I have watched the AMC show, Mad Men, since it aired six years ago. In that time, my feelings towards Jon Hamm’s character, Don Draper, have changed from almost idolatry to an uncomfortable truce with the person I now know he is. I used to find him rakish and charming, but now I find his cavalier attitude towards everyone and everything maddening.
He has demons. I get it. The creator of the show, Matthew Weiner, has shown us through flashbacks that he is haunted by his childhood. He grew up in a whorehouse and was witness to women being treated like, well, like whores. Don Draper is not even really who he is, name, credentials, and otherwise (girl, there is so much more, but just watch the show). Because of the fact that he just won’t deal with his childhood, he hates himself, he drinks too much, he smokes too much, he makes reckless personal choices, and he has severe intimacy issues. He relates to women either as playthings to control or as arm candy that exists only for his pleasure.
I once wrote a letter to Don Draper (just in case you need any further proof that I am crazy) and this line “your choices are causing you to leave an indelible mark on everyone around you and at this point, if I stay involved with you, I will be the one to blame for the blackness you have left on me” stands out because, yes, I wrote the letter to the character Don Draper (and I’m not TOTALLY crazy, it was to be the blog post that turned into this), I was actually addressing someone from my past who reminds me very much of the character Don Draper.
I have always fallen in love with literary characters. Gilbert Blythe broke my heart right along with Anne Shirley back when I read Anne of Green Gables. Most recently, I ached for Naoko and Toru of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. I look for bits and pieces of myself or people I have known in these characters that entrance me so. Sometimes it is easier to make sense of a past hurt or situation when seeing it through the eyes of someone else.
Recently, I watched the movie The Silver Linings Playbook, based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. The book has been on my list of books to read for a while so when my friend Chelsea loaned me the movie I thought I would give it a shot.
I have never been one to go crazy over Bradley Cooper. I think we all know that my favorite cast member from The Hangover is Zach Galifianakis. However, I was crazy about Bradley Cooper in this movie, and joked that of course I was because he was playing a bipolar man who’d had his heart shattered and that I was drawn to him for those reasons. Maybe , maybe not, but I truly was enthralled by him in this movie.
The true love affair for me, however, happened as I continued to watch the movie and I got to know Jennifer Lawrence’s character Tiffany, who plays Cooper’s dancing partner and love interest, eventually. This character was mesmerizing, and Lawrence, who was 21 years old when she made the movie, deserved the Oscar for best actress that she won this year. Let’s give her Gwyneth Paltrow’s Oscar that she won for Shakespeare in Love back in 1998 too because Jennifer Lawrence deserves two and Gwyneth doesn’t deserve any (and I love The Royal Tenenbaums as much as the next guy, but no. Sorry). Marissa Tomei, my dear departed dad’s love for you has kept your Oscar safe. For now.
I think this line encompasses why I love Tiffany so much -
“I was a slut. There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive. Can you say the same for yourself, fucker? Can you forgive? Are you capable of that?”
The fact that her character made some choices that she wasn’t very proud of and she didn’t deny the fact that she made those choices and she didn’t blame anyone else, and she forgave herself, and embraced her “dirty and sloppy”, is an amazingly beautiful thing.
I am introspective, sometimes to a fault. I have tumbled choices around in my head to see them from every angle to try to figure out why I have done some things I have done. I have practically turned beating myself up for those choices into an art form when it became painfully evident that they were mistakes. I do this to hopefully try to learn and become a more evolved, better person. I’ll be honest, it can be exhausting and there are times I wish I was much more like someone who could package the ugly and the dirty and the sloppy into a pretty box and shove it way into the back of my mind and go on with my life, BUT, when I think that might be the way to live, I am reminded of Don Draper, the man who does just that, and the ugly that has permeated every square inch of his life because of it.
I won’t give up on Don Draper (the character), or Mad Men. I also won’t give up on myself.
“If you show someone the sun in your bones and they reject you, you must remember, they hurt themselves this very same way.”