Guest post by Sarah M.
Sarah M is a grad student in Children’s and Young Adult literature, at work on a rock opera retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.”
We all know Don rushed into his engagement; propelled by an idea of who Megan is. We also know Don has a clear grasp of how Megan sees him—successful, composed, ‘a good man’—and perpetuating this idea of himself is as appealing to him as his idea of her.
I’m starting to think Megan understands how Don sees her as well. Just as Don is not the sum of his sincere (if unanchored) desire to change, Megan is not the sum of her nurturing nature. But I don’t think Megan is another Betty. I think the tables are turning, and Don is about to wake up in Betty’s former place. Has he ever had reason to get jealous? No. Possessive, sure, that comes with his assumed cultural entitlement, but he’s never been truly threatened by Betty’s attraction to another man, thanks to his iconic stance. He represents the incarnated ideal of a male in 1950s America. Megan, however, is not American, and she is not a product of the era as Don understands it.
When a beautiful woman tells Don Draper, “I just want you right now,” it’s easy to assume that she was simply overcome by his allure. I contend, though, that this is not the first time Megan has been so forthright with a sought-after man. She wasn’t raised in America, and she’s not confined by the same limiting notions of femininity that hold Betty down. She’s ambitious, an art student who’s made it clear that career matters to her. And unlike Betty, or, arguably, any Mad Woman we’ve encountered so far, she’s not afraid to show she’s well-aware of her own beauty. In Tomorrowland, she doesn’t stop by Don’s hotel room to “see if he needs anything.” She’s going out, and she wants to make sure she has a second to stun him with that sleek black dress, which draws attention to her cleavage in a way that no woman of Betty’s generation would dare.
Age will only become more relevant. Throughout the series, Don has been the young foil to Roger’s steadily rusting notions of business. But, as Don attends dinners and functions with Megan on his arm, she’s going to notice other men. Peggy once asked, “What if this is my time?” and, with a few more weeks of thought, I don’t think she would’ve phrased it as a question. Ambitious women who refuse to fear their own sexuality are claiming their time at this point, as are the men who respect such qualities. Alongside Megan, Peggy, and other women’s understanding that we are entering an era with fewer confinements, other men will begin to understand this too, and not have to act in accordance with the pressures that created the Don Draper/Dick Whitman split. These men will be more cosmopolitan than Don, more readily open to new ideas. They will have traveled far more extensively; they’ll speak French. This is important, in part because Megan and her mother are close. How susceptible will a French Canadian matriarch be to the charms of an aging American ad man who doesn’t speak her language? I wouldn’t be surprised if Don’s unsatisfied in-law offers up a few local contenders, eventually imploring her to change her mind about the engagement. Don has never had to prove himself to a woman. When he did, all he needed was to be more honest; that’s how he won Rachel and Faye.
I think we’ll meet Megan’s mother, and when we do, we’ll encounter the first sure-of-herself women Don’s ever met who’s completely immune to even his saddest stories. We’ve already seen Don surrender some of his power because he can’t speak French. Megan and her mother can talk about anything without his knowing it, an unprecedented position of power for a woman in Don’s life. Megan will start to keep her own secrets, and, when it becomes clear that there are elements of her that he can’t understand, expectations of her that are out of line with who she is and how she lives, she will have an affair. She may have several. At one point, Don, wrecked with feelings of sexual inferiority that he’s never experienced before, might call Betty with a drunken outpouring of apologies.
Upon hanging up, she’ll twist to this song: