Don Draper: Sociopath? Or Just a Man?

Every episode, the writers of Mad Men make the audience love a villain. They cheer on as protagonist Don Draper cheats on his wife, mistreats his family and is rude to his subordinates, superiors and friends. He seems to coast through life with no empathy or strong emotions, a sociopath in his own right. However, Askmen.com editor James Bassil argues that Don is the epitome of traditional masculine traits. Don was voted ‘most inspirational man’ in a poll conducted by askmen.com, what does this say about men today? Are they really looking up to a sociopath or is Don really the ‘prefect’ man?

In the first season’s finale, Don is about to pitch his carousel idea to Kodak. Using pictures of his wife and children, he tugs at Kodak and the audience’s heartstrings. He talks of nostalgia, wanting to go back to a happier time, implying that his family once fulfilled him and made him happy. Between the deafening clicks of the slides changing and the candid pictures of Don, Betty and the kids, we flash to Don’s face as he speaks. Underneath his haughty default demeanor is, undeniably, emotion threatening to spill out.

It’s not hard to see how Don can be interpreted as a sociopath; he seems to lack empathy for everybody and only does things to help himself. But is he the epitome of masculinity? Given the obvious emotion Don displays in the Carousel pitch and the scene following it, we cannot call him a sociopath; he obviously feels something for his wife and his children. Sociopath’s lack emotion and fit in by mimicking others. So is Don just a poster boy for masculinity then? An anonymous commenter on the article argues that “Men, at their core, are ambitious, bold, out for their own well being, paternal, and providers.” It’s possible that all of Don’s sociopathic tendencies can be filed under "manliness." Don does not love his wife; rather she fulfills his need to be a provider. Betty needs Don to take care of her and be a father to her children, and Don wants someone to take care of. Yet it can be argued that Betty is not the type of woman that Don would fall in love with. His track record of serious affairs seems to be women who are independent and strong (i.e. Midge and Rachel). These women do not need Don, yet it seems that he is closer to loving them than he is to loving his wife.

“Bold, ambitious and out for his own well-being.” Definitely words that could be used to describe a man who hides his identity and steals a dead man's. A man who sleeps with an employee’s wife in order to control him better. A man who ruins his daughter's birthday party in order to get a few more hours away from the humdrum of suburbia. Don Draper is not a nice man, but he is not a sociopath. Don Draper is just a man. A man who has not been forced to tone down his masculinity in order to fit in to a more sensitive world, a man whose manliness has not been bogged down by society. “A man whose time has come," according to James Bassil, AskMen’s editor-in-chief. Alarmingly, the majority of men look to Don Draper for inspiration; should we assume that all men would be pseudo-sociopathic if it were not for external factors? Let’s hope not.

Links: "Don Draper:Sociopath?" and "Men Choose Television Sociopath as Their Biggest Influence in 2009."

1 comment:

  1. I disagree about him not loving Betty. He does love her, he cheats on her with women like Midge and Rachel because they fill his mommy void. If Don wasn't lying to Betty about his identity, and if she accepted him for who he truly was, he would not need women like Midge and Rachel to open up to whenever he felt lonely and isolated. He instead would turn to Betty.