As we learned in Episode 12 of Mad Men, “Nixon vs. Kennedy,” there was once this bumbling poor cursed soul named Dick Whitman, the son of a prostitute who named him after the business end of a man. Whitman is beaten by his father and abused by his stepmother, and eventually ends up in a far outpost of the Korean War. It’s just him and his lieutenant, Don Draper. But then, in some weird mishap worthy of The Three Stooges, Whitman accidentally blows up Don Draper and sets himself on fire. We see him switch dog tags and take Draper’s identity. And somehow the new name makes him the ideal man: handsome, self-assured, successful.
Except, Whitman really did die in Korea. The entire show is the life he wished he had the courage to live (sort of like An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, except less high school English class 8-millimetery).