Fact-Checking The Crackpot Fan Theories Of 'Mad Men'

We sorted out the crazy from the credible ahead of the final series

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Blame it on season five: Ever since the pace of AMC's Mad Men got slower, crackpot fan theories began spreading like wildfire on message boards, fan sites, and Reddit, becoming inescapable like the latest Rihanna single. Creator Matthew Weiner felt compelled to weigh in on the madness, saying some theories were downright ridiculous.

With Mad Men nearing the end of its seven-season run, we decided to tally and scrutinize the theories still in play. As a bonus, we've included which ones to cross off, because Megan Draper can only remain on death watch for so long.
 

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STILL IN PLAY

1 | The Theory: Don Draper Has A Brain Tumour

The backstory: What better way to explain Don's recurring hallucinations—especially the one in which a shoeless Bert Cooper sings "The Best Things in Life Are Free"—than with an ailment? That's the logic put forth by Guardian writer Anne T. Donahue, who wondered aloud whether the anti-hero has brain cancer or is just dying in general. "Did he have a stroke?" she asked. "Does the falling man in the opening credits allude to how a lifetime in advertising will slowly kill you?"

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Our forecast: Who knows? Don has a fair share of emotional issues, but this one sounds a little far-fetched.


2 | The Theory: Don Draper Is D.B. Cooper

The backstory: A man calling himself Dan Cooper hijacked a Boeing aircraft in 1971. En route to Seattle from Portland, he coerced authorities into giving him $200,000, then commandeered a parachute and jumped. D.B. Cooper was never discovered, but was made famous in book, movie, and song. Writing on Medium, Lindsey Green says it's Draper.

Our forecast: Murky at best. "I immerse myself in '60s culture from a literary and historical point of view," Weiner said at a press event held earlier this year. "I'm not a historian."


3 | The Theory: Draper Will Anonymously Found Alcoholics Anonymous

The backstory: William G. Wilson co-founded AA in 1935 after a three-day bender left him on the verge of divorce and jobless. Like Wilson, at the end of season six, Draper was asked to sign a contract stipulating that he refrain from drinking—or else. Wilson hit rock bottom, and Draper did, too. But are they one and the same, as Refinery 29's Kelsey Miller argues?

Our forecast: Doubtful. Since when has Don Draper brought people together?


4 | The Theory: Pete Campbell Will Get Mauled By A Bear

Backstory: In season six, Ken Cosgrove gets shot in the face on a hunting trip with Chevy. Now that Pete's on the account, Uproxx argues, it's his job to entertain the Motor City bigwigs. He'll have to wear camouflage. While hunting. In the woods.

Our forecast: Plausible, but why belabour the point that car guys in the '60s were drunkards?


5 | The Theory: Joan Holloway Is Lee Holloway's Mother

Backstory: Christina Hendricks's sultry secretary, Joan Holloway, is mother to Lee Holloway, Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in Secretary. As Uproxx points out, Mary Gaitskill, who wrote the short story on which the film is based, is "exactly the kind of writer you know Weiner is reading."

Our forecast: Sure, why not? At least this offers a solid reason to re-watch the movie.


CROSS THESE OFF YOUR LIST

6 | The Theory: Megan Draper Is Sharon Tate

Backstory: It all started in episode seven of season five. Megan wore a white T-shirt emblazoned with a red Communist star, just like one Tate wore in an Esquire photoshoot in 1967. Before long, Reddit-trolling fans and bloggers were freeze-framing episodes, hungry for any sartorial clue.

What actually happened: Costume designer Janie Bryant and creator Matthew Weiner shrugged this one off. "No one's going to die," Weiner told The Los Angeles Times in 2013. "This season," he added.


7 | The Theory: Don Draper Will Help Nixon Fake The Moon Landing

Backstory: More parody than anything, this one posits that after practically running the new president's campaign against Kennedy in 1960, his old cohorts "help him stick one in the eye of the hemp-and-sandals brigade," writes Ali Arikan on RogerEbert.com. "The 'moon landing' took place in July 1969. Season seven takes place in 1969! Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Bad Moon Rising' was released in April 1969. The first episode of season seven, 'Time Zones,' debuted in April. And what happened the day after the episode aired? Blood Moon!"

What actually happened: Bert died, Don hallucinated. No conspiracies here.


8 | The Theory: Bob Benson Is Really A G-Man

Backstory: This, too, comes from Reddit: "The FBI was worried about espionage and there is a war and Dow Chemical is a client," writes user Oscar—Rowsdower. "SCDP has done political work. It wouldn't be a stretch at all ... I predict Benson will get close to Pete, ask about Don, and Pete will spill the Heinz beans about Don's past."

What actually happened: Ultimately, Bob was just another Draper: an ad man lying his way to the top.

This article was originally published on esquire.com


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