Jon Hamm as Don Draper
There is a certain charm to the show which distinguishes it from the rest I have seen till now. It is not that I am an expert in the 60s of the United States, yet the show some how doesn’t cease to amaze me. There is Mr. Don Draper alias Dick Whitman, played incredibly by Jon Hamm, that I almost did not recognize him to be the guy who was the irritating sex – starved “boy-friend” of Kristen Wigg in the 2011 romantic – comedy Bridesmaids. (Too bad that he was not credited for his part).
Now what shall I say about Donald Draper? He is mysterious, one doesn’t know much about his past, his aspirations. He is dominating, yet insecure, he sleeps with every other girl he sees, yet so protective of his family, he seems to be the up-tight New York executive and the next moment we see him escaping to Californian beaches with a girl, who is almost half is age, with whom he had barely met once or twice. He is not exactly an aspirational personality, but I dare say many men aspire to be like him at some level or the other.
He is the boss his juniors would not dare to cross, he is the creative genius who comes out of ideas from thin air (to quote himself from Season 1, Episode 1 – Luckystrikes), he is the ultimate friend who helps cover up their mistakes, he is the ever so loyal brother to Anna, he is the caring father to his children and to top it he has married the ridiculously beautiful Betty Draper (played gracefully January Jones). Sounds like James Bond? Only that Bond is not this cool.
January Jones as Betty Draper
This almost flattering account of Draper does not endorse what he is and what he does. My admiration for this man does not hide his flaws, and he has some very significant ones. He is sexist, racist and even a pedophile considering he made advances towards a barely 18 year old girl. His hidden secrets, his dual life, his cut-throat competitiveness, makes him one hell of a negative character perhaps only rivaled by Don Corleone.
Roger Sterling , Joan Holloway, Ken Cosgrove, Don Draper, Peggy Olson, Pete Campbell in Mad Men
So where does one classify him. As the age old question goes – “Neenga Nallavara Kettavara ?” He is neither and that is the beauty of this character. He is a flawed human being just like every one of us. He has his negative qualities and he has his brilliance steadily accompanying him. This grey characterization by Matthew Weiner has left me speechless. I salute Weiner for having come up with such astounding set of characters. Be it Peggy Olson and her special relationship with Draper, or the crooked yet charming Pete Campell, the obnoxiously rich lean 60 year old man who divorces his wife to marry a 25 something secretary (read Roger Sterling), Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway (too beautiful that people don’t see any one else when she is on screen), and the ultimate housewife Betty Draper – every one are unique flawed yet good in their own ways.
But to say that Mad Men is only defined by these characters would be very wrong and in fact an unforgivable injustice to its writers and creators. The effort that has been gone to capture the essence of the 60s, the minute things like the box TVs , the background music, the hair styles, the costumes, even an easily overlook-able stationery ,say a pen – these speak volumes about the rich production value of the series. It captures the the entire generation , their attitude, their fears, their insecurity , their happiness in a way that is very believable and accurate(if critical reviews are anything to go by).
Producer/writer Matthew Weiner (5th from L) poses in the press room with the Emmy for Best Drama Series for “Mad Men” during the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre on September 21, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
I watch Desperate Housewives for the sake of it since it is going to end any way (and of course for the talented actress Felicity Huffman), I adore Friends , How I met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory for their creativity and wit, I am in awe of Dexter and Lost for their unthinkable concepts, and plot. I watch re-runs of these series if they happen to be running on the TV and that too for not more than a few minutes and never did I think that a TV series would change my outlook, my tastes in music. But yet Mad Men managed to do that and I remain eternally grateful to Matthew Weiner for simply being there and doing his job.