October 29, 2009

You Want To Be Don Draper? You Already Are

draper and betty.JPG
One of these is Dorian Gray, the other is the picture

Part 2 in a series, only for those for whom it is written.  You know who you are.

(Part 1 here.)


Some say that the desire to be Don Draper is really the desire to live in a simpler time with established gender roles, a romanticizing the past.  That's a girl talking.  When a guy fantasizes about living in the Middle Ages or a different planet of Don Draper's America, they're not wishing for a different environment, they're wishing for a different movie.  It's not the setting, it's the plot.  No one wants to live in 500 AD; they want to be in King Arthur's court, with a certain kind of adventure, or relationship, or... they want to be somewhere where most of the plot is already known: I want that to happen to me.

Even when it's a real historical time, even one as well detailed as the one in Mad Men, what you want isn't to be alive then, but to be in that show.    They want a movie in which the main character (you) already possesses a character that everyone accepts (you don't have to be like Don Draper, you are Don Draper, and everyone knows you as that kind of person), act in any way you want; and though there will always be consequences and miseries and laughter and whatever, no matter what happens it always happens about you.


A key plot point in Mad Men is that Draper's coolness and masculinity is artificial, it is an act.  That's fine, everyone has an act of some kind, why not be cool?  But when you choose your own act, be careful you do not choose to act like someone else who is themselves acting.

This is why, whenever someone tries to affect the style and mannerisms of a character in a movie that other people have seen, it makes the other people cringe; it always looks horrifically fake. We already know what the original looks like.   If you're get on a bus to go to a sci-fi convention and are dressed like some kind of alien, you're judged by the, well, coolness of your costume.  But if you dressed like an existing alien-- like a Dalek-- people on the bus will think you're an idiot.  The better your costume, the more people will hate you.

It's even more difficult to emulate Don Draper, because Don Draper is already emulating something else (forget about Jon Hamm for the moment.)  Draper (on the show) can get away with it because no one is familiar with what he's pretending to be (some construct in his head) so they can believe it's really him.  You can't be Draper because we already know Draper.

Being someone else is very hard.  Sometimes, even if you are actually who you say you are, it can still be fake.  When an aging rocker tries to dress all cool and rock starry, it's creepy, because even though he is authentically a rock star authentically himself, he is still faking it: he's pretending to be who he was 30 years ago.  We already know who he was 30 years ago, and that's not him now, so this impersonation is obviously, pathetically fake.  Stop it.

The only time we tolerate this is if we are at an aging rock star's concert: because we're all aged by that point, and we'd all like to pretend, if only for a little while.

It goes both ways.  Don Draper is 36.  If you are 26, is there any way you could be Don Draper and make it legitimate?  It only works if you're in your late 30s, because the game he is playing is "I've seen it all."  You haven't.  You can't fake it, any more than you can fake playing the guitar.  It's fake.  She can tell. She may not tell you, but she can tell.


"Can't I just borrow some of his characteristics?"

I know, it helps your social anxiety; I'm pretty sure no one wants to be Don Draper because they think it will help them pass a midterm.  Ok, so what will being Don Draper get you?

Suave? Cool? Sophisticated?  Because I've written those three words, it appears that those are three things you could copy.  But Draper doesn't actually possess those three things, he is conveying those three things.  He has branded himself as a guy with those three things; just as Nike has branded itself as a certain kind of shoe that isn't made of inferior leather in a sweatshop.  Draper the brand is a guy with a nice suit, but that suit is a brand, too (Hickey  Freeman?) 

Note how uncanny it is to see him in bed in the morning, without a suit.

If you want to emulate Don Draper, you will get the same exact outcome a) if copy his persona but wear your clothes, and b) if you wear his clothes while keeping your own persona.  They're all brands, they're all equivalent, and no matter what you choose the girl will figure it out the moment she purchases you.

"No, you're wrong, you've misunderstood me, I feel like you're almost giving me an answer, but you're missing something, you're not getting what I'm asking.  He is cool and sophisticated.  That's why he can pick up girls so easily.  I want to do that, I want that secret."

You can't emulate Don Draper, and you think the problem is that I've misunderstood?

I understand you very well, I've seen you in action.  When I'm in a bar-- and I have been in a great many bars-- I watch the show.  Life has become so much a copy of TV that I sometimes forget to pee because a commercial hasn't come on.  In one show I watched you were standing with a beer, staring but not staring, talking with your friends about things that interest you, but trying to figure out the right conversation to have with the girl across the way who probably would not be interested in those things.  I saw you.  I saw that there were the female equivalents of you in that bar, too, but you didn't see them.

In every case the problem is the same: you don't want what you think you want. And the type of girl you think you want sensed this the moment she saw you.  That's why she was  pretending she didn't see you.  Or did you think hot girls have no peripheral vision?


So you want to be Don Draper?  You are.  No, that's not a motivational speaker's empowerment mantra, it's a sad, unfortunate truth.  Or a warning, if you choose to listen.

Look at your suave, sophiticated, masculine Don Draper.  He married a beautiful woman; you will, too; and like him, when you get her you won't be happy.

But forget about marriage, who has this well hung lothario seduced?  Has he had affairs with sexy secretaries, bedded underwear models?

No, he's had none of that; the three affairs he's had in two seasons are a hippie artist with numerous other men in her life that she likes more than him; a beautiful owner of a department store-- hardly one night stand material-- who actually hopes it is going to turn into a marriage; and a woman as marginal as she looks.  These are the conquests of the great Don Draper.  Real women, to be sure, but none of them are who you'd want, right?  

And in every case, these women dump him the moment he reveals to them the black, infinite, starving neediness inside him.  "I need you now!" he says to his mistress.  She does not mace him because it had not yet been invented.

Don Draper is that worst of all possible men.  Cosmo warns its future starlets to beware the heartbreaker, but what girl doesn't want her heart to get broken by a great guy?  None of Draper's conquests have their hearts broken; they have their spirits broken.  He's not a cocksman, he's not a player, he's not a ladies man.  He is a serial monogamist, incapable of committing entirely to one person, but similarly incapable of at least committing to the playful lightness of physical intimacy and then just taking a nap.  At least she'd know where you stand.   They destroy the lives of everyone around them not limber enough to leap out of the moving car.  Tuck and roll, that's the secret Cosmo never tells you.  Tuck and roll; but at least get out; he is driving you nowhere with a full tank of gas.

These men stay with the girl-- sometimes for years, without cheating-- but their inner eye is always on something else.  No matter how desperately they think they love, they also know, simultaneously and without contradiction, that they're not really in love, and that this, too, will pass.  They are immortal; there is always a future, because... because this can't be it.  But they fear the future, so instead of pursuing it, they wait for it, along with the girl they've handcuffed with inertia.  

These men are already Don Draper, they think because they lack his facility with gab they aren't-- but in every way that counts, at a genetic level, they are the same.  If you want to see how it all turns out, watch the show.  

Now maybe you understand: when a guy with moussed hair and a seashell necklace starts staring at the girl's chest and rubbing his own, it must feel to her like some kind of immense relief.


Do you see the neediness of... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2009 5:45 PM | Posted by Josh: | Reply

Do you see the neediness of Draper as a personal failing or a failing of all serial monogamists? In other words, can one go from one unconditional commitment to another while remaining self-sufficient?

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Wait, what? "Playful light... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2009 6:43 PM | Posted by CC: | Reply

Wait, what? "Playful lightness of physical intimacy"? What the hell does that mean anyway? You mean he can't commit (strange choice of terms) to _just_ shagging chicks here and there? So, like, then he is human --according to the overwhelming weight of human wisdom traditions, which ALL accord significant meaning to intercourse. He can't 'commit' to being a total libertine. And that's supposed to be a bad thing. He can't commit to being totally without a conscience, sexually, and that's a bad thing. As they say, ok.

He's not a serial monogamist either. He cheats.

You're off the rails. It's like a lunatic in the subway: sure, some of it hits home --brutally home, but it doesn't make sense. There's no point.

"No matter how desperately they think they love...." Isn't that everybody? Until they grow up? "Isn't he a bit like you and me?"

Or is that your point?

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Your message is getting a l... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2009 7:37 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Your message is getting a little repetitive.

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No it is not.... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2009 8:43 PM | Posted by Am-E: | Reply

No it is not.

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Hair mousse and a seashell ... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2009 9:50 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Hair mousse and a seashell necklace. Check! Got it.


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Nail, head, again.... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2009 9:51 PM | Posted by John: | Reply

Nail, head, again.

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<a href="http://vodpod.com/... (Below threshold) It is a bit of a shotgun ap... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2009 10:39 PM | Posted, in reply to CC's comment, by Andrew "Dman" Townsend: | Reply

It is a bit of a shotgun approach.. but thats not bad, since it keeps people with low attention spans engaged.

@lastpsych Great post.. I always find things to relate to, if only there were 'answers'

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Genius. The message is not... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2009 10:43 PM | Posted by Anony-Mouse: | Reply

Genius. The message is not getting repetitive. The reader is getting bored.

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Your message is getting a l... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2009 11:01 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Your message is getting a little repetitive.

Yes it is.

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Mad Men has been around for... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2009 11:03 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Mad Men has been around for years, how come you're just discovering it? Like most of hip American- you just found it. It's all the rage now. I get the sense that your a fashion follower.

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hurry up and catch up to th... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 12:51 AM | Posted by Aaron Davies: | Reply

hurry up and catch up to the current season, you'll have a lot to say :)

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Well I guess I'm the kind o... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 1:18 AM | Posted by mark: | Reply

Well I guess I'm the kind of guy you describe: You're saying I need to reconcile myself to the reality of who I am, and realize that this is it? My life is what it is?

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“I saw that there were the ... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 3:45 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

“I saw that there were the female equivalents of you in that bar, too, but you didn't see them.

And the type of girl you think you want sensed this the moment she saw you. That's why she was pretending she didn't see you. Or did you think hot girls have no peripheral vision?”

The female equivalent of don draper IS a “hot girl”. The construct of a “hot girl” requires she be head to toe body and soul a reflection of culture; she needs to look like a celebrity, or parts of celebrities (dyed blonde hair, tanned skin, aloof like Heidi christianrightiwngfreak-Montag, jet black rebellious vamp hair with voluptuous lips like angie jolie in her prime, or her younger clone megan fox… thin body with sinewy muscles and big fake boobs, or a pornstar “curvy” body with even bigger boobs, all of whom are ubiquitous in the media). And that certain attitude, bored, aloof. If the girl does not possess these tags, brands, she will not appear hot. She will not remind you of heidi Montag and megan fox, which equals hot.
In other countries, women with brass rings stacked on their necks early in childhood so that they leave deep scars are “hot”. Women with plates in their lips are “hot”.
As a man you are going to argue that being hot is a “genuine” state, feeling; peak fertility and such. Well sure, there are certain minimum requirements to appear as hot by a male – mainly being female sex of reproductive age, combined with some kind of remote suggestion of that. This is a biologically immutable requirement for a heterosexual male to perceive something as hot, since the reason sexual attraction exists is for reproduction (therefore it will always be minimally required that so called “hot women” be females of reproductive age and suggest this fact in their presentation). But beyond that minimum requirement, hotness is entirely a brand.

So much of your blog is misogynistic frustrated isolated misery, dude. Sometimes you kinda scare me because while reading it I can’t stop thinking “this guy is responsible for healing people who are mentally unstable”. If you were any joe blow I’d be like “yawn another angry frustrated narcissistic guy who’s projecting like crazy”. But then again, isn’t it true that nuttery is actually quite common among mental health professionals? So I suppose it really isn’t that all unexpected; it’s still jarring to consider it none the less.

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I take the point about why ... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 8:43 AM | Posted by SusanC: | Reply

I take the point about why it's a bad idea to pretend to be someone else's character in daily life, but I think you're off the mark on costumes at sci-fi conventions.

Cosplayers at conventions usually do dress as some well-known character, and that's part of point of it. But of course, people aren't going to believe you really are Princess Leia, or whatever.

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"These men stay with the gi... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 10:01 AM | Posted by PCD: | Reply

"These men stay with the girl-- sometimes for years, without cheating-- but their inner eye is always on something else. No matter how desperately they think they love, they also know, simultaneously and without contradiction, that they're not really in love, and that this, too, will pass. They are immortal; there is always a future, because... because this can't be it. But they fear the future, so instead of pursuing it, they wait for it, along with the girl they've handcuffed with inertia. "

Is it really just about narcissistic immortality fantasies? I think a simpler (and more accurate) description would be that most men long for that spark that only occurs upon first meeting someone and are afraid that if they stay with one person they may never experience it again. Millions of years of evolutionary momentum towards procreating with as many partners as possible may play a role as well.

And where's the analysis of the women in all of this?

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Misogynistic? This blog? Wh... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 10:22 AM | Posted by fraise: | Reply

Misogynistic? This blog? What? Based on the straw man you built in your comment?

Back on topic, the nail's head was hit, indeed. I know a Don Draper, he was before the series ever started - the first episode I saw, my jaw dropped at the similarities. It is fascinating to see how its writers just nail that type of person and the atmosphere (fallout) surrounding them. Married a hot, upper-class gal who saw through his pretentious schtick a mile a way - all of us do - and knew it would serve her because he's A. cute (reflects well on her) and B. showed potential to rake in the money, which he duly fulfilled. (Last week's episode where Betty says "I've seen how you are with money"? Dead on. Draper was so stuck on his own reflection, he had no idea his wife had seen through him from the start.) He blithely intimidates, manipulates, cajoles anyone and everyone, with a rare talent for choosing the behavior according to context. (To wit, Draper's differing treatments of Peggy Olson.) But he's getting older, has kids, and finally realized his wife knew he didn't love her all along, and thus that she never gave a whit about him. And all those women he flirted with, most of whom returned it with silent, pained smiles just to appease him, the rare few who took it further because they knew they'd get something out of it - he finally accumulated enough of them to realize that too. "Fake man's crushing realization: he has a fake life. News at 10."

It will be interesting to see how Draper plays out in the show now that his pretense is in the open and his wife has shown herself to him as playing a game too. The real-life guy I know is sinking into workaholism, alcoholism and previously-uncharacteristic outbursts. (Though very characteristic when you've known a few narcissists and how they tick.) The guy who broke everyone's trust is pissed that he has no one to trust...

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You expect too much from pe... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 10:33 AM | Posted by Eddie Sylvano: | Reply

You expect too much from people, I'm afraid, and they assume too much of themselves.

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"Cosplayers." A new word fo... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 10:36 AM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

"Cosplayers." A new word for me. Man, it makes me feel good to be out of the loop, and un-cool. "Cosplayers" almost makes me feel as good as I did when a store clerk told me about "arpeegee's." Man, I am so happy I barely, by chance, know what an RPG is. I have no idea what "Mad Men" is, but I like the post.

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Betty saw through him and t... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 12:33 PM | Posted, in reply to fraise's comment, by CC: | Reply

Betty saw through him and that makes her great? Oh, please, it only took her what? a dozen years?!

Betty's as bad as he is. She's got near zero regard for the kids. She's looking to cheat herself. She's a slob. She's lazy --come on, a maid?!? She's vain --can't wait to see her in 20 years with a leathery worn-out face from all that smoking. What's she got? Ok, she's hot and she knows Italian --though her accent stinks. And she's got some guts. Which, as the staff sergeant said about Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket, is enough. In the end she's an unfinished product/up in the air/jury still out. Just like him.

Tell me how this ends? Who wins in the divorce? Your man cracking up may be justice, but who wins? Betty? Really? She gets to say I told you so --when she really didn't say anything for as long as the fun lasted. She's like Carmela Soprano, sans the cooking skills. She's like a young Linda Loman.

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Enjoyable article. Thanks ... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 2:17 PM | Posted by MH: | Reply

Enjoyable article. Thanks for writing it!

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Oh my. Brilliant piece. </... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 3:07 PM | Posted by Nadia: | Reply

Oh my. Brilliant piece.

I read this site and cringe as memories of my ex boyfriend flash into my mind. This particularly reminded me of a poem he wrote that disturbed me:

"Showing no trace of regret,
I move through eternity,
You do the rest:
Love and die,
Fight and try,
Thoughts and emotions,
Desire and pain.

I wasn't born,
And will not vanish.
Some search for me-
I turn them to rubbish.
I'm breaking you down,
I'm building you up" ... etc etc

Wonder if he's being Don Draper for Halloween...

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Immortality fantasy is a sy... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 3:35 PM | Posted, in reply to PCD's comment, by Honorius: | Reply

Immortality fantasy is a symptom. It's not what makes the narcissist. It happens only because the live they have right now is not what it should be (in their head). So they can do whatever they want, it's not real and their life could not possibly end without there being some great adventure or life story ahead of them.

There was this guy on a forum I know. He's 60. He left his wife (her fault you see), packed his bag and went away on some road trip or alone traveling Jack Kirouak style. He could die you see. But it doesn't matter because he's finally gonna find something real. Oh, he COULD have done something else, be rich, he's an expert in a lot of field, really, but he never really wanted to do that.

He told us all about it in his last posts.

The matrix had a profound effect on him.

Does he think he can die before finding his "real" adventure? I doubt it. He doesn't really think he's immortal, just that he won't die before "it" happens.

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Alone, do you think it's po... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2009 3:41 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Alone, do you think it's possible to be emotionally attached to one person and emotionally withdrawn from all others?

For example, let's say Draper was not a "serial monogamist." Instead, he really loved his wife and he wasn't needy. He just liked having some different poon tang every once and a while.

As a usable but imperfect analogy--not all people drink because they are depressed about their lives and need something to fill a hole inside their being. Some people drink because, well, it's fun.

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I watched one episode of th... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2009 11:11 AM | Posted by Ernunnos: | Reply

I watched one episode of the show and found it terrible. Don't even remember if Don Draper was in it. But from this description, it sounds like I've already seen the ending. It's called "The Swimmer".

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I'm the guy who said the me... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2009 3:07 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I'm the guy who said the message is getting a bit repetitive, in the third comment. OK, I only read the first two paragraphs, which are pretty repetitive, and just read the rest. The last part is pretty good.

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I'm confused.... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2009 5:44 PM | Posted by don d.: | Reply

I'm confused.

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"Only for those for whom it... (Below threshold)

November 1, 2009 4:19 PM | Posted by Matt: | Reply

"Only for those for whom it is written. You know who you are."

Don't think I'm one of those, luckily. Now, if you were to write about guys who want to be Jim Halpert, that might hit a little closer to home.

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@HonoriousThanks f... (Below threshold)

November 2, 2009 10:02 AM | Posted, in reply to Honorius's comment, by PCD: | Reply


Thanks for the reply... very interesting stuff. If those are defining characteristics of a narcissist, I must admit I am one (and that just about everyone I know is).

I have a pretty standard cubicle dwelling job but always think I could have/can have some important high earning job but just don't like the culture/lifestyle/hours etc. Always thinking the real movie of my life will start 'one day'. Fantasize about running off to India on a spiritual quest, etc

Am I fooling myself? If I am is it a bad thing? Imagine for a second that 60 year old you mentioned wasn't leaving a woman he made a pledge to stick with; what if he had a great trip and died happy? Is it impossible that he may have found the 'truth' he was looking for?

What I'm really interested in is what you (or anyone else) might propose as a better alternative to living one's life. Should dreams of more interesting lives be abandoned? Should a man's reach not exceed his grasp?

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Why doesn't what you have n... (Below threshold)

November 2, 2009 5:21 PM | Posted by spriteless: | Reply

Why doesn't what you have now as good as an adventure? If it doesn't at least count as true than you're doing it wrong. You're going to run out of future so make sure you don't regret the present. You are what you do, not what you fantasize of doing.

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So do you have any positive... (Below threshold)

November 3, 2009 2:01 PM | Posted by dontthinkaboutmonkeys: | Reply

So do you have any positive suggestions (e.g. things to do, rather than things to stop doing) for the wanna-be Don Drapers of the world?

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Be honest about who you act... (Below threshold)

November 3, 2009 4:43 PM | Posted, in reply to dontthinkaboutmonkeys's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Be honest about who you actually are with others and be yourself (unless your true self wants to rape and murder people, of course). If you don't know who you are, work on finding out. And if all that's to difficult or unappealing and you actually have a NPD, aspire to be someone who isn't a narcissistic TV character so at least you're not a narcissist aspiring to be a narcissistic TV character.

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I feel like this Don Draper... (Below threshold)

November 3, 2009 6:24 PM | Posted by Jim: | Reply

I feel like this Don Draper thing is kind of like the cultural fascination with vampires. Not so much the recent abstinence-vampire fad, but the sexual libertine vampires from the '90s. Anytime there's a male character with some sexual charisma, he ends up being the model for aspiring men. It's narcissistic at times, yes. I also think that sexual conquest is held up as one of, if not the most, defining characteristic of what it means to be a man in mainstream U.S. culture. For some men, I think it's not so much "I want to be Don Draper" as it is "When I sleep with women, I am Don Draper." In that sense, it's more of a shifting of cultural norms and what sex means than it is narcissistic. In other words, I think some men aren't acting to protect their identity as someone special or exemplary, but because they think it's normal to act like that, or at least, when they do act like Don Draper, they are acting like the archetypal male.

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Jim - I suspect part of it ... (Below threshold)

November 3, 2009 6:42 PM | Posted, in reply to Jim's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Jim - I suspect part of it has to do with being stylish (and narcissism and vanity go hand in hand, don't they?). Contemporary straight male white male culture views being stylish as unmasculine - it's all about baseball hats and t-shirts. Both vampires and men in retro TV shows and movies tend to be dapper, concerned with their attire (Draper has fresh white shirts in his desk drawer) and admired for their beauty. Draper's pretty clearly miserable and tormented - he's not even his own man really, he's owned by his bosses - but he looks damn good.

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Don knows it's an act and h... (Below threshold)

November 3, 2009 9:03 PM | Posted by doobiedoo: | Reply

Don knows it's an act and he agonises over it in private moments or with people from his older history, maybe we see this in half a segment over two shows per season, but the notion that a "real Don" (hint: he's called Dick) exists somewhere "out there" is the regulative idea of the show. Don's performance is only interesting in so far as it inches us along to the next eruption of anxiety and crisis - how broken will the facade be this time etc. I'm sure there are lots of people who take the performance at face value, but there are also plenty of people who understand it as a projection and the anxiety of managing this projection is why the show is fascinating and why the man is influential, at least to me.

What I don't get is why Alone is still banging on about how people have played themselves into this fantasy of surface cool (this does seem like a several years broken record), when the show handles the issue of projection itself. I can't think of any other show that has such a lie as a fundamental premise...but then I don't watch that much TV. It sounds more like Alone's own narcissistic fantasy revolves around the image of the ignored prophet.

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doobiedoo - Well the whole ... (Below threshold)

November 3, 2009 9:53 PM | Posted, in reply to doobiedoo's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

doobiedoo - Well the whole show is based around advertising and the ever evolving art of manipulation for profit. It's intrinsically about desire, manipulation and selling superficial images - and the hollow reality of the central characters' lives and the American dream/fantasy. It's also about class and upper-middle class angst - and Draper's fear of discovery. One of the ironies of the viewer being able to feel smug and nostalgic about the obvious manipulations of advertising in a bygone era is that most people aren't really that aware of how they're manipulated by advertising and marketers today (they think they are but they're often not since they've internalized the marketing as their own identity). A great example of this would be how so many people have adopted Apple's branding as their persona and social identity, while being utterly convinced that owning an Apple product reveals, no...affirms, their radical independence and creativity. Never mind that the "creatives" who most often use Macs are admen and not artists.
Incidentally, Mad Men was created by the same writer/producer as The Sopranos.

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The Draper character is sup... (Below threshold)

November 3, 2009 10:47 PM | Posted by brainchild: | Reply

The Draper character is supposedly based on George Lois (who sounds like a narcissist when other's who worked closely with him describe him and is infamous for claiming other people's work and experiences as his own - much to their annoyance). Not surprisingly, Lois hates Mad Men and the image of Draper - he thinks the show is about uncreative hacks and not the creative genius he's mythologized himself as.

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I'm not sure I can answer y... (Below threshold)

November 4, 2009 1:31 AM | Posted, in reply to PCD's comment, by Honorius: | Reply

I'm not sure I can answer your questions.

There is no alternative to living your life. We all are right now. The life I have and the life you have is to a great extent the one you and I have chosen. We're living it.

"Dreams of more interesting lives". How is your life not interesting right now? How is a more interesting life not within your grasp?

Those kinds of idea only make sense if the person holding them believes that what he sees and lives is worthless. Is that gonna change with a roadtrip? Inside a cubicle versus Inda, road versus wife; It won't change what's inside you or what you see there.

I did a little trip once. It wasn't so much about changing myself as it was about having new people around me seeing me the way I wanted them to. Blank pages to write whatever I wanted. But that doesn't hold up really long. I had to cut ties with everyone I knew back home.

The point is, the first thing I realized once I was there was that nothing had changed (not in the way I wanted anyway).

So you know what, traveling at 60 is great but I doubt this guy is gonna find what he's looking for.

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Honorious - Ahhh, the geogr... (Below threshold)

November 4, 2009 8:27 AM | Posted, in reply to Honorius's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Honorious - Ahhh, the geographical cure... The problem with that is that wherever you go, there you are! (Not that traveling or reinventing ourselves are bad things, both can be very useful and enjoyable, and teach us who we are and our limits and talents.) Who we really are isn't waiting out there somewhere to be discovered, nor is a deep and meaningful life. All of that really just requires the ability to be really here, right now and being connected to others (even a pet will do!). Deep and meaningful lives come from being able to connect with someone or be really present in what we do, to care about someone or something beyond ourselves. Of course, this all involves some level of emotional risk and actually being real (acting with integrity, being honest with oneself and others, etc).

Of course, what a lot of people really want isn't necessarily a deep life and commitments but to be happy. www.authentichappiness.com may be a useful tool (it's the site of Dr Martin Seligman, who focuses on the psychology of happiness).

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"...since the reason sexual... (Below threshold)

November 4, 2009 8:45 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by K: | Reply

"...since the reason sexual attraction exists is for reproduction.."

"So much of your blog is misogynistic frustrated isolated misery, dude."

Look in the mirror, dude.

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Well K, speaking in evoluti... (Below threshold)

November 4, 2009 1:29 PM | Posted, in reply to K's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Well K, speaking in evolutionary terms sexual attraction is to do with reproduction (as is love, at least partly). That's not misogynist, that's just nature. Of course, we subvert or manipulate sexual attraction in our culture in many ways and use it to sell things and so on but that makes the evolutionary purpose of sexual attraction no less real.

It's interesting to consider the roots of narcissism in our culture if we recognize that women being treated as objects to be used by men has a substantial history. Narcissism isn't a malignant flower that sprung out of thin air, it's been around for a long time (just not always equally available to both sexes, though I'm sure we could find some female narcissists in history too). It may just be a plant that is only now flowering into it's full glory but it's a bit myopic (and narcissistic) to think it's special to our own time.

Alone seems to have a pretty equal disdain for the sexes from what I can tell so far but I'm new to this blog.

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Hey k,The reason sex... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 1:43 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Hey k,
The reason sexuality/attraction exists IS for reproduction. You interpreted this in your mind to mean "that is why women exist", which says more about you than it does me. Actually, female is more of the baseline state, male is more "extra", in the sense that during fetal development a fetus will develop into a prototype female one unless "things happen" triggered by the y chromosome.
And, novel mutations affect males more than females, partly because of the imbalance of size and influence of the y chromosome (whereas females have 2 x chromosmes and are "averaged out" better). Males will always be represented on the extremes of behavior and thought for that reason - severe retardation afflicts males more often, genius is found in males as well.
The reason males have developed out this way probably has a lot to do with the way they reproduce - one male produces many sperm and has a lot of opportunity to reproduce, if he is successful enough. So, genetically, males are gamblers; one x chromosme makes way for the expression of genes that would otherwise be silenced or dulled so you have a lot of males who are mentally and behaviorally extreme. Of course, even typical male physiology the sort that every man has regardless of what genes he has makes him behave in a more aggressive and risk taking way compared to your average female, you know testosterone and such. This is not an accident, this is evolution. If one man benefited from this tendency to extremism (think, a man who developed into a ruthless leader with a large harem) then every man will have the legacy even if most of the time it just makes men and boys suffer from autism and retardation and schizophrenia.

But I really am going on a tangent.

The original point being that of course reproduction is the reason sexuality exists. Not the exclusive reason but it's obvious that reproduction must be a major reason why.
It must then be coincidence that the majority of humans (and animals) are attracted to the individuals who appear/signal the greatest fertility options for their genetic material.

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I actually have no... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 1:59 PM | Posted, in reply to brainchild's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I actually have noticed a consistent pattern of alone being disgusted with "male narcissists", particularly those who pull it off badly and fail (e.g. don draper clones), but completely missing/excusing female narcissism if the barer of it is attractive.

Someone pointed out in this very blog that dan drapers wife is a disgusting narcissist - yet alone wrote this piece as if she were just a hapless victim of draper's pathological personality.
I've never watched the crappy show but if what CC says about "Betty" is true, then she is no less narcissistic than him.

This is not the first time he's done this. Alone praises a narcissistic female who is attractive and spends an hour long blog rant pissing and moaning about her boyfriend as a rule not an exception. This is why I characterize alone as a narcissistic, mysogynistic frustrated person who doesn't hold men and women to equal standards.

In alone's mind, a woman is healthy and has a good personality as long as she physically appear as a fantasy object for him. Keep in mind, a woman who can do this with any success must by default be a narcissist - much in the way men who are most attractive to women are always going to be narcissists. This is because alone does not even consider personality as a criterion for whether or not a female is attractive, and actually he seems to prefer the women who are most narcissistic (those who are most successful at creating an identity and appearance no matter how contrived).
Similarly alone has a very big problem with male narcissists who are successful - not just any narcissists, the ones who pull it off well make him write these long frustrated rants. The ones who fail, the draper clones, make him feel a bit angry and disgusted and entertained.

I should mention at this point that being extremely attractive and charming isn't an accident, it isn't a natural talent. It is honed and developed like any other skill. Having the ability to manipulate the thoughts feelings reactions of others means you have specialized in a craft of manipulating others for self gain, which is a skill that tends to go hand in hand with narcissism and other pathological personalities.

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Absolutely not true. Fe... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 3:10 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Alone: | Reply

Absolutely not true. Female narcissism is very real, and the two reinforce each other (males don't connect, females don't connect, and back and forth), and Betty Draper is a great example of female narcissism. (in fairness to me, I did make that point somewhere.)

But you have misunderstood the entire point of the blog. I'm not trying to criticize something, or even describe it-- I am trying to change it. I will sabotage myself if I write about female narcissism. If a guy reads a post on (male) narcissism, he might think, "holy crap, I think I do that" and maybe it prompts him to change. If that _same_ guy reads a post on female narcissism, there is very real risk that it reinforces his narcissism: "A HA! That's why those bitches...!"

Every human is looking for a way to justify the way they've set up their lives. If you're a guy and have a problem with really connecting, then my offering you a description of why women are narcissists isn't helping you, it is making you worse. (See my Gossip Girl post)

Go look at the sixty comments on the post about the Atlantic writer who cheated on her husband. Did my dissecting her narcissism help anyone? In retrospect, that post was a mistake, it was a setback.

Don't confuse my fetish for cheerleaders and rum for a worldview. I didn't write about the Yankees because I like the Yankees or even baseball-- I am not a sports fan. I don't write in defense of Big Pharma because I love Big Pharma, I do it because you can't just accept a party line, you have to consider all sides. Don't think that what I've written in this blog is an accurate representation of "me"-- it's not about me, it's about the readers (as corny as that sounds.) The different kinds of posts are just attempts at communicating with different kinds of people.

I am a psychiatrist, some kind of one anyway. The point of it all is improvement. You can say I suck at doing this, a legitimate opinion, but I'm not sucking by accident, I suck on purpose..

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Er, I think I may have been... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 3:15 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Er, I think I may have been attributing something to K that they didn't write and they were actually responding to someone else - sorry about that K if it's the case.

Anon wrote - "The original point being that of course reproduction is the reason sexuality exists. Not the exclusive reason but it's obvious that reproduction must be a major reason why.
It must then be coincidence that the majority of humans (and animals) are attracted to the individuals who appear/signal the greatest fertility options for their genetic material."

I'd agree and research certainly seems to uphold that. This doesn't mean that sex doesn't serve other functions too, particularly in social or cultural terms. For instance, bonobos use sex to reduce social anxiety and de-escalate potential conflict. Oh if only we could send our leaders out on a mission to do that (sorry for the psychic pain any mental images of that may have induced!) Not that Bush didn't try this approach with Merkel ;-)

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I don't know, didn't Alone ... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 3:41 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I don't know, didn't Alone write about all the characters on Gray's Anatomy being narcissists? With the starting point being the narcissism of a female character. Misanthropy is a bit different than misogyny, if that is indeed what Alone is indulging in (internet diagnoses tend not to be very accurate!). Either way, I find his thoughts on culture and narcissism interesting. Even if I do think he underestimates the writer's intent and awareness vis a vis Mad Men (and being psychoanalytical about TV characters obviously has its limitations and can get a bit silly if one considers them like real people rather than recognizing they serve a number of narrative and symbolic purposes).

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Thanks for the clarificatio... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 3:59 PM | Posted, in reply to Alone's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Thanks for the clarification Alone and thanks for the interesting blog (since it covers a culture/psychology/personal nexus for me that not a lot of people find as interesting as I do). I've been enjoying the back and forth with other readers but if it's unintentionally sabotaging your main purpose - or simply annoying because I tend to post a lot when something interests me - I can cease and desist. You know, because my comments are so awesome and powerful and important ;-) Er, yeah, not quite...I really I just like to procrastinate around my personal and professional interests online and can get a bit carried away.

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Um, that was posted by brai... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 4:02 PM | Posted by brainchild: | Reply

Um, that was posted by brainchild (just so you know who I'm talking about when talking about me...damn, this slope is getting slippery...)

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"I've never watched the cra... (Below threshold)

November 5, 2009 4:41 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

"I've never watched the crappy show..."

Actually, it's a really good TV show on a number of levels (if you don't consider yourself too good to watch TV and if you understand the difference between TV/movies/theatre and reality). It's well written, there are some clever references, and the production design is phenomenal. None of the characters are particularly likable - unless you want to be Don Draper or another character, I suppose, and then you'd be in love with that image - but the show is all about surface, advertising/branding, ambition and faking so that's hardly surprising.

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I don't want to put words i... (Below threshold)

November 6, 2009 7:33 AM | Posted, in reply to Alone's comment, by Jnbower: | Reply

I don't want to put words in your mouth but it seems to me that you're a man who thinks that they have figured out what is wrong with a generation(s), narrowed it down to a definition of narcissism they created and now feels the need/right to change the common man through a created online persona.

Has it ever crossed your mind that perhaps your seeing yourself in a lot of the world? Or at least that you've created a worldview that acts as a lens of sorts, tinting everything with narcissism? I think it's EXTREMELY narcissistic to think that YOU have figured out what is wrong with just about everyone and that it's your job to change them (instead of just giving them information and letting them make up their own mind).

Where's the humility? Where's the honesty? It really sounds a lot like the characteristics you describe in your analysis of narcissists.

Whether you like it or not it IS about you on some level because the person delivering the message plays a role in the message itself.

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I suspect that you may have... (Below threshold)

November 6, 2009 6:19 PM | Posted by Rosie: | Reply

I suspect that you may have irritated or angered a lot of people with this article. Frankly, I found it interesting. I might have to read it again to get a firmer grip on it. But what I have read so far sounds interesting.

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<a href="http://www.kisscaf... (Below threshold)

December 1, 2009 12:57 AM | Posted by First time reader, one time caller: | Reply

Jack Spainiard is interested in pop culture.

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I think cosplaying is a goo... (Below threshold)

December 7, 2009 5:06 PM | Posted by Sammy: | Reply

I think cosplaying is a good comparison

A friend of mine started doing it over the past year and has been using it to raise her self esteem, so much so that she now identifies with a particular character she dresses up as

she dyes her hair like them, wears similar clothes. it's bizarre. you dislike the character, she takes it as disliking her.

Also I wanted to say that I've had a lot of experience with these types of guys you wrote about and it bothered me a lot, and still does. There's nothing quite like having a one night stand (or thinking you are) with some casual, playful guy you meet in a bar and then having to end the experience with blocking his number and changing your email address because he won't stop telling you how much he "loves" you and needs to be with you, right now. For weeks or months, sometimes.

I always felt used after things like this, and would find myself almost grateful if I never heard from the guy afterwards.

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How about someone who is ac... (Below threshold)

December 8, 2009 1:36 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

How about someone who is actually in marketing or advertising?

The whole point of "being don draper" for some people is that it IS possible. If you are smart enough, hard working enough, then you can get yourself to his position, Head of Creative at an ad firm.

You claim that Don Draper is not much of anything at all, but the whole point is his transformation, even if it's just a shell.

He isn't a poor broke, dumb farm boy. He worked on improving himself and his status. Instead of whining about how his childhood sucked... he manned up and moved on. Many baby boomers are like Don Draper, maybe not as rich. They come from nothing, work hard and then become something.

Don Draper is a goal... but for some, they want more than that. Seeing his failings they will know to avoid them.

I don't think anyone wants to be the Don Draper you described. Some could actually become like him though. People in Draper's state of upper class/upper middle class, with prestige in their own fields, do exist.

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anon wrote - "Many baby boo... (Below threshold)

December 8, 2009 2:51 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

anon wrote - "Many baby boomers are like Don Draper, maybe not as rich. They come from nothing, work hard and then become something."

That's the myth some baby boomers like to tell themselves while totally ignoring the socio-economic context of the time they grew up in and entered the workforce. Real middle class unemployment didn't really make a big comeback until the late 70s/early 80s (and we've been cycling in and out of artificial bubbles that burst every decade since), which is what the Gap generation inherited from the Boomers. It's also ignoring the fact that Draper has only managed to switch classes and gain "prestige" by hiding his past and pretending to be someone else. His success is predicated upon a lie - granted it does take some work to keep a lie of that magnitude going and to manipulate everyone around you.

Aspiring to be a creative director doesn't necessarily mean one's aspiring to be Don Draper. And, really, if you believe being a creative director in 2009 is just like it is on a tv show set in the 50s and 60s, then you're aspiring to a fantasy job. Not that people who work in advertising don't like to pretend that what they're doing is creative and exciting (and that they're artists), it's just not the way the business really works for the most part. The bottom line is money and manipulation, the illusion being sold is that it's creative and meaningful.

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Did you see the episode whe... (Below threshold)

December 10, 2009 3:02 PM | Posted by Please read throughly if you're going to reply.: | Reply

Did you see the episode where Pete told on Don?
Burt says, "who cares." Why? Because it is not the name that matters, it's the person. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet..." It doesn't matter what he's called, he is still an idea man, who finds ideas that people will really like.

Don did it because he knew he couldn't go back to where he came from. Don, the man not the name, is an excellent marketer. Sure, he is a borrowed ladder, but the original Don Draper was already dead.

Now, I read what you said about Baby boomers, I respectfully will have to disagree... My father grew up in an environment similar to Don's. He had to work as a kid so he could eat. He worked his way up and provided for us. He is currently finishing up his Ph D. How many poor kids can claim the same?

Now as for marketing. It is targeted to people's likes. Marketing is about satisfying the needs of others by finding something based upon what they like.

Imagine, you go to a library, you ask a librarian (who knows a lot about books) for advice on what novels to read. By giving you the information... "I really enjoyed ___." She is in fact, advertising. It's called word of mouth, the most effective type.

Also without advertising/marketing, you couldn't have radio, television, or internet as cheap as it is now. The pricing would make it unaffordable for anyone living on modest means. Marketing isn't the bane of the world... it keeps the world running.

Do you have any type of shoes, computers, books, food, beverages, sports teams that you like? Are you a huge fan of them? Pick something you really, really like... Ok, establishing the connection you have to whatever you enjoy... THAT is the purpose of marketing.

Marketing isn't about being a used car salesman and ripping people off. They won't be return customers. In fact, they will tell their friends that you ripped them off... their neighbors, the people at their work, and they may even post about it online.

Negative publicity like that kills sales faster than anything. So the people have a voice, which is a GREAT thing. Why is this good?!? It's killing sales! Its good because marketers can do their jobs better because they know what doesn't work.

Customers can help spot problems before they become catastrophes... Just as you've said, Marketing HAS changed. The mentality, the methods, and the ideas have all been "remastered." Heck... 1963? That's almost 50 years ago.

Does this mean everything has changed? No, some of this stuff still goes on. What I am trying to say though... is things are changing for the good of the customer, companies are trying to be more sensitive to the customers needs.

Also, the correct generation breakdown is this:
Baby boomers -1943–1963
Generation X - 1964-1980
Generation Y - 1981-1995

Major events usually mark when generational changes occur.

Please note: I'm not attacking you personally. I'm simply stating what's going on (as a professional in marketing today).

Doctors have clients... Well, so do sales people. If the clients don't like the sales person, then they don't make continue making sales. There is no incentive to rip them off.

Also ads, commercials, and other advertisements can be very creative. Just because something has a purpose or a price tag, doesn't make it any less valuable than any other work of art. There is no "selling out..." Hating on "sell outs" is just another trend in the market, like sex and the city (or carrying chihuahuas in handbags...) -.-

You may never agree with me, but you're the one with the blog, I'm the one who's in Marketing. And I love it because the reality is that it's about making people happy.

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To "Please read thoroughly"... (Below threshold)

December 11, 2009 1:15 PM | Posted, in reply to Please read throughly if you're going to reply.'s comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

To "Please read thoroughly", thanks for the wonderful illustration of how people in advertising deceive even themselves by constructing false narratives about who they are and why they do things. I'm sure you really do believe that trying to sell people things and trying to figure out how to manipulate people through their desires is actually doing good. My experiences is that most people who work in marketing buy what they're selling and often aren't actually very sophisticated when it comes to understanding psychology, cognition, sociology, art or propaganda - or even advertising - they learn the techniques to manipulate people and marketing strategies but don't actually understand them on a meta-level what they're doing or why.

Marketers/advertisers deal with demographics differently - and more superficially - than they're dealt with in sociology and cultural theory. There's dispute as to where the Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y start and end, and ultimately it's an artificial category system that changes depending on what's being researched and who's doing the categorizing. These kinds of detailed discussions tend to go on more in sociology and around cultural theory than they do in marketing - marketing simply takes the information and tries to use it to sell stuff. That said, even within marketing theory there's been plenty of discussion of the Gap Generation. The Gap Generation sits between the Boomers and Gen X and smack dab in the middle of the digital divide. They're a small but influential group, culturally equivalent to the "lost generation" of the 1920s.

I can understand why you're feeling defensive since you seem to be making this all about your self image as a marketer (which seems to indicate you're not a creative) and about your father. It sounds a bit as if Don Draper represents both to you and you see yourself as him (and consider this a good thing). What you seem to be missing is that I'm talking about a generation and the economic climate they grew up in, not specifically about your father who you seem to consider an exception anyway (you point out that, unlike most other poor people, he succeeded in escaping poverty and getting an education). By claiming your father is special, you're actually proving my point regarding it being exceptional for Draper to move classes (so exceptional that he needed to hide who he is to be able to do so and has to continue to keep his identity secret even after his boss knows, revealing that being poor/low class is just as socially taboo as being homosexual).

The simplistic lecture about marketing you've delivered just reveals some rather romantic and unrealistic ideas you have about marketing and what you do for a living. However, I've found quite a lot of people who work in advertising/marketing want to pretend they really work in the entertainment industry or are doing something more meaningful than selling people things they don't really need. My experience and perspective is a bit broader than yours, not only have I worked creating ad and promotional campaigns within the advertising industry (I'm a "creative") but I've also worked in the music/entertainment industry, as well as in the arts and as a cultural critic. (It only seems to be people who work purely in the commercial world who seem to want to pretend advertising is really the same as art or entertainment - which is not to say that the occasional ad isn't entertaining or aesthetically interesting.) The very fact that you believe that as a marketer you're "making people happy" rather than trying to sell the public something (often by creating or exploiting insecurity or associating the product you're pimping with happiness/love/acceptance/virtue/etc), is a bit deluded.

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Read wrote - "Doctors have ... (Below threshold)

December 11, 2009 2:11 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Read wrote - "Doctors have clients... Well, so do sales people."

No, doctors have patients and being a salesperson isn't practicing medicine. Are you really trying to pretend that working in sales is the moral and practical equivalent to being a doctor? It's not. That's some snow job you've been doing on yourself!

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Critics are like court eunu... (Below threshold)

December 12, 2009 8:25 PM | Posted by Andrew: | Reply

Critics are like court eunuchs; they know how, but they can't.

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As I said in my last post, ... (Below threshold)

December 12, 2009 8:36 PM | Posted by Hello :-): | Reply

As I said in my last post, I probably won't ever succeed in changing your view on advertising, so I wont try. You ended by claiming some of my views are delusional, let me clarify.

[Simplified explanation]
You have previous experiences dealing with marketing/advertising. Had I known that I wouldn't have bothered explaining it in a simplified manner. (not meant to be insulting) But some of the arguments I saw seemed semi-cliche that I constantly hear from people who hate marketing/advertising.

I didn't lie about creating value or making customers happy. Take Twilight for example (I'm not a fan at all), but people love it. The story appeals to them. Without marketing it would just be another vampire book at the library. They were made aware of it because of marketing though... The story is meaningful to them, so marketing indirectly made them happy. The bi-product is becoming wealthy.

She didn't write the book specifically to make money; she was telling a story. The marketers sold it, but saw the consumer reaction and then realized it was a hit. Now you can market something, but it won't always sell, that's not the advertisers fault.

[Trying to clarify]
We are both in two completely different industries, from all appearances. You are on the media/entertainment end that interacts with advertising. Advertising is simply a tool used by marketing, which marketing is an element of business. You don't hate marketing though, you hate advertising companies, companies that sell a message to gain profit.

(Drawing conclusions kick me if I'm wrong)
You don't like advertising because (like the media) its purpose it to give their version of the message, so that people buy into it... which leads to group think, zombie effect, etc?

Just as there is more to you than what you've put on this page, the same goes for me. While I might not have been dead on with my analysis, I am more astute than I may have appeared. Rereading what I wrote... I could definitely have modified it a bit, lol.

Referring to my idealistic point of view of making people happy and providing value, is it something I like to tell myself? Yes. But now ask... for what purpose? I do it to try to pursue meaning in what I do.

Promotions does a lot of what I'm talking about.
Example: Coke Zero has excess inventory that hasn't been sold. Instead of throwing it away, they go to different college campuses and give away free twelve packs. Coke zero has been marketed very well, and I really enjoy drinking it for the taste too.

I was talking about brand loyalty... and promotions like these increase it. I used to strongly dislike coke; I was a huge Pepsi fan. Now I drink Coke Zero.

[Marketing vastly different than advertising]
I think the greatest disparity is our individual approaches to the topic. From my perspective, Advertising is a tool. It's a technique used to gain awareness of your product. I define my profession as a marketer, not an advertiser. Advertisers sell a message, Marketers match products with needs to provide value.

[My reaction]
I was defensive, but only because I have heard similar statements many times (about advertising). Anyone can say "Advertising is theft. Donald Draper is a Philandering Dick... erm Dick Whitman rather..." I was wrong though, because your rebuttals have been much different from the rhetoric that people mostly stick to.

I appreciated that you weren't cruel in discussing my father. It could have been easy to say something slighting. We are all individuals, but everyone in the industry isn't evil. Parts of it may be very deceptive (used car sales? lol), but individual parts aren't necessarily.

- Consumerism is changing, people wont buy anything and the Consumer isn't stupid. The old way of marketing (1960's) was all about taking money from the customer. Naturally it is changing as the market and consumer changes.

What is Marketing about? Creating or recognizing value.
Customers want the best value for the dollar (or situation). The dollar menu was one creation... while not necessarily healthy, it provides a meager meal for someone who has a low budget.

We aren't all greedy. Profit is necessary otherwise business couldn't occur. I don't believe in exorbitant prices because I really am a firm believer in fair value. I don't like being ripped off, so I avoid ripping off others.

When you asked my specialty, you assumed I wasn't Creative. No, I'm not a graphic design person. I am more talented at writing copy, which I have done in the past. I enjoy writing as I'm sure you can tell from my posts. I have also done graphic design work for advertisements. I enjoy researching as well, but more working with people than numbers.

Now as for Don Draper being a goal. Being smart, educated and driven is a good thing. I do have good intentions regardless of your current opinion of me.

[Comment about doctors]
Doctors do have patients, but they are in on of the highest priced service industries. They have an easy clinch on the market, so they can mark it up. Not all doctors are loved and they often get sued, which is another reason prices are so high. Morally doctors are no better than anyone else. Many even lack a compassionate bedside manner.

Like advertising, many do it for the paycheck and the prestige, not out of a desire to help others. Politics is the same (but more because they like spending our money for us.) I can't think of one industry that hasn't had some form of corruption.

[Final thoughts]
I still can't hate advertising. It gives us the radio, the television and the internet. I enjoy those more than I dislike commercials, radio spots, or pop up ads.

I'm also a big fan of business and commerce because the best way to get our economy growing again is business. Small businesses need advertising even more than big business. In that respect, isn't advertising honorable?

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Thanks for the fascinating ... (Below threshold)

January 22, 2010 11:35 PM | Posted by Jeremy: | Reply

Thanks for the fascinating take on the Draper character. I read both parts and liked them very much.

Three caveats:

I'm rather surprised you consider Draper to be a classic narcissist as well as "the worst kind of man" (because of his combination of neediness and aloofness). I've never met a Don Draper because I don't think the character exists in real life. I suspect the writers wanted to add vulnerability and sordidness to the model ad man from whom Don Draper was transposed (i.e., the real man, Daniel Draper, who possessed to an *unusual degree* the emotional commitment, honesty and stability which the Mad Men character lacks).

To add various less-than-noble qualities to the Dan Draper model, they gave Don a childhood and a past that truly successful businessmen rarely had in the 50s (it's easier now for a sociopath to be a success, since the business cycle is faster and society is far less linear).

It doesn't matter if Draper blows it in the third season. A man with his unresolved issues wouldn't have been able to sustain the momentum to get there and stay there for even that long. He'd either be too broken and unsure of himself to be a leader, or too grandiose and heartless to feel remorse or care about upholding women's dignity. And he certainly wouldn't exhibit dogged loyalty to his long-term clients -- not unless he was either a malleable man or a healthy one.

Second, I think that some people aren't really responding favorably to the character as much as his sense of the appropriate -- they're responding to an idealized version of early 60s culture. The past two centuries have brought stylistic crises to several generations due to the rapid pace of culture and the constant revision of the appropriate, so that we can no longer be born to a style into which we age -- everyone must create their own, which involves decades of trial and error. The artificial rightness of Draper's judgment -- even when it masks deception, self-sabotage or a refusal to face the truth -- is created by the broad outlines he draws around whatever situation he's in, which the nostalgic take as proof that times were simpler. (Of course, the 50s and 60s were never that reassuring for the people who lived through them. Culturally speaking, we've all been in foster homes for the past hundred years.)

A less confident man than Draper would seem to others to be out of touch. But because he is so convincing, Draper's version of conduct and truth makes others feel at a loss. It is perhaps a quality the character received from Dan Draper -- who had the parenting and childhood to instill it -- but in a degraded form: compressed, amplified and inflexible.


My sense is that what you find most appalling about Don Draper is his weakness. Even though he leaves bodies in his wake, it's the needy part of him that earns your choicest venom. He's despicable not because he shares traits with sociopaths but because he's secretly not a real man. That makes me wonder: On some level, do you buy into the anthropological role of the Real Man? Do you believe there is such a thing apart from adulthood and male chromosomes? Also: Do you go home at night in a state of disgust after having had to listen to your weakest and neediest patients? Could you be criticizing Draper's winking contempt because it's a quality you despise in yourself? Or do you feel frustrated having to listen to constant neurotic narratives? If not, then why do you portray Draper as doomed to loop his infernal dead end? Certain psychologists used to avoid borderlines because of the supposed inevitability of negative prognoses, but they didn't admit it to their patients, nor did they declaim it in public situations. You seem to be declaiming your readers' hopelessness. You're either saying that Draper's untreatable or that he'll be a worthless human being until he is treated. Either way, you sound grimly certain about the fates of many of your readers and perhaps a little dogmatic about Draper. Wouldn't that tone work better in, say, a fatalistic noir novel than as an aid to therapy?

And by the way: I realize you weren't being entirely serious in your piece -- that was part of what made it memorable and funny. Trouble is, you spent so much time telling the reader you had his number that I found it difficult to believe you were joking. I believe you're sincerely trying to help people (and do), but I also believe that something unresolved might be making you sound a bit caustic.

Again, I enjoyed your piece very much. I wouldn't have responded at length had the piece not compelled me to think (as it has a lot of other readers, judging from their responses).

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Your article is really angr... (Below threshold)

March 6, 2010 3:09 PM | Posted by Guy: | Reply

Your article is really angry, like others have posted before me it seems you have a serious personal stake in this topic. You have essentially degraded the majority of the male population, except the way you have done it you have given them no way out, "accept mediocrity or be forever stuck playing a role you are unsuited for". Sounds to me like you are tearing most down in order to build yourself up.

PS. The Rolling Stones are awesome at any age.

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I suspect that a lot of peo... (Below threshold)

March 17, 2010 6:57 PM | Posted by Irene: | Reply

I suspect that a lot of people recognize themselves in your article . . . which is why they are bashing the hell out of it. Good job.

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I am only 50 but can’t beli... (Below threshold)

April 22, 2010 2:39 AM | Posted by basketball shoes: | Reply

I am only 50 but can’t believe how everyone needs advice on how to survive an economic disaster or how anyone even got into an bad economic situation. Health problems should be the only excuse.basketball shoes

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Hi,Thanks for the in... (Below threshold)

May 24, 2010 3:50 PM | Posted by Tess: | Reply

Thanks for the interesting post. I especially enjoyed the last part, perhaps because it reminded me of someone I once met. Although I don't think he was quite so bad as all that. I hope. Similarly of course when I first saw Mad Men, he came to mind same age, same job as DD, an attractive guy. Some similar issues.
I met him travelling almost two years ago now. I only knew him for three weeks but got to know him well enough - drunken chats and all that.
He was a Creative Director in his old job but quit to travel for six months, mostly on his own. He called it his world adventure. The real reason was to try and win back his ex who he was meeting for part of the trip, although he never came out straight with it.(never met her, I don't know if they're married by now...)

However despite having already seemingly found "the one", he hooked up with almost every girl he travelled with(like he was on shore leave - "live your life" as DD says, even after he'd travelled with the ex. But it was never a fling/ONS. Any relationship he had always spanned a few months, picking up with a couple of them even after he got home. Minimal overlap, serial monogamy I guess.(like you described in your original post, time enough to get sucked in before being tossed aside) They were all at least ten years younger too. Nothing they won't get over I'm sure. I met one of them who was exactly like the young hippie girl DD meets in California, in looks and attitude. "why deny yourself something you want?" Don't know if she was saying it to him or herself..
His life philopsophy the whole time was "live for today"...its all about now...very DD..no more living up to expectations, that was something he was trying to get out of.

He told me it was difficult after his ex-partner left. She had returned to her home country after having lived with him for a couple of years. He then found he was working all the time. All his friends were married, having kids...but he had a new girlfriend too, he said he'd been going out with this girl who worked for him but because of work they'd had to keep it secret. He said before that he'd only ever really had two long term relationships but that "he always left them, before they could leave him, he ran away"..
He also described what I think is that whole dynamic of having the good job and family yet having a sense of disconnection from what you think or society says you should be feeling..had the job, the car the girlfriend and still wasn't happy, that he should be happy..the sense that because he'd had it so good something bad was due to happen..(I must say this struck a chord with me, I had a similar feeling more than once...hmm)

I still don't know if this was true, because it became clear (ie it was written all over his face when he talked about her) he loved his ex. Why would he have left her then? Maybe he just lied because it was easier for some reason.

He's the only guy I've ever met who was much like DD. I'd say it is a realistic archetype but a rare one to meet and I'd say a lot of guys aspire to/posture as someone like this bu why they'd want to I'm not sure. Like DD just needs to figure out what makes him happy, hopefully it will happen and hopefully it doesn't leave behind a trial of sad, dejected girlfriends, wives and things. But that's often the case of what happens.

Personally I'd rather be fortunate enough to know what makes me happy than go through all this existential angst and wasting my time chasing false goals because I don't quite know who I am or what makes me happy... I have empathy for the guy because he was aware of it and he was trying his best to figure it out and I do think travel can be a really good way to do that. You can't run away from/escape yourself but do you experience things/meet people that can give you new perspectives/insights to see your life in a new and perhaps clearer light.
Or he could have been a complete bullshitter who could spin a good yarn, gloss up a good life story, manipulation for profit, that was his line of work after all...his age, the game he's playing, he's seen it all...maybe he was just another guy trying to be DD afterall!

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Oh. I think I'm getting it... (Below threshold)

May 25, 2010 1:39 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Oh. I think I'm getting it, but that means I'm probably thinking too much. Is it ever possible to reconcile unlimited wants with finite resources? If you hate your job, your life in general, the circum and hapenstance of the details of your life, and have done precisely dick about it, then why wouldn't you pine for some external reality? Why not dellude yourself? At least it's a direction. You can at least start moving again that point.

For clarity I've never seen Mad Men. It looks kinda gay.

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I had fun understanding thi... (Below threshold)

May 28, 2010 2:14 AM | Posted by moncler: | Reply

I had fun understanding this post. moncler coatI want to see more on this subject..

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Even if your article wasn't... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2010 9:47 PM | Posted by lessermystery: | Reply

Even if your article wasn't perfectly thought out as some here have pointed out, I thought it was well written, pithy, and entertaining.

I just wonder what it is that Don Draper needs so desperately? His story is only riveting because he's so good looking. A less attractive man in the same role would either be scoffed at, or worse, not watched. I hate to say it but the drama if Draper's life is cheap, like his flings.

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And if I want to be Alone?<... (Below threshold)

June 6, 2011 12:37 PM | Posted by BND: | Reply

And if I want to be Alone?

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A Voltaire reference!... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2013 9:20 AM | Posted by anon: | Reply

A Voltaire reference!

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