I mean, what is there left to say but “Whatever”? That’s now the word of choice used by the young when, yet again, some famous, important guy does something weird and inappropriate or bizarre with his libido. It’s our only remaining response to a morality that these men envision as entirely situational: a way to comprehend why they’re so self-righteous one moment, showing their penises to strangers the next. Situational morality is Anthony Weiner’s “But I’ve never had sex with any woman other than my wife” used as a defense of his honor. Hey, man, just because my privates are flying all over the net, don’t EVER DARE accuse me of infidelity!
An interviewer not long ago asked the creator of “Mad Men,” Matthew Weiner, whether he felt Don Draper’s fall from power and failed marriage was a result of his basic, underlying badness–a badness like, say, Tony Soprano’s.
Not at all, he replied. Draper, unlike Soprano, “has a lot of admirable qualities and is basically a moral person, and he makes mistakes. His morality is conflicting. It’s situational, which is the disease of the 21st century.”
There it is.
Today’s Times asks researchers why masters of the universe (and Draper is the tv example of one) screw up and dissemble and hurt everybody they love. Some researchers say it’s testosterone. Some say it’s power. Some say it’s a fusion of ambition and desire. Some say it’s a control system gone awry in the brain. While I look forward to more such answers in the future—to, say, why sports champions hit the top of their game and suddenly decide to cheat; what prompts politicians to have children with their household help; why billionaires defraud and ruin the financial lives of their clients, I imagine we’ll eventually find something pretty dull. Like, that they feel they occupy a realm above the law and without consequences. And that they feel frighteningly secure in that rarefied air, but, armed with their raging testosterone and entitlement, get itchy to move on to a way cooler place.
And when they ‘re under pressure to say, as Anthony Weiner did, “I don’t know what I was thinking,” I believe him, but alas, I feel nothing. When they eventually feel bad and start apologizing to their wives and families, I yawn. At least Bernie Madoff has the courage of his sick convictions. From his jail cell he reportedly announced, “Fuck my victims. I carried them for twenty years, and now I’m doing 150 years.”
Yeah, well, whatever.