Don Draper may be the sexiest, most gorgeously tortured human being ever to have landed on television. All the male characters on Mad Men tantalize viewers by unbuttoning their over-starched dress shirts to reveal the voluptuous, sometimes vile and always ego-driven hunger of the masculine soul. But what makes the show so delicious is a fact its Y-chromosome-heavy cast list works to conceal.
Mad Men is really about women.
The Mad Men take pleasure in the bourbon-swilling, stripper-ogling revelry of their lives without realizing they're on the brink of extinction. The sixties are here. Soon the secretaries will demand their bosses stop pinching their asses and the wives will express emotional needs. The black elevator operators will no longer nod complacently at patronizing remarks and the Jewish clients will no longer pretend not to notice the token Jew brought in from the mailroom to impress them.
Most of the Mad Men will clasp tightly to this rapidly fading era when they ruled the world. Meanwhile, the Mad Women are ripe for change.
First, we have the colossal Joan, queen bee to an office full of marriage-starved secretaries. Joan finally gets the professional recognition she deserves after saving a campaign, only to be replaced by an incompetent male colleague. She gets the husband she wants then is raped by him. In a scene where she massages an impression left in her skin by the strap of her corset, we know she's exhausted by the fight. But we also imagine she'll slide back into that constricting brassiere every morning until the day she can finally burn it. Driving The Mad Men Wild
Meanwhile, Peggy has morphed from the prim secretary her colleagues want to belittle or bed, into a woman with Don's mastery of the craft and his steely disregard for ineptitude. In season three, she beds then abandons a college boy, evidence she's inching closer to the dark side, where ambition reigns, people are disposable and sex is a quickly satisfied diversion. Later, when Don and Peggy work together on a campaign, the future becomes clear: the next Don Draper is Peggy Olson. Diary of a Mad Ad Woman
Then there's Betty, the pigeon-shooting, washing machine-humping embodiment of suburban drudgery. Her husband's cruelty is an aphrodisiac luring the bored housewife into her own depths. If he could only see how lusty and hungry for connection his wife is, Don would reveal himself and become whipped forever.
Lastly, we have the fierce, whip-smart goddesses our good Mr. Draper takes as mistresses. Don's attraction to dames who have something to contribute to a conversation reaffirms our suspicion that sharp men really do dig sharp women, even if they marry princesses. Don's lovers will eventually come out from behind the husbands and fathers to whom they currently supply a backbone.