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.