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'Mad Men's' Don Draper: TV's Latest Sex Icon

He's an outlaw. He can be cruel. And surprisingly, his part is written by women.
 
 
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He's an arrogant, adulterous, deceptive, narcissistic, selfish bastard. And if you pay attention to the rumblings in media and at the water cooler in these dog days of August, you'll see him being crowned as America's newest sex symbol.

In the lead-up to the launch of the third season of Mad Men on cable TV's AMC, people have been focused on the narrative, but more on draping themselves in the new fantasy male icon.

Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), a stylish, 1960s New York ad man with more than one double life, has seduced his way into the popular imagination. Some people like him, some worship him, some hate him, but none disagree he's taken hold.

It's partly about timing. Few would argue that Americans love a hero, or anti-hero, to project our cultural fantasies on, and that for a while, we've been left a little dry in that department. One of the favorite archetypes of late, the bad boy, has been showing his age, leaving voters and viewers politically and sexually frustrated.

In some cases, those bad boys' immaturity and lack of intelligence just got a bit old (see Bush, George W.; Lee, Tommy); in others, although some argue they still have it, their partying, winking ways are fading out of the spotlight (see Clinton, Bill); in others, they seem to have grown up (see Pitt, Brad), and still others, their shows got old and died (see Soprano, Tony).

I have no interest in those cheeky bad boys in my personal life anymore -- they seem so high school -- nor do I have any time for them in public life. And I don't think I'm alone.

It's fair to say there's a cultural hunger for some sophistication and intelligence. For someone who can stick around after the party to help with the clean up. For someone who can seduce a grown woman and help battle the recession to boot.

Sure, there's a new prototype in the White House. But it's hard to keep the early days' flame of passion alive for someone we only see at news briefings, town hall meetings and date nights. Barack Obama might be the country's new husband, but there's still an appetite for a lover on the side.

Gawker thinks it's a summer fling, that Don Draper is the antidote to the summer of death; "With the stink of celebrity deaths and recession wafting around us, we need a restorative figure of youth. A symbol of American virility. A man who, despite his antiquated views of women and Jews, can make America feel giddy again."

But though his reign will certainly be fleeting, as all are, and though he's highly problematic, he's more than the August cabana boy. Even though he's highly problematic as a hero, dozens of stories have run over the past weeks and months, calling him " spellbinding and elusive," with an "effortless masculinity and swagger that sets him apart from our other TV crush options."

It's not just anachronistic types, or women who grew up in the '60s and wish for the return of those values. And though all women, even feminists, have been known to fall for assholes, it's not just that either. Draperphiles know that although he is immoral, and even amoral, he's more woman-friendly than any hero in recent memory.

Maybe because he's one of the first prime-time male leads to be written mostly by women, a ground-breaking anomaly. The Wall Street Journal said, "Seven of the nine members of the writing team are women. Women directed five of the 13 episodes in the third season. The writers [have created] a world where the men are in control, and the women are more complex than they seem, or than the male characters realize." And one in which the hero is a bastard (literally and behaviorally) but values and appreciates women more than most who seem nice and woman-friendly on the surface.

 
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