Mad Men’s Betty Draper Is A Real Bummer


After years of philandering and flirting and general fooling around, years of getting some and then getting some more on the side because he’s Don Draper and an ad man – years in which I might add he not once heard any hell from his pretty wife in Westchester County – cheating Don Draper finally got a taste of his own mad medicine.

And there’s not a single reason I can think of for why any of this is at all wrong or unwarranted. Fifty years ago, women stayed in loveless, lustless marriages because, socially speaking, the possibility of the alternative – divorce, a career – simply was not. They tolerated another woman’s lipstick on his starched lapel with the resolute certainty that a little bleach would do the trick. As though it were that stain that could even begin to explain their problems.

Betty is a woman who might quite adamantly argue that all fish necessarily need bicycles.

So when Betty leaves her unhappy marriage to her unfaithful husband, it ought to be significant. It ought to be some sort of gigantic social statement.

But it’s not.

Betty isn’t a bold, brave woman. She’s not a daring divorcée. Betty has left, she’s found a new man to take care of her – a man who will take care of her – and she only goes from being miserable at home and alone with Don and the kids, to being miserable with Henry, in the same house and in the same closeted fashion.

She slaps Sally, she smokes in bed. This is not what a happy mother and wife does, not what a happy woman does. Not really.

It’s not even her icky behavior that’s the problem. It’s that she is awful and unkind and unpleasant and unbearable – and she’s not even happy, still.

If only she could enjoy her awfulness, it wouldn’t be so unpleasant to watch. It would be salacious and sexy and scary – and it would be important.

But Betty’s logic is so limited in scope that the only conclusion she seems capable of coming to is that if it’s not one man, it must be another. In other words, Betty is a woman who might quite adamantly argue that all fish necessarily need bicycles. She just has it all wrong.

Let us consider for a moment that Betty, as an archetype and an example of the fraught female role in the ‘50s, will probably never live a deep and meaningful existence. Not for a reason as simple as her being a woman – no, it’s far worse: That married-life, wife-life, will not be sufficiently satisfying has not even occurred to Betty to begin with.

It’s not that I expect the expert minds at AMC to fashion Betty a feminist – that would be against everything her character’s been built upon, and it would just make for bad TV. But if this is the way Betty is going to be – unhappy and hostile – well, wouldn’t it be nice to see her really own it?