[NOTE: Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the final episode of this season of Mad Men, but you plan to do so.]
I can see how feminists might be enraged by the the season finale of blockbuster TV series Mad Men last night. Protagonist Don Draper falls in love with his 25-year-old secretary, Megan, and proposes to her. He’s been dating Faye, a super-sharp 30-something market researcher, so his proposal to Megan is a clear rejection of Faye.
Certainly, Faye is more of a peer to Don than Megan is at work. Faye deals with the same high-level executives that Don does. Megan is Don’s secretary, attending to the details of his life that he’s too busy to deal with. Faye respects Don, but she challenges him as well. Megan is in awe of Don as if she were his biggest fan.
However, Don’s courtship isn’t just about Don. It’s also about his three children from his first marriage. Very clearly, Don falls for Megan partly because he sees that she has great chemistry with his kids. She teaches them and makes Don a better dad than he is alone. On the other hand, in a previous episode, Faye gets frustrated with Don’s most problematic child, his tween girl Sally in a very difficult situation. Faye tries, but she fails to connect with Sally.
So, is Don choosing a woman for her youthfulness and childcare potential over a woman who is older and wiser? Yes, clearly.
However, I applaud his decision. Clearly, it strongly incorporates the interests of his children. No one would deny that Megan demonstrates a greater potential to be a good mother-figure to Don’s children than Faye does. Don’s ex-wife, Betty, has become more mean and self-centered since she and Don split up. It’s frightening to imagine how having her as a mom and having a single, career-obsessed, womanizing dad like Don might impact their lives after a few years.
So, Don chooses his life partner largely on the basis of her compatibility with his children, rather than on the basis of her compatibility with him as a peer.
Anti-feminist? I guess so, but I also think Don’s decision is pro-child, and I happen to think that can often be more important. In this case, Don’s being pro-feminist would also be self-indulgent. Choosing Faye over Megan would fulfill Don more as a person. She makes him think more, and she makes him better at his work.
But far too many divorced men make decisions as if they’re single again. Kids grow up not knowing their dad, and they’re far worse-off for it. Don Draper’s kids will probably have a much better relationship with their dad because of his decision to marry a young secretary who connects with his kids rather than an accomplished career woman. If this happens, they will grow up to be happier, healthier, more successful adults.