Mad Men Season 5: Everyone Gets Lazy
I’m in my mid-twenties and I’m a man of remarkably few accomplishments. I’m also tremendously lazy. I guess that’s why I can understand why Don Draper doesn’t seem to care anymore. Don’s pretty much got it all at this point. He’s at the top of his profession and he’s got a 20 year old wife who sings him “Zou Bissou Bissou” on his birthday. So what if he just wants a nap now?
Of course the truth about Don’s new found ambivalence is undoubtedly deeper than simple aging and contentment. Mad Men has always been more about the transformation of American culture than it has been about advertising. From the beginning of this season it’s become pretty clear that the show’s old guard is quickly falling behind the times. Last night’s scene at the Rolling Stones concert was instructive. 1962 Don Draper would have found a way to make that impossible situation work. 1966 Don Draper just isn’t cool enough and he doesn’t really seem to care.
For the past few seasons I’ve been operating on the assumption that Don would basically become Roger Sterling as he aged, a theory that I thought was confirmed when Don married his receptionist at the end of last season. It’s pretty clear now that that theory is flat out wrong. The two men have very different motivations. Roger Sterling has been on an alcohol fueled downslide for some time, but at least he’s still fighting, holding on to the ledge by his fingers, to paraphrase his own words. The reason is that Roger is a man motivated largely by pride. He can’t stand the thought of Pete Campbell — whom he brought into the business — upstaging him and he’ll fight tooth and nail to keep Campbell in his place. Don, for all his other faults, has never seemed a particularly proud man. His motivations have always been more about his insecurities. Those insecurities are now largely gone. Everyone knows about Dick Whitman now and Don can finally let his guard down and do what he really wants to do; sleep.
Don’s not the only one letting himself go. An interesting parallel is ex-wife Betty. Like Don, Betty finally has what she’s always wanted: a rich man who won’t cheat on her, and now she’s going to do what she wants; eat Bugles and ice cream*. Also like Don, Betty has always been driven by her insecurities largely linked to her incompetence as a mother and Don’s philandering**. Now the kids are older, she has help, and Don is largely out of the picture. Betty’s old weaknesses returned for a moment with the cancer scare, but as soon as she was in the clear, she went right back to her bad old habits.
There’s generally an overarching theme to each season of Mad Men, so far this season’s theme seems to be that everyone gets lazy.
* — January Jones in a fat suit has to be one of the most iconic TV images of the past year and possibly the funniest TV moment of 2012 so far. It certainly beats anything The Big Bang Theory has done throughout its existence.
** — I always found it interesting that despite his drinking and wenching, Don has always been the better parent of the two.