Mad Men is back for one last season and newly-forged SC&P is busy creating the ad campaigns that fuelled 1960s consumer America. Amidst the generous cocktail swilling, our favourite minx has also returned. I don’t mean Megan, Betty, Joan or Peggy when I say this but she of the arched eyebrow, pithy one-liner and tendency to walk in on awkward situations…Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka).
Mad Men is celebrated because of the glorious fashion and historical detail. Within this framework sit some of the most nuanced characters ever written for the small-screen who’ve grown noticeably over the seasons. We all want to know if it will eventually work out for Don and his ailing marriage but another question has begun to occur to us. What about his daughter Sally? She started as a minor character but now carries some heavyweight story lines.
What Mad Men’s writers do so well is document the social change that happens before our eyes, often without anyone realizing it at the time. Against the backdrop of political and cultural milestones, Sally has had some notable moments in her own history, unique to children of her time.
For many viewers who share her timeline, Sally personifies the changing face of childhood and quite how terrible Sixties parenting could be. As the Drapers’ oldest child, she would have been born in about 1954 (probably between cigarette drags for Betty) and now with the latest season we see a fully-fledged, somewhat neglected teenager emerging, eager for experience.
Sally’s a child of divorce, something that was increasing in frequency in the 1960s She’s shown how kids then had to adapt to being part of two households and often fell through the gap in-between.
The coldness from her mother and indifference from her father has produced rebellion. After witnessing her father’s infidelity, Sally goes to boarding school and it’s here that she tries alcohol and marijuana for the first time. With the increased liberalization of the 1960s, even polite dinner parties were getting in on LSD, so Sally was bound to experiment with booze and drugs before long.
It’s also interesting to see how the show handles Sally’s first relationships. While her straight-laced mother might well have married her first boyfriend (insisting that boys kiss you and you never kiss a boy), Sally doesn’t necessarily expect that for herself. Still in touch with first crush Glen, she has a less rigid attitude already to her mother’s that didn’t exist before this period. In Sally we see the emergence of a whole new female mindset.
Where will Sally’s journey take her? With a soap actress stepmother and a father hoarding secrets, it won’t be dull or unsurprising that’s for sure. It’s also pretty safe to say that she’s likely to act out the rights of passage that so many who share her timeframe experienced. And what an amazing time it was…