6.5 Bad Parents Turn Don into Moses and Pete into an Apostle
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Rachel: My mother died Don: Sometimes that’s not a bad thing.
Many of Mad Men’s characters do not have both parents, and those they do have are mean. Don says his dad used to beat the hell out of him.” That dad died and Don was left with an unloving stepmother. Peggy & Joan were raised by judgmental mothers and no fathers. Rachel Menken did not have a mother and it was implied that her father worked all the time. Peter’s father treats him with subtle contempt and Pete’s mother later tells him, “you were always unloveable.”
Bad parents can sometimes create good business people: sometimes the creative, like Don & Peggy, and sometimes the account managers, like Pete & later Joan. The reason for this is that they did not get the love they needed from their parents so they created ways to find it elsewhere. They do not have a loving home, so they find or create loving homes elsewhere. They leave their families and homes, in effect becoming migrants.
The most famous migrants of all were Jews. From Adam & Eve leaving Eden, to Jesus and his disciples moving from place to place. Part of entering a new land, finding a new home, is malleability; the ever-travelling must adopt a “love the one your with” mentality. Through an understanding of The Others, one can build a personality around them. Dick Whitman donned Don Draper and assimilated to New York. Peter’s constant adaptation is with his clients. He adjusts his personality to make the client feel important, what his father calls “whoring.” Not only do Peter and Don have a flexibility similar to Jewish migrants, they have their specific counterparts.
Don is linked to Moses and Peter is linked to the apostle Peter. In episode two, Don says, “just think of me as Moses/ I was a baby in a basket.” Although Don is being coy, the statement comments on his orphan status and alien status in New York. Doubly, the manner in which Don operates is similar to Moses. Don talks to something -- be it alcohol, god, or his subconscious -- and creates ads that lead the industry to new places. Franklin Roosevelt said,
The general raising of standards of modern civilization among all groups of people during the past half-century would have been impossible without that spreading of the knowledge of higher standards by means of advertising.
Thus Donald Draper is leading people out of the past and into the future -- to the promised land. For instance, he thought the Lucky Strike “it’s toasted” campaign. Since cigarette advertising was a leader in the industry, Don becomes the Moses of American mass 60’s ideology. Whereas Don is new money and Old Testament, Peter is old money and New Testament.
In episode four, old money Peter Campbell is directly linked to the New Testament’s apostle Peter, one of the original fishers of men. There is an important conversation in episode four soon after Pete’s dad mentions putting in the boat, and some minutes before Cooper hypothetically places Peter’s mother on Fisher’s Island. Campbell Sr. mentions the importance of Peter’s name, which not only references his surname Campbell, but subtly refers to his first name and its connection with the apostle. A representative contrast between Peter’s and Don’s styles is seen in the way they handle the Bethlehem Steel client.
Don stays true to the Old Testament and Pete, the New. When the Bethlehem Steel client says he wants to stay in that night, Don says, “unwind with the Psalms.” When the same client disagrees with the strategy Don is trying to lead him to, Don uses intimidation to convince him of his way’s superiority. Peter, to contrast, makes the client feel the Holy Spirit inside themselves. The client mentions with a smile that he only wins when playing against Peter. During the client’s confrontation with Don, Peter chooses the client’s side and makes him feel good. Also later in the episode, Peter helps him with his “unwinding with the Psalms” religious experience by setting him up with a prostitute. Don may make miracles happen and take people to new places, but Peter shows other that “the Kingdom of God is within.”
Bad parenting can create good businessmen because of the migrant nature one must follow to survive. However, there is still space to differ in styles of home-adaptation, as evidenced by Don and Peter. The older, Don, is of the Old Testament, whereas Peter, the younger, is the New.