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Spoilers? Historical events to inspire Mad Men

Each season of Mad Men is as closely guarded as our president. Getting real spoilers can often prove impossible. What we can do, though, is take a look at how history might sculpt the season.

Don Draper of Mad Men

Welcome to 1968, mad (wo)men! The year proved to be pretty tumultuous the first time… What will it be like for Don Draper? Here are some big events we hope and think Mad Men will cover.

Jan. 21 — Vietnam War, Battle of Khe Sanh

January 21 - Battle of Khe Sanh - Vietnam War

The Battle of Khe Sanh was one of the most publicized battles of the Vietnam War. The battle lasted into July and saw great casualties on both sides as American troops were bombarded with an unexpected amount of force. Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) was pummeled with enough explosives to equal the force of five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs in the first four months alone. It was bloody, and it made the news everywhere.

Also expect mention of…

  • Jan. 22 — Apollo 5 launch: No astronauts were on board the lunar module this time, but this flight really started public interest in the space program, as it led to the America’s sending men to the moon.
  • Feb. 1 — Nixon announces candidacy for president
  • Feb. 8 — Orangeburg Massacre: Nine police officers fired at 200 Vietnam protesters. Three died and 28 were injured (most were shot in the back).
  • Grenoble Winter Olympic Games

April 4 — Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee

This will be even more important now that SCDP has its first African-American worker. That said, most of the staff have shown sensitivity to civil rights. Expect something to be said, perhaps a moment gathered around a television.

Surrounding news events…

  • March 16 — Robert Kennedy announces presidency: Our obsession with the Kennedy family didn’t end when JFK was assassinated.
  • March 16 — My Lai Massacre in Vietnam: Between 340 and 500 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians were murdered by US Army soldiers. Many women were raped beforehand. Despite the 26 initial arrests, only one soldier served time (three and a half years under house arrest) for this war crime.
  • March 16 — Oldsmobile produces 100 millionth automobile: This will somehow filter into SCDP’s work flow.
  • April 11 President Johnson signs Civil Rights Act
  • Throughout March and April — Nuclear tests in Nevada

June 6 — Senator Robert Kennedy dies

Senator Robert Kennedy

Just several short weeks after Bobby Kennedy announced his run for president, a 24-year-old Palestinian/Jordanian man named Sirhan Sirhan shot Kennedy as he made his way through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel after celebrating a victory in the California primary.

Other possibilities:

  • May 4 — March of the Poor: This march in Washington, D.C., led by Reverend Abernathy was part of the Poor People’s Campaign, which demanded economic and human rights for all.
  • May 15 — John Lennon and Paul McCartney on the Johnny Carson Show
  • May 21 — US submarine USS Scorpion: Reported missing and later found at the bottom of the ocean.
  • May & June’s major music: “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel and “Jumping Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones hit the airwaves.
  • Throughout the summer — Race riots occur in Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, Little Rock and more.

Nov. 14 — Turn in Your Draft Card Day

The employees at SCDP all seem pretty young. Ever wonder how many of the boys like Harry and Pete had draft cards? On Nov. 14, many took “Turn in Your Draft Card Day” as a chance to burn their draft cards. One problem: Those draft cards were property of the US government, and burning them was an arrest-worthy offense. Whoops.

What else happened?

  • Nov. 6 — Nixon is elected president.
  • Nov. 11 — John Lennon and Yoko Ono appear nude on the cover of Two Virgins.
  • Nov. 22 — First televised interracial kiss. This has to make it in: It’s on Star Trek!
  • Nov. 22 — The Beatles release their only double album, Beatles (aka The White Album)

Dec. 21 — Apollo 8 is the first manned lunar mission

December 21, 1968: Apollo 8

Aside from its obsession with the Kennedys, America’s also obsessed with space. Apollo 8 carried astronauts Borman, Lovell, and Anders away from Earth. They became the first people to orbit the moon and helped propel America’s interest in landing on the moon.

They can’t forget:

  • Dec. 12 — Rolling Stones record the unaired Rock N Roll Circus. After Season 5’s failure to score the Rolling Stones, it seems inevitable that SCDP will somehow be involved in this fiasco.
  • Dec. 12 — Arthur Ashe becomes first African American to rank No. 1 in tennis. We imagine this will cause a massive hubbub at the various country clubs everyone belongs to.
  • December — The Zodiac Killer strikes in California.

As leisure suits begin to surface and the world goes to hell in a handbasket, there’s really no telling what will make the final cut of interesting happenings in Mad Men‘s version of 1968. These were the ones we thought might earn at least a mention!

Did we leave anything out? How do you think the Mad Men crew will treat these current events?

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Photo credit: Frank Ockenfels/AMC

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