By Dane Feldman
Photo courtesy of Christina Saint Marche.
When television characters are well developed over time, they can sometimes leave an impression on our morals and how we perceive our existence. It’s safe to say that this is already a fairly known phenomenon. However, I truly didn’t think such development could impact the details of my own personality–namely, with Don Draper, the protagonist of Mad Men.
For me, it began when I first started watching Mad Men. Or, maybe, I only became aware of it then. I would turn on an episode, but not without first pouring myself a scotch on the rocks. It was then that I also began smoking cigars, and even the way I did that was ceremonial. I was emulating the way Don Draper smokes a cigarette.
After a while, I wouldn’t even watch an episode whilst wearing sweatpants. I felt the show deserved a crisp, clean shirt with a proper pair of pants.
Before long, Don Draper and Mad Men started spilling over into my everyday life. Truthfully, I drank most when Don’s alcoholism became realized in season six. You would think that would deter me, but I didn’t even notice my own habits until Don sobered up in season seven. I, too, cut back: first subconsciously, then consciously.
Perhaps I’ve been more impressionable throughout my life than I care to admit. I should profess that some of my mannerisms are deeply rooted in having watched Don during a time in my life that I felt lost.
Of course, certain aspects are conscious. For one, I admire Don’s personal style. While I can’t say I’ve totally embodied the finesse, his effortless and ageless elegance inspired me to build my own wardrobe into something of a timeless uniform. Don’s ability to speak only when necessary is also impressive. Though he is sometimes impulsive in his actions, his words are often well thought out.
But, the mannerisms? I am sure that, as many as I’m aware of, there are plenty of his that I take on unknowingly.
Even now, I just realized that I am writing by hand, while barefoot, with my ankles crossed (though the article will be typed by the time you read it because, of course, I can’t truly be Don in 2014). I am also wearing chinos with an un-tucked button-down. It seems like nothing, yes, but picture the parallel of Don writing about his alcohol dependency in season four’s “The Summer Man.”
Is such a situation what Oscar Wilde imagined when he wrote, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”?
Don and I differ greatly, but watching him and emulating him–both consciously and subconsciously–offered my life a strange form of structure. Perhaps watching Mad Men was a catalyst for me. My mother always said I “made everything into a production” (as a kid, I said goodbye to each animal cracker I ate), but now I go about my actions in a way that is routine and ceremonial, even ritualistic.
Will these habits disappear in a year’s time when Mad Men concludes? Unlikely.
Don’s mannerisms are now my own.