The 7 Worst Men of Mad Men: Do They Have to Be Such Jerks?
Continued from previous page
Yes, it was Pete was came knocking on Peggy's door, the night before he was to be married, and impregnated her, and then continued to mistreat her, even after she told him about the child. Most recently he pulled in some key accounts by "leveraging" his father-in-law, after the father-in-law learned he was to be a grandfather. Realizing he is stuck, the father-in-law calls Pete "a son of a bitch."
1. Don Draper. The most complex, but emotionally handicapped character, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is the centerpiece of the ensemble of male jerks. He gets the number one nod, because despite the sympathy created for his character over time, because we know so much of his painful back story, he has hit the jackpot of jerkdom, especially when he became single. Over the four-year course of the show we have watched the slow and now more rapid deterioration of the master creative force at the agency. Ladies' man, man about town, the tall dark stranger archetype, who can be counted on for nothing, except to disappoint and disappear.
In the first years of the show, Draper's affairs at least made sense, with women who were interesting. He started with Midge Daniels (Rosemary DeWitt), a bohemian who lived in the Village -- they smoked pot and listened to Miles Davis. A smart, ambitious art illustrator, Midge was an independent career woman. Then he had an affair with Rachel, a Jewish department store owner, also an intelligent, successful women -- a peer.
After Rachel, his affairs start to become desperate. First was Bobbie Barrett, the wife of a comedian who is talent for a commercial. The two of them are nearly killed in a car wreck where they're basically suicidally drinking while fooling around. But the Barret character was smart, frustrated, complex. In Season Three, he entered new territory when he had an affair with his daughter's sexy young elementary school teacher.
Then came a truly disgusting Draper moment involving the closeted Sal, perhaps the only main character on the show. The Lucky Strike ad buyer, Lee Garner (see # 4) hits on Sal, and Sal rebuffs him. So Garner makes it clear that he wants Sal out. Don fires Sal because he wouldn't have sex with the obnoxious Garner. Essentially, Draper was saying: "Hey you didn't fuck our client, so now you are a liability for that account and you are a goner." The fact that Draper knew Sal was secretly gay, meant whoring for the firm was the only right thing for him to do.
This season, right off the bat, Don has sex with his secretary Allison (Alexa Allemani) on a drunken night when he left his keys in the office. What made these scenes so painful and troubling was Draper's pose of pretending it never happened, undermining the secretary's reality. James Wolcott in Vanity Fair described him mentally "filing the incident in the convenient amnesia folder he keeps in his denial drawer," and the incident itself as the "unexploded hand grenade in the deck." It did explode. Allison realized that not only was he a drunk, but not worth her time, so she quit. As she said shaking with rage and frustration: "I don't say this lightly Mr. Draper, but you are not a good person."
One of Draper's defining characteristics is the authority and control (and self-control) he exudes. But as Wolcott points out, his persona -- that of the cold-hearted, but controlled and creative genius -- is slipping: Even more portentous than Peggy's discovery of Don and Allison's one-night stand is Allison's outburst, "He's a drunk and they get away with murder because they forget everything." Here lies Don's peril. It's one thing if he's considered a creative genius and a cold-hearted bastard--at least then he's thought to be in control, in ruthless charge of himself. But to be labeled a drunk with a memory dumpster--that makes him look sloppy, pitiful, reminding young professionals not of Gregory Peck but maybe their own sorry fathers. He's eroding his authority with each slip of the mask, and what's behind the mask has no home in Manhattan.
So why has Jon Hamm become a television sex symbol? Hamm's face has been on dozens of magazine covers, and he's been the subject of scores of feature articles, his tortured soul dissected and discussed by millions. Why should this man be seen as the be-all and end-all, fantasized about by women of all ages and stripes, when the character he plays is such a jerk? It probably means that Weiner knows his audience. Writing on AlterNet, Vanessa Richmond offers this explanation of Draper's popularity, just as Season Three was beginning: