**SPOILER ALERT! We’re gonna talk about it all! Don’t read further if you’re not caught up!**
There’s lots to LOVE about Mad Men this season – but not a whole lot to LUST over.
I make this statement with dismay, because Mad Men was one of the first shows I watched with libidinous abandon for this WTF?! series on hot men, sex, fantasy and television. Why do women (like me!) lust after – and fall for – lying, cheating bastards like Don Draper? What is it that underlies their intense erotic allure?
Whatever “it” is, it has been conspicuously missing from Mad Men so far in Season 4. Don in his dark, shabby apartment. Don misspeaking like a rookie to a gossip-mongering journalist. Don losing the account for which he won the Cleo (and generally bucking under the pressure of a Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce under seige.) Don retreating to an underwater reverie as he swims laps in an effort to cut down on the booze. Don failing his struggling adolescent daughter. Don emabarking on a potentially meaningful relationship with a woman every ounce his savvy, upstart, tenacious peer.
Ew Ew Ew! Season 4 is a cold shower of un-arousing plot points.
But it’s making me think.
I’d previously argued in this series that a man like Don (and House!) is sexy to women BECAUSE of his callousness. Because of his disregard. Because he acts like an a$$hole. Because he’s read The Game. Because, I argued, we women nurture the fantasy that we could be The One to get through to him. To love him for everything he is. And to inspire him to change his ways. For us. How sexy is that?
But Don Draper of Season 4 is still for the most part a dick. Sure, we get treated to a few instances of emotion seeping forth, a few instances of panic striking, and one instance in which he breaks down and cries in sadness. But even “Vulnerable Don” is still a cad. And he’s majorly not sexy.
Don Draper of Season 4 is a man not on his feet. A man flailing in a world that no longer serves him absolutely. A man whose perfected life has crumbled around him. A man with wounded pride. (We can almost hear him tell himself: This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife.) Don was always this man (see: the Mad Men opening credits sequence), but the difference is that now Don is a man who knows it.
The truth is, it wasn’t cold-hearted disdain that made Don sexy. It was power. Don was sexy when he was in control.
It’s worth noting that Roger Sterling used to be pretty sexy too – and now, seriously, is not. He’s in worse shape than Don all around, a shell of his former swaggering, philandering self. His encounters with Joan used to be the steamiest on the show even if the two of them were just talking to each other. Now their relationship has taken on a somber tone and gruesome implications. We’re watching Sterling self-destruct, and the tragi-comedy is that he didn’t kick the bucket before he sunk to the level of dictating his embarrassingly self-indulgent memoir. Remember when your heart leapt with every dapper, insinuating, Sterling turn of phrase? Yeah, I remember too. How the mighty are fallen. All together now: In life as in love, impotence is not libidinous.
So what does it say about our libidinous fantasies that watching these masculine demigods fall down to earth kicks all the hot desire out of us? What does it say about the power dynamics of sex? I’m not the first to declare that Mad Men is an astonishing exploration of the myth of the American male, and I’m certainly not the first girl to lust over Don, but I might be the first television blogger truly to lament that we can no longer escape into Don’s perfected universe and enjoy – for one hour a week – Don living the life, on top of his game, coming home to domestic bliss, but always on the prowl as if the world were at his beck and call. Because it was.
It turns out TV shows that make you think make for interesting blog posts. But at the end of the day, I just want to say, “Do me wrong, Don. But, for God’s sake, do me!”
**DISCLAIMER. Even though I’m complaining that Mad Men isn’t libidinous this Season, I DO think it is brilliant, genius, beautiful, modern and groundbreaking. Stay tuned for our WTF?! piece on Peggy’s dah!**
Rebecca Coale - aka Becky - is a writer, musician and producer. She and childhood best friend Jessica Donalds created Dating & Hookup and founded J&R Creative Media. Becky blogs about love poetry and modern life & womanhood. She lives with her husband, Howard Coale, and their family in Manhattan and Philadelphia.
datingandhookup.com is a website that explores modern romance in the Millennial era – which, let’s be honest, looks nothing like we were taught to expect. We feature essays, advice and social commentary with humor, compassion and brains, and we vow never, ever to publish a piece called “The 10 Best Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed”. Do click to submit your work to us. We love you.
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