Life imitating art

So a couple of weeks ago it was reported in The Guardian that Jon Hamm – the actor who plays Don Draper in the Mad Men series has been treated for alcohol dependence.


Mad Men star Jon Hamm has recently completed a course of treatment for alcoholism, a spokesperson for the actor has confirmed.

Hamm entered rehab to tackle his addiction with the support of his longtime partner, fellow actor and film-maker Jennifer Westfeldt, their publicist Annett Wolf said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The 44-year-old actor has played Don Draper, a troubled advertising executive with a dark past and drinking problems of his own, for seven seasons of Matthew Weiner’s Madison Avenue-set drama.

Disclosure of Mad Men actor’s treatment for alcohol addiction comes as his character Don Draper returns for the final episodes of the US advertising drama

Of course I wish Jon well in his journey to recovery but there is something very poignant about this for me.

I love the series Mad Men and used to watch it avidly.  The last time I watched it was back in 2012 and I had just given up smoking but was still drinking.  I remember watching it, glass of wine in hand, and being envious of them all chuffing away on their cigarettes.  Watching them made me miss smoking.  So having left off at the end of Series 5 if felt only right to catch up and so I’ve been watching Series 6.

What struck me is how this has become life imitating art.  You watch Don Draper drinking from what seems like from morning till night in the series and the fact that his fictional character works within advertising just seems so oddly apt.

(Edited to add: thanks to Lori for this brilliant infographic that breaks down Don Draper’s drinking – click to enlarge)


One of the reasons I love this series is it is so beautifully created and shot and I observe his character sit in a bar light a cigarette and order an ‘old fashioned’ and I so want to be there sat beside him.  For a fleeting second it made me miss drinking.  The connection and subconscious influence is so powerful – just like the advertising world and their tricks that the series focuses on.

And that’s the catch isn’t it?  This series isn’t the real world – it’s a fiction, much like the world that advertising conjures up for us.  The reality is that the actor who plays this character has now had to have treatment for alcoholism.  THIS is the reality.

It reminds me of when the news broke about the Marlboro Man having died of lung cancer.  I was a Marlboro smoker and again that advertising image was iconic.  But the reality again impinged on the world of make believe that advertising created with the real world outcome of his smoking during the promotion of that product causing him to develop lung cancer.  Not quite so glamorous or iconic then is it?

There is a brilliant line in episode 2 of series 6 where Roger Sterling says to Don Draper following an unsuccessful pitch “You know we sold actual death for 25 years with Lucky Strike.  You know how we did it?  We ignored it ………”

Time and again advertising’s smoke (excuse the pun!) and mirrors in all mediums, whether print or screen, makes me think of the film The Wizard of Oz and the scene when they finally get to meet the wizard ……

In the words of the scarecrow – it’s ‘humbug’!  It’s all a big con to make us believe that this is how we should live when the reality of the outcome of that living is very different from the presented image.

I wish Jon Hamm well and can’t wait to catch up with series 6 in readiness to see the final series in the near future.  But I shan’t be missing the fags or the booze as I KNOW the limited benefits are a fiction and that in reality my life is better without them 🙂

12 thoughts on “Life imitating art

  1. I used to love the series but when I got to the point where I found I had to quit myself and then watched how alcohol and cigarettes are advertised in the series… ieeew. Also knowing that series like these are heavily sponsored by the booze industry AND minute by minute show scenes where alcohol is THE correct response to any situation in life: Party? Drink! Disappointed? Drink! Baby on the way? Drink! Lost a battle? Drink! Bad hangover? Drink! Secretary leaving? Drink! Lunch? Drink!
    I hope he solves his issues and I hope for him he does not have to shoot any of those episodes anymore. I’m guessing you can’t be anything but opposed to these series once you have gone through rehab. :-/

    1. I know what you mean feeling ….. His recovery story has come out just before they show the final series in the US so I’m not sure if he went into rehab after filming the last series, which would make sense. Wishing him all the best too 🙂

  2. I love Mad Men, I have all the episodes and have watched them over and over, many times with a drink in hand. The final episodes will be airing over the next few weeks. I have to admit watching the drinking on the program has made me miss drinking, too. I hope his recovery is successful 🙂 I found this chart related to Don’s drinking a few years ago:
    Hope the link works 😉 xx

    1. OMG Lori that’s brilliant!! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂 I’m going to add that infographic to the post if you don’t mind as it’s really telling xx

  3. My husband and I were kids during the Mad Men era, and we’re always amazed by the memories each episode conjures up. The social norms were so different from today! We have a black and white photo of my deceased mother in law in the hospital on the day my husband was born. She’s holding her newborn baby with one hand and a cigarette with the other. She died when she was in her 50s from emphysema and alcoholism. Attitudes toward smoking have changed dramatically. Maybe social norms related to drinking are changing, too. Very interesting post, Lou!

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Julie 🙂 I’m sorry you lost your mother in law at such a young age. Here’s hoping that the social norms around drinking change like they have around smoking!

  4. I might be the only one who has not watched Mad Men!
    I heard he went into rehab, but that he left early.
    I can’t find if that is true or not.

Comments are closed.