THE ALPHA-MALE OFF: ARI GOLD VS. DON DRAPER


When Mad Men season 4 finished, I was lost. I had started watching the series because I was seeking a companion. Temporarily homeless, broke and living back at home, I needed something reliable and comforting to get me through that contradictory bleakness of the festive period. But after 40 hours altogether, Mad Men was no longer there. Gone were the soothing tones of Don Draper’s voice and Roger’s cutting one-liners which had lulled me to sleep at night. I thought I would never trust TV again. I moped around like I’d lost my first love, convinced nothing would ever match up to those 4 years we spent together. Then I found Entourage.

Although about 7 years late to that party, I decided to give it a go. Hell, it had been 8 months since I finished Mad Men, and who knew when Jon Hamm would stop titting around with rom-coms and speed up the arrival of season 5.

Within 20 minutes of watching, I was hooked. Hooked on Ari Gold, the 21st century Don Draper. In Entourage, the talent agencies of Beverly Hills replace the ad agencies of Madison Avenue, the casual spliff-smoking and coke-snorting replace the cigarettes and dry martinis and the menacing studio presidents take over from the intimidating Lucky Strike heads. And so, Ari and Don represent the same kind of career man: demonised after the yuppie phenomena of the 80s, but now resurrected. They are part of the corporate machine but fuck it from the inside, manipulate it for their own ends.

Authoritative alpha males with loose morals who every man wants to embody and every woman wants as a lover, however masochistic they are. So to bide the time until the end of Entourage and next season of Mad Men, I wanted to see just how similar Gold and Draper are...

Ari Gold

Don Draper

Biggest Hustler?            

Career

One of the biggest agents in modern day Hollywood, a celebrity in his own right, runs his own agency and is even offered to be head of a major studio.

Notorious advertising golden boy of 1960s New York, steals the cream of the crop from his former company and starts his own agency. Pretty even this time, although Ari just about edges it with the endless premieres, pool parties and trip to the playboy mansion. 
Family Rich wife, two kids. Constantly lets down wife and family. Frequently escorts kids out his office. Wife leaves him for similar but more gentle career driven man.  Rich wife, three kids. Constantly lets down wife and family. Frequently escorts kids out his office. Wife leaves him for similar but more gentle career driven man.  Draper wins this round for hiding a secret identity and other ‘wife’. Also, to be fair to him, Betty Draper’s a nut case. 
Women Maintains he has been faithful to his wife throughout their marriage. Appears to successfully avoid temptation. Post-separation, hooks up with his once ex, Dana Gordon and some college chick.  Countless. Although with his recent engagement, maybe Don Draper’s becoming a changed man?  Don. For now.
Attitude Ferocious, venomous and articulate. To be honest, each episode could just be one monologue of Ari launching a tirade of cruelty at a hapless assistant and I doubt anyone would complain. Shady. Snappy and concise when he’s pushed but usually fairly disregarding of anyone who isn’t a sexy professional woman in a power suit.  Don is definitely better at keeping his cool but the way Ari can spew a torrent of abuse and still come across as deviously charming, is an art.
Working relationships Not much of a team player. Can schmooze relevant studio execs but has fired endless assistants within seconds, is sexist and chauvinistic to his female colleagues and makes it his life’s mission to destroy any peer who has crossed him. (see: Amanda Daniels, Terrance McQuewick, Adam Davies etc). He does however show a reluctant fondness for his former assistant and fellow agent, Lloyd. The wunderkind of the advertising world is somewhat exasperated by his fellow colleagues at the agency although he does have a special respect for female copywriter Peggy Olson. He also makes up one half of a fantastic duo with Roger Sterling although their relationship is on shaky ground with Roger’s marriage to Don’s former secretary and his part in the loss of the Lucky Strike account. Ari, for his ability to turn an arch nemesis into an ally within one episode.
Relationships with assistants  He fires 14, but then he meets Lloyd. He fires two, one quits, he gets engaged to one, has sex with another, one dies and one is promoted. Ari.
What makes them happy The downfall of his rivals, the signing of major contracts, his wife giving him sex and the firing of employees he doesn’t know the name of. Anna Draper. The widow Draper tirelessly supports and visits in secret. The happiness we see in Don is unrivalled until his engagement to secretary Megan Calvet. Ari for his ruthlessness.
What makes them sad Apart from losing out on major deals (NFL), Ari’s tough demeanour is usually only damaged when it comes to his family. Namely, when his son is refused entry to an exclusive private school and when his marriage is in jeopardy. Other touching moments include his concern for top client Vince and guilt over nearly prostituting Lloyd. Anna’s death from cancer affected him deeply. Early on he was also extremely concerned about his secret identity being revealed. His connection with Peggy also shows a gentler side to Don as he helps her through her lowest times. Don. I’ve seen Ari cry too many times.
Finest moment A really close call as Ari gets revenge on his enemies in the most devious ways (e.g. Getting Dana Gordon the job as studio head to spite nemesis Amanda Daniels). Yet, to see Ari at his finest, observe the end of season 6, where Ari takes over his old agency and rampages through the offices; shooting all those who have betrayed him with a paint ball gun and quite literally, firing them.  In a similar show of ‘taking back what he’s owed’, the best Don moment comes when he stages a coup and rounds up Sterling Cooper’s best clients, team members and office furniture in order to start his own company before the agency is sold. Possibly the most gripping hour of television ever. Don. Extra points awarded for being so underhand.
Best line

To Amanda:

 “You’re sorry? You’re sorry for what? You’re sorry for leaking slanderous out of context nonsense about me huh? And then rifling through all my hard work to steal my football team? Fuck you, ok? Fuck you. And now hold on a second. I’d never hit a woman in my entire life but I swear to God in my mind right now I am pummeling your smug face to a pulp for everything you did to me, my career and my family. But not to worry all right. Because I will prevail, because I’m a winner and you’re a whore with more cleavage than talent. And I will not stop until I destroy you.”

In response to how he sleeps at night:

"On a bed of money."

I think either of these quotes would be impossible to have a comeback for.

At the end, Don Draper wins on points. But when it comes down to it in the battle of the mysterious-yet-shady, romanticised 60s ad man versus the fast-talking, malicious personification of modern day Hollywood, I don’t think there is a clear winner. So, until both series come to an end and we see how both men are affected by their divorces, new marriages and turbulent business ventures, long live the kings.


By KERRI SANDELL