October 12, 2009
Up until tonight’s episode, a political question mark hung over Don’s head. He always sided with his fellow outsiders (promoting Peggy, not outing Sal), sure, but the undercurrent of a potential anti-civil rights backlash was always present. Don is noticeably apolitical, both in the workplace and at home, but that certainly never meant he’d shy away from challenging the conventional social order. He tended to see people for who they really are, so to speak, judging others based on their abilities rather than their ascriptive identities.
Still, I always thought Don could go either way; either side with the civil rights activists of the ’60s or buy in to the silent majority backlash; either side with the underdog, or belittle their fight for equality.
At first, Don represented the latter. I mean, his mentorship of Peggy was unprecedented for the time. He valued the opinions of African Americans (Season 1, Episode 1, Scene 1), a trait that seemed to rub off on Pete, of all people. He looked past Sal’s homosexuality and infidelity, and even promoted him after catching him with another man.
But recently, Don has represented the former. He essentially told Peggy to wait her turn and stop asking for so much after she requested a (arguably) deserved raise. Then tonight–coincidentally National Coming Out Day–Don slipped in a disgusted “you people” quip while firing Sal. “You people“? In this obvious disassociation and linguistic distancing, Don established the direction of his–up to this point unknown–future political leanings.
As Betty grows more and more independent and dissatisfied with her life, Don grows more and more resistant to change. As social unrest builds throughout the country and minorities grow more and more dissatisfied with inequality, Don grows more and more agitated with his fellow outsiders, forgetting that he too is somewhat distinct from mainstream America. Don’s conquest of Sally’s teacher–dismissing her progressive idealism–symbolically represents Don’s dismissal of fights for civil rights in general.
In Don, I see the awakening of the silent majority.