AskMen Names Don Draper Top Man of 2009, We Ask Men: Why?
Recently, Askmen.com's readers named Don Draper, a fictional character, the most Influential Man of 2009. We thought, "Well, this could be so much worse." It could be Vito Corleone, or Hannibal Lecter, or Darth Vader. Of course, we love the protagonist of 'Mad Men' as much as the next person; he's handsome and dresses well, but he's really not a nice guy or a happy person. See also: drinks and drives, cheats on his wife, is unnecessarily mean to Peggy Olson, and fires his closeted gay staffer for not putting out. We asked Askmen's Editor James Bassil what the heck his readers were thinking. See his commentary after the jump.
What is the process for picking the most influential men? Who decides this? Do you present your readers with an initial list? What is your criteria? Are your readers raised by wolves?
"We got a list of candidates, approximately 110 candidates. And we choose those names based on the one hand, reader feedback over the course of the year, and also just who's been high profile, who are the guys who've been making the splash in the industry or whatever else over the course of the year. Once we open the candidate list up, we usually get email from readers, saying "you forgot him, you forgot him." In the end, the list is no more than 120 candidates."
"The reader casts their votes, the staff cast their votes as well, and then we combine those votes."
Who nominated Don Draper?
"Don Draper was nominated by the same process as the other guys. Initially we were saying, is it Don Draper the man, or is it Jon Hamm, the actor who portrays him the man? The impact that Don Draper has isn't really a consequence of the life that Jon Hamm gives to the character."
"We look at these guys as agents of influence; that was really the criteria for us when rounding up the candidates."
"Who are the guys, yes, they've been high profile for the past year, but the guys who've had a real impact on men's day to day's lives. In some instances, that was a really direct impact, for instance, that would be Mark Zuckerberg Facebook guy. So even though a lot of guys might not know him if they crossed paths on the street, there's no question that Facebook has a direct impact on the way we communicate and spend our lives in the hours at work and after work."
"Other guys have a more diffused impact, maybe they effect the values we hold, or the way we think one should lead their lives. One example might be Obama. Whereas, yes, we can say that he's had a direct impact in the way all Americans live but I think the influence he's had over guys has been a more intangible impact on the way they view the world, rather than the way they treat their trips to the doctor or the way they file their taxes. At least, thus far."
"Looking at guys in terms of who has influenced the way men think or behave or the way we lead our lives over the past year. And looking at the effect that 'Mad Men' has had as a show and Don Draper the character, in a lot of ways it has a direct impact, if you look at the number of men's fashion spreads over the past year, dress like a Mad Man, drink like a Mad Man, that kind of thing. I think he has a very much direct impact on men's lifestyle. More so than some of these other guys."
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It's sort of an aspirational lifestyle. I'm not really sure if anyone is really doing that at all.
"He couldn't really be described as a completely happy character. He's a drinker, a philanderer, he cheats on his wife. He does some bad stuff. But there's this fallibilty, authenticness to him, as a result of that."
"All these guys, all the 49, we perceive them as they have been constructed to be perceived. In that sense, the fact that Don Draper is the guy who has very human shortcomings and very human problems, makes him almost more realistic and more approachable than all the other guys on the list. We don't hear much about Usain Bolt's personal issues or problems or whatever else. Even Steve Jobs' health problems were swept under the carpet over the last year. In that sense, Don Draper is more accessible than a lot of guys in a way."
No other fictional characters have made it on the list?
Why Don Draper and not Walt White of 'Breaking Bad?' He's a meth cooker who made millions on behalf of his family. He doesn't cheat. Ok, so he lies. A lot.
"I think that a big part of the appeal of Draper is that he's a sixties guy and he's a kind of a traditional man that we don't see walking around anymore. Maybe we wouldn't seem him walking around in the sixties either. Maybe this is part imaginative character that's just nostalgia, this idea of a man from the sixties being the guy who looks sharp, wears a fedora, can fix everything, and drinks like a fish. It's almost the only shared idea of masculinity that men have now. This kind of throw-back sixties manly man. Part of his appeal as well is that he's very much the man as we've defined men are supposed. He's very much the traditional man, as he exists in our collective imagination."
What did Jon Hamm say about this?
"Jon Hamm didn't say anything about this that I know of. The quote from Matthew Weiner, I would just be paraphrasing, was something along the lines of 'drinking and carousing with women is what makes number one these days, and my apologies to Mr. Obama.'"
I was going to say, what do you think it says that people chose an alcoholic philanderer who is lying about his secret identity over our Nobel Peace Prize winning first African American President? Do you think Obama needs to dress better and acquire a taste for whiskey?
"Well, the guys love Obama, he was number 1 last year, he was number 2 this year. But you know with Don Draper, it's equal parts accessibilty, he feels like a real guy with the same kind of problems and maybe moral dilemmas that real guys deal with. And concurrently, he's this ideal man's man that we all aspire to be. He's the James Bond guy in a sense. He the man men want to be and the man women want to be with. For all his boozing and treating his poor wife badly, I've yet to meet a woman who doesn't swoon a little."
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