Although we all know Mad Men is typically constructed on-the-fly, using leftover Halloween hippie costumes and giant cardboard backdrops with “The ‘60s” written on them in marker, this hasn’t stopped fans from scrutinizing every aspect of the production looking for symbolic clues. And last Sunday’s episode has sparked one of its most intriguing theories since the series began, simply by including a T-shirt—a T-shirt that just so happens to link to one of the most notorious murders of Mad Men’s era.
As first ignited on Reddit and then helpfully elaborated on UPROXX, Sunday’s “The Better Half” saw Megan wearing a white tee emblazoned with a big, red star—the exact same shirt worn by Sharon Tate in an old Esquire spread. According to costume designer Janie Bryant, the similarity is “no coincidence.” Naturally, this set off rampant theorizing that the show really was making deliberate reference to the actress who was killed in her own home by the Manson Family, and even perhaps foreshadowing a similar fate for Megan. Granted, that’s a huge leap based on little evidence. Though, in terms of most Mad Men fan speculation, it’s definitely no crazier than believing Bob Benson is secretly a reptilian overlord scheming to rule the world. (Especially considering he so obviously is.)
After all, the sixth season has increasingly seen the worsening crime of 1968 encroaching on the characters’ world, from the burglary of the Drapers’ apartment, to the rising police sirens that nearly drowned out Megan and Don’s episode-ending conversation, to the moment of actual violence in “The Better Half,” when Peggy accidentally stabbed her boyfriend Abe. (Much has already been written elsewhere on how Abe and his fellow neglected "better half" Megan are routinely made to mirror each other; here Abe’s bloody stabbing occurred right around where the red star lands on Megan’s own white tee.) The growing sense of danger also seems to fulfill the promise of this season’s promo poster, which paused briefly from leaning on the show’s usual motif of duality—a theme the pointedly titled “Better Half” has in spades—to bring in a police scene that suggests bad things looming just over the horizon.
There are other parallels stoking the comparison, like the fact that Tate was pregnant when she was murdered, and Megan recently suffered a miscarriage. Or the fact that, during the break-in episode, Sally is seen reading a copy of Rosemary’s Baby, a book adapted by none other than Sharon Tate’s widower, Roman Polanski. And it’s believed that Tate also died as the result of mistaken identity (just like Abe almost did), which also fits neatly into the duality theme—a theme that “Better Half” applied liberally to Megan, as we watched her muddle twin-sister roles on her soap opera. Add them all together and you can really only draw one conclusion: BOB BENSON IS A LIZARD BENT ON HUMAN DESTRUCTION. Also, that Mad Men seems to be really strongly suggesting this whole “Megan Draper = Sharon Tate” thing.
Except, according to an interview Bryant did with The Daily Beast, the Tate connection may not be a coincidence, but neither is it meant to establish a direct Megan/Sharon parallel—at least, so far as Bryant (or Matthew Weiner) is willing to admit. As Bryant says:
In terms of the t-shirt, Matthew Weiner had just said, 'It would be great to have something political.' I had done so much research of different political t-shirts, and found a picture of Sharon Tate from Esquiremagazine. 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.”
So there you have it: No, Megan Draper isn’t Sharon Tate. She’s Vietnam. Expect the next episode to see General Westmoreland order a withdrawal from the command base in her Southern region.