Don Draper and company have made their last ad. After seven seasons on AMC, Mad Men is done.
Jon Hamm, the actor who portrayed Don Draper, spoke to the New York Times today about the show’s ambiguous conclusion.
“My take is that, the next day, he (Don) wakes up in this beautiful place, and has this serene moment of understanding, and realizes who he is. And who he is, is an advertising man. And so, this thing comes to him. There’s a way to see it in a completely cynical way, and say, ‘Wow, that’s awful.’ But I think that for Don, it represents some kind of understanding and comfort in this incredibly unquiet, uncomfortable life that he has led.”
And who he is, is an advertising man. Nice! You can’t rob a man of his own self-awareness just because he learns that he’s a salesman. Salesmen are people too.
Culture Editor for Vox, Todd Vanderwerff, sees both sides of the ending.
I think the real ambiguity here is the tenor of that scene. It’s a happy ending. Don finds a measure of connection, calm, and peace. “Buy the world” is one of those beautiful ads people remember. And the characters all find ways to move forward with grace and maybe even hope.
But it’s also a cynical, despairing ending, another moment of genuine emotion commodified and made into something that can be put on a shelf and sold. Life stumbles on. The moments of truth and beauty you are privy to are quickly made shallow by the imperfections of memory. Comforting a man in his hour of need becomes buying the world a Coke. It’s all mixed up together.
It is all mixed up. Don Draper didn’t make one of the 20th century’s most iconic commercials. In reality, “the real thing” was conceived by Bill Backer, creative director on the Coca-Cola account for McCann Erickson in 1971.
— Emily Miller (@emillersmith) May 18, 2015
Mad Men offers us the distance and safety of its fictional lens, while at the same time helping us see our own realities. American history gets replayed in this TV series, and topics like sexism in the workplace are as relevant today as they were then.
We like to judge advertising for its shallowness, and the people who make it for contributing to the problem. That fictional Don Draper “sees the light” on a hilltop above the Pacific Ocean and then turns that moment into a commercial is meant to push our buttons. Don Draper is meant to push our buttons. And he does.
Previously on AdPulp: Don Draper About To Board A Bus To His Future (Will Advertising Be In It?)