Mad Men is a novel written by Ken Cosgrove

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A fan theory suggests that Mad Men is a novel written by Ken Cosgrove. Here’s why that makes sense, including some evidence to back the theory up.

Some fans have speculated that Matthew Weiner Mad Men is a novel written by the fictional character in the series, Kenneth “Ken” Cosgrove, an account executive at Sterling Cooper and an aspiring author who writes fiction in his spare time. Portrayed by actor Aaron Staton, Cosgrove has remained one of Mad Menmain characters throughout the seven seasons of the Emmy Award-winning series. AMC’s drama revolves around the fierce advertising agency where Cosgrove works alongside Don Draper, the show’s main anti-hero, and other iconic characters.

While things do change for Cosgrove in the later seasons of the show, he remains for most of the show one of the Crazy men most laid back, easy going and authentic characters. This sometimes leads his colleagues to underestimate him, as in Mad Men season 3, when Pete Campbell is surprised to find himself competing with Cosgrove for the position of account manager at Sterling Cooper. Unquestionably dedicated, Cosgrove was even promoted to Senior Vice President of Account Services, beating the ambitious Campbell for the job.


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Later in the series, Cosgrove reveals that he always wanted to write a novel about the world of advertising. The way he sees the other characters is similar to the way they appear to audiences – Don is arrogant and hard to get to know; Peggy is talented but taken for granted; Pete is a jerk because he’s insecure. Given that, it’s not hard to see how the other characters could have been created from Cosgrove’s perspective, as the all-knowing narrator of the story. Several events on the show also support the theory that Mad Men is a novel written by Cosgrove, often misunderstood. One of the most compelling evidence comes when the account executive receives a piece of news published in Atlantic. The line between the real world and the AMC series world officially blurred when Atlantic actually published the story – with an author biography matching that of Cosgrove in Mad Men.


Aaron Staton as Ken Cosgrove in Mad Men

Her short story also alludes to events and other characters in the series, which is how Cosgrove allegedly drew inspiration for her fiction from her “real life” work experience in an agency within the Mad Men universe. In the story, Cosgrove questions his colleagues: “Who is Peggy dating?” How did Pete have such a swollen wife? And my God, what is Don’s market? “ The agency’s clients also appear in Cosgrove’s published story, including a reference to the Lucky Strike tagline, as well as philosophical thoughts on whether Dr. Scholl will really do it. “Cushion your path,“or whether Kodak can really “Save your memories”.

In Season 6, a demanding Chevrolet customer causes Cosgrove to lose an eye in a hunting accident. Despite this, he remains in his job out of misplaced loyalty, only to be fired in the last season. At this point in the character’s journey, he has a choice between stopping advertising for good and pursuing his dream of becoming a novelist. Instead, he becomes a demanding customer himself. Reprising the role of his stepfather at Dow Chemical, Cosgrove proceeds to his revenge on Crazy men Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce from his new position of power. He succeeds, but at the cost of his personal life and his happiness. All of these examples are consistent with the theory that Mad Men is the novel Cosgrove referred to but was never released during the show. Maybe in the alternate universe of Cosgrove’s off-screen reality, he’s taken a different path: quitting advertising to pursue his dream of writing a novel based on the advertising world.

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