One of my favorite things about Mad Men is how no character is wasted. Everyone we meet has a distinct role, personality, and place within the world. Don Draper is our miscreant main character and protagonist.
He's not a hero, he's more of a complicated guy.
But the yin to Don's yang is Peggy Olson. She's his apprentice and eventual replacement. Peggy not only provides the heart of the show but embodies the growth and change within American society at the time. Which might be the most important aspect of the show.
More on that later.
Her emotional arc exemplifies the fact that she is the secret owner of the text.
But what the hell does that mean?
Check out this video from The Breakdown and let's talk after the jump.
How is Peggy Olson The Secret Owner of the Text?
Right off the bat, let's dig into a definition. The secret owner of the text is when the moral thesis of the show is dictated through a side character and not through the main character.
In Mad Men, Don Draper is our main character.
And the video asserts Peggy is our protagonist.
The protagonist of a movie or TV show is usually defined as the person who changes over the course of the story. And the main character is the character who the story is mostly about or the point of view of the story.
We have a whole post about this, but suffice it to say they are not the same thing.
And Mad Men is a great example of why.
Don Draper vs. Peggy Olson
Don Draper drives the narrative of Mad Men. We follow his story, one where he's okay hiding his identity but not actually changing who he is over the course of the 7 seasons. Don is our entryway into the world, but by the middle seasons of the show, he's part of the old guard.
Peggy Olson starts as Don's secretary but quickly moves to become a copywriter.
Her arc is set to mirror the feminist movement at the time.
And eventually, she claims Don's office.
Peggy puts having a family on hold in order to move up the working ranks. To invest time and effort into herself.
In an interview, show creator Matthew Weiner said that Don is the representative of American society. That his success is grand, but the narcissism and poor decisions might mean that the wrong bodies are in charge.
Don and what he represents must change if we are to grow.
And the heart of that growth lies within Peggy.
That's why she might be the protagonist and secret owner of the text.
What's next? What can Mad Men teach us about Screenwriting?
Don Draper. The name alone evokes nostalgic images of the 1960s, back when everybody smoked and nobody cared. But there’s a ton of screenwriting work that went into creating Mad Men’s central character. So, what screenwriting lessons can you take away from the iconic AMC show?