While actor Jon Hamm has just successfully completed a stint in rehab for alcohol abuse, it hard to imagine the same fate for Don Draper who has long been waging a battle with booze.
One line of dialogue we are doubtful to hear this final season of Mad Men is the handsome ad executive standing up in 12 step meeting at Hazelden soberly stating: “My name is Don Draper and I’m an Alcoholic.”
During the 3 martini lunch era that defined Mad Men , not only were rehabs less available to those suffering alcoholism, the cultural denial about the disease allowed old stereotypes about “problem drinkers” to linger.
It wasn’t hard for Don to be in denial about his excess drinking.
An Alcoholic…Who Me?
Because he is a functioning alcoholic, he contradicted the conventional wisdom of who an alcoholic was.
Impeccably groomed in his smartly tailored suits, dapper Don certainly didn’t fit the stereotypical skid row model, the down on their luck deviant, chronically unemployed, living in squalor on the edges of society that defined a real alcoholic.
In his swanky Park Avenue digs far removed from the bowels of the Bowery, Draper wasn’t downing his Johnny Walker Black from a brown paper bag. No sir, it was Baccarat cut crystal for him.
The problem drinker stigmatized as a “loser, one step away from a life of crime,” sure wasn’t successful ad man Don Draper.
Although by the 1950’s the AMA recognized alcoholism as disease, these hackneyed notions persisted.
Several years earlier in 1946, a year before a young Dick Whitman would become of legal drinking age, a groundbreaking March of Time newsreel was shown in movie theaters that explored the growing problem of alcoholism in America.
More importantly, the newsreel entitled “The Problem Drinker” attempted to show that alcoholics were just like everyone else. They were parents, friends workers, brothers; they held down jobs have friends.
A portrait of an American family man coming to terms with his alcoholism by seeking help from Alcoholics Anonymous, the film emphasized that alcoholics are not bad people but have an addiction beyond their control.
Despite its attempts to get people to reconsider old stereotypes of alcoholics, the predictable stereotypes lingered for decades.
With great fanfare, a full-page ad ran in Life Magazine announcing the June premiere of an important March of Time feature, “The Problem Drinker.”
The ad copy came complete with “retro emojis,” little drawings of alcoholic drinks place strategically among the text for emphasis.
Maybe he’s someone you know. Maybe he’s a neighbor or a chap from the office or a fellow you knew from the service. A good guy – except! How do you feel about him? Is his problem his business, his family’s, the government’s?
Should he be punished or coddled?…Can he be cured”?
In this forceful new film March of Time shows you in action the many ways in which Americas fourth largest public health menace is being tackled. For example, you’ve often heard of “Alcoholics Anonymous:” here you’ll see how AA works – in the dramatic story of one mans battle against alcoholism.
This picture pulls no punches, speaks straight to everyone who has ever worried about someone who “can’t leave it alone.
Perhaps if Dick Whitmam had watched the newsreel and taken the advise to seek help instead of turning to the bottle to deal with his dark past, Don Draper’s life might have turned out quite differently.
Copyright (©) 2015 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved