Jon Minus Kate Plus a Mad Man
The Devolution of Man
By Joe Frandino
Jon and Kate Plus 8’s Jon Gosselin and Mad Men’s Don Draper constitute the proverbial yin and yang of men on television. Older generations of stoic womanizers like Draper draw more interest from women than today’s wussy grovelers like Gosselin. Men, we are losing our manliness. Welcome to the devolution of man in mainstream media.
Let's begin with Draper, the 1960s advertising executive. Every female viewer of Mad Men adores Don, that whiskey-draining, chain-smoking, unabashedly adulterous chauvinist. I'd heard of him through my own collection of female friends, who consistently call him “dreamy, thick, and knee-quiveringly masculine,” but I just didn’t get it.
He didn't seem like the guy “your mother warns you about” who girls often fall for. He’s more the intimidating, booze-soaked uncle with whom everyone avoids eye contact at birthday parties. Other than his required-for-TV good looks, I didn’t see the appeal. He seemed too downright sexist and cold to get women of this generation all hot and bothered. That was, until I flipped the channel to Jon and Kate Plus 8. Suddenly, I understood Draper’s appeal.
Jon Gosselin embodies the summation of all that has gone wrong with mainstream men. The man wears Crocs and custom CZ earrings, religiously gels his hair, and waxes his eyebrows. He all but cowers before his wife on national television.
Gosselin candidly discloses his attempts to “reconnect with a deeper, more spiritual, more altruistic self with regular study sessions and counseling.” He publicly analyzes his “inability to check” his “moral compass.” Draper makes no heartfelt apologies or pleas for mercy, but usually looks sternly at the floor, tosses back a glass of scotch, and takes a long, slow drag of his cigarette. Yet Draper is the hero, and Gosselin is the pariah.
Rumors fly about Gosselin's affair, and women who don't even know him rake him across the coals; Draper enjoys handfuls of extramarital affairs, and women feel sorry for him because he just can’t seem to find love and happiness — poor guy. Draper serves as an homage to men as they once were, while Gosselin acts as a social warning for what the mainstream men have become.
As each day passes and men continue to don intricate woven scarves and immaculate manicures, women look longingly back at chauvinist pigs like Don Draper. The 21st century woman is more nostalgic than we think, and she may eventually regret these attempts to nullify masculinity in the mainstream media. We modern men can hear a collective “we’ve gone too far,” muttered just out of ear-shot.
I’m surprised women seem to prefer the strong, silent, alcoholic type to the submissive, moisturizing, apologetic type. Then again, if Jon Gosselin is all the modern man has to offer, no, I’m not.
Illustration by Katherine Mills