Friday, May 15, 2015

Don Draper's Big Lie


The bigger the lie, the easier it is to tell. The smaller the lie, the closer you are to the truth, which can pull you out of deceit like a magnet. Don Draper told the biggest lie of all. He became someone he wasn't. He lived the lie, and living it propelled him to the top of the advertising world. Before he was Don Draper he was Dick Whitman, and that man was a coward. On Madison Avenue, Don was revered as someone with charisma and a near mystical insight into human nature. But what he knew wasn't mystical. It was a con (as he himself acknowledges in the series' penultimate episode). A con is perpetrated by what is called a Confidence Man, who knows that a con works by giving people what they want. His main product was himself.

What makes things interesting is Don wasn't a con man at heart. And despite his reputation he wasn't smooth. Over the course of the years, Don's weakness and confusion would assert itself over and over, and if he lost family in the process, he managed through effort to remain who he wanted to be: Don Draper, Ad Man. The mystical sheen had long ago been replaced by a sheen of sweat, both literal and figurative. As the finale nears I hope Don can become someone new and better, maybe someone who exists right in between Dick and Don, since neither man is who he is. Actually in this last season, as he starts to detach from advertising he's become, of all things, something of a nice guy. I care about the other characters, of course, but the truth is that Mad Men has always been the Don Draper Show.

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