I’m posting this as I leave for a wedding.
As I depart, bogey perversity insists I ask you, Who is Don Draper?
This was the question that inspired me to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s The Hearts of Men. Don Draper, enigmatic and alone, is the postmodern man from your worst fantasy. Still predatory, no longer derogatory.
This was the man I went to find in Ms Ehrenreich’s book.
And failed. Long Live Dream Draper.
The Hearts of Men, a story of mounting perfidy, describes the genesis and evolution of the “male revolt”. In it, she draws a line from the ‘grey flannel’ playboys to the punks of the early ‘80s.
In all of them, aspects of the Draper abide. Like the grey-flannels, he has an ideal housewife; like the Beats he’s a prole. Like the Hef, his appetite is legendary.
E pluribus, unum.
Our telly likes its women fertile and undemanding. Across genre and trope and theme, girls are penalised for challenging chromosomes. Women are killed cos they’re pregnant, cos they’re not, cos they’re pregnant with the wrong sort of baby. There is even a soap imploring us to stay away from this cruel country. Consider, for a sampling:
SAAS BINA SASURAL
Hic sunt the Toasty, arriving in a household of seven men. A solid bahu, Toasty proceeds to live up to her lovely name. She quits her job, ingratiates her way into everyone’s confidence, discovers a Devastating Secret: an earlier bahu stormed out. Wretched predecessor now divorcing Family.
I fled through Pavitra Rishta in forty two minutes. Here is the Saas. There is the other saas rescuing her daughter from abuse.
Moral Turmoil. Mortal Toil. More Turmoil. Boy and Girl elope…. I give up.
Pavitra Rishta frames the dominant fantasy of popular soaps. Women exist to ‘knit Families together’. All their dreams and marginal rebellions are doomed to the devil’s treadmill. Keep your head down, it counsels, as you negotiate imposed boundaries. Obey, don’t reason. Don’t think, smile!
Her family, pure-bahu concludes after each righteous day, is the sole reason for her sustenance. To separate any woman from her (wedded) Family is a theft of her soul, her identity, her reflection in the mirror. Without her husband, the fabric of her existence would melt away — she would be worse than worthless, she would be wasted.
Size isn’t everything. It’s what you do
That matters, darling, and you do it quite well
In some respects. Credit where credit’s due –
You work, you’re literate, you rarely smell.
Small men can be aggressive, people say,
But you are often genial and kind,
As long as you can have things all your way
And I comply, and do not speak my mind.
You look all right. I’ve never been disgusted
By paunchiness. Who wants some skinny youth?
My friends have warned me that you can’t be trusted
But I protest I’ve heard you tell the truth.
Nobody’s perfect. Now and then, my pet,
You’re almost human. You could make it yet.