The Chase

 Posted by on July 18, 2012 at 6:29 am  Characters, Mad Men, Season 5
Jul 182012

It doesn’t matter what he looks like: at that moment, he’s handsome. – Michael Ginsberg, Mystery Date

A fairy tale is a dark business. In the days before Disney annexed the property, sanitized it, and redid everything in primary colors, it was the province of monsters, prisoners, cruelty, and death. In Season Five, we’ve seen the shadow side of at least two fairy tales: Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. We have also seen a certain element in these stories recur throughout the season: a woman tries to escape a man who is pursuing her.

Cinderella, as told by Michael Ginsberg in Mystery Date, is a tale of horror. Calling the title character “wounded prey,” he draws a sinister picture of what she sees as she flees: “running down this dark side street, big shadows, she’s scared.” He finishes with a conclusion any 1960’s client would love: “In the end, she wants to be caught.”

She then rose up and fled, as nimble as a deer. The Prince followed, but could not overtake her. – Perrault, Cinderella/The Little Glass Slipper

Months later, Butler is selling its shoes using another fairy tale: Beauty and the Beast. This one stars Megan Calvet, done up in Disney style. She’s excited (“I can’t believe this is happening,” she tells her husband). She may just as well be afraid: this fairy tale is about “a genuine monster” who takes a beautiful young girl prisoner as payment for her father’s crime. In the story, Beauty — like Cinderella — tries to escape, only to return to her animal lover when she realizes she’s fallen for him.

You’ll come out or I’ll break down the door! – The Beast, Beauty And the Beast (1991)

Megan Draper is living an inverted version of Beauty and the Beast. In her story, the beautiful young girl still married a man she barely knew, but her bridegroom does not appear to be any kind of beast. Don is handsome, successful, polished, even magnetic. Even so, we see her realize in Far Away Places that the man within is something else entirely — and run from him.

You’re a pig! – Megan Draper, Far Away Places

When Megan runs away, we know what will happen. Cinderella escapes the prince as she flees the castle, but we know that in the end she marries him. Belle, in a relationship with a monster, is able to change his fate but not her own. He becomes something more acceptable; but can she ever forget his rage, her own terror?

When I was little, I often had questions after the fairy tales ended. Who was going to be Snow White’s mother now? Was Sleeping Beauty happy with what she saw when she woke up? Could Cinderella love a man who knew her feet and not her face? And what if the magic that turned a frog or a monster to a prince stopped working, and the prince became a beast again?

I think about the fairy tales we’ve heard in Season Five. I think about Pauline’s dark fantasy of the Chicago murders, and Sally’s inability to sleep. I think of Ken’s story about a robot’s deadly rebellion on a bridge. I remember Don’s pitch to Jaguar.

He’d just seen that unattainable object speed by, just out of reach. Because they do that, don’t they? Beautiful things. – Don Draper, The Other Woman

There’s so much violence in a fairy tale. I would run; I know that for sure.

Wouldn’t you?


  32 Responses to “The Chase”

  1. Not all fairy tales have happy endings. The original Little Mermaid (by Hans Christian Anderson) showed the beautiful mermaid dying to save the prince that ultimately loved another woman. The mermaid took her own life rather than destroy the price. She could get her voice back or her tail and rejoin her family. Disney redid the whole thing with Ariel, because what little girl wants to see the beautiful mermaid not get the prince???

    • Hans Christian Anderson’s work can definitely be pretty sad. Remember The Little Match Girl?

      • The Snow Queen haunts me to this day. It has an almost narcotic darkness.

        • Wow, Anne, that is the perfect term to describe that story. It scared me to death as a little girl; to this day I have never finished it!

  2. I agree that fairy tales can be really dark! I used to read Grimm fairy tales years ago….some of them were really gory, as I recall.

    You make interesting points about Megan and Don. I’m still trying to figure out how much smoke and mirrors there was to their early relationship. Don definitely hid himself from Betty, and we know why–he fell for her and wanted her to love the Don that she knew on the surface without ever knowing the truth. With Megan, he told her that he had secrets, and she said she knew all she needed to know (and later we found out that he did tell her at least some things about his past).

    So maybe Don didn’t hide himself from Megan as much as he did from Betty–but as we’ve all discussed here before, Megan may have hid a lot of herself from him. Judging from S4 anyway, I definitely think she presented herself as someone who dabbled in acting and art, but wasn’t really serious about them. Of course, maybe she did really think she could become a woman who was entranced by advertising. Just as Don thought he could become the man that Betty saw.

    As far as personalities and violent natures, I’m still not really sure about that either. Don was scary towards her in Far Away Places, true, but was it partly because he did think she enjoyed their chase-and-pursue scenes? The apartment cleaning set-up in “A Little Kiss, Part 2” did made it seem like Megan liked to fight with him–at least sometimes.

  3. Beautifully written Anne B

  4. I will always wonder, if Don told Betty about his past, and if she accepted him for who he truly was, would he have ever cheated on her? Because I know his cheating had nothing to do with her or their marriage. He obviously loved her and they had sex a lot for a married couple but I ‘m sure it was his lie that caused him to cheat, neglect and be possessive with her. I figured that’s why he doesn’t cheat on Megan.

  5. Aw, bless your heart, Don cheated on Betty because he could. He was living in two different worlds, suburbs and city. It was easy to deceive Betty when she was stuck out in Ossining and didn’t know what went on in the city. Megan knows that he cheated in the past, and she is right there in town, so it would be pretty hard for him to step out on her without getting caught.

    • I have always thought that Don cheated on Betty because cheating is what he does.

      Don is the man who decided in an instant not to be Dick Whitman anymore. He’s impulsive, an uncomfortable soul who self-medicates his discomfort with lies and disguises. Affairs fit nicely with lies and disguises: if he’s already pretending to be someone else, how hard is it to pretend that person isn’t married?

      Yes, affairs are often about convenience for Don. But they’re also about habit. I think it would be just as likely that Megan would cheat on Don, but I do think he’d cheat on her. He loves her, he needs her, but he also needed Betty, and he cheated on her often.

      It’s not that the woman in Don’s life isn’t giving him what he needs. It’s that he always needs something else, too.

      • Ma’am,
        I think you completely captured Don Draper with this: “It’s that he always needs something else, too.”

        Heck, now that I think of it, you described more than just Don… many more.

      • I agree with this. Don is innately impulsive and with respect to sex (random or affair) he is perhaps compulsive. Then we have his other childhood stuff – a bad combination.

        With Megan he consciously wants to do better and put the past behind him but he is not at all confident he can do this. This is likely to be a major theme of S6. I feel like MW & Co. have used parts of S5 to show that Megan is independent and quite comfortable as her own person, that is , not defined by her relationship with Don. Don genuinely loves Megan and does not want to mess this up but he sees Megan’s independence and this is butted directly up against his primary weakness.

        Poor Don but lucky us as we are teed up for a very entertaining season in my opinion!

  6. I read in a Matt Weirner interview where he said that Don is looking for his mother in these other women and that they are his medication. This is a very vague response to why he cheats but it proves to me that it’s not out of entitlement. Plus he never lied to any of his mistresses. It would be so much easier for me to accept his cheating if he was bored with his marriage or just simply didn’t love Betty but I saw no evidence of that. I watched season one thinking, what is she doing wrong?

    • I read in a Matt Weirner interview where he said that Don is looking for his mother in these other women and that they are his medication.

      I believe this. I also like the idea: if Don’s seeking someone he lost, someone he needs … I can’t judge him for that. I can see it as almost hopeful: as if he’s the grieving child who keeps trying to feel comfort again.

      • Also, did anyone notice that Don got rid of Susanne after he confessed to Betty? It was almost as if he didn’t need her anymore now that he wasn’t hiding anything from Betty, he could be open and honest with her and not to his mistresses.

      • Bobbie Barrett as a mommie substitute? Joy? Midge? The airline stewardess? Allison? Don’s cheating with Suzanne was just gross…and I suppose all the other dads who cheated with Suzanne were looking for comfort. My real sympathies lie with Don’s kids and even with Betty.

        • I think there’s a way to feel sympathy for all of them, including Don.

          There must be. Because that’s what I feel.

    • I think of Betty as Don’s trophy. She was the Main Line Grace Kelly beauty, everything a man should want in a wife. Even though she didn’t know about his real background (“thought he was a football star who hated his father”), he felt amazed and humbled that someone like her would want him. Remember the scene where he tells Anna that he is in love and has found the most wonderful woman.

      His upward striving was not only for himself but also to show her and her disapproving father that he was a winner. But once he proved his worth and had her tucked away in Ossining, he found out that there were lots of other codfish at the ball.

      • I am sure he had a few codfish before then too.

      • I don’t think Don cheated because of a libido issue or because he was bored with his marriage. He’s a much more complex person than that. I think it was simply to fill avoid that he didn’t even give Betty a chance to fill.

    • That depresses me — what is SHE doing wrong? So his cheating necessarily has to do with a lack in his wife?

      • You know, after rewatching seasons one through three, it wasn’t Betty’s fault at all. In fact, Don was never unhappy with his marriage to her and he loved her very much. But I noticed that everytime he did cheat on her, he was unhappy. It’s like he used sex with other women to comfort himself. Also he didn’t go out looking for these women, they seduced him and he would always say no but if he was feeling like crap, he would cave in. He only seemed to have “happy sex” with Betty, Faye ( who he also cheated on to comfort himself) and Megan.

        • When Don had sex with Betty, it was because he loved and was attracted to her. He didn’t have that,” Comfort sex’ with her because he didn’t want her to see that other side of him at all. Did you notice how different it was? He was so soft and romantic with Betty. The way he looked at her and kissed her, you can tell that he adored that woman. And with his mistresses, I think he had sex with them just to feel good. He didn’t seem to care if he was pleasing them at all. It’s like he unloaded his baggage and then medicated himself with sex.

  7. I can imagine Ginsberg and father watching “Fractured Fairy Tales” from the “Bullwinkle Show”.

  8. I don’t think that Don’s cheating on Betty had to do with his not loving her (if it did he probably would have divorced her ages ago). As others mentioned it was habit, the secrets that he was keeping that he couldn’t tell her. He was often more hones with mistress Midge and Rachel Menken than he was with her – which is a shame.

    Had she not asked for the divorce at the end of S3, I could see them having a different marriage (with Betty knowing Don’s secrets). Don was once again more attentive towards her after he confessed everything (or most things lol). He was sensitive to her reaction of Kennedy’s shooting (or at least I thought he was). We didn’t see him cheat on her after she found out the truth (that I know of). She initiated the divorce by saying that she didn’t love him, and then getting the attorney. Had Don not found out about Henry, I envisioned him fighting more for her and their marriage.

    • It does start with the secrets. When you start having secrets with someone other than your spouse, lover, best friend — and, of course, keeping secrets from that person — it’s not just messing around anymore.

      I know that much from experience.

      As for Don and Betty’s divorce: I think what Don wanted did not factor in at all. Betty was simply done. There was nothing left in the marriage for her. However hard Don might have worked to try to get her back (and can any of us really imagine him doing that?), she would not have come back — not really. Certainly not for good.

  9. It always bugged me when blogs would blame Betty for the cheating or say that it was out of entitlement when there was no proof of that. Don’s unhappiness never came from Betty or his marriage. Matt Weirner mentioned that Don was looking for his mother in his mitresses in season one so it was only pertaining to Midge and Rachel who did take care of him. He even told about his concerns with Betty. But I noticed that every mistress after Rachel seduced him into an affair so it wasn’t something he wanted to do but for some reason couldn’t help himself. I also noticed that a huge void in Don’s marriage to Betty was open communication. Something he did have with his mistresses.

    • Don can not be open with anyone, he doesn’t trust anyone enough. I do think he is trying to do the best he can in his relationship with Megan. I have commented in previous episode blogs that Don is a classic depiction of a child who grew up in an abusive, neglected home. Can you imagine growing up in a totally loveless home where your “mother” let you know in many ways that you were the child of a whore (I’m a whore-child). He learned his survival skills starting at birth. I bet he hid food when he could, a trait noted in many children adopted from countries that experienced starvation situations. No amount of reassurance by adoptive parents that there will always be food can totally reassure these children and in fact in may take months if not years for this behavior to go away. He learned not to complain, to hide when necessary, to avoid potential and real situations where violence is likely, and never to let anyone know what he wanted, because it would surely be taken away. The amazing thing to me is that he didn’t try to enlist at some point during WWII. A great escape for many people at that time. So, the casual flings, the affairs, are just a symptom of the whole problem, not the problem in and of itself. And on a practical note, if he looked like Pete instead of Don, it would not be happening so often. It is a way of escaping, not putting all your eggs in one basket, because it takes courage to trust just one person, to be open and honest, as noted by Anne B. If you have never done that, never seen anyone do that, how do you know what to do? And that is where Anna’s magic comes into play. She may have been the first person who trusted him and gave of herself without restrictions, and probably in a non-sexual manner. She was his guide to a normal life.

    • It was clear to me from the beginning that Don didn’t cheat out of entitlement. It was when Midge said, that she noticed that he only came to her when something was bothering him and that he was a different person with her. So from then on, I was wondering, why is it that he could be his vulnerable self with her, and not with his wife? And then it was reveled that he had a fake identity that his wife did not know about. To answer your question, yes Don only cheated when he was unhappy. Mostly because he needed someone to be himself with. I also noticed that he didn’t want to cheat and that he was very much in love with Betty. And the reason why Don got rid of Susan is because he confessed to Betty. His last words to her were,” I’m happy now.” If Betty would have stayed with Don, she would have gotten a faithful, honest Don. But the fact that he lied to her for so long was just to much to take and I cannot blame her but I really wish she stayed because I miss Don and Betty together.

      That being said, I also believe a sad Don is a cheating Don. he also cheated on Faye. He didn’t want to, he was seduced by Megan but he was feeling like crap because of what was going on with the article so he does as Matt Weirner once said, use sex to medicate himself. Which is why I believe he will cheat on Megan. He’s been happy this whole season until the finale. There was a reason why he didn’t say no to that girl.

  10. Great point—Don gets off on the chase.

    As I try to argue in my new blog post at, Don has an obsession with what is new and what is unaffected. He hates when others see him as a whore—like Bobbi, or the man that married his mother—He loves Betty’s pureness and original, girlish beauty—He loves the idea of the clean streets of California.

    On another note—I am getting more and more comfortable with the comparisons and similarities between Don and Megan and Beauty and the Beast—I think another great description was on

    Anne—I love your point about all the violence because its complicated by the fact that Megan might enjoy it. She might be sexually gratified by her skirmishes with Don.

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