Who is Don Draper, besides being Dick Whitman?
On the one hand he is a self-made man who has ably demonstrated Galt’s creed: “I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
Just ask his half brother, or his poor wife and children.
I was surprised when Ayn Rand was brought into Mad Men via Mr. Cooper. Other than on The Simpsons, she’s not a sixties cultural touchstone that turns up in TV shows the way Kennedy/Nixon, The Apartment, and Maypo might. The fact that this week--in fact I believe it's today--is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged makes it all even more intriguing.
Personally I don’t see Don as a Rand hero at all. For one thing he isn’t good enough at his job. Her heroes are extremely competent to brilliant at what they do, and Don’s creative ideas just aren’t that good. Does anyone remember Bethlehem Steel?
"Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong." Francisco d'Anconia
What Don is good at is impersonating a life, something Rand would have contempt for. He didn’t earn the Purple Heart, he didn’t marry a soulmate, and he supports the system he works in, even if he is good at manipulating it. He hates Kennedy, maybe because he senses another poseur like himself. As Robert Dallek tells us, Kennedy’s image of youth and health was an illusion: “Films at the Kennedy library . . . . suggest that the variety of ailments Kennedy had struggled with for a long time—spastic colitis, osteoporosis, prostatitis, urethritis, and Addison's disease (a malfunction of the adrenal gland)—may have been the principal contributing factor” for his hands shaking. Very little, we all learned later, was what it seemed in Camelot.
“To me, there's only one form of human depravity--the man without a purpose." Hank Rearden
Draper doesn’t take his responsibilities as husband and father, two honorable roles, as a true purpose. Becoming a partner in an ad agency might be purposeful to him; leaving his family and starting a more sincere life over with Rachel might be a purpose.
At the end of the day, if Don is going to fulfill a TV destiny as a latter-day Rand hero, he must become what he now only pretends to be.
“A is A.” John Galt
Pop over to newcritics tomorrow at 10:00 ET as we watch the all-important penultimate MM episode.