As everyone else, I think that Donald Draper is a handsome motherfucker. That said, I also despise him. I despise his personality, his actions, his smug and arrogant parole, more or less everything about him. Watching episode after episode of Mad Men I constantly find myself judging him. It seems like I’m nothing short of a moralistic, judgemental, conservative woman in my thirties, but I really don’t think I’m any different from any viewer sitting home in their sofas in front of the fire glued to the screen admiring Don. We love to hate this man and his excessive behaviour. We love to hate his self-righteousness, even at times when we can see remorse in his eyes. This is not very complicated to understand. He is a bastard, especially in the eyes of a young feminist woman in her thirties in 2010.
That said, I found myself wondering as I was watching one of the new episodes today: Is it possible for a writer to create an interesting character without having some kind of sympathy for him? It seems obvious to me that the answer is no. You can disagree with him, his opinions, his actions and his way of life, but mustn’t you, on some level, have some kind of sympathy for him? How then, do you have sympathy for a murderer? I couldn’t, no, no, I couldn’t. It makes me sick just thinking of such things. It makes me sick just writing the word down. Now, Don is no murderer, but he constantly cheats on his wife and always put himself first. He does everything to protect the sorry existence he has built up around him. And when his wife does what he’s already been doing for years she is a whore? I think he’s bad enough. I think him just as bad as the appalling Mr. Ransom in the Bostonians. I think they’re the worst kind of men. I think they don’t see the big perspective, and I don’t think they look at women as being whole human beings. Does your personality rule out certain subjects? Does being a moralistic, judgemental, quite conservative woman (I mean conservative in my way of life, not politically) make me ill fit as a writer? I’m prone to think so. I despise when justice is not done, I despise people being ill treated, I hate all kinds of badness in people. I’m not sure I could describe a bad person well at all. I don’t even want to believe that people are able to do bad things. How the hell then I’m I suppose to see the big picture? How am I suppose to describe a complex human relationships? I’m not sure I can do it. I have a constant discussion going on with a friend on this subject, or rather a related one. It seems I have a taste for quite dark literature. And he doesn’t understand why I keep reading that kind of books when I know that it freaks me out an leaves me anxious and sleepless. And I guess the reason is that I don’t want to be blind to any sides of life. God damn it, all you have to do is turn on the news anyways. I have been wanting to read Lautréamont for a long time, but keep putting it off. I know I’ll be scared. I suppose I could still create consistent, realistic characters.
Everyone doesn’t have to write about the darkest things imaginable. But I can sense that I have a deep fear of these things. That I’m even afraid of the possibility of bad things happening, and therefore cannot bring myself to write them down. I believe that fiction has great power, and that one can get sucked into it. It can leave you numb with fear. I’ll never be able to write about very bad people. But I should be able to write about someone I disagree with. Would I be able to write a character similar to Donald Draper? I’m not sure.
I realise that my argument may be a bit confusing, and that I may be talking about many different things here, but I keep trying to make sense of this fear that I have of writing. I suppose I’m scared of what I might come up with, and it doesn’t feel good. That’s why I keep procrastinating, but I guess nothing good comes out of that either.