Don Draper: The Esssence of the Anti-hero

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AMC’S Drama, Mad Men

Who is Don Draper?

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Creative Director at Sterling Cooper, Don Draper

Going through mistresses like packs of Lucky Strike, AMC’s drama, Mad Men revolves around the life and loves of Don Draper, a partner in an advertising firm in New York City during the 1960’s. A man who chain-smokes, drinks, and hides a shadowy past, Draper’s excessive liaisons are often overlooked when we learn of his abusive, traumatic upbringing. As seasons progress, we see a character reinventing himself time and again, yet every time he sheds his skin, the same old Don eventually emerges making him an anti-hero both women and men love.

The Man formerly known as: Dick Whitman

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Widow Anna Draper with Dick Whitman, who reinvented himself as Don Draper

Conceived through a business transaction, a child born to a prostitute who died giving birth to him, left him to be raised by a strict, abusive father and stepmother. Originally born Dick Whitman, he remade himself as Don Draper after he secretly switched identities with a fellow soldier killed next to him during the Korean War. In the early 1950s, the widowed Anna Draper tracks down Don, accusing him of impersonating her husband. Only to later admit the truth, the two become dear friends, providing Anna with a home in California. Covering her expenses even after he remarries, Anna tells Don, “I know everything about you, and I still love you.”

Draper Works for Sterling Cooper:


He’s thrown money in her face, given accounts away, threatened to tell a client she’s having an affair with her married boss and has given away credit for her ideas. While Don Draper can be a hard ass to many in the office of Sterling Cooper, he’s also a mentor, specifically to Peggy Olsen. I think Don and Peggy have a special relationship, despite they’re heated quarrels. They’re unsatisfied with who they are and are willing to do what it takes to become something else.

Why females love him: He has a softer side

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Don and one of his many mistresses

Men want to be him, but women want to be with him. Though most women would be repelled by his infidelity and his lifestyle is hardly designed to appeal the opposite sex, his obvious intelligence and chiseled good looks, is enough to convince women of one thing; we can change him. According to an AskMen article, “Even those who consider themselves died-in-the-wool feminists admitted that Draper represents everything they want in a man: not only is he tall, dark and handsome, but he is commanding, enterprising and always in control.”

Why males think of Draper as: “The Mans Man”

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Don Draper and the men of Sterling Cooper.

When the man in my life told me he could relate to Don, I was a little apprehensive. When he revealed the reason he gravitates to Don was because of his upbringing, my worry cast away. “The reason why I like Don is because I can relate to him growing up in an unstable environment. Not that I grew up that way, but like Don, I never really had a father. So watching Don gravitate to older men he works with or conducts business with; he looks to them as a father figure somewhat. That’s how I feel about the men who have influenced my life.” As for the male perspective on why Draper is ‘The Man’s Man,’ “Don is just cool. He’s the man who holds ideal fads we as guys wish we had: infinite power, great style and masculinity. In an era that was so classical, his visions in the creative art world represent power. Plus there’s something about the idea of him remaining mysterious, in his version of the perfect world.”

Reinventing Himself as: “A Good Father”

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Don takes his kids to his childhood brothel home he grew up in, in the hopes of rebuilding a relationship with his kids.

“I don’t think I ever wanted to be the man who loves children,” Draper says in Season 6. Not until the end of this last season, do we see the knife being jabbed into Don’s “fatherly heart” or better yet, open one. Sally Draper’s world was rocked after she walked in on her father having intercourse with a woman whom is not her father’s current wife. Walking in on her father, mirrors an event we saw in a flashback when young Don saw his stepmother sleeping with a brothel owner. Even with Don’s denial that what Sally saw wasn’t what it seemed, it’s not until Sally refuses to look her father in the eye, that Don reevaluates his own neglecting during his childhood and in turn had done the same thing to his own children.

“People want to be told what to do so badly, that they’ll listen to anyone” says Don Draper. I personally, genuinely love the fact that this show encourages its viewers to be routinely frustrated by the anti-hero.

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