Since Mad Men's s premiere last weekend, certain Mad Men fans and writers have been theorizing about the show's possible connections to the Manson murders. Should this postulating be embraced or dismissed?
Mad Men conspiracies went a bit off the deep end last season, thanks to the highly mysterious presence of Bob Benson, and a certain item of clothingMegan Draper wore. Yes, Megan Draper last season wore a shirt that is exactly like a shirt Sharon Tate donned in a famous photo shoot. Lest you have forgotten, Sharon Tate was one of the Manson family's murder victims, thus inviting the suspicions. Creator Matthew Weiner shrugged such inquiring minds off and told the Los Angeles Times that the shirt was "just my costume designer Janie Bryant and I solving an argument" over to what extent women's t-shirts had come into fashion. However, as season seven begins Megan is living alone in the hills of Los Angeles. Coyotes howl. Don worries about her safety. Hence, the theories have started up again. One Reddit user writes that she couldn't "help but throw her two cents in," writing in part:
Then Don heard the coyotes at night and was mildly concerned, but Megan told him it was just the noise bouncing around the valley that made them sound so close – I read the book Helter Skelter (about the Tate murder and the Charles Manson family) last summer and there was special attention given to the fact that people miles away could hear screaming and violence while neighbors close by didn’t report hearing anything because the acoustics of the valley made sounds travel in an odd way. THIS IS NOT A COINCIDENCE. Matthew Weiner doesn’t do coincidences. Something is going to happen in that house before the show ends, mark my words.
But it isn't just Reddit that's getting in on the speculation game. At Vulture Gwynne Watkins talks to Katherine Ramsland, a professor of forensic psychology, about the numerous allusions the show has made to the Manson murders. The topics of discussion range from Megan's Sharon Tate-esque style, to the fact that Peggy held a Folger's can in the first episode. Abigail Folger was a Manson victim. Dustin Rowles, who pointed out the t-shirt connection last season, covers much of the same subject matter with his post: "15 Megan Draper/Sharon Tate Connections That Prove ‘Mad Men’ Is Just Straight-Up Trolling Us Now." Rowles is now convinced that Weiner is playing a game with all of us. "I don’t think that Matthew Weiner ever expected so much conversation would center on a t-shirt Megan Draper was wearing," he writes. "I also no longer believe that Megan Draper is going to die in a manner similar to Sharon Tate (and I sure as hell don’t think she’s actually Sharon Tate, nor did I ever). But I do think that Weiner is playing with that theory now. I think he’s exploiting it. I think he’s f**king with us."
Knowing Mad Men, it seems unlikely that Megan will indeed be murdered by the Manson family. As New York's Matt Zoller Seitz points out on Twitter, Weiner would not do something so predictable, particularly "after A YEAR OF PEOPLE PREDICTING IT." Additionally, as Seitz and others note in that same conversation, the show is not in the business of rewriting history. The characters are onlookers, not participants. Plus, Jon Hamm isn't buying it. When asked about the theories this week, Hamm said: "I don’t give very much credence to it. Although, certainly it was on people’s minds in the world of the show. It’s an interesting theory, but I don’t know how much validity there is to it."
Meanwhile, the rampant speculation associated with the show is enduring a backlash. At Indiewire's Criticwire, Sam Adams posits that "as closely as the clue-hunters pore over 'Mad Men' — or, for that matter, 'Toy Story' — they miss what the show is really about, and more to the point, willfully misunderstand the kind of show it is. It's not only counter-productive but tone-deaf, a way of scrutinizing the subject without actually engaging it." That certainly seems to be a correct assessment of the people trying to predict that Megan will be viciously murdered or that Don is airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper. (Yes, Slate got on board with that latter theory, even enlisting an expert who had never seen the show comment on its likelihood.)
Still, it wouldn't necessarily be wise to completely dismiss the Megan/Tate connections. That's not to say that the parallels should be used as clues for some impending plot point, but Weiner and his team do seem to be consciously referencing Tate and the eerie atmosphere in which her murder took place. Perhaps Weiner isn't just messing with the people that closely watch the show, but setting an unsettling tone. There's a chance the havoc Manson wreaks in Los Angeles in the summer of 1969 will come into play, just not in the most obvious way.