Is Mad Men about Don Draper’s Denial or Society’s?

Following on from yesterday’s Infographic on Don Draper’s gradual descent into alcoholism in the the superb series Mad Men we now look at how alcoholism and addiction has been portrayed in this series.

“It’s no secret that Don Draper, Mad Men’s chief protagonist struggles with alcoholism. In fact, much of the show revolves around excessive and abusive drinking. Alcoholics Anonymous has been the pink elephant in the room for years on Mad Men. The show is damn good entertainment, but we should all keep in mind that in the end the story is a tragedy and Don Draper is bound to hit rock bottom.  Below is NPR’s take on why we should pay attention toMad Men’s depiction of alcoholism.

AMC’s Mad Menis coming to a close after almost eight years. It’s hard to overstate the phenomenal, uncommon level of cultural saturation it’s achieved.

It’s also something that’s gained undeniable poignancy with the announcement that Jon Hamm, the actor who portrays the alcoholic Don Draper so indelibly, recently emerged from a stint in rehab for alcohol addiction.

An Uneasy Relationship?

There’s no denying that Mad Men can make drinking look really good. A huge proportion of the show’s gorgeously styled scenes take place in or around the wood-paneled bars, lounges and restaurants of the era (Episode 1, Season 1 even opens in one.) It’s a world populated with slick movers and shakers, where confidence is non-negotiable, and those endless martinis are part of the ineffably cool image.

Early on in Mad Men’s run, even over-consumption was frequently played as wry, jet-black comedy. Think of Don goading colleague Roger Sterling into guzzling multiple daytime martinis, then engineering a 23-floor stair climb that leads Roger to publicly lose his lunch. Or Don constructing his kids’ playhouse while pounding beers in the sunshine, unable to perform his paternal duty without lubrication.

But as Seasons 4 and 5 chronicle Don’s slide into outright alcoholism, showrunner Matthew Weiner’s treatment of this theme becomes much darker. Virtually all of the least-flattering moments for Draper, this apparent paragon of retro masculinity, come courtesy of an excess of booze.

One of his most cringe-worthy lows comes when, jellified by award ceremony celebrations, he conducts a pitch for Life cereal totally hammered. The episode doesn’t just represent the start of Don’s slide into full-blown alcoholism. (It’s the first time we see him suffering a significant lapse in memory.) It also shows him committing the unforgivable sin of being bad at what he does.

An even greater blow to the myth of Don Draper comes in the award-winning episode “The Suitcase.” He vomits loudly in the SDCP bathrooms and grapples pathetically with the equally drunk adman Duck Phillips. The dapper Don of the previous seasons is replaced by a tragic figure with sick stains down his shirt.

As the ’70s draw ever closer and Draper gets more tragic, Weiner’s intent all along is becoming fantastically clear: to peel back the lie of sharp suits, constant conquests and liquid lunches to show us the unsightly reality (and terrifying future) of the Don type. In the same way that Reaganites mistook Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” for a jingoistic sing-a-long, we all fell for Weiner’s expert “Don Draper trick.”

The fallacy of the Draper lifestyle — that someone could ever drink and philander so much, yet have his family life, career and health survive unscathed — should have been obvious.

Whoever’s Selling, We’re Buying

An interesting coda to all this: Jack Daniel’s sponsored Mad Men’s first season.

Before Season 1 had even premiered, a consumer group lodged a complaint against the show’s producers with the Distilled Spirits Council. The group claimed that Jack Daniel’s was violating industry codes that prohibited alcohol marketing, as well “depictions of irresponsible drinking, overt sexual activity or sexually lewd images.

So, almost eight years later, we know our show about a sophisticated Old Fashioned drinker was a tragedy all along. But if there’s one thing at which humans excel, it’s overlooking the uglier elements of something for the parts that look, well, better.”

 

For me this subtle, superb piece of writing points not only shows clearly and brilliantly the descent into alcoholism but to the fact that alcoholics are often high achieving, charismatic individuals before their descent into alcoholism as typified by Don Draper.

It also points to not only Don Draper’s denial about his alcoholism but society’s problem with accepting alcoholism in others especially in those charismatic talented individuals we look up to and want to be, to emulate.

Society wants these guys to be true but not the alcoholism.

Sorry guys alcoholism and addiction is often the price of this talent.

Think not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 comments

  1. lucy2610 · May 19, 2015

    Great post Paul and I watched the final episode of Mad Men Series 7 last night. To answer your question I think it’s both and I have a blog post brewing about how they ended the programme for both Don and the world of Mad Men 😉

    • alcoholicsguide · May 19, 2015

      Thanks Lucy – look forward to your brewing post or should that be distilling?

  2. clairesuper · May 19, 2015

    Great post. So often what is attractive about someone is tied up in their addiction/ extremism for me! Guess thats why I’m an alcoholic who attracts other alcoholics…

    • alcoholicsguide · May 19, 2015

      it’s that dark charisma we have – according to my wife anyway who is a normie – she loves alcoholics like Johny Cash, Don Draper etc etc we are often fun, intelligent, interesting, creative, vulnerable and spiritual even as well as the host of negative behaviours we sometimes exhibit – in terms of evolution there must be an up side to this like everything else. Hence I mention the price of genius is often addiction – I met a prize winning writer in Paris once who said as creative people we get to the very heart of things, which a lot of normies dont seem to do. We also often seem in control even when we are not a la Don Draper! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

athingirldotcom

never judge a girl by her weight

praythroughhistory

Heal the past. Free the present. Bless the future.

allaboutbeingalive

tackling the teen life

Espiritu en Fuego/A Fiery Spirit

Espiritu en Fuego -- A Fiery Spirit Expressing Herself

tired of treading water

Ditching the drink and waking up

ruby tuesday abstains

a middle aged mums journey through sobriety

Musings of a Progressive...

Transmissions from the heart, because in the end, we're all just walking each other home.

Sober Bean

Life, Sober

MBA

Come Along for the Ride...

Send Sunshine

sunshinesent.com - Inspiration - upliftingquotesdaily.com

John Wreford Photographer

Words and Pictures from the Middle East

emmapalova

EW This WordPress.com site is about Emma's Writings.

damswriter

Short Stories - Poetry - Creative Nonfiction

no face woman

musings of an over-thinker | letters to myself and other people

12stepphilosophy

Wisdom is knowing the right thing to do. Virtue is doing it.

toddwash

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

Recovery and Wellbeing Partnership LLP

Alert...Available...Affordable...

luchopardo's Blog

A great WordPress.com site

Jack Stem's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Sober Again

Living life sober, without fear

Bren Anne

Real life stories from a caregiver and writer

claw marks

letting go and never letting go.

Svens Bericht

Erfahrungsbericht eines Anonymen Alkoholikers

Linda Amato

I AM MORE THAN BOOKS

Kindness Blog

Kindness Images, Videos, True Life Stories, Quotes, Personal Reflections and Meditations.

Fifty Shades of Truth and BS

Exposing abuse under the guise of BDSM & related reflections on self-recovery.

Musings of a mad woman

Bipolar is my superpower

AllSource

News, Reviews & Life Experiences

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

[Celebrate Recovery At The Grace Place]

A Christ-Centered Recovery Program

FROM ASHES I RISE

we were reborn.

Alison's Insights

Accepting Mid-Life Addiction Recovery One Slow Deep Breath At A Time

bloginhotpants

Mishaps with men, mental health, BBC and drugs

A hangover free life

Waking up to the sobering reality that booze is the problem not the solution

Girl's Crazy Thoughts and Ideas :)

My thoughts rule my Tangled world.

wadingblueheron

skimming the space between, pondering what i find

1 Minute 12 Steps

My endless opinions on recovering one minute, one day, one life at a time.

jkevinmchugh

Just another WordPress.com site

Echoes of My Past

Trying to make sense of a life gone mad...

@ptsdUS

FollowUs @ptsdUS: A Global PTSD Support Group • Facebook.com/ptsdUS • ptsdUS.Tumblr.com • Reddit.com/r/PTSD • ptsdUS@Outlook.com

Reduce Speed Ahead

Inspiring addiction recovery

YOURS CANDIDLY, EZZY ♥︎

// WHEN THOUGHTS TURN INTO WORDS //

truestme

Empowering women of the world with LOVE and ACCEPTANCE

%d bloggers like this: