[This post is crossposted on my blog The Countess - Elizabeth Black.]
I'm a late-comer to the joys of AMC's critically acclaimed show ""Mad Men". After missing the first season, I rented the show shortly before the second season started and I have been happily addicted ever since. I find all of the characters very fascinating, full of depth, and multi-layered.
I also do not lust after Don Draper, unlike apparently many women - some of whom call themselves feminist - who get wet in the panties at the mere sight of his chiseled jaw. But why??? The man is an emotionally stunted, insensitive, cold, inconsiderate, wife-cheating, selfish, sexist jerk. I think the only thing he has going for him is that Jon Hamm, who plays Draper, is painfully gorgeous. He is The Pretty, and if he weren't I seriously doubt women would fantasize so much about a buck naked Don Draper dipped in fragrant oil and spread out on their comforters next to their sex toys. As Greta Christina wrote in her article about Draper, Jon Hamm, and "Mad Men" (Quoting Amanda Marcotte), "Do we really think women all over the country would be drooling over Don Draper if he was played by Ron Howard?" No, we don't.
I know women who want to sprinkle little bits of Don Draper on their breakfast cereal every morning and eat him right up. Om nom nom! Did you know that there is Don Draper fan fiction? I kid you not. Here's one example in its entirety because it's so short. It's called "Leave It To Beaver" by Modren Man. It's well-written and brings up a key element in the Don Draper fantasy that I will delve into in this article.
He kisses my neck.
I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew about his infidelities. I just chose to ignore it and fill my mind with happy thoughts. Like on Leave it to Beaver. June Cleaver's husband doesn't cheat on her. Then again, they live in a fake world where everybody is nice to each other, nobody swears, and everyone is happy. The Cleavers never deal with accidental pregnancies.
They never deal with financial woes. They never deal with cheating husbands.
Little pecks along the way.
I could just dance the pain away. I know that sounds corny, but I could just drag Don to a club, pray for my favorite song to come on, and dance 'til the stars don't shine. I sound like one of those generic swing songs, but I'm honest. If I take him to the club, though, how will I know he won't glance at other women? How will I know he's thinking about dancing with me and only me? I won't.
But then he turns me around and stares me in the eye. He whispers "I love you," pounding his lips on mine, bruising them in the process. He caresses my small baby bump with his hand and I smile. I knows we'll get through this. We always do.
At least, we always have.
All the attention Don Draper gets from horny women begs the question: what the hell do those women see in him?
I think I know because when I was younger I dated and screwed around with my share of emotionally-stunted man-children. These guys don't start out being jerks. Initially, they are quite charming and attentive. If they're handsome like Jon Hamm that's a big plus. I recall one man with a bit of pain, looking in hindsight. I met him in a theater troupe where we both worked on the crew. I did lighting and makeup and he was the producer. That put him in a position of power, which I found very attractive. He was also about twenty years older than me - fitting right in with my penchant for bagging older men. During the first year he was charming, attentive, lustful - and secretive because he was married. We never had sex nor did we meet outside the theater rehearsals and performances. We were engaged in one massive, overheated lust-fest for an entire year.
I made a huge mistake, though. I fell in love with him.
When the new season started and a new crop of nubile young women joined the troupe, he suddenly and without warning gave me the cold shoulder. No longer did he wait at the front door for me to show up to carry my makeup case and talk to me. No longer did he bring me glasses of wine during performances. No longer did he surprise me by visiting me unannounced at my job. No longer did we make out passionately backstage. No longer did he praise my hard work and crow about me to the theater staff.
I became a non-person as he flirted with and made out with new women on the staff, all the while completely ignoring me without explanation. I was mortified and crushed. When I later confronted him on the phone about his shitty treatment of me, he blamed me for the way things turned out, saying that he was just fooling around and that he knew I loved him. He just didn't care. When I got too emotionally attached to him he decided I was no fun anymore so he cut me off without warning. He even compared me to the Glenn Close character in "Fatal Attraction" because I wouldn't let go the way he wanted me to. Selfish prick. He was upset when I told him I heard on the gossip mill that he had a reputation for fooling around with lots of women, which I sadly heard about only after it was far too late. His only concern was where the gossip was coming from, not about the content of the gossip. It took me a long time to get over this guy, and he wasn't even handsome like Jon Hamm.
My point of that story is that there is a huge difference between getting involved with a sexist, inconsiderate, selfish asshole in real life and fantasizing about one on "Mad Men". The Don Draper fan fic I posted here has a very big clue in it, and it's something that Greta Christina noted in her own article:
And when women fantasize about bad-boy rogues who treat women like dirt, the bad boys almost never treat us badly. They're fascinated with us. They find us hauntingly compelling: so hauntingly compelling that, even though they usually use women and toss them aside, they somehow can't tear themselves away from us. (Boy, is it embarrassing to admit that.) I think that's something people forget about bad-boy fantasies. Much of the time, they're not about bad boys. They're about bad boys going good because of us. They're not about wanting to be mistreated. They're about wanting to be special.
And it's entirely possible to enjoy idealized fantasies of being special, so special that we inspire the dangerous, callous, villainous bad boy to change his ways (while retaining his dangerous edge, of course)... and still, in our real lives, recognize these bad boys as the self-absorbed jackasses they are. It's possible to recognize that the reality of bad boys is nowhere near as much fun as the fantasy.
Reread that fan fic and notice how Draper kisses Betty (I'm assuming it's Betty) and declares his undying love for her. She's The One for him, which is part of the fantasy. A bad boy will treat all other women like trash but all he needs is the right woman to melt his icy heart and bring out his tenderness. I've seen the same fantasy applied to vampire movies and fiction - all the vamp needs is "the right woman" to bring out his humanity. This is a very powerful fantasy that lots of women have and it fits right in with why so many otherwise sensible women have gone totally apeshit over Don Draper. Remember that the woman having the fantasy controls the fantasy. She decides where it goes. She decides that the pain of his coldness, selfishness, and infidelities will cease once her bad boy falls in love with her and she is able to melt his icy heart and ease his pain. It's a very soothing fantasy to have.
It also in no way represents what it's like to date a real jerk in real life and every woman who enjoys the bad boy fantasy knows this. Don Draper fits right into that fantasy world and that's what women are attracted to. The backwards, reactionary men's rights types (also jerks in real life) think women reject them - the "nice guys" (jerks of another sort worthy of their own post...) - in favor of "jerks". Nothing could be farther from the truth.
In closing, I can understand why so many women cream their panties over Don Draper. Just don't count me as one of them. And remember, there is fantasy and there is reality. And neither resemble the other in the least.