Archetypes: Television: ‘Mad Men’: Don Draper, Addictions and the Priest



The addiction-centric archetypes associated with “Mad Men”’s Don Draper (Jon Hamm) have been consistent over the series’ seven-season run. In the pilot, viewers learned that Don drank, smoked and was unfaithful. Over several dozen episodes, they realized those habits – booze, cigarettes and sex – were embedded in the man’s sinews. And that these activities could also be seen as conduits to a life shinier than his childhood would likely have allowed.

For the entirety of the series, Don, in his insatiable hunger and thirst for the Divine, has aspired to living in another realm, an activity that’s second-nature to addicts. These trips beyond the veil, to some Eden-like haven, are temporary sojourns. The nature of Neptune, which rules both addictions and the Transcendent, is ephemeral. Neptune also rules disappearances – as in the eradication of Dick Whitman – and everything vague and nebulous, like cigarette smoke curling upward until it simply vanishes.

Of course, thematic threads have origins. And if Don has deified advertising – a profession that plays with the truth to create Neptunian lures aimed at consumers – his addictions speak to a desire for a more reliable deity, however one prefers to define such a spiritual force, even if he doesn’t know it yet.

Because of “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner’s meticulousness, my money’s on a finale that builds on the drama’s extraordinary facility with the Neptune archetype, as Don has so far configured it. What are the possibilities?

In the real world, priests typically serve as liaisons between here and the beyond, encouraging selflessness – a behavior that Don has been incorporating into his life over the past several episodes – and good deeds. Even without a Roman collar, counselors and “big brothers” also serve in similar capacities, as do teachers.

Viewers primed for tonight’s finale anticipate Weiner’s final vision of Don who might well turn out to be higher-consciousness version of the old Don. Neptune, so slippery and out of reach, is wonderfully tricky that way.

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