Dick + Anna '64
by MOLLY LAMBERT
"Is that what you want? Or is that what people expect of you?" Mad Men's back in the motherfuckin' house pointing out the giant distinction between those two things. There's the person everybody thinks you are and the person you really are, and the latter is impossible to keep track of. Especially these days as the signifiers traditionally used to describe and define the former fade ever steadily out of American life.
Even if you figure out who it is you're supposed to be, who it is you're going to let people think you are, the whole world can shift out from underneath you as it inevitably will anyway with the passage of time. All the things that once defined you as cool can start working against you, because aging makes LOLs of us all.
Either you wait it out until the pendulum swings back and you are rewarded for having stayed the same, or you make a hamstrung effort to change and generally get served. Even Bob Dylan got served (by Jesus no less) when he listened to his critics, the ones who started declaring him "over" the second they finished anointing him.
Don's side trip to California is also the return of Deus Ex Machin-Anna Draper, a character whose lack of interior function belies a severe bone cancer eating her polio riddled fictional bones from the inside. Seriously, what is the deal with Anna Draper? Why does she pimp out Don/Dick to her stupid proto-hippie niece so hard? What exactly does she get out of being so selflessly mothering to Don? A shitty paint job?
Why doesn't Anna Draper want to fuck Dick Whitman? He clearly owes it to her. Is she gay? I mean, I know she is a Californian, and since Californians on Mad Men fulfill all the cliches of Californians (free-spirited, potheads, kind of dumb and sexy, like to paint the interiors of their houses weird bright colors) it would only make sense.
Like her manic pixie dream aunt, the Berkeley student serves as an avatar for meaningful statements like "Nobody knows what's wrong with themselves. Everyone else can see it right away" which is a couple of mixtapes over from Elizabethtown.
Luckily, as has been the trend this season, Dick/Don gets negged by the annoying Blake Lively/Kate Hudson hybrid undergrad from South Pasadena. Granted, "you're so beautiful and young" is the worst pick-up line ever. Dick Whitman has always been a way for Mad Men to have it both ways, for Don Draper to be an all-powerful misogynist jerk as well as a good guy who truly respects women underneath.
Anna Draper, lesbian who enjoys watching Don paint her living room in his shorts, also thinks she has seen UFOs. Although not telling somebody they have terminal cancer is a total bitch move, who can really blame Dick/Don for wanting to get the hell out of there after the crazy high lady starts talking about aliens and you've just been humiliated trying to put the moves on a girl you knew before she had front teeth.
Don Draper was always everyone's fantasy about what a powerful alpha male should be like in the early sixties, including Dick Whitman's. A big component of the fantasy was the idea that you could somehow avoid all vulnerability if you were just cool enough. In the past, Don was always that cool, but divorce has fucked up his game.
Former Übermensch Don Draper was always able to seal the deal with women without any problems, as if it it were possible to eliminate the awkward moment that happens when you lean in to kiss someone for the first time, where you open the window for them to reject you but must feign bravado in order to even go through with it at all.
That you could somehow completely avoid any such awkward moments was illusory. Real life is about being raw red nerves vulnerable while covering for it outwardly all the time. Watching Don get rejected is both satisfying and super secondhand embarrassing, because we've all been there. At the start of 1965 Don Draper is more confused than ever about who "Don Draper" is, let alone Dick Whitman.
The episode takes the familiar crazy last act turn into another kind of Mad Men episode, the buddy comedy/double date. Usually these plots revolve about Don and Roger, but Roger is sadly and mysteriously absent in this episode (as is, mercifully, Bets). This time it's Lane and Don, new divorced guy BFFs acting out the plot of every major comedy of the last ten years. In the Roger role, Lane gets all the best lines.
Isn't it funny how Don's awful apartment comes pre-furnished because bachelors don't want to spend any time furnishing their apartments? All the bachelors I know LOVE furnishing their apartments, more than anything else in the world. You cannot stop those dudes from buying stuff for their places. It's all they wanna fucking do.
Peggy's reverence for Joan's "perfect marriage" is hilarious, as is Lane's love for Joan only blossoming after he sees her belittle somebody in the office. Joan's powerful feminine façade is every bit the lie that Don Draper's masculine front was. Now that Joan is trapped in her fantasy life, her own code won't let her complain about it.
Nobody wants to be topped more than a strong top. That's why Joan's attracted to Dr. Rapist, who turns down her meals and insists on stitching up her finger himself, and may be fucking a nurse or six on the side judging from his lack of desire for Joan so close to his deployment. Or what if Dr. Rapist is struggling with his own masculinity and like many embarrassed dudes just doesn't have that intense of a libido?
If somebody paid me twenty five dollars to go out with Don Draper I'd consider it the best day of my life and probably have to commit suicide afterwards because what the hell is going to top that. Before Don's suit just hid the existential dread of a person trapped in a bad marriage, now it hides the shame of a guy who sleeps on his bare mattress. Why they didn't take the escorts to see Gamera I'll never know. Anyone who goes to a stand-up show on purpose deserves everything they get.
Because Matthew Weiner is a sadist, we don't get to see Don fuck the fake-Joan hooker this time, since Mad Men's sex scenes only exist to impart fear and dread. Even when it goes well, it never really goes that well. Last year Sal got his first handjob of life, and look what happened to him. Likewise it is likely that Joan fakes her orgasms in addition to faking her hair color, and we now know Don Draper is nothing without the idea of "Don Draper." How do you separate the person from the idea of the person?
I certainly don't know, but I do know this. Y'all ain't never going to Catalina for Easter.
"Technocrat" - The Finkielkrauts (mp3)
"Writing a Song" - The Finkielkrauts (mp3)
"Lover Song" - The Finkielkrauts (mp3)