'Inception' and 'Mad Men' are telling the exact same story

inception-mad-menImage Credit: Melissa Moseley; Frank Ockenfels 3/AMCIn the acclaimed movie Inception, the central figure — a handsome, emotionally damaged thief who manipulates dreams for profit using his imagination and a briefcase full of cutting edge technology — is named Dom Cobb. In the acclaimed TV series Mad Men, the central figure — a handsome, emotionally damaged ad man who manipulates yearning using his imagination and a briefcase full of pens and paper — is named Don Draper.

Dom.
Don.

That’s right. The heroic anti-hero of the summer cinema’s brainiest adult entertainment is exactly one consonant away from having the same name as the heroic anti-hero of summer TV’s brainiest adult entertainment. Coincidence? Of course I would say “Of course!”… until you realize upon further inspection that yes, Inception and Mad Men are exactly the same thing, give or take a few extraordinarly picayune differences like period setting (see: Mad Men) or Lionell Richie-inspired dancing-on-the-ceiling special effects (see: Inception). WARNING: Appreciating my culturally valuable scholarship and intellectually unassailable logic requires that I totally ruin Inception for you, so MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT! (But just for Inception, assuming you’re up-to-date on Mad Men.)

MAD MEN
Don Draper (three-time Emmy nominee Jon Hamm) is the leader of a group of creatively talented though morally questionable people who are paid to create ideas that will compel inidviduals to behaviors that are economically advantageous to their clients.
INCEPTION
Dom Cobb (three-time Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio) is the leader of a group of creatively talented though morally questionable people who are paid to produce an idea that will compel a single individual to do something that is economically advantageous to a single client.

MAD MEN
Don lives in proverbial exile from his young son and daughter in Greenwich Village after bad s—t goes down between him and his wife (January Jones), who totally hates his guts.
INCEPTION

Dom lives in proverbial exile from his young son and daughter in various foreign lands after bad s—t goes down between him and his wife (Marion Cotillard), who totally hates his guts.

MAD MEN
Don’s ex-wife is kinda crazy (though in her defense, he did kinda make her that way) and is a really crappy mom.
INCEPTION
Dom’s dead wife is totally crazy (though in her defense, he did kinda make her that way) and is a really crappy mom.

MAD MEN

Guilt-wracked Don punishes himself for his failure as a husband with addictive and self-destructive behaviors like making a hooker slap him in his apartment.
INCEPTION
Guilt-wracked Dom punishes himself for his failure as a husband with addictive and self-destructive behaviors like making himself dream of spending time with his abusive wife in a hotel room.

MAD MEN
Stylish suits. Cigarettes and alcohol are workplace acceptable.
INCEPTION
Stylish suits. Drugs are workplace acceptable.

MAD MEN
Contains symbolic imagery of Don falling out of a window. (See: credits.)
INCEPTION
Contains literal imagery of Dom’s wife jumping out of a window. (See: the MASSIVE SPOILERT ALERT at the beginning of this thing, which was my attempt to warn you that I was TOTALLY GOING TO SPOIL STUFF.)

MAD MEN
In the recent season premiere, Don had to convince the son of a rich dude to accept a risky business strategy that his father didn’t like. He failed.
INCEPTION
Dom must convince the son of a rich dude to accept a risky business strategy that his father wouldn’t like. He succeeds.

MAD MEN
The final act of the season premiere had Don’s brilliant young female protégé Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) making him realize that the livelihoods of his team hinge on him getting over his bad attitude, which is threatening the quality of the agency’s work. (At least, that was my interpretion.)
INCEPTION
The final act of the movie has Dom’s brilliant young female protégé Ariadne (Ellen Page) making him realize that the lives of his team hinge on him getting over his bad self, which is threatening to send them all into a limbo world from which they will never return. (At least, that was my interpretation.)

MAD MEN
In the end, Mad Men might be best understood as an elaborate allegory for the creative process and artistic anxieties of its creator, Matthew Weiner.
INCEPTION
In the end, Inception might be best understood as an elaborate allegory for the creative process and artistic anxieties of its creator, Christopher Nolan.

MAD MEN
Doc Jensen’s bold prediction! In the series finale, Don Draper will land in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, and live happily ever working at his dream job: running a movie studio. His first project? A highly metaphorical quasi-autobiographical drama written and directed by his former Sterling Cooper art director, Sal Romano. As far as making amends go, it’s a start.
INCEPTION
In the final scene, Dom Cobb lands in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, and lives happily ever after.

More quality analysis about Mad Men to come. Theories/complaints/lawsuits? E-mail: docjensenew@gmail.com, and follow me on Twitter @ewdocjensen.


Comments (59 total) Add your comment
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  • jessica

    Um…I don’t see it. :)

    • It’s a fact

      I agree-what a leap of faith on this one? Maybe a slow week of news and had to get an article up.

  • m

    oh no…he’s off on his crazy theories again…

  • jack

    lol a bit of a stretch but very interesting theory, Doc!

  • TheHil

    Really, really, really, REALLY pushing it this time, Jeff. I mean REALLY pushing it.

    • Kamel

      Okay, I guess I’m just going to have to watch the previous three sesonas on DVD and then jump in on season four sometime! This sounds like a show I would love. And it’s not on HBO, which means I could actually watch it!

  • Dean

    Kinda silly, but thoughtful and fun to read. How about a follow-up contrasting Ellen Page’s character with Peggy Olsen? Both naive newbies introduced and making their way in a brave new world through a damaged but brilliant mentor, etc etc…

    • Dean

      My bad, you pretty much did do that. I need to wear my glasses.

  • Karate Pants

    Huh. Maybe I WILL see Inception after all. ;)

    • Karate Pants

      P.S. – I hate your Mad Men series finale prediction. For many reasons.

      • Madd

        YOU CAN’T HATE ANYTHING THAT INVOLVES SAL!

    • Ashley

      Really?

  • Semaphore

    Doc Jensen. I want to see your theories on Rubicon!

    • Doc Jensen Minion No 1

      Ooh, me too!

    • Sara B

      Not every conspiracy is a theory but sometimes it is.

    • PixxieTrixxie

      I was thinking exactly the same thing. That show is so Lostlike difficult that Doc would have a lot to talk about there. Although I am still glad that he is bringing his theories to Mad Men.

  • Steve T,

    You’re not supposed to eat the drugs, Jeff–just smoke them.

  • Sarah C

    I will totally buy this, Doc. Love your theories too much not to.

  • mbk31

    Like many, I thought this was really stretching it. Especially the comparison between Dom’s and Don’s respective marriages. I didn’t come away from “Inception” thinking Dom’s deceased wife, Mal, hated his guts. From both his real-life and his dreams, it was clear that she was obsessed with dragging him into her world, or what she considered the “real world.” But it didn’t translate as hating him. She spent time in both the actual world and her dream world trying to persuade him to join her, to not leave her behind.

  • Katie

    Ha! I miss you, Doc J.

  • elly

    I don’t see it, Doc. I thought the central theme/story of Inception was the question of which you trust more: what you know, or what you believe. I think Man Men’s just quality prime-time soap opera that doesn’t go that deep. :) It’s good to have you back, though! We’ve all missed our Doc J fix! What’ll ya do now that Lost is over? :(

  • jenna

    um, nooo. stretch much?

  • Chris

    Jeff, what drugs are you using and where can I get them?

  • JB

    Yeah… Sure looks like Doc’s been bored since Lost finished.

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