August 13, 2009
You know I can see how a lot of people dislike Pete Campbell but I’ve never considered him a total antagonist, he’s more just one of the main characters. Actually, I don’t think there are any good guys and bad guys on Mad Men, just people. But back to Campbell. I’m with G.D. here, Campell is indeed “interesting.” He’s ambitious but not totally because of greed. Part of it has to do with Pete gaining independence and respectability by being successful enough to provide for his wife. Throughout the first season he’s constantly torn over taking money from his father-in=law so that he and his wife can live the posh life that they’re used to. “I can’t provide for a child” he professes guiltily one night. It’s that desire that drives Pete to blackmail Don which was a rather strange twist in the story of their relationship.
I’ve always been fascinated by Campbell’s opinion of Don especially when contrasted with his relationship to Duck. Over the last two seasons Campbell has treated Don as sort of a father figure. Pete is regularly looking for Don’s approval going so far as to say how much he wants Don’s approval after Campbell lands the Clearasil account. When Campbell’s father dies he goes to Don first even though Duck is the one to give him some fatherly advice and comfort (which Campbell doesn’t seem to like one bit). I don’t exactly know why Campbell takes to Don and not Duck, maybe because Duck is so clearly not the real deal in Campbell’s eyes and Don is? People choose to adore other people without any real logic sometimes.
My theory is that because Campbell is very much the little boy —he doesn’t always think about what he says or what the consequences might be just like a child. He acts like a spoiled child— and Don is very much the man, disapproving of Campbell but on legitimate grounds, Campbell wants to become him. In a way Campbell views Don as a father figure I think. Campbell wants to be successful like Don and righteous like Don appears to be and skilled like Don. He wants to be able to stand beside Don “on the top” which Campbell says has enough “room” for them both. As far as I can tell he’s never wanted to get rid of Don, just be on an equal ground with him or more crudely be equal to him.