Note: If you haven't seen the Season 6 premiere, this article contains spoilers.
When I was younger, before I had been with supposed "bad boys," I would get very excited by the allure of guys who seemed wild and brilliant and terrifying and inconsistent. The ones for whom the rules did not apply.
You know, the Don Drapers of the world.
But then I dated them. And then I grew up a little. And then I saw through them.
The big letdown? There just didn't seem to be any there there.
Because that sexy strong bad boy who throws you on the bed and fucks the fear out of you and then callously treats you like shit the next day? He is really, in fact, the opposite of what sexy is.
After a while, you just feel sorry for these guys. These wanna-be Don Drapers.
I used to be attracted to these guys for the same reason many women are. The whole daddy issues cliche. My father often radiated this bad boy archetype growing up. Charismatic. Terrible temper. A war hero marine. Never, ever wrong. A ladies' man. Often times, very cruel and emotionally unavailable.
In fact I tweeted right after the "Mad Men" season six premiere last night (as I watched it a second, and then a third time on repeat): "Don't forget, ladies, the best way to get back at your father is to date someone who's an even bigger asshole than he is."
Poor little Sally Draper.
In the much-hyped two-hour episode last night, I watched Don as he remained quiet for the first eight minutes of the episode with his young wife in Hawaii. I watched his smirk, his dispassion, his condescension, his inconsiderate nature, his removal from any commitment to anything. And my stomach turned.
It was the coldness in his eyes. The disconnect from empathy when it did not affect him and his interests. The perpetual one-way conversation. The narcissism. The removal from actually living life with any manner of investment in other people, emotions or feelings beyond superficial brush strokes -- but instead seeing all these things as simply currency with which to transactionally manipulate.
I mean, sure, he looks pretty. But his soulless stare colors everything.
He seems such an empty shell of a man -- never showing through his actions (what actually matters in life) a semblance of meaningful, consistent respect and consideration, but instead occasionally tossing out some consolation-prize sugary words around. "Everything will be all right, Birdie."
No, Birdie. It really won't.
Of course considering Don's past behavior highlights his lack of substance and misogyny again and again, with every problem solved as he thrusts himself into a woman, pulls her hair back and dares her to be insubordinate. And yet, because of his brilliant looks and his don't-give-a-fuck attitude (I'm all for DGAF -- as long as there are a few fucks to be given for people and things that matter), Don Draper is always the consummate sex symbol in the series. The man that every woman desires and can't resist.
So, honestly, I was quite pleased with my revulsion at the alpha stud caricature that Don Draper revealed himself to be once again in the "Mad Men" season premiere of "The Doorway" last night.
He was nothing more than tan, talented, fickle -- and empty.
Honestly, we've seen all the women he's cycled through five seasons before, and while his new wife changed Draper's bad boy ways for a minute, let's be real. Long term? That would require self-control, wouldn't it? And that's something this bad boy cartoon just can't do. Being bad is his all. It's his get out of jail free card, again and again. I mean, he is Don Motherfucking Draper. He is James Bond. He is Batman. The rules simply do not apply.
See: Don Draper shagging his friend's wife. See: Don Draper vomiting all over Roger Sterling's mother's funeral. See: Don Draper abandoning his second wife again and again. And even when he's there, is he really? Eight minutes into the first episode. Not a single word.
The rules do not apply to Don Draper. Except when they do.
To watch him fail as he presents an advertising presentation on the experience of his sojourn to Hawaii -- watching him choke because he presents a campaign that is akin to a suicide endorsement -- is to see the true Don Draper, a man without a real self, except one of wanting to escape into whatever falseness he can hide behind at the moment (drink, women, success).
He believes his own lies, and that's what makes him so consummately miserable, and empty, at his core.
Obviously everyone knows this about Don -- that he's not really even Don at all, but Dick Whitman -- but the omnipresent coolness of his character is supposed to overtake all that and constitute his true self. Except it doesn't.
The real Don is the failing Don.
We see his true self in all the flaccid presentations of Draper throughout the series, from the first season flop-sweat fear as he tried to run away (violently ditch, really) his entire family with his extramarital affair of the moment to this sixth season's new brand of terrified sexual clutching at his neighbor's wife.
"People will do anything to relieve their anxiety," Dr. Rosen tells Don before Don then immediately beds Dr. Rosen's wife.
You see, that is Don Draper. No kind of real man at all.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.