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Why Is Don Draper So Cool?

So the other week, much to my dismay, I found myself finally joining that group of people who’ll confess to you at parties that they’ve neglected vital functions (sleep, food, human interaction, etc.) in order to plow, uninterrupted, through an entire season of a TV show on DVD. Fortunately in my case, the series in question was Mad Men, which seems to have likewise reduced everyone along the East Coast to a protozoa-caliber state of inactivity on their couch.

My big question is: Why?

Unlike, say, 24, where it seems the show’s producers can’t let more than ten minutes pass without leveling part of L.A. in a nuclear explosion or having Keifer Sutherland roaringly violate the Geneva Convention with yet another heavily-accented suspect, the plotlines in Mad Men (at least in Season One) bubble up slowly, only reaching their decidedly understated climax in the final two episodes. And it’s not the ‘50s setting; when Revolutionary Road opens in a few weeks, watch how quickly it tanks at the box office.

No, I think it could be Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm. But I can’t figure out why a high-level advertising executive holds so much appeal. Is it the casual insouciance of smoking and drinking in the office? The bulletproof hair? The suits? The way his presentations convey existential crisis?

All of the above. But I think the character’s buttoned-down nature plays into a certain modern-day yearning; the man’s life may be slowly coming apart at the seams, his entire social milieu may be crumbling underneath a slow dark tide of prescription drugs, martini-bloated livers, and heart attacks induced by too many expense-dinner steaks – but he keeps looking positively cool and dapper even as the bottom falls out.

Considering that a not-inconsiderable number of the financial types I hang out with have spent the last quarter disheveled, confused, and nose-down in their beers, that’s something to which one can aspire in these times. Perhaps.

Current Music: Sister Machine Gun, “Torque”
Current Movie: “Renaissance” (2006)
Current Book: “The Castle in the Forest,” by Norman Mailer

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