into this series. So I won’t spoil anything for all two of you out there. But I will say this: as bleak and twisted as you think your past is, I guarantee you that Don Draper’s is far worse.

Today, I accidentally hurt my child for the first time. Not bad, mind you. But it happened. While he was nursing, I accidentally drug my fingernail across his nose. No blood was drawn. No mark was even left. But it made him stop feeding so he could scream. It made me so sad. And, because I’m about 3 weeks postpartum and still constantly chugging a deadly hormone cocktail, I started panicking over the future counseling bills I’d be footing for him to work out his mommy issues. But this instance reminded me that once people are outside of the womb, they are exposed to all kinds of awful things. Pain. Disappointment. Lies. Sadness. Things we might want to run from later.

I am not without those things.

I spoke with my brother on the phone today. We talked about some things that I’m running from at present. Feeling at one with Mr. Draper, which is a bit unsettling, it gave me something to think about.

How do we take the best from our past experiences and leave the rest in the dust?

My eating disorder being a part of my past is definitely bad. It’s embarrassing, sad, and damaging. But it is also good — it reminds me that I was able to overcome something that had such a strong hold on me. It being a part of my past gives me hope for the future.

I don’t know that Don can say the same thing about his past, but I can only hope that as the seasons progress, he lands at that conclusion. (I’m not all that hopeful of that, to be honest, but no spoilers anyway!)

8 thoughts on “why are we rooting for someone like don draper?

  1. No spoilers, but just a question back… do we ever really “land”?

    I don’t think we ever quite “land” like airplanes… we more touchdown and then keep rolling, and sometimes take off again.

    Cuz’ Don really is like us. He may GROW, but he doesn’t really LAND.


  2. What an awesome question. What a great answer.

    Why do I love Don Draper? And that show? I’ve been thinking about this because so many people I love watch it and say, “I don’t get it. Why does everyone (else) like this show?”

    I think I’m fond of Don Draper because he’s so complex. Fellow writers seem to like the show because it has such good characters. We have a virtue of allowing our characters to be bad, to have flaws. It’s more than having a conflict (or something to overcome). There has to be something about our characters that runs deeper than the conflict–something that solving a particular problem won’t fully solve. This dude is, on one level, an American hero. He’s the self-made man. But somehow, the show exposes how “worldly successes” aren’t enough. He’s got a lot of holes in him, which expose the holes in our ideas of success. Whatever that means. There’s something else out there. Don Draper knows this, it seems. And he’s looking for it. I like him because I want him to find that bit of something else. That’s what I’m rooting for.

    But I’m with Eric. We never really land. But we see Don touching down from time to time; we wait for those moments. That might be what keeps me watching.

    But what about Peggy? She’s the real reason I watch the show. There is so much about her that resonates with me, namely, her fight for validation.

    Whatever. Great post.

    • “I think I’m fond of Don Draper because he’s so complex.”

      I agree, and I think that’s why we like him – it’s the same reason we root for Tom Ripley even though he’s a psycho killer or Tony Soprano or Stringer Bell from the Wire. They’re not just cartoony bad guys. Funny enough, I’m crafting a post on a somewhat similar topic so I’m thinking about this a lot right now. (post is not up yet, probably by tomorrow it will be).

  3. Lindsay- I always read your blog posts the second my inbox tells me that you’ve posted them… but I waited for this one because I was worried. I love Mad Men, I love Don Draper, and I love your blog… i was worried that somehow those three things weren’t going to mesh well. But you did what you always do, and instead of attacking the show you just asked, what i think, are the right questions.

  4. Pingback: My Summer Reading List: Hard-Boiled Detectives, Drug Lords, and Other Creeps We Love « summer and sundays

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