I love Mad Men. When my life feels out of control and sad beyond belief, watching the folks from SCDP is a reminder that as bad as things are, at least I’m not married to Pete Campbell. The show has 2 more seasons left and all signs point to Matthew Weiner ending the show as the 1970s begin. We’ll have watched these characters age for a decade; it will be hard to say goodbye. We’ll miss them, each and every one. Assuming the show does end in 1970, these people are just too damn much fun to leave there. Here are my predictions for where the major characters will be in 1980.
Don Draper will be 50 in 1980. Time will not have been good to him; the heavy smoking and drinking are going to catch up (we’re starting to see that already in season 6). He’ll be paunchy and have that bloated look that long time alcoholics get. Sterling Cooper Draper Price will continue to do well, so Don’s income will be high enough to ensure that each new wife is another attractive and adoring trophy he can show off. By 1980 his cheating will have lessened; not because he’ll have changed, but because of his changing abilities. Don will have developed a problem that requires a little blue pill that, in 1980, has yet to be invented.
Pete Campbell, the Don-Wannabe, the existential loser of the show, will continue being the pathetic guy you’d feel sorry for, if but for the fact that he’s such an jerk. Pete aspires to be just like Don even as he despises the actual Don. While Pete shares Don’s lack of moral character, he got there from a sense of entitlement; where Don is the personification of nihilism, Pete is nothing more than a big baby who throws a tantrum when he sees someone with a toy he doesn’t have. By 1980 Trudy, the best thing that will ever happen to Pete, is long gone. He’s become that paunchy middle aged guy who thinks he’s hip and sexy but is neither.
Peggy Olson is still a rarity, but no longer unique. She’s become a role model for women trying to break into advertising. She’s tough and smart and damn good at what she does. Peggy has truly been Don’s protégé, and in her favor is that she lacks his weaknesses. She’s fine in her personal life, whether with Abe or someone else, but work is always the biggest part of her life, and any man she’s with has to understand that and respect it. Her family still doesn’t understand.
Harry Crane lives in LA and is a network executive. His combination of obsequiousness and backstabbing will ensure his success.
Roger Sterling is a Buddhist monk. His search for meaning started with LSD and led to religion. Buddhism suits his mind set, and by the early 1970s his interest in pursuing the pleasures of life have become sated. Roger and Don were brothers in debauchery, but there was always a difference. Don wants to forget who he is, while Roger was always searching for who he could be.
Joan Harris is in her early 40s in 1970. She still looks great. By 1980 she’s managed to work herself into being fully and completely in charge of what we’d now call office infrastructure, and she does the same outstanding job she’s done on everything. She’s still single, as Joan’s problem has always been that she’ll only go with men who she knows aren’t good enough for her.
Megan is long gone from Don, and that’s a good thing. Her combination of smarts and talent has taken her far. Her career is thriving and she’s found a man worth her love.
Sally Draper grows up and becomes the 1980 version of what her mother was in 1950. With stone-cold Betty and a barely present Don as parents, the girl never had a chance.
Ken Cosgrove, one of the few normal and decent people, continues to work in advertising during the day and writing science fiction at night. He’s become a well known and respected writer under his pseudonym.
Michael Ginsberg heads the creative area. He’s in line to become the first non-WASP partner.
That’s my roundup of Mad Men in 1980. Here’s hoping that the characters are brought back for occasional specials; I’d love a chance to see if I’m right.