Archive for October, 2009
I’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men. I’m nearly done with the second season. The show takes place in the early 1960’s Manhattan, at an advertising firm called Stanley Cooper. It follows an executive there by the name of Don Draper, and the life he leads and the past he fights.
I can’t help but compare myself to characters I watch in my favorite shows. There are qualities in each character I’ve come to love in each favorite series; I love the living-to-die, gung-ho ferocity of Jack Bauer, I love the power of Tony Soprano, I love the intelligence and leadership of President Josiah Bartlet, and I love how Hawkeye Pierce can turn dark days into light and sarcastic humor. Each character has taken a lot of pain, and in rising from it, has developed some sort of unique strength and intrigue that keeps me watching them. Events and life-changing experiences these characters have that you just don’t get to see in this society where everyone shuns their problems away from others.
Don Draper is different. I like him less than most characters I’ve gotten to know, and I’ll even include all the characters in the thousands of books I’ve read over the years as well. On the surface, if I knew the man, I’d consider him just another suit. He’s gritty, he’s tough as nails to be around if you like to be goofy like me, and he cheats on his loving wife with several women that I can hardly stand to watch. Maybe it’s because my own dad couldn’t stay loyal, and thus it’s hard for me to swallow, but at the very least watching unfaithfulness is tough, and hearing about it makes me subconsciously make a fist. Not a character you can see me enjoying, clearly; yet, I’m deeply interested in him and what he does and how he lives.
I realized this is for one main reason, at least the only one I’ve thought of; unlike every other character I’ve come to love, I have a connection to him that I don’t with anyone else I’ve watched or read about. He has no family. He changed his identity, started fresh after coming home from the Korean War, after a childhood and adolescence where he never found his niche or real home. So he remade himself that on one hand is a success, and in another is this mysterious and empty darkness that he probably had to assume when he shut his old life away. After all, you can’t shun the first couple decades of your life completely without either realizing and emptiness, forming an emptiness, or even risking your own emotionality. I do have more family than Don did, but I know that emptiness he feels. The same things that haunt him haunt me as well. The only difference is, I deal with mine by talking about it and making sure I surround myself with great friends and my dream of a girlfriend, and he deals with his by masking himself from everything and fighting his battles alone to the point where no one gets him.
Every emotion is a crossroads; each story is told with each decision made. Sometimes we deal with it by throwing ourselves into the fires of war, or by making our own army to max out our power, or by joking all the way through until a fifth of liquor becomes a truth serum. Either way, when someone you’re close to mistreats you, it brings you to this crossroads where you either uniquely build yourself back up from its frayed ends, or you end up mistreating others and never letting anyone know who you really are. Sometimes the war doesn’t end in your head or your heart until you end the battle for good.