Bob Benson, True Hero of ‘Mad Men’
Mad Style sets out to explain Bob Benson to the legions of Internet people who have made up bizarre theories about his role on the show. (Thanks, Sheryl!)
Here is what we surmise about Bob Benson, based on the above: He’s an upper-middle class over-achiever from a family of them but he’s more than likely estranged from them because he’s gay, which partially explains why he doesn’t work for the family firm and also explains why he can be so flexible about whether his father is alive or not. Like a lot of gay men, he is fascinated by people who work in a creative field, even if he’s not creative himself. Like a lot of well-closeted gay men, he is a smooth liar from years of experience; very good at fooling the eye with distractions and cover stories. But because he’s constantly spinning tales he can’t always keep track of them and a close observer can occasionally pick up inconsistencies. Like a lot of over-achieving well-closeted gay men, Bob is operating under “Best Little Boy in the World” syndrome, a term which comes from the seminal coming-out autobiography of the same name, published in 1973, and so well describes a certain type of middle-to-upper-class gay man that it’s considered an honest-to-god measurable syndrome today. Basically, it comes down to this: there is a certain strain of gay men who have an overwhelming urge to be over-achievers in all areas of their lives. In school, they are A-students and members of every club and organization that will have them. They are athletic, scholarly, friendly, and helpful to everyone around them, constantly seeking excellence and popularity in order to deflect any questions as to why he doesn’t date. They are always extremely clean-cut, if not downright conservative in appearance. They quite often stay in school to get advanced degrees because the atmosphere allows them to continue to put off any questions about their personal lives or plans outside their education or careers. After school, they throw themselves into their careers with the same fervency they used to get through school. If a gay man is both a Best Little Boy and estranged from his family, he is more than likely an extremely lonely person; possibly even someone who’s bad at reading personal cues and engaging in emotional intimacy. These types of gay men still exist, but there were far more of them back in the days when staying in the closet was less of a personal choice and more of a necessity.