Merry-Go-Round

 Posted by on October 21, 2010 at 7:03 pm  Season 4
Oct 212010
 

I was going to write a completely different post but lately, reading all the theories and posts about whether Don should’ve chosen Faye over Megan or why Megan was a better choice, I became increasingly aware of just how incredibly irritated I was getting by the character analysis of either woman. There are camps, each dissecting the two women’s personalities and arguing about which one “is better for Don”. I thought about this irritation and finally I realized that the reason it bothered me so much was NOT just the implication that the right woman can save a man (because, let’s face it, that’s what this debate really comes down to, at least how I see it). And I’m not saying this just for feminist reasons because, truthfully, there’s a lot of fantasy (extremely dangerous fantasy) around the knight-in-shining-armor, Mr. Right, male side of the equation as well. I bristle at the idea that, ultimately, someone else can save you even when you yourself can’t be bothered to do so.

Let’s get one thing straight: Don’s happiness is up to Don. Yes, if you choose the wrong person you’ll be unhappy, this is true. But there is a deeper issue here that no post as of yet seems to hit upon. Don does not know how to be happy. And there is a very good reason he doesn’t know how. He was trained to feel that he was bad and that he didn’t deserve it.

What bothers me most of all is the complete lack of understanding of something that seems utterly crystal clear to me: Mad Men is a very incisive and dare I say, accurate portrayal of the aftereffects of an abusive childhood. In America we like to think that we can just “get over it,” that after a certain age, it all magically resolves itself. You grow up and, yes, it was tough but you go on. Would that it were so! In fact, Don’s story is an excellent analysis of just what happens when you choose that attitude, without dealing with the pain and the trauma honestly and bravely. You decide you will magically get past it if you can only run away. You say to yourself that your abuser already ruined your childhood and s/he is not going to ruin your adulthood.

Yet, weirdly, the more you refuse to face the past, the more you create situations that reenact that same horrific childhood in which you were trapped. This is how humans and other primates respond to trauma – we are actually wired to repeat it:

“During the formative years of contemporary psychiatry much attention was paid to the continuing role of past traumatic experiences on the current lives of people. Charcot, Janet, and Freud all noted that fragmented memories of traumatic events dominated the mental life of many of their patient and built their theories about the nature and treatment of psychopathology on this recognition… Many traumatized people expose themselves, seemingly compulsively, to situations reminiscent of the original trauma. These behavioral reenactments are rarely consciously understood to be related to earlier life experiences.

“The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma –Re-enactment, Revictimization, and Masochism”
Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD

In the moment of trauma you were not able to deal with the situation in a satisfactory way either because you were a child and didn’t know how or because the circumstances curtailed your response. Whatever your solution to the trauma then becomes your way of dealing with any situation that triggers the original trauma. If you ran away, then when you’re put in a situation that “feels” eerily reminiscent of this trauma, you will choose to run away again. I use the word “eerie” on purpose; when you’re in the grip of the past, you suddenly feel like you’re stuck in a repetitive pattern over which you have no control. Your fears are roused and hence the lizard part of your brain takes over. Later, when it is over, you wonder if it was all a terrible dream because you acted like a zombie. You are thrown back into feeling the deep shame of being “bad” — that self-same shame that you felt as a kid when your abuser terrorized you. And then you do it again. (Know what else is a great analysis of what it feels like to be stuck in a repetitive pattern? “Groundhog Day.” As many have pointed out, there’s a reason Weiner chose to end the finale with the same song that drove Bill Murray nuts.) Don married Betty, a cold, distant, self-righteous woman reminiscent of his cold, distant, self-righteous stepmother.

So as not to face the pain, the victim often finds an outlet or an escape. This usually takes the form of an addictive behavior. Alcohol, drugs, sex — any sensation that will obviate the pain. Some people who never had a loving, supportive parent will often resort to using relationships as an addictive mechanism. This is known as sex or love addiction and, yes, it is real. When you think that your happiness depends on finding the one person who will love you and understand you and put up with your neediness no matter how you behave or what you do, then guess what? You’re using your lover as drug. It is borne of a very real lack of love as a child. Does Don Draper act like a love addict? Let’s just run down a few of the behavioral patterns posted on the website for a 12-step group for love and sex addicts (for a full list click on the link):

  • Lack of nurturing and attention when young
  • Feeling isolated, detached from parents and family
  • Outer facade of “having it all together” to hide internal disintegration
  • Afraid to trust anyone in a relationship
  • Presence of other addictive or compulsive problems
  • Using others, sex & relationships to alter mood or relieve emotional pain
  • Confusion of sexual attraction with love (“Love” at first sight.)
  • Existence of a secret “double life”
  • Refusal to acknowledge existence of problem
  • Tendency to leave one relationship for another. (Inability to be without a relationship.)

Has Don ever been alone, truly alone without a woman somewhere in the picture? Is he capable of that? For someone like Don saying that Megan (or Faye or Betty or Rachel Menken or…) will make him happy is a little like saying that an alcoholic will be less of a drunk once he finds the right brand of booze. It doesn’t work that way.

Nor, by the way, does this mean that Don is hopeless or that he is, by default, utterly unable to be happy one day. Here’s the rub, though: In order to liberate himself from the demons, he must first face them. And that’s tough. It’s a helluva hard journey and it entails facing this outrageous, paralyzing fear that eats away at you: fear that you’re bad; fear that you are hateful; fear that you did something wrong and don’t know it, and you will be horribly punished. Fear in such outsize proportions that it takes over your life.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as choosing to be happy. To recover from abuse entails learning new ways of dealing with reality and that is extremely tough because our perception of the world often seems like the only right one. That lizard part of your brain is extremely sticky; it’s supposed to be, it was created to keep you out of danger without you having to think about it consciously.

You grow up in a world in which you can’t trust the people who were supposed to love and care for you (and with damn good reason!) and it becomes the only reality. You then go on to act based on that perception of reality and, sure enough, people will prove you right. You’re too blinded by the past to see that you yourself are setting yourself up.

As someone astutely pointed out in the comments, this is why Megan’s laid-back reaction to spilled milk was so revolutionary. It IS only spilled milk, a situation with an easy solution. That IS reality. You come from an abusive past in which every stupid little thing is blown so out of proportion that you fear for your life and you become the kind of person who overreacts or under-reacts to situations (you’re still in the grip of the past). I once developed a schoolgirl crush on a boss who laughed kindly and genuinely at a costly mistake I made. Oh, yes, kindness and gentleness are VERY powerful. Let no one tell you otherwise.

Still, as eye opening and revelatory as Megan’s reaction was, it’s not Megan’s responsibility to mend Don nor is it fair to expect her to carry that burden. If Megan is a whole and grounded person, she is not going to put up with the crap of being someone’s savior, especially if that someone won’t step up to the plate for himself. She might very well be the one to kick him to the curb (which would make for some very good drama).

It is a very very long haul to recovery and it takes a very long time. But the only way past it is through it. And that’s up to Don. Yes, Don, the past was not your fault. But as an adult it is your responsibility to confront it for what it was. Only then can you move on.

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  83 Responses to “Merry-Go-Round”

  1. I was also getting a little miffed by posts about which woman Don “should” have chosen, because he may actually have fallen in love with Megan, and if that’s the case, no matter how “good” Faye is for him, Megan is the one he should choose. Might it be a mistake? Of course. But when you’re in love with person A, choosing to be with person B is definitely a mistake.

    Yes, I’m definitely a hopeful romantic.

  2. I realize my comment #1 didn’t address the bulk of your post, but it’s true nonetheless. I’m not saying that being with Megan will save him, or make him happy unless he does the heavy work of dealing with his past, but had he chosen Faye instead of Megan, while being in love with Megan, that would only have added to his current discontent.

  3. Great exposition of the psychologic structure underlying Dick/Don’s struggle. For once I would like to not have the women seen as his “rescuers” , but rather as the individuals that they are, in and of themselves. They don’t need to be defined by how they can be of service to him. Turn it around and ask what HE can do for any of them – now there’s a question to be answered.

  4. Thanks for this article! I was hoping someone would broach the subject of love/sex addiction, and, though it’s in the tags and not the text, codependence. The “Who is Don Draper?” question posed at the beginning of the season is one that, if Don is codependent, he cannot answer. The codependent has no sense of self. The answer to “Who are you?” comes from the relationships, not the person: I am Betty’s ex-husband, Sally’s father, Peggy’s boss, Megan’s fiance. Neither Don Draper nor Dick Whitman has an internal answer, an answer for himself.

  5. Very insightful. Don the adult is merging with Dick Whitman the child. The women here just play an ancillary role to Don’s inner life.

    I think that any adult who was abused as a child will react just as Don did to the milkshake scene. What a revelation to see that a spilled milkshake is just that, nothing more. What a relief.

    At least for this moment in time, in 1965, in a California restaurant, the kids don’t get punished for being kids.

  6. Holy crap, whadda post! I learned a lot, thank you!

  7. Fantastic post, and great points. However, I think in proposing that Don is a sex/love addict, you’re just hitting on the tip of the iceberg. I think Don is more classically a narcissist, or someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. One component of NPD IS sex addiction. Only liking the beginning of things (thank you, Faye! BEST line EVER!), is absolutely a trait of NPD (they are bored sooo easily). I knew the minute he opened up and told Faye about himself, that relationship was doomed. NO ONE can see the real face of the narcissist because they don’t have one. They borrow from others and create a persona – of charm and success and everything they want people to think of them. Almost invariably, at some point, the facade crumbles, but instead of changing their patterns, (what’s the definition of insanity? doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result) they persist in the same old patterns. For some, like Don, it works. For most, actually, it works. Because they can be so freakin’ charming!
    NPD is often developed as a result of an abusive childhood. The difference between Don having NPD vs. being a sex addict, is that the sex addiction could be treated if he worked hard enough.
    The NPD cannot be treated because it is a disorder, not a disease. A disorder is part of the fabric of the brain, and picking out the threads of disorder from Don’s mind would be impossible.
    Also, most people with NPD also have a side addiction in addition to the sex addiction. For Don, it’s alcoholism.
    Oh, also? They’re misogynists. Think about the way he treated Bobbi Barrett. Was that the way someone who loves, respects and admires women would behave?
    There is a ton more I could write on this, but I’m running out of power on my laptop!

  8. This is brill. I do want to say that my intention, in talking about Don’s choice, is not to imply either woman has the capacity to save him. But when you start making mature choices, it shows you’re actively saving yourself.

    And when you’ve really got the saving yourself thing down, you actually fall in love with the person who is a mature choice.

  9. In another post, someone suggested Betty was NPD. I’m going to say of the two, Don is the likelier candidate. NPDs are compulsive liars (like Don, unlike Betty). NPDs are often (in some NPD sub-types) compulsively sexual (like Don, unlike Betty).

    However, personality disorders are diagnosed when the problem is pervasive across parts of life (not just work, not just relationships), and when the problem is not tied to childhood issues (certainly Don was an abused child and Betty’s stories about her mother suggest she was as well).

    Don doesn’t seem incapable of empathy, and he doesn’t seem exhibitionistic. NPDs are grandiose and therefore unafraid of being caught, that’s not Don.

    Of course, we’re diagnosing fictional characters, so their traits are sometimes rewritten. That makes it harder.

  10. Women are socialized to buy into the cultural myth that “all it takes is the love of a good woman” to reform a man. And as far as men and women have come in terms of challenging the old gender stereotypes, the myth persists. I see it all the time in my practice working with couples. We all need to consider the possibility that some people just don’t have the capacity for change and that love is not enough.

    RE MarlyK’s claim that people who have suffered early childhood trauma are doomed to repeat it is not the whole story. There is a considerable body of research to indicate that many children, despite a traumatic history, go on to lead happy and productive lives. In fact, there is a category of children who are referred to in the childhood developmental literature as “super” kids because of their astonishing capacity for resilience despite their unhappy and harsh backgrounds.

  11. #10. That’s not my claim at all. If it were, I would feel doomed myself. I wrote this post because I myself had an abusive childhood, I myself used love as an addictive mechanism and I see a lot of myself in Don. And I definitely feel that I’m on the road to recovery. I have heard of the “super” kids. I wasn’t one of them. And I wrote this post because a lot of us were not “super” kids and a lot of us often feel doomed because we had abusive pasts. I was trying to give the opposite impression, that there IS hope for us but we have to work on it for ourselves.

  12. Maybe he shouldn’t have “picked” either one of them, at least not right away. I actually think Faye is about a million times better off without him and he did her a favor by rejecting her.

    If it really is true love between him and Megan, they can wait a while to get married. He can make stark sure this woman can handle every single aspect of him and his life first. A milkshake is nothing compared to having the feds knock your front door down. But you know what would happen then: Don would lose interest. This is something he has to do NOWNOWNOW, before he changes his mind. And that’s dangerous.

  13. #8: Yes, Deborah! Exactly. I think that totally came across in your post.

    I don’t know enough about NPD to say whether Don or Betty exhibit signs of either one. I just identify with Don and I don’t see myself as an NPD so I guess that’s why I don’t see it.

  14. “Maybe he shouldn’t have “picked” either one of them, at least not right away. I actually think Faye is about a million times better off without him and he did her a favor by rejecting her.”

    Yeah, Meowser, that’s what I think too.

  15. “Don married Betty, a cold, distant, self-righteous woman reminiscent of his cold, distant, self-righteous stepmother.” Reminiscent? Don told Anna that he fell in love with her because she was happy, nor was she cold, distant and self-righteous towards him when we first met her in S1. He even once specifically told her that he wished his stepmother HAD been like her.
    As for Don and Betty having personality disorders, they’re FICTIONAL. Unless you can point me towards an interview where Matthew Weiner confirms such claims, I’m not buying it.

  16. Emotionally, Betty is the mirror of his rejecting mother. She withholds love when she thinks he’s been bad. She’s what he subconsciously thinks Dick Whitman deserves. Betty’s also what he consciously thinks Don Draper deserves, Grace Kelly — the perfect brand.

    I think all of the women in Don’s life are reflections of who he really is, just as lovers are for all of us. They show us who were are and who we aren’t, what we could be, what we’ll never be, what we want to be.

    The point made earlier that Don is merging with Dick Whitman, the child, is key. He’s accepting the fact that the child in him was abused, neglected, made to feel wrong, and that’s part of the healing process. As Maria Von Trapp (Meghan) said in The Sound of Music, “Where God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.”

    The window’s open and he’s free to pass through, into Sterling Cooper Draper Price, into room 407 of a California hotel, into (and out of) the bright, but empty home of the only woman he could ever trust.

    The significance of this episode I think is the KEY. The key Betty removes from her ring and gives to him. Like the key she found in his pocket that unlocked his secrets and unleashed every fear he ever had. The key that dragged him to the depths of his self-loathing. The key that exposed him to the light. For better or worse, the world is an open door for him now. No coincidence, too, that the last scene leaves him, and us, gazing through a window.

  17. “Don married Betty, a cold, distant, self-righteous woman reminiscent of his cold, distant, self-righteous stepmother”

    But Betty wasn’ t like that in Season 1. She appeared very warm and loving toward Don and reasonably caring toward her children. Her wary attitude toward a divorced woman moving into the neighborhood was only typical of the era.

    He, on the other hand, cheated and lied to her, stayed out all night, ignored his children. Example: going out to get the birthday cake and disappearing for hours.

    If he had treated her with respect, she might have blossomed and grown. But not getting real love from him, as time went on she became more disillusioned with him and her life.

  18. Thanks for an amazing, astute article on abuse victims.

  19. Thank you for this post.

  20. Re: #9 comment that NPDs are “compulsive liars”.Not true. Maybe some are. But the NPD has such an inflated sense of self that they probably wouldn’t feel the necessity of having to lie. On the other hand, your sociopath most certainly would. It’s always a good idea to remember that diagnoses are only part of the story. People are far more complicated and interesting than a label. Using a label is often a convenient shorthand to describe someone, but it in the long run it’s a bit like trying to read a poem by counting its words.

  21. Great post. I don’t know about NPD. I think he has PTSD, for sure. Maybe in Season Five he will revisit his old home. Sometimes revisiting a place where you experienced trauma can be healing. It often looks small, benign and unimportant, and the space it rents in your head recedes accordingly.

    Season Five will likely include many scenes of Don and Megan getting to know each other, surely ending with an unexpected outcome. Just like all the speculation about whether or not Joan kept the pregnancy, now we’re in for a long wait to find out if Don and Megan actually marry. There are so many reasons why it won’t work out, but you know how MW likes to surprise us!

    We don’t know enough about Megan yet to know what might be a deal-breaker for her.

    Here are some thoughts:
    1. She has a relationship with her parents. That may come into play here. I can’t see her parents finding a lot to like about Don — the impulsive-sounding whirlwind romance, divorced, already has three young kids, has no extended family, from another culture/religion(?), and much older. “Where are his people?” asked Betty’s father. Good question.
    2. She doesn’t know yet about Dick and all that, or why Betty threw him out.
    3. She doesn’t know (does she?) about his career philandering. On the other hand, he was cheating with her on Faye and she didn’t seem to mind that. Like most “other women,” she assumes that love trumps all. She’ll learn.
    4. She has career ambitions. Will Don go for that in a wife, and does she have any talent(s)? What if she flops at SCDP? Will she throw Don over for a fresh start?

  22. Side note to everything above about abusive childhoods and who is rescuing whom, Don is acutely aware of Betty’s abusive relationship to their children. It’s reminiscient of his own childhood with his father. With Megan, he is presented with the first companion who can create the picture perfect life that he wants as an Ad Man, AND a loving and forgiving childhood for his children (which he wants and desires for himself). Don could be acting not only for himself but for his children; by sacrificing his own happiness and intellectual stimulation with Faye, he is rescuing his children. Not so shabby.

  23. It is true . . .what we are surrounded by in our childhood has a lot to do with how we will act as adults. We look for what is familiar . . .good, bad, healthy, unhealthy.

    I think we all read into Don’s choices what we think he should do. But it is MW brilliance to show each person how they really are. The conflict each character has is being revealed to us and enforced by these decisions. It makes us attached to them even more.

    . . .as for Don being a Narcissist. I tend to think he is just a typical Male of his time. It is my understanding that a Narcissist looks for a “mirror”. They want only to see themselves reflected back. Everyone must be like him and no deviation is tolerated. While Don has some of these tendencies when backed into a wall. . .he is still very tolerant of others.

    J9

  24. Has Don ever been alone, truly alone without a woman somewhere in the picture?

    Yes, from about Thanksgiving of 1964 until summer 1965, and I think we can all agree that wasn’t pretty.

    I think this is a brilliant post, and I really wonder how much of the character is written specifically to embody the effects of an adult abused as a child, and how much is just inadvertent subtext from the each of the writer’s own subconscious (there’s a reason happy people rarely make good artists).

    As for sex addiction, I don’t know that I buy it as much as Don clearly has an addictive personality and switches between drugs. After all, only Midge can be seen as a purely sexual relationship, and I always got the impression he was with her more because she called him on his bullsh*t (making her reappearance all the sadder). His relationships with Rachel and Suzanne were more romances than mere sexual affairs – and I think Don was more addicted to the beginning of the romance more than the bada-bing (Dr. Faye being soooo right on that critique). As for the relationship” with Bobbie – who the hell knows to this day what that was all about :)

    I am surprised that I haven’t seen any comments (having admittedly not read all of them on the Tomorrowland- related posts) about the growth Don seemed to be exhibiting as the season went on, although I think he jumped right off the deep end proposing like he did – that was not a rational act. But in the last couple episodes it seems to me, and I could be reading too much into it (as if!), that Jon Hamm was subtley changing how he played Don, bringing in more of the Don/Dick mixture we saw with Anna. I really got the impression that was also the person he was with Megan, and his leaping at the idea of marriage – using Anna’s ring, no less – was a way to lock in someone who made him feel like that again.

    In some ways he’s replacing Anna as much as Betty – Faye certainly didn’t make that cut and I really think there was no future for them. I thought maybe Don was ready for a purely adult relationship, but he’s not – talk about repeating patterns, he’s back to looking for that picture-perfect American Family – that he very much did not have in his childhood – that he put together with Betty – but now in a sassy Mary-Tyler-Moore brunette flavor.

    He could be happy with Megan – who knows, stranger things have happened in Mad Men land (see Blankenship, Ida, relationship with Sterling, Roger). Megan does seem a bit more grounded and sensible than Betty – can you imagine Betty admitting any kind of flaw the way Megan mentioned her teeth? But Don is one big-old mess and it will take a very strong and determined woman to break through all the psychic barriers he’s got up. I don’t think we – or Don – know enough about Megan to make the call and it remains to be seen how much Don has learned from his own journey this season.

  25. I am troubled by any over-analyzed asssertion that Don is “sex addicted” needing rehab. Like he is suffering from a terminal illness. Draper is a well-endowed, hunky, brillaint guy who enjoys ravishing women (“you smell nice” “let’s have dinner”). He is deftly balancing his responsibiity as a parent and his desire to achieve ambition and enjoy life (womanizing) to the max. Both Faye and Megan know this and each in their own way deserve what they deserve. Even Betty has come to terms with this “state of affairs.” Only a staunch feminist would victimize Don for his sexual prowess and make him so needy. I should be so lucky.

  26. So many key MM characters MM are extra-specially needy and have said or shown that their relationships with their parents were/are terrible. That category includes Roger, Don, Betty, Lane, and Pete. We don’t know about Bert or Joan, and Peggy’s mother, while not abusive exactly, is a pillar of her stifling culture. Peggy also seems needy to me — but not pathologically so.

    As I mentioned about Kenny in the post about Kenny/Pete, he seems to be one of the few regular MM characters who isn’t inappropriately needy. And that’s why he didn’t feel the need to sell out his fiancee for SCDP.

  27. re #17: “But Betty wasn’ t like that in Season 1. She appeared very warm and loving toward Don and reasonably caring toward her children. Her wary attitude toward a divorced woman moving into the neighborhood was only typical of the era.

    He, on the other hand, cheated and lied to her, stayed out all night, ignored his children. Example: going out to get the birthday cake and disappearing for hours.

    If he had treated her with respect, she might have blossomed and grown. But not getting real love from him, as time went on she became more disillusioned with him and her life.”

    Yes! What about this change? Doesn’t it seem like Betty’s character has been shifted too much?

  28. It reminds me of how Betty told her therapist, knowing it would get back to Don, that she’d wondered if perhaps she wasn’t enough for him, and then realized that the truth might be that “maybe it’s just him.”

    She was noticeably softer then, as mentioned. She spoke of him not spanking the kids as a good thing. She spoke of his kindness as a good thing. She clearly loved him. I think that she just got worn down and all of her worst impulsed came to the forefront.

  29. “Sometimes revisiting a place where you experienced trauma can be healing.” Reminds me of Forrest Gump when Forrest pulls down Jenny’s old home for her.

  30. I’m crossposting from the “Dr. Faye Miller/Evie Sands” thread because it seems relevant here (the blurred boundary between “appropriate” romantic partnerships and personal/professional “mentoring”):

    I’m reminded of “Reality Bites,” a mediocre movie wherein it’s understood (spoiler warning) that Winona Ryder must choose between dating Ben Stiller, who has offered her a job at MTV, and Ethan Hawke, who’s her soul mate. The unbelievable failure of that movie is that it never seems to occur to Ryder’s character that she’d be entirely within her rights to date Hawke AND take the job. The movie demeans the character by equating her professional and personal choices.

    Similarly, I think that Mad Men fans who applaud Dr. Faye’s advice (that Don face his past) are blending together two ideas that aren’t the same. Say she’s right, and he must do this. It’s a valuable insight (and, as he told her on the phone) part of why she’s been so “very important” to him. If Don does face his past, he’ll look back on Faye Miller as the spur that made him do it. There’s no question in my mind; he either will or won’t, but she definitely pushed him towards it.

    But Don’s ambivalent relationship with that question — with Dr. Faye’s recommendation — doesn’t suggest that he must FALL IN LOVE with her…just that she’s giving good advice. Like Ben Stiller in “Reality Bites,” Dr. Faye is holding an important key to Don’t success…but, no matter how seismic that can be, it’s just not love. He’s not “supposed” to fall in love with the person who offers that. He might be BETTER OFF with her in the long run, but that doesn’t make choosing Megan a “moral” failing or a lack of “courage.” (I don’t want to beat a dead horse so I’ll stop)

  31. “Don is acutely aware of Betty’s abusive relationship to their children. It’s reminiscient of his own childhood with his father.”

    Don didn’t consider Betty abusive. He specifically said that he wished his abusive parents had been like her instead.

  32. Nice work, Marly. I add my thanks to that of many others here.

    I did note the progress Don appeared to be working to make through the latter half of Season 4 — but the telling part, to me, was the fact that he seemed to be progressing in a relationship with one woman, yet fell for, and proposed to, another.

    This is not the behavior of a person who has made it all the way to well. Not in my experience. And as I’ve been in the position of the latter woman, I know that Megan may later end up wishing the roles were reversed — that Don had chosen someone (or something) different.

    Perhaps even that he’d chosen to be alone a little longer?

  33. I think Don does want to face his past, simply on his own terms. Many
    have taken Don’s opening up to Faye as the death knell of their
    relationship, but it’s more complicated than that. What about those
    we’ve watched him open up to this season? Peggy, certainly, who may
    not know his secret, but who still knows more about him now than 99%
    of the people in his life. He tells his kids his real name–a big
    step. While in bed with Megan, he doesn’t claim perfection, seemingly willing to admit his past mistakes. When she asks about the ring, and he says it’s been in the family, he immediately corrects himself. He wants to be honest.

    The difference with Faye was the stress of the situation. She coerced him into leaving the office, he ends up having a panic attack, she asks why. He’s too beaten and stressed to lie. He tells her and immediately regrets it. If it weren’t for those circumstances, he wouldn’t have told Faye. Note that not once did we witness Don and Faye having a truly intimate moment, a heart to heart if you will, in the same way he did with Rachel, Suzanne, or Megan. The best evidence I have to offer is that Faye knew of Dick Whitman, but she did not know Dick Whitman. Don never reveals that side to her, or even comes close.

    I’m getting away from myself.

    Basic point: many assume Don’s relationship with Faye was only poisoned due to what he revealed to her, his unease with his past. I firmly believe it would have ended regardless. He just wasn’t that into her. Even his body language towards her is often perfunctory, not heartfelt. (Elsewhere, listen to the Ryan and Ryan Mad Men podcast for The Chinese Wall…I think Mo Ryan makes a great case as to why Faye was never going to be Don’s girl)

    But again, he does recognize the value of her advice about confronting the past. Again, he tells his kids his name, he wants to be honest with Megan, both following that discussion. There, he isn’t running away.

    I’m thinking again of when he’s first in bed with Megan, and Don must know he’s in love with her on some level. He recognizes it, and it’s got to have made him recall falling in love with Betty, and how hiding his secret from her ultimately broke his heart. He knew that if she knew, she wouldn’t want him, and he was proved right. He doesn’t want to make that mistake again, that’s why he brings up his imperfections, he doesn’t want to begin the relationship as poisoned. And it’s those emotions that Megan recognizes as Don being afraid. Already, so early in the relationship, and he’s afraid of losing her, as he did Betty.

    Don wants to face his past. He’s Don Draper, (dammit!), he sees the value in moving forward. But on his terms, with the people he chooses, and that’s his right.

    But Megan seems not to care about his past. She’s also not judgmental, which absolutely sets her apart from Betty. And if that’s true, it may be all Don needs. Because the thing that’s always kept him from moving forward is the threat of being found out. If he really loves her, as I think he does, and he doesn’t have to fear retribution, it may give him some peace–there’s a reason Don is so very attracted to unconditional, nurturing maternal love.

    And for something completely unrelated, but something I’ve been dying to say: Faye’s line “You only enjoy the beginnings of things.” Everyone seems to take it as insightful, true, but I don’t at all.

    Betty: Fought to keep her.
    Midge: Wants to go to Europe, sees she’s in love. Leaves her.
    Rachel: Dumps him.
    Bobbie Barret: Not serious, a competition, then Betty finds out.
    Suzanne: Undone by Betty discovering his secret.
    Bethany: Never really interested to begin with.

    Sorry, what am I missing? Where in these did Don simply quit out of boredom? Where in anything has Don just given up because he was no longer interested? Don is generally committed, things end for reasons outside his control. Now, the line is true of Don and Faye, but it was never going to last. The line was Faye being vindictive, her attempt at poisoning the well.

    Somewhere in there this started as related to the post, ha.

  34. The question always seems to be, “which woman is better for Don”?

    I wonder which woman Don would be better FOR? In other words, who has the best chance of growing as a person in a marriage with Don?

    Yet, how is such growth possible if Don refuses to come to grips with who he is, let alone tell his wife who he is?

    It seems to me that until Don is ready to fully reveal himself to his marriage partner, he has no business marrying anyone.

    And he knows this, because his reasons for proposing to Megan were all about his own identity.

  35. Wonderful post, MarlyK! I relate to a lot of it myself.

  36. #29 – Well, yeah, the lack of courage wasn’t in not “falling in love” with Faye. It’s from his rejection of her advice, that he face his past. MarlyK is right that there is no woman who can save Don from himself–but Don believes the hype. Nearly every woman he’s been involved with starts off as his idealized Redemptive Woman. It’s a fantasy, and inevitably reality intrudes, and Don “moves again”.

    If he had “fallen in love” with Faye, the odds are the relationship would have been doomed as well. What she was asking of him was the hard work of, as MarlyK says, establishing a new reality. That’s something only he can do for himself, no matter who he’s with. He was closest to making this change for himself in The Summer Man, ironically, before he hooked up with Faye. Once that happened, the sex became the dominant addiction again, and he began his backsliding.

    The problem for Don is that the idea of “falling in love” is an utter and complete fantasy, all caught up in his glorification of an idealized Redemptive Woman, the mother he never had. The reality of Megan will not match up. And he’ll move again.

  37. #32 – Don’s had many other women before Midge. Bobbie mentioned at least one other, and brought up the fact that Don has a reputation. It’s been hinted that he’s been fooling around on Betty before Sally’s birth–he was not there for her delivery. That would be, what, one year into the marriage? He may have fought to keep the marriage together but it could be argued that he was motivated to keep the family together, and he would never give up cheating regardless.

  38. I love the article and tend to agree with what’s in it, though I don’t have the knowledge of abuse survivor dynamics myself. I especially agree that Don can’t be saved until Don decided he wants to try to save himself – the most anyone can do is try to help in HIS effort. But I find it odd that it closes by saying its not Megan’s responsibility to mend Don – I don’t see where that’s what she’s proposing to do. Rather, she just seems genuine clueless and self-deluded about what she’s getting into; he’s just somehow good enough as is. Faye is the one who made that move, and it equally wasn’t Faye’s responsibility without the commitment from Don, nor was it her responsibility to try to induce such a commitment. And that;s wh yshe got dumped. To Don, Megan is just an escape mechanism – ‘if you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.’ THose who see Faye as some kind of “right” or “better” choice for Don, even just vis-a-vis Megan, or even as just a symbolic step in the right direction, as the poster here says, are just advocating for the prolonging of Don’s misery, and making these characters instruments of Don’s avoidance of the real choice he must make, which is about himself.

  39. Those who see Faye as some kind of “right” or “better” choice for Don, even just vis-a-vis Megan, or even as just a symbolic step in the right direction, as the poster here says, are just advocating for the prolonging of Don’s misery, and making these characters instruments of Don’s avoidance of the real choice he must make, which is about himself.

    Exactly, Mike D. And I guess the thing I would like to say is that I wish that ring had stayed in Don’s pocket, or drawer, or a box — we know he’s got to have another one of those around somewhere, right?

    This “choice”, in my mind, was a false one: not a choice between two women, but a broken man’s decision to avoid clear and present distress (at work and in his personal life) by creating a bright new picture of soon-to-be-married bliss.

    Fiction loves to give us the man-choosing-between-two-women (or vice versa) dilemma, doesn’t it? And use that, either as a signifier of change, or an indication that the end of something has arrived.

    Still, it’s a mirage, a Hollywood head-fake. The real choice, for someone like Don Draper, is integrity over yet another attempt at escape. The real choice, for any one of us who knows someone like this, is not Yes! I’ll Marry You, or No, I Won’t — it’s something closer to, How about a little more time?

    Versus changing your phone number and moving to another state. :)

  40. That’s what bothered me: Whatever opinion I may have about the potential negative actions of either Megan or Faye, Don’s involvement with either one is premature.
    Sure, he might be doing it for the kids, but as for *his* personal development, as a possibly recovering sex addict, he’s cut that way short.

    He only began to hit bottom when he wasn’t getting laid.
    He started seeing how bad off he was once he started blacking out while having sex.
    Then he started seeing Faye, cleaning up his act — but his impulses are the same, down to the arrogance that he never really has to make amends to anyone.

    That’s why I know he hasn’t made a damn bit of progress, despite his goofy facade during his proposal. A man who wasn’t drunk on his own projections of self — his grandiosity — wouldn’t saddle a young woman with a family of three, nor jeopardize her own plans for a career, without at least talking things over, taking it slow, letting her see him at his worst, rather than his best. It’s Mr. Rochester telling Jane Eyre that she’s found a suitable housekeeping situation, and don’t mind the screams from the attic, it’s just the wind….

    I can be happy over the pretty picture they make, but I recall the conversation Dick had with Anna, where he put Betty on the same pedestal, without taking the time to stop and ask, “why am I trying for a woman I need to put on a pedestal”? Why do I need to use other women, to put on different pedestals, so I can look up their skirts?”

    Don Draper has not spent a month of his stolen life sober or sexually abstinent. We’ve never seen him spend any length of time truly involved with his kids as a caregiver without outside involvement. And, he’s never had to solve a serious problem without using money. Should Megan have her own problems, her own trials, how will he cope? He used the excuse of his hidden past to shut Betty completely out (and her own trauma led her to believe she deserved no better, until it was too late). When he starts shutting Megan out, what will be his excuse, then?

    He thought he started the work on himself he needed, but with his dismissal of Faye’s psychological advice, he closed that book, and decided to repeat the behavior that created a shrew of a wife, a bedwetting son and a very angry daughter.

  41. The real question is: is Don a prize anyway? Not only is he a psychological train-wreck, he also is a legal time-bomb (a deserter, an identity thief, a perjurer). Jeeze, I’ve had bad boyfriends, but this one makes me feel like I have always been a winner.

    Spike # 35/36: MM is once again playing with us by using the trope of the Redemptive Woman. There is, and will be, no such thing for Don Draper (who might nevertheless be buying his own hype). Over Faye who knows his secret, Don has chosen Megan who has no clue whatsoever as to what would be needed to “save” Don. This thus gives MW at least one season before Don gets to his day of reckoning.

    I hope that there will two more MM seasons – one that would lead Megan to discover that she’d better off doing something else with her life rather than trying to save Don, and one more to lead Don to either understand that he is the only one who can save himself, or be arrested and finally pay for his crimes.

  42. “Has Don ever been alone, truly alone without a woman somewhere in the picture?

    Yes, from about Thanksgiving of 1964 until summer 1965, and I think we can all agree that wasn’t pretty. ”

    Don’t prostitutes count as women? He was a regular, had preferences, and even had to discourage his visitor from mentioning details of her life.

    In fact, before Bethany, Faye, et al., I wondered if we’d go deeper into what Don liked sexually if there were absolutely no possibility of a relationship. Granted, that wouldn’t pretty, either, because we knew the pain led to a scared whorechild blotting out his past.

  43. It’s strange that so many people feel that Don is still running away from his past. The whole season was like some kind of ordeal for Don. We have seen him touching the bottom. Then he decided to face his demons (The summer man).
    In the last episode, for the first time in the whole serie, we’ve seen Dick through Don, even when he was at the office. He decided not to lie to his children about his identity, even though the whole truth will have to wait for a while. With Megan, he started to tell her about his past but she stopped him. He started to lie about the ring then said the truth about it. I didn’t see a man trying to get away from his past but a man trying to deal with it.
    Furthermore, what do people really expect from Don? To surrender himself to the justice? Who would do that for real?

    Sorry for my poor english here and in former posts, but it’s a foreign language for me… ;-)

  44. This is the best thing that has been written on this site, MarlyK, and that is a difficult thing to say.

    Brilliant.

  45. Do I expect Don to do what Faye told him, get himself a lawyer and at least see what his options might be, other than perpetually telling himself it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen? No, because as Deb memorably put it a few posts back, “Don wouldn’t know a sane life choice if it sat on his face.”

    But do I think that would be the only thing for him to do that makes a lick of sense? Yes. He’s spent his entire life in a state of perpetual freakout, to the point of making himself physically ill. So far his iron constitution has kept him from having a heart attack or a stroke or malnutrition or cirrhosis or even gallbladder disease from the abuse he’s heaped on himself. But he’s 40 now. Maybe Faye is right, and the worst he’d get is a dishonorable discharge, and then he could get on with his life without lugging this stinking bag of kitty litter around with him forever. But he won’t even take the steps to find out.

  46. Clarification: I don’t think Don is a sex addict. I think he’s a love addict. For a concise explanation of what that means, read posts #33, 35, & 38. Those commenters obviously did a better job than me explaining the dangerous illusion under which love addicts operate.

    Thank you for your comments, peeps! I haven’t had the time to read them all but I’m looking forward to doing so.

  47. As for Don and Betty having personality disorders, they’re FICTIONAL.

    This is a blog devoted to discussing a fictional television show and its fictional characters. We’ve previously discussed the alcoholism and the Asperger’s disorder of fictional characters, and we almost always discuss their personality traits, problems, flaws, and assets. That’s the purpose of the blog. Personality disorders are on-topic and in keeping with our years of discussions.

    This particular line of criticism is therefore out of line.

  48. Great post, this will be a long “off season” waiting to see what happens! I’m curious to see if he ever tells Megan about his true identity.

  49. To add to what cgeye said in #42, he was also occasionally dating Bethany during that period.

  50. Great post, MarlyK!!

    I just finished reading all the posts, and enjoyed them all. Really insightful, and a great look into Don’s character. I agree with you, btw.

  51. Faye knew of Dick Whitman, but she did not know Dick Whitman.

    Usylo, that’s very interesting. I was about to write, “Great point, very insightful,” but then I remembered his blubbering mess during the G-men scare, and to me that’s Dick Whitman. Not the happy carefree Dick whom Megan saw, but childish, frightened Dick. They’re both Dick Whitman.

    So Faye hasn’t seen happy Dick Whitman, but she did meet the scared abused boy Dick Whitman.

  52. This post and the comments that follow include some useful information for me. I have some experience with running from reality. Maybe as a response to a “lack of love” in my past. Fictional and allegedly non-fictional American media, including advertising, often indicates that “finding the one person who will love you and understand you and put up with your neediness no matter how you behave or what you do,” is the answer to this problem of “lack of love.” MM and BoK gives me a new perspective on this behavior. “[G]uess what? You’re using your lover as drug. It is borne of a very real lack of love as a child.”

    I read a few posts that seem to belie the use of FICTION as a tool discossing real life disorders and problems. I admit that sometimes I worry that my reliance on fiction for life lessons might be an indication that I am still in full flight from reality myself, but I am confidant that I am able to distinguish fiction from truth. No matter, I often learn more from good fiction and the analysis thereof than I do from any “true” Hollywood stories. In short, thanks to the originator and all the commentators on this one

    A few of my favorites:

    “NO ONE can see the real face of the narcissist because they don’t have one. They borrow from others and create a persona – of charm and success and everything they want people to think of them.”
    - I am no psychologist, but this seem accurate and applicable.

    “when you start making mature choices, it shows you’re actively saving yourself.”
    -good parental advice.

    “And when you’ve really got the saving yourself thing down, you actually fall in love with the person who is a mature choice.”
    -good relationship advice.

    “If it really is true love between him and Megan, they can wait a while to get married.”
    -more good relationship advice.

    “In some ways he’s replacing Anna as much as Betty”
    -I think Peggy is replacing Anna (See “The Suitcase”)

    “The problem for Don is that the idea of “falling in love” is an utter and complete fantasy, all caught up in his glorification of an idealized Redemptive Woman, the mother he never had.”
    -This goes back to episode 1, Season 1. Don tell Rachel that Love is an idea made up by men like him to sell products.

  53. In a more enlightened time, Don should have taken a year off & gone to some mountain retreat where he could be chaste, live on a strict macrobiotic diet, meditate & undergo the currently hip flavor of therapy. Until he had worked though all his “issues” & was worthy of a mature relationship.

    But Don has responsibilities that can’t go On Hold. The company is in the hands of Roger, Pete & Lane–all complex characters with issues of their own. (Did Lane reunite his family because leaving them would leave his son in the clutches of Evil Grandpa? One of many reasons to Tune In Next Season.)

    And Don has kids. Betty bitched about doing 99% of the child-rearing while she still had Carla. Now she will have precious little time to devote to important tasks like finding dreadful new kitchen wallpaper. She might need time off–with medication or not. (Henry can’t just “dump” her; those hateful New York divorce laws now protect her. But he might have a serious Come to Jesus Talk–although he’s too much of a WASP to use that phrase.)

    I was skeptical about Faye because her Focus Group was an unscientific dog & pony show, designed to tell the clients what they wanted to hear. Next, I realized that she didn’t think she was suited to counseling troubled people; letting ad agencies claim their campaigns had scientific backing was a harmless way to earn a living. Then she let Don into her life–& started counseling him. While falling in love. Therapists shouldn’t screw their patients; that Chinese Wall works both ways. I can understand her pain, but she will recover to work even harder. And eventually love again–until she gets it right.

    We don’t know much about Megan. She did go after Don, so I don’t see her as passively needy as Betty. And he did fall in love with her. No, it might not be “real” love as peddled by eHarmony.com. But he will just have to continue to live his life & work on his problems on the side. Maybe he will eventually talk to a lawyer—but not because he’s been nagged into it.

  54. Great post MarlyK.

    This issue, with me, was not whether Faye or Megan was better able to save Don/Dick, but who was the better option to commit to. Draper may not be happier with either choice, but, as Megan is portrayed, if he can’t find happiness with her, then he’s not yet ready to find happiness with anyone. And this may well be a theme in season 5.

    Has Don done enough self-reflection and healing to be part of a healthy relationship? He did do a lot of growing in season 4, he did let Faye and Peggy in on his secret identily. He did, (for the time being) cut back on his drinking that was affecting both his health and his work. How much self-reflection is enough? In the penultimate episode of this season, we saw Don conclude that he’d done enough, when he tore out the pages of his journal and wrote his bold, brash, go-screw-yourself letter to the Tobacco Industry. At that point, too, we should have realized that Dr. Faye was on her way out, as well. Faye is a successful woman in her mid-30′s who’s still deep into self-reflection and still trying to get it right. She’s light-years ahead of Don, but, after her fling with Draper, she’ll probably be stuck in analysis for the next 30 years.

    Megan, on the other hand, at just 25, is pretty much hunky-dorey with everything, even her horse-teeth. And this is not to put her down, she has what Buddhists would call, a very old soul. Yes, much of it has to do with (I presume) a far more functional childhood.

    Don’s reasons for falling in love with Megan are very correct, even if his decision to propose may be wrong. Their sex has not been portrayed as passionate or rowdy (unlike most of his other sexcapdes) instead, I infer that his sex with Megan has been all about intimacy and not about agression. Isn’t this a good thing? A sign of progress? The fact that they could have sex in early August, and actually grow closer in a professional relatonship over the next two months, without sex?

    Don is acting impulsively, but his impulsilve, unilateral break with Tobacco was probably the right thing to do. He wasn’t about to suggest it at a Partner’s meeting and then see the idea suffer paraylysis by analysis. Nor was he ready to try to marry Faye and spend the next 5 years in pre-matrimonial couples counseling.

    And this is not meant to disregard psychiatry and counseling, but some individuals can only go so far, at least in the short run.

  55. Too bad Don’s accountant doesn’t tell Don to see an atty about his little Whitman/Draper military problem. Don seems to follow every suggestion his accountant makes.

  56. Did Faye know of Dick Whitman? He confessed to her about the military desertion, but I don’t think he told her anything about who he was before that. He may have told her and we didn’t see it, but I always found it a little odd that we didn’t see that since that is what he is most ashamed of.

  57. #45 Meowser; A dishonorable discharge from the US armed forces usually includes a substantial prison sentence. It is no wrist slap. Desertion is a military crime and the punishment serious. Draper would be the guest of Uncle Sam at the Armed Forces Disiplinary Barracks at Leavenworth Kansas, if he is convicted in a Court Martial.
    I think Don has had a conversation about this with his lawyer, his advice, keep your mouth shut. Who will go to the US Army about Don, a woman scorned, that’s who. There are a lot of suspects if it ever happens.

  58. I agree–even though in many ways the show seemed to set up a “Faye v Megan” battle, I don’t think that is really the key issue.

    I think Faye dodged a bullet and Megan is going to have a massive struggle.

    I think it has also been easy to fall into a Don v. Betty –”who is more psychologically flawed and therefore more responsible for the disintegration of their marriage?”

    That isn’t fair, either. First, both Don and Betty seem to have some pretty big issues, though Betty seems to have gotten much weirder over time.

    Second–I agree that Betty legally was the one to “leave” Don–but Don seems to have “left” Betty before the first episode of Season 1 (emotionally, physical intimacy). In fact, it is arguable that Don “never even showed up” in his marriage to Betty to begin with. The truth is that Don never could ‘show up’ in that marriage because Don is Dick. Dick could have shown up and didn’t until it was far too late.

    I’ve also seen a lot of comments that talk about Don “being more like Dick” or being “more like Don” in various situations.

    I agree with some of this, but I also think that the Dick v. Don distinction isn’t quite fair. Don is a creation of Dick, but Dick is always Dick even when he calls himself Don.

    True Mr. Hyde was very different from fabulous Dr. Jekyll, but both Hyde and Jekyll were aspects of the same person. The overly perfect reputation of Jekyll was partially false, because Mr. Hyde actually was a part of Jekyll. He could pretend to separate the two–to divide the two–but he was BOTH.

    So my hestitation with the engagement to Megan isn’t an artistic quibble with MW. I can see why MW would go there. My hestitation isn’t with the historic believability of it—things like the whirlwind romance between a boss and his secretary happened. My hestitation isn’t with Megan–while I don’t know if she’s as good as she’s been made to seem, I have no good reason to believe she’s bad or secretly hiding terrible things. I can see why Don would choose her. My hesitation isn’t exactly about Faye. I strongly sympathize with Faye, but I didnt’ think they were “made for each other” and he’s seemed more awkward with her since he had the panic attack. I didn’t expect that to work in the long-run.

    I guess I see Dick’s attempt to hide Dick and become “fabulous Don” as a bit like Jekyll deciding that he would separate his personality into 2–maintain his own sqeaky-clean image by “becoming somebody else” to go out and explore all of his vices. It is damaging to Dick/Don. Jekyll thought he could go back to becoming Jekyll whenever he wanted–but it became harder and harder to give up Hyde–and in the end he became more like Hyde and needed the potion to return to being Jekyll. His natural state changed from being mostly Jekyll to mostly Hyde–yet Jekyll and Hyde were both part of the same person.

    Dick/Don is sort of the reverse. He didn’t like Dick–so he create Don. Don is talented, creative, award-winning, successful, attractive, accepted by important people in NYC, a great father, and “happy.” Dick was poor, a bastard, abused, unhappy, lonely, weak, and eventually a criminal deserter who tried to buy off his brother.

    At this point, I think that Dick has been Don for so long–he is BOTH now. He cannot easily switch back between Don and Dick whenever he feels like it. When Don wants to be Don–Dick occasionally rears his head. But even if there are some good reasons for going back to being Dick (honesty, coming clean) “Don” has become very strong and rebells against returning to a more honest and vulnerable Dick.

    It struck me when Don made his move on Stephanie–Don could never seriously date Stephanie as “Don Draper.” He could only be Dick to her and her mom. And it struck me how difficult it would be for Don to actually go back to being Dick.

    Turning himself in would mean going back to being Dick (abused bastard, vulnerable, etc.)

    So my hesitations about the marriage stem from the fact that –so far–Don seems to be in “Don mode” with Megan (I know some would disagree with this, some would say Dick, but the point is he needs to be upfront about both Don and Dick). If Don could fully acquaint Megan with both Don and Dick over time and let her get to know all of him, that would be different.

    But the hastiness of the proposal seems to be related to the fact that Don wants Megan to marry Don BEFORE she has a chance to find out about Dick in case she would reject Dick. Yes, Don said something like “you don’t know about me” and maybe he would have told Megan if she’d been more interested. Considering the weight of what he had to say, however, he should not have let Megan sidetrack that conversation.

    Don mistakes Megan’s acceptance of him as being like Anna’s acceptance of him. The difference is that Anna knew MOST OF the truth, and Megan thinks she doesn’t need to know. Don thinks that if he marries Megan, he will always feel like suave Don and he won’t have to feel like vulnerable Dick.

    I think that Megan looks at Don–and like a woman in love–she sees everything about him as wonderful. Don loves being seen that way. Don doesn’t want Dick to show up right now and ruin this.

    I guess I feel like it’s a bit like the Picture of Dorian Grey, as well. Don wants a “happy and successful image” –but back behind closed doors is this painting of Don/Dick that shows every fault, poor choice, and imperfection.

    Don–like Dorian and Jekyll–wants the approval of society, wants to look good, wants his reputation–and he keeps secrets to protect that part of himself.

    This could stem back to being abused. If his father, step mother, and/or Uncle Mac over-reacted to every little imperfection, then Dick would want to be perfect so he wouldn’t be shamed and bullied.

    A parent who had been more open and accepting of all of life’s little imperfections may have made Dick more capable of accepting all aspects of himself, even the imperfect aspects.

    I think Megan has shown herself to be warm and accepting of imperfections. This seems positive. But there is a huge difference between “life’s imperfections” and “massive lies about my name, identity, and past.” The fact that Megan is willing to let the little things go should not mean that Don’s past is insignificant to her.

    Don has not yet given Megan a real chance to accept Dick. Will he? Before they marry?

  59. I don’t think it will mean squat if Don confides to Megan about his Dick. Draper is such a reach for her (“oooh I can’t believe this”) she will calmly overlook his past like so much spilled milk(shake). Not that it matters. True to his avatar character, Don will always be driving the truck and he, not she, will decide Megan’s fate. She is as expendable in his life as the now-iconic milk(shake) sodden napkin. It is inconceivable to me that MW will maintain this status quo.

  60. #59 Rod

    You make a decent point, but I don’t think we really know enough about Megan to decide for her either way.

    Don doesn’t know enough about Megan to decide for her –either way.

    The point is that BY NOT GIVING MEGAN THE CHOICE UNTIL IT IS TOO LATE it is profoundly unfair to Megan. It denies her agency and does not respect her right to know something that could profoundly impact her whole life (say she gets pregnant and then Don gets hauled off to prison.)

    Now, just because she is given a choice does not mean she would make the “smart choice” or the “good choice”. You are right, she may be so excited and in love with the idea of being married to Don that she throws caution to the wind.

    But she should be given the choice.

    I think by NOT giving Megan that choice, by hiding Dick, Don is doing a disservice to both Megan and himself.

  61. Don’t looking for a mother.

  62. Sorry, brain synapse there. Don’s looking for a mother, both literally and figuratively.

  63. Two comments:

    1. Everyone keeps talking about Don having a “healthy” relationship, but we’re looking at it from a 2010 perspective. In 1965 there would have been far less emphasis on knowing someone’s psyche, and much more emphasis on physical attraction, being a good provider and treating your spouse well. The phenomenon of getting in touch with your innermost feelings as a prerequisite for a successful relationship is still several years off.

    2. We seem to be overlooking Megan’s feelings about the relationship and the proposal. There’s no doubt she had a big crush on Don, and got up the nerve to make a move after channeling her inner Cosmo girl (i agree with someone’s comment in an earlier blog that her hairstyle change made her look like a Helen Gurley Brown wannabe). But 1965 is still on the cusp of the feminist movement, and marriage was still the goal. (Despite her career trajectory Peggy stated that she wanted to be married; even uber-career woman Faye seems to be longing for marriage/home). Megan was swept off her feet with Don’s declarations of love. To give her credit, she did hesitate a bit before replying to his proposal. But she’s repressing any misgivings she has because of the expectations of the times, and, well, he’s *Donald Draper*! Imagine how it must feel to act upon your biggest schoolgirl crush and have those feelings (seemingly) reciprocated!

    Great, great discussions, everyone!!

  64. # 9. Interesting – but I still find “Series four” Betty to be closer than Don to “classic” NPD for a number of reasons. Our recent Betty shows no empathy or remorse for her actions – zip, nada, null – can’t even comprehend why she should. It’s her complete lack of remorse that kicks it across the line. My personal narcissist cycled back and forth between a facade of loveliness and Cruella DeVille – very much like the MM Betty portrayal. However, my NPD person suffered extreme and extended childhood abuse. Betty’s behavior seems out of kilter for a child raised in a reasonably good environment.

    I totally agree with you that “Series 1-4″ Don also carries many narcissistic traits, but in his case remorse seems a frequent visitor to an ongoing nightmare. Alcoholism, bed hopping with later payoffs to ease his regrets, and panic attacks all could be signs of remorse. Or perhaps not. As you’ve mentioned, character personalities have shifted – some quite a bit.

    I guess the question I’m circling with this is “Why do so many of these characters have such extreme personality flaws?” The advertising/marketing crowd’s antics never much caught my fancy, but I can’t remember ever tripping over a clot of crazy as is portrayed by this bunch.

  65. # 60, I think by NOT giving Megan that choice, by hiding Dick, Don is doing a disservice to both Megan and himself.

    LK … I think you’r missing it. Don will have no choice to give. Faye will spill the beans to Megan in a cat fight … probably Episode 1 next season.

  66. First, thank you to MarlyK for writing such a thought-provoking article.

    Second, I find myself agreeing the most with Usylo in comment #33, though all of the viewpoints expressed are interesting.

    One of the amazing things about Mad Men is that it lends itself to a wide ranging array of seemingly valid, yet often contradictory interpretations.

  67. I think Megan has shown herself to be warm and accepting of imperfections. This seems positive. But there is a huge difference between “life’s imperfections” and “massive lies about my name, identity, and past.” The fact that Megan is willing to let the little things go should not mean that Don’s past is insignificant to her.

    This, cubed. I don’t think it would ever occur to Megan that the “a lot of things” that Don alluded to could include committing a crime for which he could still be court-martialed, or that having unwittingly filled out fraudulent security clearance paperwork for Don, now she’s on the hook too. She probably means she already knows about the drinking and the womanizing and his famously ill temper. She couldn’t possibly have a clue that identity theft was the straw that broke his marriage; that wouldn’t have occurred to anyone then, not even someone as sophisticated as Faye.

    Maybe he thinks he can hide the evidence better this time. Keep the stuff in the bank rather than in a desk drawer at home. Don’t take on any defense accounts. Make up a different birth mother and a whole different childhood. Tell her he changed his name because he liked the sound of “Don Draper” better. He’s a very, very gifted storyteller.

  68. I agree that Betty legally was the one to “leave” Don–but Don seems to have “left” Betty before the first episode of Season 1 (emotionally, physical intimacy). In fact, it is arguable that Don “never even showed up” in his marriage to Betty to begin with. The truth is that Don never could ‘show up’ in that marriage because Don is Dick. Dick could have shown up and didn’t until it was far too late.

    Yes. This too. He fell in love with other women; he didn’t just screw around. And he already had a foot out the door with Suzanne when Betty found the box. Had he gone away with her for the weekend, he’d probably have fallen in love for keeps right then and there, just like he did with Megan in California, and that would have been that. But he’d have gotten to leave on his own terms, rather than Betty’s.

  69. A dishonorable discharge from the US armed forces usually includes a substantial prison sentence. It is no wrist slap. Desertion is a military crime and the punishment serious. Draper would be the guest of Uncle Sam at the Armed Forces Disiplinary Barracks at Leavenworth Kansas, if he is convicted in a Court Martial.
    I think Don has had a conversation about this with his lawyer, his advice, keep your mouth shut. Who will go to the US Army about Don, a woman scorned, that’s who. There are a lot of suspects if it ever happens.

    You might well know more about this than I do. But aren’t there different levels of less-than-honorable discharges? Jimi Hendrix, according to the biography Room Full of Mirrors, faked being gay to get discharged from the Army in the early 60s, and he didn’t do any time for it. (He would have had he gone AWOL, though, and it was peacetime.)

    And if he’d already consulted a lawyer about it, why wouldn’t he have told Faye he’d already done that? Faye seems to believe that his having been a kid who panicked would carry some judicial weight, especially since Don is so successful now and can afford top-drawer legal help, someone who specialized in that sort of case. If he’d already consulted someone on that level and they said, “Sorry, you’re SOL,” I’d think that would have been the first thing out of his mouth when she suggested it.

  70. #69 Meowser; You are correct. There are more than one level of less than honorable discharges. The most common is the General Discharge under honorable conditions which could include something like being a sleepwalker or other physical or mental issues that would prevent someone from serving in the Armed Forces that were detected after induction. Those discharged under this would be able to seek care in a VA hospital. The other is a General Discharge under less than honorable conditions. This was used to among other things to discharge overt homosexuals in the 1960′s. The General Discharge under less than honorable could be either administrative or the result of a Court Martial. This is what they would have used on Jimi Hendrix. A Dishonorable Discharge is given only by a Court Martial.

    Today Iraq war vets found guilty of desertion serve 18 months confinement but Military justice is not civilian justice. Draper and his lawyer don’t want a Court Martial, but someone that can fix their problem. There are those cases of long time deserters who have been discharged under less than honorable conditions and served no time.You have to know the right Congressman or have political connections. Henry Francis is just the guy to do this. Henry, being a Repubican, would love to embarrass the Democrats about this,and keep Don paying money to Betty for the kids.

  71. I guess the question I’m circling with this is “Why do so many of these characters have such extreme personality flaws?” The advertising/marketing crowd’s antics never much caught my fancy, but I can’t remember ever tripping over a clot of crazy as is portrayed by this bunch.

    That’s because you don’t know them that well, don’t see them from the insides, aren’t privy to their secrets. The truth is, MOST people are more fucked up than we imagine.

    He fell in love with other women; he didn’t just screw around. And he already had a foot out the door with Suzanne when Betty found the box. Had he gone away with her for the weekend, he’d probably have fallen in love for keeps right then and there, just like he did with Megan in California

    …and would have done nothing. He fully intended to compartmentalize indefinitely with Rachel, while telling her and himself that he was ‘trying to figure out what to do.’ He only wanted her to go away with him because he was found out and panicked. The same was, and would have continued to be, true with Suzanne.

    Don, in his own twisted way, is honorable. He didn’t see himself as a tomcat like Roger (which is why Bobbie upset him so). He saw himself as having relationships and falling in love and being serious, seemingly without understanding that doing this while married was not okay. I’m not saying he didn’t understand cognitively, Don isn’t delusional, but emotionally he was able to live fully separate experiences with his wife and mistresses, and would have kept on doing so.

  72. “The truth is, MOST people are more fucked up than we imagine.”

    I totally agree. I think that this is what makes MM realistic – not the clothes or the furniture. This is what makes it fascinating.

  73. #71 Deborah re: “That’s because you don’t know them that well, don’t see them from the insides, aren’t privy to their secrets. The truth is, MOST people are more fucked up than we imagine.”

    Excellent point, and that’s the lure or a series of Mad Men, where they’re able to spend 4 years of episodes revealing just how screwed up these folks are.

    The character of Megan doesn’t see Don the way the view does. Stan Rizzo thinks Peggy is screwed up, but he has no idea just how screwed up she really is! Connie thought he could have Don Draper eating out of his hand. Even a know-it-all like Dr. Faye had no idea what she was getting involved it. And these kind of encounters are very much like real life, when we encounter new people in our daily lives and think we know what’s going to happen and yet are sometimes surprised…. just as we probably surprise them, in turn.

  74. This bunch crazy? I don’t think so. We just know so much about them. They’re like family.

    Except Don. Don’s our philosopher king. He reads, he studies, he sees ghosts (and talks to them), he senses the future, he breaks chains of the past, he inhabits other people’s lives.

    Do you want a piece of Don? He’ll give it to you but he’ll eventually shed that piece and you along with it.

    He doesn’t belong to a place, a person or a time. And that’s what’s so sad – he doesn’t belong and he aches to belong. Just like us.

  75. Thank you for an incredibly insightful post. So very true.

  76. He fully intended to compartmentalize indefinitely with Rachel, while telling her and himself that he was ‘trying to figure out what to do.’ He only wanted her to go away with him because he was found out and panicked. The same was, and would have continued to be, true with Suzanne.

    You think? She lived awfully close by; there’s no way it wouldn’t have eventually gotten back to Sally. Tough to compartmentalize where everyone can see it. And it seemed to me that she wasn’t too far from forcing his hand; if he was in love, he’d probably have gone for it.

    (edited by Meowser for tagfail)

  77. I love this post and I, too, learned and thought a lot about it. I can’t help but wonder about the future Megan. She’s obviously well educated, and ambitious, very warm and positive. What will Don’s reaction be to Megan wanting more in terms of her own life and the fulfillment of her dreams? Will Don be threatened, thinking that his “mom” is once again leaving him? After all, women’s lib is on the horizon. While Megan appears to be incredibly giving and kind and in the throes of fulfillment in her relationship with Don, I don’t doubt that she will strive for more than a step-mom role and a house in the suburbs. If she’s able to remain in love with Don, she could very well be the catalyst in Don’s quest to discover himself and, ultimately, his will to maintain the relationship with Megan. I suppose that wouldn’t make for great drama though… I’m definitely looking forward to S5!

  78. #71 “That’s because you don’t know them that well, don’t see them from the insides, aren’t privy to their secrets.”

    Well, I suppose Step-Mom, Dad, and family friends could have had secret lives. But if so I prefer imaging them as Wonder Woman, Batman, and their trusty companions.

    “The truth is, MOST people are more fucked up than we imagine.” After some thought – and ignoring one close family member – recollection brought up a small handful of close friends/coworkers with minor emotional or behavioral problems. It could well be my chosen field filters out would-be nutters early on, shifting my “standard deviation” well off the general population.

    With MM I enjoy each show for its exemplary acting, witty dialog, and dead-cool staging. What I’m not feeling is its over-emotive freestyle melodrama. Me, I’m hoping season 5 feels more like season 1 or 3. A merry-go-round morphing into a roller coaster gives me a tummy-ache!

  79. Henry Francis is just the guy to do this. Henry, being a Repubican, would love to embarrass the Democrats about this,and keep Don paying money to Betty for the kids.

    That would only be too perfect, if Henry Francis turned out to be Don’s savior. I always figured Henry, if he knew about this, would be on the blower to the Pentagon tout de suite; on the other hand, he does really seem to like those kids, and knows they’d be upset to see their father put in jail.

  80. #79 Meowser:

    I think Henry finally has some sympathy for Don, with the way that Betty’s behaving, and he’s realizing there’s two sides to the story of Don and Betty’s marriage. Who knows, they could become “best buds” – nothing like a shared misery to bring two people together!

  81. On Faye knowing of Dick Whitman, but not knowing Dick Whitman

    #51

    I think of Dick Whitman being a more willing state of a mind. He doesn’t want her there. She keeps having to break down barriers to even remotely get through to him; just the the sheer number of times he tells her not to worry, that he doesn’t need to go home, that she should go home, that he’ll be fine, that he doesn’t know what scared him, that he shouldn’t have told her. Even if you do consider the panic attack to be an aspect of Dick, it’s not the Dick that Anna’s seen, Megan’s seen, or even Peggy’s seen. The panic attack would have occurred to anyone; it’s not Don willfully and intentionally revealing that aspect of himself.

    #56

    That’s a great point, that re-enforces what I was saying. Don tells Faye his basic, legal problem. Outside of the fact that he fears being caught (again, not something he set out to let her know), she knows nothing. Not his real name, not his personal relationship with his two identities, or the greater toll it’s taken on him. She knows he was a deserter.

    So much of their relationship seemed like a constant negotiation to me, but that’s another conversation.

    Thanks to the others that mentioned my post, or saw truth in it.

    On another note, many are commenting on Megan not knowing either, but Matt Weiner has said in interviews that she doesn’t care. The finale itself also suggests this, so it may not be the loaded gun everyone seems to suspect. I don’t suspect it to be, if only because we’ve gone done this road with Betty.

  82. [...] Merry-Go-Round | Basket of Kisses Don does not know how to be happy. And there is a very good reason he doesn’t know how. He was trained to feel that he was bad and that he didn’t deserve it. [...]

  83. Wow, I learn so much reading these posts…there are some brilliant deconstructions & parsing of this season which is definitely a tribute to the artistry and genius of Matthew Weiner & Co. in crafting MM.

    #16, Lori K, that is wonderful analysis; I too noticed the window/door motif this season…I argue that the marriage proposal was dream-like b/c it was the brightest Don’s bedroom has been lit with blinds partially exposed & it reflecting his new found open-ness & hope. I didn’t know what to make of Betty’s giving Don the key but you had a nice lyrical explanation that tied in the symbolism of the key & the window to the last shot of the finale.

    # 33; Usylo, that is a fantastic, articulate analysis that you have. I’ve only deeply analyzed season 4 b/c I breezed through s1-3 on dvd, so I also had the general impression that Don was a cad who left his lovers & only enjoyed the beginning of things, but your detailing of the fates of his past lovers show it is just an impression and not fact.

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