It’s all about Sally. Really.
It’s not because I spent the majority of my career in advertising. It’s not because I love the show’s fashions. It’s not because I think Don Draper and Roger Sterling are handsome. All the above is true, but it’s not why I really like Mad Men.
I like Mad Men because I relate to Sally. Sally Draper who has grown up from a little 6-year old to a prepubescent 12-year old. Sally ,who is one year older than I was in 1966, the year of Season 5. I like Mad Men so much because I’m reliving my coming of age in the mid-60s from the introduction of mid-century modern design to the picket lines and protests.
Of course I came of age in Dayton, Ohio not New York City. My parents were married, not divorced. My dad was a second-generation engineer/construction man and my mom, while pretty, was never a model. However she did wear gloves and smart looking shifts like Betty Draper.
Television characters have often spoken to me. They provided insight into how to role with the punches while trying to figure out this thing called life. In 1966 I started watching That Girl. The show’s protagonist, Ann Marie, was the first single workingwoman on television. She lived in New York City and pursued an acting career at the same time I studied acting and dreamed of an Oscar.
In the 1970’s Mary Tyler Moore Show Mary Richards, a 30-year-old progressive workingwoman came into my television room around the same time as women’s consciousness raising groups gathered in living rooms. Not that I was fully aware of the latter. However I was aware of the statement Mary made and challenges she encountered as a never married single career woman, not necessarily looking for a man to support her.
During my 30s I watched two programs with special resonance. The first was thirtysomething a program attuned to my life experiences. I identified most with Ellyn who worked at City Hall and dealt with the challenges of being a singleton in the midst of coupledom. The second was Murphy Brown. I recognized her glass ceiling struggles and admired her chutzpah for living life on her own terms.
It’s been a long time since I’ve identified with a television character. So it struck me when I realized that Sally Draper and I are in the same cohort. I’m interested in how Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, will portray the generation gap and the rise of the baby boomer generation’s influence on society and culture. I’m interested in how Sally will react to the changing landscape. And because I stand today watching a new generation shape the world in different ways I’m interested in how Don, Roger and the rest of the middle age crowd will adapt and thrive, or not.
I will tune in to see how Sally and I grow up.