Betty: Stop it, Don. Nobody's watching.
Well IMO …
Don cheats because he doesn’t know what he wants, and Don doesn’t know what he wants because Society/Culture/America/etc tells him that Men Should want XYZ and all the messages have messed him up and made him a rather shitty lover/life partner/thing. Don wants to be happy with what he has but he isn’t used to contentedness and doesn’t know what to do with it and he’s one of those guys that loves something when he doesn’t have it. Once he has it, it’s not the same any more. Like Rachel Menken said in S1, Don just wants to run away, that’s what the idea of California always represented in contrast to his New York-planted life.
Don has issues with women going back to his childhood mother issues, he had little affection and we see that, growing up in a whorehouse or such, there were instances where affection was mixed with sexual inappropriateness. Part of Don loves to be in love with perfect women. Betty was the perfect woman of the 50’s, Megan could be seen as a perfect woman adapted for the 60’s. Don put Betty on a pedestal, and I think he honestly thought he was doing better (ie being more realistic) with Megan, and he might have tried, but it was still a struggle for him because he is an old dog and so are his spots. Part of Don also lusts for the, well, “whores”. Don suffers big time from the Madonna/Whore complex, as of course do other men. Don has professed to love Betty, Rachel, Suzanne, Faye, and Megan. He has also had almost purely sexual relationships with Midge, Bobbie, Lorelai the flight attendant, Doris the diner waitress, Sylvia, and lots of other women I don’t think we even had names for because that’s all they meant to Don anyway. There’s clear and distinct, if not homogenous, two different groups here, it seems to me.
So yeah Don cheats because he’s messed up inside and doesn’t know how to be happy and quite possibly is irrevocably engineered to act self destructively due to the warped social conditioning that the show, IMO, convincingly proves is a timeless American legacy. I dunno if that answers your question satisfactorily but I hope? Like, that’s what I think the show has demonstrated. Yeah his marriage to Betty was a bit of “playing house” but it doesn’t mean the problems began and ended with Betty. Don’s cheating is a way for us to examine some messed up ideals of American masculinity by looking at their effects.
(If you haven’t finished yet, come back when you can answer!) Where does Season 6 of Mad Men rank on your list of Mad Men seasons? Favorite? Least favorite? Somewhere in between?
“I’m thinking about how different you are before and after. I love the way you look at me when you’re like this. But then I watch it decay. I can only hold your attention so long.” — Betty Francis
“I keep trying to make things the way things used to be, but I don’t know how.” — Megan Draper
“That poor girl. She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.” — Betty Francis
“weaponed woman” by Gwendolyn Brooks
└ Joan Holloway, Mad Men
Well, life has been a baffled vehicle
And baffling. But she fights, and
Has fought, according to her lights and
The lenience of her whirling-place.
She fights with semi-folded arms,
Her strong bag, and the stiff
Frost of her face (that challenges “When” and “If.”)
And altogether she does Rather Well.
Joan Holloway to Don Draper, Mad Men 6.06 “For Immediate Release” —
This quote just floated by on my dash right now:
Having a low opinion of yourself is not modesty. It’s self-destruction.
and it got me to thinking about Megan Draper in MM.3.05 “The Flood”. You know, she was totally downplaying her own importance when it came to the award she was nominated for from SCDP, disclaiming that she was, oh, only part of a team. But she was also there building up the self esteem of the neighbor who was going to DC because he was asked to give a speech (or smth?) and she told Peggy that she should be proud of herself for her own nomination.
What a totally recognizable thing that women do, eh? Just to be seen as gracious and appropriately modest, lest anyone think we’re bitches, selfish, etc etc.
So much of the way women are socialized involves cutting yourself down to size.
George Taylor, Planet of the Apes, via Mad Men 6.05 “The Flood” —
Morris Gingsberg, Mad Men 6.05 “The Flood” —
Roger Sterling, Mad Men 6.05 “The Flood” —
Heather Havrilesky, “Mad Men” recap: The prestige that comes with ketchup —