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In Part I of AMCtv.com's exclusive interview, creator Matthew Weiner addresses the issue of sexual violence in Season 2 and explains Don's damaged psyche.
Q: What themes from 1962 did you try to incorporate into Season 2?
A: I was interested in materialism and the fact that the pursuit of objects and money can be very empty. I wanted to talk about the corporate struggle between artistic themes, which is the product that makes all the money, and the people who are in charge of administering that and collecting the money. Part of the theme of 1962 was youth: The Pepsi campaign was the campaign of the year, and this was a concentrated effort from Madison Avenue to tap into a bunch of people with money in their pockets and to adults that wanted to indulge them. The clients became obsessed with getting to the youth market, and the agencies became obsessed with getting young people who understood the youth market. It's the beginning of the baby boom and it's completely driven by young people -- and by old peoples' desire to embrace young people. Bob Dylan is 20 years old and everyone thinks he's the wisest person in the world.
Q: There's a perception that Season 2 featured a heightened amount of sexual violence, first with Don's interaction with Bobbie, then with Greg's attack on Joan.
A: I don't buy that. Certainly the thing with Joan was a reality that had been existing for a very long time -- it still exists -- and it was something we ignored on the show because I didn't know if I wanted it in this world. But it was par for the course for women then: Yes means yes, no means yes. In terms of Don, what I really wanted was for the audience to see that he was frustrated and bored. He's sworn off camera to Betty that he's going to be a different person -- he's home on time, he tells Betty when he's coming home. Then this thing happens with Bobbie, and he's intrigued that she's in it for the same reasons he is. Don's not trying to stick his hand under the dress of every client. That was their relationship -- she was using sex against him and he basically said "I'm in charge here," and she loved it. Don's a very different man than her husband, and it was a turn-on for a woman who's so powerful. It's a sexual thing, not a political thing.
Q: Why did you decide to displace Don in California?
A: From the beginning I wanted Don to reach a crisis point where he was going to have things taken away from him. He says in the first episode "You want to see that city disappearing behind you, you want to be on an adventure," and his life is not giving him that. Whatever discussion he and Betty had off camera between the two seasons, she has not forgiven him. She did not say, "From here on in you have a fresh start," and Don is someone whose entire life is based on a fresh start, which means that a train is going to come by and he's gonna jump on it. People may forget this because we're all part of one big city now, but California was a frontier and there were exciting things happening there already. He needed to go someplace where he could be himself and I saw that he was going to go there and be Dick Whitman and talk out his problems with this woman, Anna. People talk about him being a sociopath, and it bothers me because it's not true. It's almost like we would be more comfortable to think of Don as just some shark. But in truth he's just a very damaged person.
Q: How complete is your vision of where you want the show to go as a whole?
A: It's emotionally complete, but it's not specific yet. I have an emotional understanding of where I want these people to go and what's going to happen to them, and a lot of it has to do with living life. What is Don going to be like at 38? What is Betty's 35th birthday going to be like? What is Peggy going to be like when she turns 30? And I know what that is. What are the specifics? No, I don't know. Is Don going to end up with a second wife in Season 6? I don't know that yet.