Yes, we’re putting our weekly Mad Men viewing party post up quite early this week, but hey, what better thing to do on a Sunday than start drinking early, amirite?
Besides, we have opinions to express.
The Campbell Apartment, Grand Central Terminal, NYC.
And we ask you, could there possibly be a better place to watch the show than that?
And now… a rant. No, not a rant, darlings. That implies we’re angry when at best we’re just mildly annoyed. Still, we feel like venting a little.
As y’all probably know, the internet fairly exploded this week when it was revealed that Megan Draper was wearing a t-shirt made famous by actress and Manson Family murder victim Sharon Tate.
We say “it was revealed” because it was one of those things that a whole bunch of people uncovered or noticed at roughly the same time and costume designer Janie Bryant came right out and confirmed the connection on her twitter account within hours. There’s been some crankiness about who deserves credit for discovering it first, but we’re pulling out of that conversation. We found out about the connection because we follow Janie on twitter. We never claimed to have discovered it independently and we’d never claim to have that precise and practically photographic a memory as to be able to identify the shirt on sight. In fact, we’d never even seen those pictures of Sharon Tate before. We’re just thankful – as in, we actually said loudly, with relief, “Thank GOD we mentioned that” – that we managed to get down months ago our impression that Janie had deliberately moved Megan into a Sharon Tate style direction, what with the much more outrageous outfits, hair and makeup this season. Very much a “Valley of the Dolls” kind of look. After documenting and analyzing the costuming on this show obsessively for years, it would have been kind of depressing to have essentially the biggest news about Mad Men costuming to ever hit the internet pass us by, thus our relief that we made mention of it very early. Had we known the internet was going to explode so much over it we would have made a bigger deal out of it.
But here’s where we part ways with practically everyone else who wrote about this revelation this week: We don’t truly believe Megan is going to be murdered. That’s never been how the costuming on this show worked.
The first 3 seasons of the show deliberately had Betty dressed to look like Grace Kelly – and the resemblance was actually a plot point at times.
In the very earliest days of the show, Joan was meant to evoke Marilyn, even if the similarities were only vague. Again; the resemblance was actually a plot point at times. Joan is now working something akin to an Elizabeth Taylor late ’60s look when she gets dressed up, and Betty’s like one of those glamorous mom actresses of the period, like Hope Lange or Shirley Jones (with a touch of Pat Nixon). Janie has always pulled from iconic female figures when it came to dressing the more glamorous of the female characters on the show. With Megan, she hit the mother lode because she came into the story just as the fashions got crazier and with the storyline of pursuing a performing career, which opened up whole new costuming vistas for Janie after years of dressing housewives, secretaries, and office workers.
But Joan is not likely to die of an overdose of sleeping pills like Marilyn did and Betty’s probably not going to die in a car crash like the former Grace Kelly did. Bringing Sharon Tate in as a reference right now is perfectly in line with the work Janie’s been doing all along on the show. These are subtle and beautiful ways to place you directly in the period by evoking the very women who defined beauty during it, without making the references too obvious. They also reveal something about the character or the times. Betty is dressed like Grace because she’s a Main Line princess with a glamorous international career who gave it up to marry and have children, just like Grace.
Joan evoked Marilyn because a huge part of her character arc is about how the men around her see and treat her because of her body, and how she has both paid a price for that, and simultaneously learned how to wield it as a tool to get what she wants. Post-divorce, with a rocky and colorful romantic history behind her, she’s now occasionally referencing the multi-divorced queen of the rocky romantic history, Liz Taylor.
Megan is dressed like Sharon Tate because she’s a glamorous-looking actress who married very well and, like Joan and Betty, the style she’s mimicking suits her perfectly. We’ll see if more similarities will surface, but we would be very surprised if Megan wound up dead. Janie has never been quite that obvious in her costuming choices. We think the presence of that shirt ties into the general theme of encroaching violence and urban anxieties that has permeated this season. It’s possible someone will get hurt and maybe even killed, but we just can’t hop on board the frantic “MEGAN IS A GONER” freaking out this week. Everything we know about the costuming of the show tells us it just doesn’t work that way.
Bear in mind that this is how the show used costuming and staging to foreshadow the first Kennedy assassination:
Not a pink suit or pillbox hat in sight. The show has never been that literal.
Now, there has been an awful lot of death talk and death imagery this season, even more so than usual. And as we said, the theme of encroaching violence has been ramped up considerably. It’s 1968, the most violent, turbulent year of the decade. It’s likely that something is going to happen, but we just can’t make that automatic leap that Megan is going to die because she’s wearing a t-shirt. That’s a level of Twin Peaks-like coding the show’s never really dabbled in before. It’s entirely possible it was meant to have been merely a call-back to Abe’s stabbing and nothing more than that. And Janie herself mentioned the t-shirt having political significance; using it to refer to the tumultuous political landscape of the time.
Just had to get that one of our chests. The costuming of this show suddenly became a big story this week and we just weren’t loving the way the conventional wisdom was shaking out on this one.
Also: we will eat our pillbox hats if Bob Benson turns out to be any of the more outrageous (and curiously popular, given the show’s low-key, slow-burn narrative history) theories currently being bandied about. Not that we’re planting our flag firmly in our “secretly a gay man” theory; just that we have a near-impossible time believing he’ll turn out to be some form of spy or government agent or secret illegitimate child of anyone else in the story. Harrumph.
Annnnd scene. Discuss amongst yourselves. Also, feel free to rejoice over last night’s awesome Orphan Black finale or tonight’s Game of Thrones or whatever else strikes the collective kitten fancy. It’s a T Lo TVstravaganza.
[Photo Credit: AMC, grandcentralterminal.com – Stills: tomandlorenzo.com – Viceo Credit: AMC]