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8 Fascinating Fan Theories About Mad Men

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When Mad Men made its television debut nearly eight years ago, its storyline seemed straightforward enough: When he’s not creating brilliant advertising campaigns for some of the country’s most successful corporations, a handsome Madison Avenue executive named Don Draper likes to smoke, drink, and cheat on his wife.

But as the series continued, cracks began to show in Don's perfectly chiseled exterior. Who is Dickie Whitman? And where is this house of ill repute in which he was raised? As such, Mad Men took on a much more mysterious tone, one that ultimately led devoted viewers to wonder whether the show had ever been straightforward at all. Or if it they had been hoodwinked, and Mad Men had been some sort of strange 1960s fever dream all along. And so began the onslaught of elaborate fan theories about the rabbit hole that Mad Men just might be (some of them crazy, others entirely plausible).

1. DON DRAPER IS D.B. COOPER.

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On November 24, 1971, a well-dressed man in his mid-forties walked up to the Northwest Orient Airlines ticket counter at Portland International Airport and purchased a one-way ticket to Seattle under the name Dan Cooper. Once on board, he made his way to a seat at the back of the plane, ordered a bourbon and soda, and lit a cigarette … then passed a note to the flight attendant, informing her that he had a bomb. His demands were simple: $200,000 in cash, four parachutes, and a fuel truck awaiting the plane upon its arrival in Seattle. Long story short: after being informed that his demands had been met, the plane landed, refueled, and took off again. Twenty minutes later, Cooper—who would become known as D.B. Cooper because of a simple media miscommunication—parachuted from the plane, ransom money in tow, never to be heard from again.

Could D.B. Cooper—infamous hijacker and all-around man of mystery—and Don Draper be one and the same? The physical description certainly sounds familiar. And considering Don’s association with Bert Cooper and the Sterling Cooper ad agency, the alias would certainly make sense. Which could very well be why this theory has gained so much traction, particularly with Lindsey Green at Medium, who wrote an in-depth breakdown of the reasoning behind the idea, noting that the ending has been hinted at since the very beginning. “There’s always been something in the air with Mad Men, quite literally,” writes Green. “From Mohawk to American, North American Aviation, and Ted’s own little two-seater, airlines and aviation are about as prevalent on the show as aliases and fake identities. Even when Joan was upset after being served divorce papers from Dr. Harris, it was a model airplane she grabbed and threw at the unassuming receptionist as Don stood in the doorway. Mad Men has been telling us how the story ends from the very beginning. It ends on an airplane.”

2. MEGAN DRAPER IS SHARON TATE.

Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Of the many theories that have popped up surrounding possible plot lines, one that posits that aspiring actress Megan Draper is Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s version of Sharon Tate—and is destined to suffer the same fate—has gathered rampant attention. It all began when some eagle-eyed viewers noticed that in season six, Megan wore a T-shirt that was eerily similar to one worn by Tate. From there, additional “proof” began mounting, including a glimpse of Sally Draper reading Rosemary’s Baby, the book that Tate’s husband Roman Polanski adapted for the big-screen. When asked about the connection, Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant swore to Yahoo! that the choice of outfit “wasn't about Sharon Tate. It was about Megan just being political. That T-shirt [features] the Vietnam star, and in past shows you know Megan has made reference to not really supporting the Vietnam War.” For his part, Weiner himself told HitFix: “The Sharon Tate thing, you know, it’s so flimsy and thin, and at the same time, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of coincidence.’ I don’t know what to tell you. I would like to think that people would know that the show’s striving for historical accuracy that I would not add a person who was not murdered by the Manson family into that murder. So that in itself is the dumbest argument in the world for me.”

3. MEGAN DRAPER IS A GHOST.

Mad Men viewers sure do have a morbid fascination with Megan. Shortly after the show’s creators swore that the younger, shinier Mrs. Draper would not be murdered by Charles Manson, fan theorists took another shot at placing Megan in the afterlife: she's already dead! Mainly, this train of thought seems to have sprung from an episode in which Don nearly drowns at a pool party and, in that space between life and death, sees and is comforted by a hallucination of Megan. As Uproxx explains it: “The wording during [the pool party] sequence is very careful. During the hallucination, in addition to finding out that Megan is pregnant, Don asks, ‘How did you find me?’ Megan responds, ‘But I live here.’ The ‘here’ is not California; it can’t be the party. She’s clearly not actually there, but she could be in the afterlife. A few seconds later, Draper sees a dead Private Dinkins, who says, ‘I heard you were here.’ Again, ‘here’ is in the afterlife.”

4. FORGET MEGAN. IT’S BETTY WHO’S THE GONER.

Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

After all of the talk about Megan’s (assumed) imminent demise, Esquire posited a new theory in the summer of 2013: that if any of Don’s wives were going to kick the bucket, it would—and should—be Betty. “Think about it,” wrote Jen Chaney. “We already got to see Don and Betty together again this season, which seemed to bring closure to that relationship, for Betty at least. Betty is barely in the show these days, so losing that character makes sense from a narrative efficiency standpoint. If we agree that Don Draper's identity as Don Draper will likely cease to exist this season, it would make complete sense for Betty, the symbol of Don's old life as Don, to be gone.”

5. DON’S GOING TO DIE.

Image Credit: YouTube

Mortality has (obviously) always been a recurring theme in Mad Men. And as with any series that’s readying for its final episodes, viewers are anticipating some sort of finality with their finale. Being that Don Draper is the maddest of the titular Mad Men, his death is the only one that would be meaningful enough to really matter. Viewers have combed through hours of footage to point out bits of imagery that hint at Don’s ultimate demise (including the fact that he chose The Inferno as his Hawaiian beach read). But mostly, people reference a possible harbinger that’s been in front of their faces all along: the series’ iconic opening credits, which feature a faceless man falling out of a window.

6. PETE CAMPBELL WILL FALL OUT OF THAT WINDOW.

Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Oh, Pete Campbell. Smug, smarmy Pete Campbell. While plenty of viewers have probably gleefully envisioned an episode in which the whiny, overprivileged up-and-comer who everyone loves to hate says bye-bye to the world, Salon dedicated more than 2400 words to the topic in 2012. “Pete Campbell will take a header out a Time & Life Building window, probably around Thanksgiving on the show. (I’m iffy on the when but feeling solid on the who, what, and where),” declared writer Robin Sayers. “I can argue that I came to this conclusion logically, because I was a sociology of media major in college, focused on film and TV theory and I did intern as a script analyst for the late, great Alan J. Pakula (All the President’s Men, Sophie’s Choice, Klute). Plus, I worked in the T&L Building for nearly a decade, so I know that, indeed, its windows can in fact be ‘opened’ … And now I can only see poor Vincent Kartheiser dropping on that stark poster heralding Season 5, even though the cut of that guy’s jib is more Draper than Dyckman.” Okay, so the details on this one are admittedly dated—but it could still happen. Right?

7. DON IS JEWISH.

This one isn’t so much a fan theory as it is one fan’s theory. In discussing the many hypotheses viewers have put forth, Weiner admitted that he kind of enjoys it. “I have no complaint,” Weiner told HitFix in January. “I don’t care how it’s being watched. I mean, I hate the screen within a screen within a screen watching, but I love that people watch the show.” He then recounted one strange encounter with a fan: “You get in this weird situation the first season where people were like, ‘I know Don Draper’s secret. He’s Jewish.’ And I was like, ‘Did I ever put anything in there that said he wasn’t?’ Because he’s not. I mean, I know that.”

8. IT’S ALL LEADING UP TO MAD WOMEN.

Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Don Draper may be the star of Mad Men, but neither he nor his business ventures would have been as successful if it weren’t for the women behind the men—namely, Peggy Olson and Joan Harris. Throughout the series’ seven seasons, we’ve seen each of their characters grow, both in their personal lives and their professional positions. Maybe it’s time they strike out on their own?

In The Hollywood Reporter’s recent oral history of Mad Men, Lionsgate COO Sandra Stern recounted that “when we first started negotiating with AMC, one of the things they wanted was a spinoff. We talked about doing a contemporary one. Given the fact that [Mad Men] ends nearly 50 years ago, most of the characters would be dead. Sally was the one character young enough that you could see her 30 or 40 years later. There was a time we wanted a Peggy spin­off, too, and, a la Better Call Saul, a minor character going off to L.A. Matt wasn't comfortable committing to a spinoff.” Which doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t happen. Even if Christina Hendricks, a.k.a. Joan, hasn’t heard anything about it yet.

Earlier this week, the Huffington Post asked Hendricks about the rumors of a Peggy and Joan spinoff. “You're the first I'm hearing it from. It hasn't reached my ears yet,” she replied. Then added: “That would be amazing. If they wanted me, I'd be there.” (Are you listening, Matthew Weiner?)

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15 Fun Facts About Yo Gabba Gabba!
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Since its debut on August 20, 2007 on Nick Jr., Yo Gabba Gabba!—a kids’ show featuring a red cyclops, a magic robot, a pink flower girl, a green-striped guy, a blue cat-dragon, and a host wearing orange spandex and a fluffy hat—became one of the biggest draws for the preschool crowd. But thanks to the show's hipster-friendly musical performances and celebrity guest stars, Yo Gabba Gabba! managed to transcend its kiddie roots to become a hit with fans of all ages. On the 10th anniversary of its debut, let's go behind the scenes of the beloved series.

1. THE CREATOR OF NAPOLEON DYNAMITE HAD A HAND IN GETTING YO GABBA GABBA! ON THE AIR.

Longtime friends Christian Jacobs and Scott Schultz got the idea for Yo Gabba Gabba! when, as two dads in their mid-30s, they were less-than-enthusiastic about the television shows their kids were watching. It wasn't that the other shows were bad; they were just boring and sanitized.

With their experience as musicians and videographers, Jacobs and Schultz thought they could do something different. So they scraped together about $150,000 and began writing, animating, and shooting demo episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba! in their garage. They posted these videos online and Jared Hess, director of Napoleon Dynamite, happened to see them. Impressed, Hess passed the link onto Brown Johnson, an executive at Nickelodeon, who said, “Lordy. Nothing else looks like this on television.” She quickly contacted the duo and, in a risky move that obviously paid off, gave them complete creative control of their own show on Nick Jr.

2. THE TITLE IS MEANT TO BE MIMIC BABY TALK.

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According to Jacobs, the name of the show is a nonsense phrase meant to be reminiscent of the first words spoken by a baby. However, that doesn't mean Jacobs and Schultz aren't happy the name also pays homage to The Ramones, who used the phrase “Gabba Gabba Hey!” in their song “Pinhead.” But that actually makes it an homage of an homage, as The Ramones were paying tribute to the original source of the phrase, the 1932 cult classic film Freaks. In the film, “Gabba Gabba Hey!” is part of a chant uttered by a group of circus freaks as they welcome a new member into the fold.

3. ITS THEME SONG IS REMINISCENT OF PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE.

The show's intro music seems suspiciously like the intro music from another kinetic kids' show, Pee-wee's Playhouse. Pay close attention to when the trees part on Pee-wee's intro and you'll hear a lot of similarities between the two.

4. THE SHOW BECAME A WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON.

Yo Gabba Gabba! became a worldwide phenomenon, and was broadcast all over the world, including in Italy, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada.

5. DJ LANCE ROCK REALLY IS A DJ.

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DJ Lance Rock is actually Lance Robertson—and he really is a DJ. Robertson grew up in St. Louis, where he started spinning records in the early '90s before moving to Los Angeles at the age of 29. While in L.A., he played with a band, The Ray Makers, who played a few gigs with a group called Majestic, which counted future Yo Gabba Gabba! co-creator Scott Schultz as a member. When the Yo Gabba Gabba! guys were looking for a host, Schultz thought of Robertson. After Robertson signed on, one of the first things he did was suggest they change DJ Lance's look to the now-iconic orange jumpsuit and fuzzy hat. The original costume included a waistcoat similar to the one worn by Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.

6. MUNO AND BROBEE EXISTED BEFORE YO GABBA GABBA!.

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While the other characters were created exclusively for Yo Gabba Gabba!, Muno and Brobee were already around as part of the live show for Christian Jacobs's kid-friendly ska/punk band, The Aquabats. Since shortly after their founding in 1994, The Aquabats have dressed in matching superhero costumes, fighting evil under aliases like The MC Bat Commander (Jacobs), Crash McLarson, Jimmy the Robot, Ricky Fitness, and Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk. The lineup has changed frequently over the years (Travis Barker of Blink-182 was briefly their drummer under the name “The Baron von Tito”), but the band still performs live and releases the occasional studio album. Naturally, they made a handful of appearances on Yo Gabba Gabba!, as well.

7. THE SHOW HAS A CONNECTION TO DEVO.

While most kids only know him as the kookie art teacher on the show, Mark Mothersbaugh was one of the founding members and lead singer of the New Wave band Devo. Even when he’s not wearing a red terraced “Energy Dome” hat, Mothersbaugh’s career has been prolific as a composer for dozens of TV shows, films, video games, and commercials, including Apple’s famous “I’m a Mac” ads starring Justin Long and John Hodgman.

8. BIZ MARKIE WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO DANCE ON THE SHOW.

Yo Gabba Gabba! fans learned how to beatbox thanks to rapper Biz Markie (born Marcel Theo Hall) and his “Beat of the Day” segment. Biz was initially asked to do a Dancey Dance routine for the show, but he has a bad back, so he offered to teach the kids how to do a beat instead. The producers loved it and it became a staple on the show. Parents knew Biz best from his 1989 hit “Just a Friend,” which featured his unique brand of rapping and “singing.” 

9. SUPER MARTIAN ROBOT GIRL IS THE PRODUCT OF TWO GROUNDBREAKING COMIC BOOK ARTISTS.

The comic book the Gabba gang often reads, Super Martian Robot Girl, is the creation of married underground comic book celebrities Sarah Dyer and Evan Dorkin. Dorkin is the genius behind the small press comic Milk and Cheese about “dairy products gone bad”—a milk carton and a wedge of cheese who love to drink gin and beat people up. Dyer was an influential creator in the '90s zine scene, where she was one of the few people giving female zinesters a voice with her Action Girl Newsletter, which later paved the way for the similarly-themed Action Girl Comics.

10. IT WAS NOMINATED FOR SEVEN EMMYS, BUT NEVER WON.

Yo Gabba Gabba!  received numerous Daytime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction and Costume Design, as well as for Outstanding Pre-School Children's Series, but a win eluded the show. In addition, the series was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Children’s Programming by the Television Critics Association Awards five times (and won twice). Internationally, the show was awarded a BAFTA in 2008. And DJ Lance received two NAACP Image Award nominations.      

11. THE SHOW GOT ITS OWN LINE OF SNEAKERS.

Ever wanted to see Foofa pop a wheelie? How about Toodee ride a surfboard? In 2011, the Gabba gang shot a series of videos to promote their line of Vans shoe, a brand popular among the extreme sports crowd. The characters shared the screen with some of the biggest names in the X Games, including surfers Alex Knost and Jared Mell, skateboarders Bucky Lasek and Christian Hosoi, BMXers Alistair Whitton and Coco Zurita, and motocross stars Dean Wilson and Ryan Villopoto. You can check out the videos at Yo Gabba Gabba's official YouTube channel.

12. THEY PLAYED COACHELLA.

The gang invaded the Coachella Music Festival in 2010, where they performed, hung out with celebrity fans backstage, and even showed up to dance with the audience at other musical performances.

13. THE SHOW HAD A LOT OF CELEBRITY FANS.

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For Halloween 2009, Brad Pitt donned DJ Lance's orange jumpsuit and fuzzy hat when he took his kids trick-or-treating. Lance was later quoted as saying that Pitt looked “Awesome.”

14. IT FEATURED A LOT OF GUEST STARS.

While most celebrities only come on the show to do a Dancey Dance or Cool Tricks segment, there have been a handful of guests that played a bigger role in an episode. The first was Jack Black, who had an entire episode dedicated to his adventures in Gabbaland after his flying motorbike ran out of gas. He got the gig after his wife emailed the show and practically begged them to let Jack come on because he was such a big fan. Other celebrities who popped in: Angela Kinsey from The Office played a teacher, the Tooth Fairy was played by Amy Sedaris, Mos Def saved the day as Super Mr. Superhero, Anthony Bourdain cameoed as a doctor, Jason Bateman played an evil spy, Lost’s Josh Holloway played a helpful farmer, and Weird Al Yankovic guested as a circus ringmaster.

15. A YO GABBA GABBA! DOLL WILL COST YOU A PRETTY PENNY.

The Gabba action figures that DJ Lance brought to life at the beginning of each episode were produced by Kidrobot, one of the leading names in the vinyl toy movement. The figures are no longer produced, so when one pops up on eBay, it often commands a high price. But if you’re not willing to spend that kind of money on an action figure, there are plenty of other Gabba-themed toys, books, DVDs, comics, smartphone apps, and clothes to keep your kids happy.

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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

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Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually broke away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying, “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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