"Mad Men" and Some Betty Draper Love

I’ve been watching “Mad Men” since the pilot, and I’ve been a huge fan from the start. As far as television dramas go, there’s none that have characters as compelling as this show does. If you are a fan, then you know – gorgeous, mysterious Don Draper, luscious, secretive Joan Holloway , tortured, under-appreciated Pete Campbell, brilliant, angry Peggy Olsen, entitled, suave Roger Sterling – and all the rest. Each of them has a rich back story, a well-defined persona, and a plot line that twists and turns more than a roller coaster at Palisades Amusement Park, where Don and Megan would most likely have taken his kids for an afternoon of fun – if only Don could relax a bit and enjoy himself.
Mad Men, AMC, television, series, 60's, midlife, empty nest

In the Huffington Post there was an article criticizing the May 13 episode featuring poor, fat, down in the dumps Betty Draper. Betty is the ex-wife of the aforementioned Don Draper. She’s now remarried and living in a house right out of “The Addams Family,” as Don inappropriately mentioned to his daughter Sally on an episode earlier this season – oh how that Mad Men gang loves to be inappropriate! Betty used to be thin, gorgeous and glamorous, but she’s put on a few pounds – ok more than a few – since the birth of her third child. Though it was her choice to end her marriage to Don, she apparently has some very mixed emotions about it, and those feelings are magnified when, on the May 13 episode, she sees the glamorous apartment where Don and his new, young, spectacular wife Megan are now living.

(On a side note, the apartment brings to mind the home on the classic 60′s show, “Family Affair“).

family affair tv show, buffy and jody, cissy, Uncle Bill, Mr. French, sixties tv, Brian Keith, New York apartment

The cast of Family Affair

There’s a lot of criticism of and strong negative reaction to the Betty Draper character, and January Jones, the actress who plays her. I have a different opinion. I find Betty to be sympathetic – maybe because she’s the “mom” on the show – the character whose daily life most resembles mine (see note below). Her struggle with her identity as a housewife, her barely controlled anger – remember when she shot the neighbors pigeons – and now her body issues are all things that women of her age and time dealt with, usually in private and without much support from others. The fact that Betty is now attending Weight Watchers meetings and (gasp) sharing her feelings and frustrations with her fellow attendees at the meetings indicates that she is beginning to evolve into more than just a pretty (albeit temporarily chubby) face. I have no doubt Betty will lose the pounds and find her power again.
Mad Men, Betty Draper, shotgun, pigeons, television, women's self-esteem, AMC

I believe Betty’s newly found calm and mild demeanor is a direct result of her binge eating (i.e.: the whipped cream on the May 13 episode). The more Betty eats, the less her anger is directed outward – especially towards her daughter Sally, who in seasons past has borne the brunt of her fury. You can still see the old, nasty Betty when she’s dealing with Don – and I can’t help hoping these two malcontents will find their way back to each other again someday. In the meantime, I’ll empathize with her need to use food to push down her emotions and comfort herself – that’s an impulse I can completely understand.

There are other great shows on television – “Nurse Jackie” comes to mind – but none can hold a candle to the complex and fascinating “Mad Men.”

 NOTE: I would never take a shotgun and shoot pigeons. Nor would I eat whipped cream right out of the canister – it would have to be on some ice cream.


Sharon Greenthal emptyhousefullmind.com


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