There’s something about Don Draper.
Something which goes beyond just Jon Hamm poured into a well-cut Boss suit, swigging whiskey at 11am and using a grainy, sandpaper baritone which may just be the gold standard 14 year old boys want to challenge their puberty to.
There’s something else.
Let’s get the facts out of the way first, because all facts ever really do is bring people down: Don is a philanderer, an abysmal husband, a fairly absent father and a moody boss.
But what he does well is carry around him a restlessness, almost like a disturbed body of water, threatening to spill over at the wrong time.
See Don has made it. From a dingy attic in a whore house to a window office overlooking Madison Avenue. He’s living in a plush penthouse and yet none of his success and money wears him. The only two things he’s really carrying around are a whiskey soaked melancholy and raw, pock-marked desire.
Don’s new money coupled with old, dark sadness might be that heady combination that ‘bad boys’ everywhere try to channel. And to great success, might I add, if they succeed.
But that’s the thing about dark sadness, you don’t simply lose it just after your get laid. Don’s aloneness is the tie on his suit and around his neck. He’s never too far from it, even when he takes his clothes off.
This virile, almost aggressive vulnerability is nestled inside a steel armour. You can see it, palpably, somewhere beneath the surface but you’re not going to get to influence it, even if you throw in your account, heart and love in the very hope.
Don’s a cheat.
Don’s a drunk.
Don’s a poor father to his son and Sally.
Don’s running away from lifetimes- from his brother who committed suicide, his friend whose identity he sold, from his mother, from the women in the house he grew up in.
Don’s morally murky
Don’s fractured in places but he’s also strangely whole.
Maybe the synthesis of his appeal to women, is that trademark far away look. Part liquid desire and part giving up.
Maybe the charm is wanting to go along for the ride with Don, knowing all along that the only thing he has ever viciously protected, sustained and nurtured is his own journey- into and away from his aloneness.
Good luck trying to copy that, boys. Working up a silken baritone in your 30s might prove to be easier.
(Kakul Gautam writes frequently and mostly in italics on www.hyperbolemuch.blogspot.com. In her free time, she’s also working on ridding the world of high-fives and LOLs)