Thursday, August 15, 2013

Reflections on Season 6

I'm beginning to decide that Don Draper is an asshole. I don't think I want to grow up to be him anymore.

He was wrong -- not just 7th-commandment-violating wrong, but dishonorable wrong -- to take the wife of his downstairs neighbor -- a selfless and trusting man, a good man, who ought to be able to go about his work saving lives without having to worry about a sleazy ad man sniffing around. He was then wrong to be so wreckless as to get caught, and wrong in his half-assed attempt to gaslight his own daughter. It made me sick watching it.

Jon Hamm was made to play Don Draper at the top of his game: Don the creative genius, Don the hard-drinking master of social and sexual dominance. But Jon Hamm has never had the dramatic range to play Don the tortured soul. Fortunately, the screenwriting has required these exertions only seldom thus far, but this aspect of his character is coming more to the fore, and it could be a problem.

In contrast to everyone else, the Bob Benson character radiated such goodwill that I was sure he would turn out to be a Mormon. Which would have been interesting. The script's apparent insinuation that he is a homosexual . . . isn't interesting. It's boring, cliched nonsense, at least thus far, but I'll try to reserve judgment watching where the writers take the possibility that he is not all he appears to be.

So, no Mormons. Sadly, the only hint of an actual Christian character since the second season is a caricature whom Don meets in a bar and whom Don punches because . . . well, the writers never quite spell out why, probably because to do so would force them to confront their own prejudices. It's entirely plausible that Manhattan ad men don't actually know any observant Christians, so I'd have been happy if the writers just left it alone. But no, they have Don go off on an inchoate tirade against Nixon, the Vietnam War, and something that sounds suspiciously like the religious right. This is a fundamentally dishonest appeal to contemporary prejudices that ignores the 1968 reality: Vietnam was up to that point a Democrat war, Nixon was the peace candidate, the religious right didn't actually exist yet, and nobody thought Nixon spoke for it. But if anybody calls them out on it, well, Don's just off on a drunken tirade, see? It wasn't supposed to make any sense.

While we're talking about things not making any sense, in what universe is Vincent Caruthers' Pete Campbell rate even the JV player league? The man radiates creepiness. Not that I'm judging or anything; on the contrary, as I have written before, he's the character to whose motivations I can most relate. But seeing him seduce married hotties blows past my threshold for implausibility.

And what does Peggy Olsen want out of life? A man, yes, but on what terms? Her onscreen number exceeds even Joan's; does she really think that being the town bicycle is likely to lead to a happy ending?

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