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What, if any, are the connections between Sharon Tate — the gorgeous starlet wife of Roman Polanski, brutally murdered at age 26 along with her unborn child in the summer of 1969 by members of the Manson Family — and Mad Men, the Emmy-winning AMC drama whose season six is set one year earlier, in 1968?
Get comfortable and let the Internet tell you.
The latest obsession of Mad Men conspiracy theorists began with two simple words tweeted by Janie Bryant, the show’s costume designer. The daughter of photographer William Helburn had asked Bryant if the star T-shirt worn by Megan (Jessica Pare) in last week’s episode, “The Better Half,” was intentionally similar to one worn by Tate in a 1967 Esquire photo spread shot by her father.
“No coincidence,” Bryant responded.
Sites like Reddit, Uproxx and Grantland then took that nugget and ran with it, each building elaborately on the case that the arc of Megan, a rising actress who recently lost a pregnancy, was mirroring the life of Tate. And if that was true, wouldn’t it only be logical that the character would soon come to a violent demise?
Well, it’s a theory. But what, besides the T-shirt, do they offer up as evidence?
For starters, there’s the fact that Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) was reading a copy of Rosemary’s Baby in a recent episode, which of course was adapted by Polanski into a horror cinema classic. Then again, that movie came out in 1968. It’s only natural that the dark-minded Sally would be drawn to the source material.
Then there’s the poster for season six — an illustration which, if you look carefully, features a number of uniformed officers and police cars in the background. A crime scene! And yet, crime has run rampant throughout season six, as it did throughout the actual Manhattan in 1968.
Then there’s the notion of home invasion — the Manson murders being one of history’s most notorious examples — which was explored in a strange recent episode in which Grandma Ida, a quirky con woman, talks her way into the Draper home while the grownups are away.
And maybe it’s just a T-shirt.
Speaking recently to The Daily Beast, Bryant explained that she sought out the Esquire layout for inspiration after Mad Men mastermind Matthew Weiner requested something “political” for Megan to wear in a balcony scene with husband Don (Jon Hamm).
“I had done so much research of different political T-shirts, and found a picture of Sharon Tate from Esquire magazine,” the costume designer explains. “It’s the Vietnam star. We saw a little bit of how Megan was so upset after Bobby Kennedy was shot. It really is so much a part of the turmoil happening during that period — really this is the time filled with civil unrest. [And New York] was really a decaying city.”
Esquire, for its part, hasn’t let the attention go unnoticed. The magazine has republished the 1967 Tate spread on its website.
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