Dear Matt Weiner,
Yes, we know it’s Mad Men, but you’ve given us much to savor in the women, except for one. Exactly. Betty Draper Francis.
Sure, we fell for her charm and beauty in the beginning. Perfect for the Kennedy era Camelot. Typical of the Alfred Hitchcock heroine.
We tolerated her cool, and at moments, considered her long suffering. We were sucker-punched by her occasional machinations. (Didn’t she nudge a friend into an indiscretion, as I recall? Signs of a puppet master to come?)
We were nonetheless conflicted over her reserve with her father, her chill with her children, and we shouldn’t forget her bathroom bar encounter with a stranger.
Then there are her dealings with her brother, and her passive aggressive behavior as her new marriage slides into sameness. Once again, she is dissatisfied; still bored, and still restless.
Speaking of that dalliance in the bar, it seems to me in a recent episode she was attempting to be forthcoming with her husband, when he exhibited a modicum of jealousy over Don. She mentioned that Don was the only man she’d ever been with.
Naturally, she wouldn’t disclose her pick-up at the bar, and given her former hubby’s string of affairs, it wouldn’t be surprising that she’d act on impulse and engage in one of her own. But it made me wonder if it was something she’d done before. And might – given the right circumstances – do again.
Isn’t she as accomplished a liar as her ex if not as frequent – and by omission if not commission? What happened to those slight stirrings of female rebellion – or at least curiosity – that we saw in seasons past?
Yes, you’ve effectively turned our sentiments on this anti-heroine. Yes, we viewed her as the silent co-conspirator in a marriage based on a lie. We didn’t love her with Henry, but we got it. She needed pedigree. Attention. And she has gone from unsympathetic mother figure to one we truly loathe, at least when it comes to her daughter. Yes, finally, there was genuine delight over the Beatles. And before that? The last time we experienced a moment of happiness from Betty? The radiance of her smile?
Mmm. Rome, perhaps?
But we suspect there’s more. We want to know what makes her tick. For all the women in the sixties we knew and never understood. For our mothers, our aunts, our grandmothers. For the women we know today whose behaviors seesaw in troubled waters behind a placid, pretty surface.
Didn’t you even suggest that Betty had experienced growth in ending her marriage to Don? I believe these are your words, in a 2009 interview given to The Daily Beast:
I think Betty Draper is an impulsive person and she may have an arrested state in terms of what she was taught to expect from her life, to be taken care of by a man, to be loved and worshiped and adored… Has she grown up or is she just so frustrated with the status quo that she can’t take it anymore? I don’t know, but she definitely put her foot down and I’d like to believe, not just as a dramatist but as a human being, that that is growth.
If that growth existed in leaving Don, surely it’s evaporated as she has slipped into apathy again and taken out her frustrations on Sally?
You said it yourself – “to be loved and worshiped and adored.” That isn’t what marriage is about. Nor do we see signs of it (any longer) with Henry. So what’s next for Betty? What more might we see of her in therapy?
You’re not prone to providing tidy endings. You much prefer loose threads (more options), ambiguous departures (most of Don’s women), and unresolved moments (more realistic). Still, we’d like more of Betty, please. And not just one or two scenes in one or two episodes. You’ve left us wanting all through Season 4. Dare we hope that Season 5 will offer greater insight into Betty Draper Francis?