Don Draper, the complicated advertising executive character from the popular Mad Men series, reminds me of my father. My dad was not in the advertising industry, yet he was like Don, a guy who was trying to fulfill the American Dream to support his family and prove he was a man.
Similar to Don, my father sported highly starched white shirts that my mother meticulously ironed and wore winged-tip heavy black shoes that he had shined every day. My father always smelled of a combination of Old Spice cologne, vodka and cigars (he opted for these over cigarettes.) He worked hard and drank heavily.
I adored my father even with all of his flaws as he tried his best to provide for his family. Like Don Draper, he had a less than perfect childhood, where he was raised by his mother when his father took of to Europe for an extended stay.
We all love Don Draper even with his bad behavior toward women. We are attracted to him in ways we can’t describe, but who we can relate to as representing this time period. Don was the father to all of us growing up in the 1960’s. Yet, he is fighting an internal battle of low self-esteem and sadness of a lost youth.
In the final episodes of Mad Men, we see Don losing all the people who have helped him from totally spiraling out of control. He has been unable to sustain a marriage as if they really knew him they would loathe him. The truth his, he doesn’t like himself and is a self-destructive man who is heading for disaster.
The final season of Mad Men shows us a further break-down of his life as he finalizes his divorce from his wife Megan and gives her a million-dollar check. His first wife has found happiness with her current husband and is working on her Masters degree. His children are content in their life with their step-dad who offers them stability. They have all moved on in their lives, without Don.
The recent episode of Mad Men has Don hooking up Diana, the waitress at a dive dinner in NY, who he becomes obsessed with and has a steamy, sexual session in the alley while is she is on break. Rather than letting her be his latest sexual conquest, he has to get to know her, and ultimately allows her into his world by inviting her to his apartment. Don is attracted to this dangerous liaison as he feels old and lonely.
Diana tells Don she has two daughters. One is dead and the other is living with her father in Racine, Wisconsin. She doesn’t go into detail to explain what happened in her life to land her in NYC working as a waitress and renting a one room apartment that looks to be a place you would go to commit suicide. Don visits her there and she offers him a glass of vodka as she appears to be telling him to get out of her life. Having just signed his divorce papers from Megan, he is in no mood for conflict and leaves.
But, will Don return to Diana? I think he will and she will be Don’s final act, as she is drawing him into her web by her destructive seduction. Don is being taken into her sad, dark dangerous world, where denial and lies live. She is what Don has been looking for his entire life, someone to end his pain. Diana might kill him in the end.