Sunday, September 4, 2011

Don Draper’s professional/private distinction

*Spoiler Alert

With the Emmy Awards coming up, it might be worth discussing the recent season of Mad Men, which garnered 19 nominations this year. Throughout the first three seasons, Don has been able to divide up his life into neat professional and private compartments. In his professional life, he is rational, industrious, and loyal. But in his private life, he is hedonistic, selfish, and a slave to his appetites. Yet the vices of his private life did not affect his professional life. He explains to Peggy that he erected this wall of separation in order to protect the integrity of his work.

But as the season progresses, cracks began to show in his wall. His private life spills into his professional life as he has affairs with at least three different women from his workplace, one of which he proposes to in the season finale. His daughter, distraught over her parents’ divorce, shows up at his office and makes a scene in an earlier episode.

In the previous season, Don was contemptuous of Roger Sterling for many reasons, but a key one was his lack of professionalism. Sterling’s personal life was a mess and was on display for everyone at the office. It culminated in his divorce and remarriage to his much younger secretary. Yet this season ends with Don following in Roger’s footsteps: he is engaged to his very young secretary. Over time, it seems Draper is unable to keep his vices privatized. To see where his character is headed, just take a look at Sterling now.

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