The series started back in 2007, but I actually only started watching Mad Men in 2010. At the time, I was writing my final research paper for my bachelor’s degree. The paper was a year-long project and coincidentally, the subject I focused on was masculinity and Western society’s need to redefine it. And there was Don Draper. A character that epitomized the very subject I had been researching. A man that was at the top of his game. The series creator, Matthew Weiner created a masterpiece of a character whose self-meaning and masculinity were questioned and tested repeatedly throughout the show. Draper’s confidence but underlying demons, his strong-but-silent demeanor and his secretive but adventurous lifestyle is what made this character relatable to so many men in our society.
Apart from Don’s character, the fact that the show took place in the sixties immediately added to my interest in the series. The clothes, the sets and if you paused any episode randomly your television screen would capture a picturesque image that roared volumes.
After completing my final paper for school, I have continued to watch the show and though Don’s character had originally sparked my interest in Mad Men, my interests in the female characters quickly took over. From Betty’s hopeful but failed family picture, to Joan’s controversial moves up the corporate ladder, to Peggy, who constantly tried to repress her hopes to get married by putting her whole life into her relationship with SC & P. Each of the women in this show brought out so much emotion to their viewers.
During last week’s series finale, I had the opportunity to go to a finale viewing party. In a vintage venue, complete with old fashioned cocktails, oysters and a burlesque show – I got to see how the stories of Betty, Joan and Peggy would wrap up. And strangely, though the women of this incredible series have been my favorite characters throughout the show’s tenure, the finale reminded me that it was Don’s character that had initially drew me in.
When I first started watching the show, I thought that Don’s character was a representative image of what my university paper was about – a character that reflected society’s arguably flawed definition of masculinity. Yet watching the finale, I realized that he wasn’t about that. His character didn’t reflect the men of that era but what we all go through in our lives, man or woman, past or present day. We all have our secrets – pasts that we must accept and come to terms with; and until we do, we feel alone. When we connect with someone or something, we know deep down that sometimes that connection is only a temporary fix to our problem.
This was Don’s story throughout the entire Mad Men series. And though the series’ ending doesn’t definitively answer our questions as to whether Don will be okay – there is peace. He finds self-acceptance. For those like Don, who have reached that journey’s end, I think that’s when society’s expectations of what’s defined as masculine or feminine, old or young, beautiful or ugly no longer matters. Our individuality takes precedence. And to me that’s what Don finally discovered. It was the conclusion I was looking to find five years ago during my studies – that our society doesn’t need to redefine anything. It is we that ultimately define ourselves – it just takes time.