I’m not quick to bestow the title of American Icon upon a fictional character, so it was with much trepidation that I chose the subject of this piece. Who among fictional characters is so iconic, even in their fictional state, that they live a life worthy of such a title? That man, my friends, is Roger Sterling, Jr.
Admittedly, it’s tough to write about a character from Mad Men as an American Icon and not think of Don Draper. By all means, Don Draper is a man of iconic status. However, he’s the main character of the show. Obviously, he’s going to be iconic. The majority of the show is focused on him and what he does. Anyone who still sticks out through all that is surely a great man. Roger Sterling accomplishes this feat.
Born into a wealthy family in the early years of the twentieth century, Sterling works in the ad business. The firm at the beginning of the show, Sterling Cooper, bears his name. However, it isn’t really his name. It’s actually his old man’s. See, Roger Sterling Sr. founded the firm along with Bert Cooper in 1923. Roger Sterling Jr. inherited his position as a managing partner.
Sterling wasn’t always a slick businessman in a three-piece suit. He, like many others in his generation, proudly served his country in its time of need. Always the sailing type, having sailed alone from Bar Harbor, Maine to Hilton Head, South Carolina as a boy, Roger Sterling joined the Navy. Serving in the South Pacific, Sterling saw action against the Japanese and was decorated for his conduct. His nautical nature and naval service seem to have played a large role in his life, as he frequently uses seafaring references in daily conversations.
After the war, it can be assumed the Sterling left the Navy for advertising and his two other hobbies: drinking and womanizing. Those are the two things Roger Sterling truly enjoys. He’s damn good at both. Seldom seen without a drink, even going as far as pouring vodka in his milk, Roger Sterling is what many people today might call an alcoholic. However, in his time, the term for his condition was “successful.”
When it comes to the fairer sex, Roger Sterling could be described as a playboy. His conquests are numerous and include:
In the office, Sterling is just as much a champion as he is at the bar or in the bedroom. He dominates the scene with his antics, wearing the finest three-piece suits available, drinking heavily, and hazing his subordinates. He once fired a man twice simply because it gave him so much satisfaction the first time that he wanted to do it again. Also, he constantly puts that little shit Peter Campbell in his place.
Sterling has had two heart attacks, but he doesn’t let that stop him. He still drinks and smokes just as much as he did before. He married a secretary, did acid, separated from that secretary, and then knocked up another secretary, but hell, that’s just classic Roger Sterling.
In all, Roger Sterling, Jr. is an American Icon. He’s a business leader, he’s a war veteran, he’s a drinker, and he’s great with the ladies.