Matthew Weiner Says Don Draper Represents American Society, But He Needs to Take It Down a Notch
We all know how protective creator Matthew Weiner is of his beloved AMC series Mad Men, but now the guy is just getting greedy. According to a recent interview with The Atlantic, Weiner thinks Don Draper is a representation of American Society. Yes, the whole damn thing.
Speaking with Hanna Rosin, Weiner says of his hotly contested protagonist: "What you’re watching with Don is a representation, to me, of American society. He is steeped in sin, haunted by his past, raised by animals, and there is a chance to revolt. And he cannot stop himself." It's quite a claim and it comes on the heels of his explanation of "What is going on with Don?" Weiner equates Don's journey to that of the U.S., saying that in 1968 — where Draper and Co. currently reside on the timeline of human history — the world is in a tumultous state and it's all coming to a head.
"And by the time 1968 comes, an international revolution is going on. There is chaos. And my take was, People think Don is going to just retract. But actually, society is in the same state that Don is in," he says. Now, on one hand, of course Don's journey is mirroring America's. We've seen that since the first time Mad Men started lining up his mood swings with national events, but the way Weiner sets up Don as this catch-all for American Society is a bit of an overreach. And if we're being honest, it seems like a snappy way to attempt to restore faith in the character after Season 6 created wide-spread Draper fatigue.
Sure, the question on viewers' minds is "What the hell is going on with Don?" but the answer is easy: "The same thing that's always going on with Don." His past screwed him up, he doesn't know how to cope, so he engages in self-destructive behavior season... after season... after season. The problem is that, much like Weiner's Mommie Dearest-esque "NO SPOILERS!" decrees, these sort of hyperbolic statements about Don's purpose lift Mad Men up on a pedestal, where we're expecting some revelation so grand that the heavens open up and the sunlight of understanding shines down with little angels swirling around us as we finally creep upon the meaning of life itself. The show is good, but it's not that good.
Look, Mad Men is an excellent, well-written, thoughtful series. I'm not about to support the folks who continually assert that it's little more than a soap opera, because I do agree that there's more substance in its writing than the term "soap opera" merits. But Weiner isn't doing himself any favors when he extols the virtues of his own protagonist — one he clearly fetishizes every time he puts ink to paper. He's only setting us up for disappointment.
So while the thought of dragging out the series final season into two halves is an exhausting and daunting inevitability, it'll be a tad more bearable if Weiner can take a bit of chill pill on the reality side of the Mad Men machine. Of course we know it won't happen, but we can dream, can't we?