Monday, April 20, 2009

Mad men after my own heart

I've been getting my weekly dose of House every Monday, watching episodes from Season 5 on AXN. I have expressed my adoration of House (both the TV series and the character) several times in my blog (here and here and here and here and here), and though critics have panned Season 5's storylines and character development, I'm still enjoying it. While I do miss House's dynamic with his original 3 "ducklings" Chase, Cameron and Foreman, I like his new trio of apprentices well enough. Moreover, now that he has more people to deal with on a regular basis, his interpersonal skills (or lack thereof) are brought to fore, and it's interesting to see how he handles-- and screws up-- his relationships with his colleagues.

Just tonight after having watched another episode of House, it hit me that most of the TV characters that strongly appeal to me share many similarities: they tend to be highly intelligent, overly confident, socially maladjusted, emotionally stunted, morally ambiguous, and helluva sexy (at least to me they are). There's House, there's Alan Shore from Boston Legal, and there's Don Draper from Mad Men.

For the uninformed, Mad Men is the award-winning drama series set in an advertising agency in the 60s. The whiskey-swigging men are dressed in dapper suits, the women's tiny waists are cinched by big skirts, the office atmosphere is charged with chauvinism and sexism and infidelity, and everyone smokes like chimneys. At the center of it all is the dashing, mysterious creative director Don Draper, brought to life by actor Jon Hamm. Hamm has one of those "old" faces, not old as in decrepit, but old as in old-fashioned-- he looks like he belongs in the Hollywood of decades past, and not in contemporary show business. He's also classically handsome-- not just cute or hot, but handsome in a way very few men are, especially in this day and age (Gregory Peck will forever be the epitome of handsome for me). That Hamm is so good-looking is only part of the appeal he brings to the character of Don Draper though. He manages to walk the precariously fine line between charming and slick, confident and cocky, brooding and dark... all the while looking damn fine in a 3-piece gray suit with matching tie and pocket square.

Draper is married to a beautiful but bland blonde, a Barbie doll trophy wife who stays at home and takes care of their 2 young kids, and though he is obviously a devoted family man, he also carries on affairs with various women. While this aspect of him is morally questionable, on the other hand he is admirably ethical when it comes to work, and of all the men at his firm, he treats the women at the office with the most respect. Then again, Draper hides a secret from his past that no one knows, and this secret again reveals a flaw in his character that seems at odds with his inherent decency.

It's that contradiction that fascinates me so, and it's the same paradoxical quality that draws me to brilliant but abrasive personalities-- not just in TV shows, but in real life as well. Yes, most of my dearest friends are smart SOBs and bitches (and there's no use denying it, Yang). I suppose I am drawn to these types because I myself am
highly intelligent, overly confident, socially maladjusted, emotionally stunted, and morally ambiguous (I'll hold off on the helluva sexy). Unfortunately, I think this also translates into an attraction to inappropriate men (right, Maddy?). Now if only any of them looked remotely like Jon Hamm, or even a young James Spader... but I digress.

I read this passage in someone's blog right before I started composing this post: "There's nothing offensive about him at all. But there's nothing that impressive about him either." Given the choice, I suppose I would rather be offensive yet outstanding than just pleasantly plain and forgettable. Of course it would be ideal if we can achieve excellence without compromising our ethics or becoming nasty. But let's face it, the straight and narrow can be so dull, and there will always be something amusing-- and alluring-- about nasty. As long as it comes in small doses, like every Monday night.


Post a Comment

<< Home