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The alluer of parallel lives

As I watch Mad Men I get more and more fascinated by Donald Draper, especially the way how he’s been leading perhaps not just a double but triple or possibly even quadruple life. Early on and season 1 we’re told through a series of flashbacks about how back when he was growing up on a farm as a boy by the name of Dick Whitman, he hated his life and dreamed of getting out of it. Finally a chance to do just that presented itself in Korea, when Dick was assigned to a lone lieutenant who had been tasked with building some sort of a military facility but only been given Dick to help him.  The lieutenant’s name was   Donald Draper and he got killed during a mortar attack, his body being disfigured beyond recognition by a direct hit. Somehow Dick’s and Draper dog tags got confused, and when Dick, who got knocked out and injured in the same attack, comes to in a hospital he realises everybody thinks that he is lieutenant Draper and that the dead guy is him, Dick. Instead of setting his record straight, Dick decides to run with it and goes back to the states as Donald Draper.

Towards the end of the second season while on business in California, Don runs into a group of ‘professional recreationists’ (for lack of a better word), a bunch of people who dress very well, seem to have lots of money, speak with various kinds of European-ish/aristocratic accents, except for this one girl, who was obviously brought up speaking English in the US and who falls for Donald. Donald is cool, he doesn’t talk much and he looks like Bond, James Bond. As the girl is leaving the hotel in a luxurious convertible she invites Don to joint her, at first he refuses but then as he stands there on the porch, watching her making herself comfortable in the car and putting on a headscarf, something clicks in his head, he walks down the stairs and gets into the car. To the girl’s question whether he’ll be getting his bags, he simply says, ‘no’.

And from this point on Don enters a kind of a parallel reality where he doesn’t have to work, all he has to do is have sex with his new companion, have meals with the other ‘recreationists’ and travel with them.

Seeing some kids, Don leaves the recreationists and goes to pay a visit to the widow of the real Don Draper. In another series of flashbacks we learn how she tracked him down in New York and how Don tried denying everything at first but then confessed his scam to her and how eventually they became close friends, we also learn that Don bought her a house and supported her and the whole time they were ‘formally’ married.

So Don ends up with at least three very different lives he can choose between:

Life 1 is New York, Sterling and Cooper and his family

Life 2 is the recreationists and their nomad lifestyle, going from one luxurious hotel/mansion to another, having meals and sex and generally enjoying themselves in a beautifully decadent kind of way.

Life 2, is lieutenant Draper’s  window with her nice house, the smell of the ocean from the porch and magnificent sunsets that can be seen from the porch.

And it’s really amazing, that at least at one point in his life Don is given this choice where he can literally simply decide which life he likes better and just go for it. No trails, no strings attached no nothing. Sure back in NY there’s money and a family he left behind but that family is at this stage as good as finished, he’s been staying in a hotel the past few weeks, having been told about Don’s affair with Johnny Barret’s wife, Don’s wife doesn’t want to see him in the house any more.  So it’s not like he would be ruining much by walking out on his NYC life. And he comes across as the kind of guy for whom making money comes naturally. He’ll be flush whatever he does and wherever he does it.

One can’t help but wondering what it would be like if we could really choose things in this way, just walk out on one life and into another. Well, truth be told these things happen sometimes, especially if you go into witness protection, but still in real life it’s not nearly as easy as it seems to be on Mad Men.

And even in Mad Men, Don eventually goes back to NY, to face the music and get 500 thousand dollars he got from the merger of Sterling and Cooper with a British ad agency, that went down while he was in his soul searching quest.

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Categories: TV shows
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