Prepare to compare and rank the characters from the hit AMC show, Mad Men! Set in the 1960s advertising world of Madison Avenue, the series captivated audiences with its complex characters and their intriguing journeys. From the enigmatic Don Draper to the ambitious Peggy Olson, each character brings a unique perspective to the vibrant and changing landscape of American society. In this article, we will delve into the lives and personalities of the key characters, exploring their strengths, weaknesses, and transformative arcs. Join us as we uncover the complexities and nuances of the beloved characters from Mad Men.
Ranking the Six Partners of Sterling Cooper & Partners
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Bios of Key Mad Men Characters
Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm)
Don Draper is the enigmatic creative genius and the central figure of Mad Men. He is a charismatic and brilliant ad executive, known for his captivating storytelling skills. Don is a complex character with a mysterious past, constantly struggling with his identity and seeking fulfillment in his personal and professional life. His flaws include a womanizing nature, alcoholism, and a tendency to be emotionally closed off. Don's transformation throughout the series is marked by his journey towards self-discovery, as he confronts his demons and attempts to find redemption.
Peggy Olson (played by Elisabeth Moss)
Peggy Olson starts as a timid and ambitious young secretary at Sterling Cooper and evolves into a strong and independent woman, breaking through the glass ceiling of the advertising industry. Peggy's determination, intelligence, and perseverance set her apart from her peers, and she becomes a formidable force in the male-dominated world of Madison Avenue. Her character arc showcases the challenges faced by women during the era and the personal sacrifices required to achieve success.
Joan Holloway/Harris (played by Christina Hendricks)
Joan Holloway is the headstrong and confident office manager at Sterling Cooper. Known for her beauty and allure, Joan navigates the workplace with grace and cunning. Though initially objectified by her male colleagues, Joan proves herself to be more than just a pretty face. She possesses a sharp mind, business acumen, and a talent for manipulating situations to her advantage. Joan's character arc explores the complexities of gender dynamics in the workplace and the sacrifices women made to gain respect and power.
Roger Sterling (played by John Slattery)
Roger Sterling is the witty and charming partner at Sterling Cooper. He is known for his quick wit, indulgent lifestyle, and charming demeanor. Roger embodies the excesses and hedonism of the era, frequently engaging in extramarital affairs and substance abuse. However, beneath his facade lies a man grappling with his fading relevance and the consequences of his actions. Roger's character arc explores the themes of aging, regret, and the search for purpose.
Pete Campbell (played by Vincent Kartheiser)
Pete Campbell is a young and ambitious account executive at Sterling Cooper. Eager to climb the corporate ladder, Pete is driven by a relentless desire for success and recognition. Despite his intelligence and determination, Pete often struggles with feelings of inadequacy and jealousy towards his colleagues. His character arc showcases the dark side of ambition, as he navigates the challenges of professional competition and personal relationships.
Lane Pryce (played by Jared Harris)
Lane Pryce is a British financial officer who joins Sterling Cooper. Efficient, meticulous, and reserved, Lane brings a sense of order to the chaotic world of advertising. As an outsider, he faces challenges in establishing his authority within the company. Lane's character arc explores the clash between his traditional British values and the hedonistic American culture surrounding him, ultimately leading to unexpected consequences.
Bert Cooper (played by Robert Morse)
Bert Cooper is one of the founding partners of Sterling Cooper. Wise, eccentric, and with a deep appreciation for Japanese art and culture, Bert is a revered figure within the company. Despite his advancing age, he remains an influential force in the advertising world. Bert's character provides a unique perspective on the changing landscape of business and society, offering valuable insights and guidance to his colleagues.
Harry Crane (played by Rich Sommer)
Harry Crane is the head of media at Sterling Cooper. Initially, Harry is portrayed as a socially awkward and somewhat nerdy character. However, as the series progresses, he becomes more confident and assertive, leveraging his position to gain power and influence within the company. Harry's character arc explores the rise of media in the advertising industry and the impact it has on his personal and professional life.
Ken Cosgrove (played by Aaron Staton)
Ken Cosgrove is an account executive at Sterling Cooper. Known for his affable personality and talent as a writer, Ken is a well-liked and respected member of the team. He possesses a strong moral compass and often finds himself caught between the corporate world and his own artistic ambitions. Ken's character arc examines the tension between conformity and creative expression in the advertising industry.
Michael Ginsberg (played by Ben Feldman)
Michael Ginsberg is a talented and eccentric copywriter hired by Sterling Cooper. His unique personality, marked by bursts of creativity and bouts of paranoia, adds a dose of unpredictability to the office environment. Ginsberg's character arc delves into his struggles with mental health, artistic identity, and the challenges of fitting into a highly competitive and conformist industry.
Paul Kinsey (played by Michael Gladis)
Paul Kinsey is a copywriter at Sterling Cooper known for his intellectual aspirations and political activism. Paul's character is defined by his aspirations to become a successful novelist, often overshadowing his work in advertising. His journey portrays the conflicts between artistic dreams and the realities of a corporate career, shedding light on the idealism and disillusionment of the era.
Betty Draper/Francis (played by January Jones)
Betty Draper is Don's beautiful and seemingly perfect wife. She epitomizes the idealized housewife of the 1960s, but beneath her picture-perfect exterior lies a woman longing for fulfillment and independence. Betty's character is defined by her struggles with her identity, unfulfilled desires, and her complex relationship with Don. Her journey portrays the limitations and expectations placed on women in that era, highlighting the stark contrast between societal ideals and personal fulfillment.
Sally Draper (played by Kiernan Shipka)
Sally Draper is the daughter of Don and Betty Draper. Growing up amidst the tumultuous dynamics of her parents' relationship, Sally undergoes a significant coming-of-age journey throughout the series. From a curious and observant child to a rebellious teenager, Sally grapples with the expectations placed upon her as a young woman in the 1960s. Her character arc explores themes of generational change, identity formation, and the impact of parental influence.
Megan Calvet/Draper (played by Jessica Paré)
Megan Draper is Don's second wife and a former employee at Sterling Cooper. Megan is an aspiring actress with a vivacious and free-spirited personality. Her character brings a fresh and vibrant energy to the show, challenging the traditional roles and expectations of women in that era. Megan's journey delves into the complexities of her relationship with Don and her pursuit of personal fulfillment in a tumultuous industry.
Stan Rizzo (played by Jay R. Ferguson)
Stan Rizzo is a talented and free-spirited art director at Sterling Cooper. Known for his unconventional style and bohemian personality, Stan brings a refreshing and rebellious energy to the office. Over the course of the series, he develops a close and complicated relationship with Peggy Olson. Stan's character arc explores themes of artistic expression, personal growth, and the blurred lines between friendship and romance.
Bob Benson (played by James Wolk)
Bob Benson is an ambitious and mysterious account executive who joins the ranks of Sterling Cooper. Initially viewed as an opportunist, Bob gradually earns the trust and respect of his colleagues through his charm and ability to adapt. His character arc explores themes of identity, ambition, and the lengths one will go to achieve success. Bob's presence in the office introduces an element of intrigue and adds layers to the complex dynamics within the company.
Faye Miller (played by Cara Buono)
Faye Miller is a smart and confident market researcher who becomes involved with Don Draper. Faye is known for her professionalism and intelligence, offering a fresh perspective on the advertising industry. Her character challenges the traditional gender roles and expectations of the era, while also providing a foil to Don's complex personality. Faye's arc explores the sacrifices and compromises one makes in the pursuit of love and career.
Henry Francis (played by Christopher Stanley)
Henry Francis is a political advisor who marries Betty Draper after her divorce from Don. Henry is a pragmatic and ambitious man, constantly navigating the cutthroat world of politics. As Betty's husband, he provides stability and a sense of security, but their marriage is not without its challenges. Henry's character arc delves into the power dynamics of marriage, the impact of political aspirations on personal relationships, and the sacrifices made for ambition.
Ted Chaough (played by Kevin Rahm)
Ted Chaough is a partner at CGC, a rival advertising agency that eventually merges with Sterling Cooper & Partners. Ted is portrayed as a charismatic and ambitious executive with a competitive drive. He often finds himself at odds with Don Draper, leading to tension and conflicts within the newly formed agency. Ted's character arc explores the challenges of balancing personal and professional desires, as well as the complexities of navigating a highly competitive industry.
Jim Cutler (played by Harry Hamlin)
Jim Cutler is another partner at CGC who becomes a part of the Sterling Cooper & Partners merger. Known for his calculated and pragmatic approach to business, Jim is often portrayed as the voice of reason within the agency. He is ambitious, focused on maintaining control and maximizing profits. Jim's character arc explores the clash between traditional and progressive ideologies in the advertising world, as well as the moral compromises made for success.
Lou Avery (played by Allan Havey)
Lou Avery is an art director who joins Sterling Cooper & Partners as part of the CGC merger. Initially seen as an unassuming and mild-mannered presence, Lou gradually reveals his true colors, displaying arrogance and a lack of creative vision. His character arc depicts the challenges of working in a highly competitive and dynamic industry, highlighting the importance of collaboration, creativity, and adaptability. He's also the mind behind "Scout's Honor", a comic character that later becomes popular in Japan.
Frank Gleason (played by Mark Moses)
Frank Gleason is one of the original partners at CGC. Known for his pragmatic and business-oriented mindset, Frank brings a level-headed perspective to the agency. He serves as a mentor figure to Peggy Olson and encourages her professional growth. Frank's character arc explores the dynamics of mentorship and the complexities of balancing personal and professional relationships in a high-stakes environment.
The Timeline of Mad Men from Season 1 through 7
Mad Men takes viewers on a captivating journey through the 1960s, spanning from the first season to the final season. The show meticulously captures the shifting cultural, political, and social landscape of the era, while exploring the personal and professional lives of its characters. From the early 1960s to the early 1970s, Mad Men unfolds over the course of seven seasons, offering a rich and immersive experience.
The first season introduces us to the world of Sterling Cooper, an advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City, in the year 1960. We meet the enigmatic Don Draper, the brilliant but troubled creative director, and his colleagues, including the ambitious Pete Campbell, the steadfast Peggy Olson, and the charismatic Roger Sterling. Against the backdrop of the "Mad Men" era, the season explores the intricacies of the advertising industry, the changing dynamics of gender roles, and the secrets that lie beneath the polished facade.
As the show progresses, we witness the evolution of the characters and the world around them. The subsequent seasons delve deeper into the complexities of their personal lives, professional aspirations, and the societal changes occurring throughout the decade. The tumultuous events of the 1960s, such as the assassination of President Kennedy, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War, serve as the backdrop for the characters' journeys, shaping their experiences and beliefs.
The mid-seasons of Mad Men showcase the agency's growth and transformation. Sterling Cooper undergoes a series of mergers and acquisitions, leading to the formation of new partnerships and alliances. The characters navigate the challenges of adapting to change, both within the industry and in their personal relationships. The exploration of themes like consumerism, identity, and the pursuit of happiness becomes increasingly prevalent as the show delves into the late 1960s.
In the final seasons, Mad Men delves into the changing landscape of the 1970s. The characters face the impact of countercultural movements, feminist ideologies, and the rise of new technologies. Don Draper's existential crisis comes to the forefront, as he grapples with his identity and the search for meaning in a rapidly evolving world. The narrative becomes more introspective, delving into the inner lives of the characters and the consequences of their choices.
The show culminates in its seventh season, as the characters come to terms with their past, face the consequences of their actions, and strive to find redemption and closure. The final episodes provide a poignant reflection on the characters' journeys, offering glimpses of hope, growth, and a sense of moving forward.
Mad Men's timeline masterfully captures the essence of each era it portrays, from the glamour and idealism of the early 1960s to the turbulence and disillusionment of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Through its meticulous attention to detail and compelling storytelling, the show immerses viewers in a world that is both nostalgic and thought-provoking. Mad Men stands as a testament to the power of storytelling and its ability to illuminate the human experience within the context of a specific historical period.
The Difficult Task of Ranking the Characters
In the world of Mad Men, a captivating ensemble of characters fills the screen, each with their own complexities, flaws, and triumphs. From the enigmatic and tormented Don Draper to the ambitious and driven Peggy Olson, every character plays a vital role in the tapestry of the show. Attempting to rank these characters from top to bottom would be a daunting task, for it is precisely their collective presence that gives Mad Men its depth and richness. Each character brings a unique perspective, a distinct journey, and a contribution to the overarching narrative. It is the intricate interplay of their relationships, conflicts, and personal growth that makes Mad Men a masterclass in character development. So rather than assigning a hierarchical order to these characters, let us celebrate the brilliance of their collective portrayal, as they continue to captivate audiences with their compelling stories and timeless exploration of the human condition.