Tag Archives: american dream

Undraping Don Draper

Today I wrote a family therapy case study based on another newfound yet instant favorite character: Don Draper. To say that he’s been on my mind lately is an understatement, as we’ve been watching Jon Hamm’s gorgeous face on our TV almost every night these past two months. This complex ad man emerges from a decidedly simpler era – 1960s Americana. He has pretty much what any stereotypically “red-blooded” man would want: an office stocked with endless supply of booze and smokes, a considerable salary, the admiration of his entire office, and the perfect homemaker wife and kids. And yet beneath the surface there’s so much more going on – that image, is in effect, a persona – a draping for his real identity.

So who is Don Draper?

I’ll try to be gentle with the spoilers, but still be forewarned – some mild ones do occur. None that you won’t find out very early on in the show,  though.

First of all, his name isn’t really Don Draper. He was born and raised Dick Whitman, and escapes his impoverished, unnurturing family by joining the army. Upon arriving at his post, he learns that only one another serviceman has arrived so far – a lieutenant by the name of, you guessed it, Donald Draper. Turn of fate, they’re attacked and the real Draper dies, leaving Dick the sole survivor. The opportunist that he is (although not maliciously), Dick sees this misfortune as his ticket out of war and out of poverty at home, and switches their dog tags.

Back in the States, his career flourishes independently of his namesake’s. As an advertising director, he spends his days finding creative ways to reinvent the image of cigarette companies and department stores, but his secret is that in fact he has reinvented his entire life, and he’s suffering more than he can bear it. Perhaps that’s a critique of culture, always wanting more and new without appreciating the old, and perhaps he is the fulfillment of the American Dream – grassroots success no matter what the means.

Regardless, his inner turmoil lurks beneath the surface of his debonair exterior, and his life is mired with complex emotions that he can’t deal with. At home, he has the ‘perfect’ blond homemaker wife who’s clueless about his real identity, the golden retriever, and the two and a half children, but outside he seeks out the company of ambitious brunettes with careers who don’t need to know about his dark passenger. He’s overcome with guilt about what he’s done, but he’s been Don Draper for so many years that he’s stuck with it. On the one hand, it seems he’s miserable with the facade , but on the other he’s terrified that his world will come crashing down if he’s exposed.

In the end, he battles two social constructs: what he wants versus what people expect from him, and the battle is the sheer genius that is Mad Men.

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Oh My Pomp and Circumstance!

It’s official! I’ve marked yet another milestone in my life, and I was extremely lucky to be able to do so in the presence of my loved ones! Of course, there were those who were notably absent due to distance, but they were in my heart.

The entire night was very surreal – first, I must thank the powers that be for providing GOOD weather!! Yesterday was blissfully in the high 80s and the sun was mostly inconspicuous. During the day, we all went to the Target Portrait Studio for some professional photos – they turned out great! Stay tuned for them in a couple of weeks. Then, we headed to campus, where I checked-in and then posed with my dearests. My wonderful boyfriend was our photographer, and the mementos came out beautifully!  At around seven, I joined a couple of my friends in the sea of maroon and gold, and we made our way through the campus and to our seats. About forty minutes later, I got on the stage to shake the dean’s hand and receive my the holder that will ultimately house my diploma ! Sadly, even though we each handed the announcer a name card with phonetic spelling of our names, the lady with the thick accent massacred my name. Nonetheless, I graduated!!

I don’t think it fully hit me what it meant until I took a look around and realized that the West campus wouldn’t be my home base anymore. No matter what, even though I plan to continue on with my education at the main campus, it’ll never be the same. It was bittersweet; these past four years have molded me in so many subtle ways. I met some great people, spent an amazing year at U of A, had a news story published on the front page of the East Valley Tribune, took a politics course that really awakened me, discovered a deep love for feminism and Women’s Studies, had some debates with people who were my polar opposites, found my strengths in psychology, kicked butt at Advanced Statistics, suffered painfully through chemistry and biology courses that swelled with over 200 people, dreaded each exam for my online geology course, and even managed to learned a little bit about world religions.

I am honored to graduate summa cum laude, and I’m even more honored at how proud my family is of me! I really couldn’t have done it without them. I couldn’t have done it without my parents. They really are extraordinary! They came to America to fulfill the embodiment of the American dream, and in some ways I’ve helped them do that with this milestone. When I’m surrounded by other college students with fascinating stories of how they ended up where they are despite seeing war and poverty, my own story seems very privileged. I owe it to my parents for making the impossible decisions that they did in order to get me where I am today! A college graduate…I say, I do like the ring of that. 🙂