Mad Feminist News #6

 Posted by on November 12, 2009 at 11:00 am  Characters, Media-Web-News
Nov 122009
 

Just so you know, Mad Feminist News is the place for not just feminism, but also discussions of racism and for airing progressive political ideas in general that don’t quite belong in the regular Mad News.

Which is to say, it’s the perfect place for Fuck Pete Campbell.

Pandagon looks at how Betty serves as an indictment of a particular kind of role for women, and how that indictment makes certain anti-feminist conservatives really uncomfortable.

Jezebel summarizes and kisses off Betty Draper of S3, and makes some really good points about the depiction of Betty’s inner life.

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  56 Responses to “Mad Feminist News #6”

  1. I really like the Jezebel article, it pretty much sums up how I'm feeling right now. We got endless flashbacks about Don, but in S3 we got nothing about Betty's inner life, just her outer petulance. And it's true that even Peggy & Joan were mostly shown (if at all) in relation to the men in their lives. I'm really peeved that MW dropped the ball on the women of MM. After S2, I expected more.

  2. Why would JEZEBEL "kiss off" the Betty Draper character? Is she leaving the show or something?

  3. Oddly enough, I think both Pandagon and Jezebel missed Betty's personality. To both of them, she seems spoiled and selfish. I'm not sure where that comes from. Yes, she has a lot but to me, brattiness and selfishness should come with a lot of whining about wanting more. And the only thing I think I've seen her want, besides a nanny in London, was Don.
    Here's the sad facts of the Draper marriage: She was sexually attracted to him. He was attracted to her beauty and sophistication. The Souvenir episode showed us exactly what they saw in each other. Unfortunately, they both bought into the 50's expectations for each other and, of course, Don is a lying bastard about who he is and who he is sleeping with. Yes, that tends to make conservatives peevish. They hate Betty not because she doesn't conform with 60's culture. They hate her because she doesn't conform to THIS culture.
    I hope Weiner keeps Betty front and center in the next season. Conservatives really haven't gotten it yet and I suspect a lot of Democrats are equally clueless.

  4. I don't think political views has anything to do with it. There's a mix of both conservatives and liberals who don't understand Betty's character, who are angry at her behavior and hope she "gets what's coming to her." That sexist belief seems to be ingrained in society and affects opinions about the Betty character. I've heard and read comments from people all over the political spectrum at the viewing parties I went to who sympathize with Don and judge Betty more harshly because she's a woman. That Pandagon article would be correct if the majority of MM viewers are anti-feminist conservative, but I don't think that's the case. I think Betty's actions make most people very uncomfortable, not just anti-feminist conservatives.

  5. Oh good. Another post applauding Betty and Pete hate. Well, I guess it's a good thing I've given up on seeing any balanced views on these two characters.

    I don't care for these blogs at all. The tone of these articles are so self-congratulating and so transparently itching to be judgemental that it turns me off any points they have to make.

    The rants about racism and white privilage are particularly weak. All I got from it was "I hate white privilage and I've decided to blame the whole thing on Pete and Betty to justify my hatred for them". Why? Because Pete and Betty are children of rich white privileged families? That just seems like inverted snobbery to me. Plus it aims to stereotype two characters who are not at all stereotypical.

    Of course, they ignore that Pete viewed Roger's black face with distaste and pushed for African American marketting in an Ad agency that were too backwards to accept it. They ignore that Betty and Carla sat together on the couch, weeping over Kennedy's death with no racial divide seperating them in that moment of human tragedy. Hating Pete and Betty because they percieve them as an "embodiment" of whiteness or whatever is a very forced projection that ignores the character's attitudes as individuals.

    I'd love a good discussion on Mad Men and race, but these hate-fuelled blogs are not insightful. And I'm frankly bored of the anti-Betty and Pete objectives. So if I root for these characters I'm rooting for sexism, racism and white-privilege too? That's a pathetic argument. I respect that Weiner is writing these characters as complex human beings, not as walking "issues" or "embodiments" that need to be picketed against.

  6. Thank you falafel.

  7. falafel, ITA with your whole comment. Very, very well said.

    I've also found that many of these bloggers don't watch every episode of the show and seem to just be on the bandwagon. They're writing about MM to get more hits to their blogs.

  8. Another Mad Men wedding: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/12/ron-livi

    Midge got married!

  9. Brava, felafel, well said. I think that the bloggers who are polarized toward one point of view or another, be it ultra-feminism or neo-conservatism, miss most of the nuance that abounds in a show like Mad Men, and therefore miss the point.
    In Mad Men, practically the entire show is an idictment of the racism, sexism, and privilege of those times. Having its characters pointedly behave as some of the people behaved in that time – and letting the viewing audience be shocked by what they are getting away with – is highly effective drama, maybe moreso than having the characters be completely enlightened and politically correct while walking around in their Fedora hats, thin ties and girdles. My 21-year-old daughter watches the show with her jaw on the floor at the mores most of the time.
    To be fair, the blog about Pete Campbell and white privilege was written before the start of season 3, so some of his distaste of the old guard that Felafel mentioned hadn't happened yet. (But neither had the incident with the au pair.) And I think Carla's character gained some depth this year through her verbal sparring with Gene and the mutual comfort between her and Betty at JFK's assassination. But the Drapers still have no respect for her personal time.
    The Mad Men characters are anything but the one-dimensional stereotypes these bloggers are talking about.

  10. I agree with you, falafel, although I'm pretty sure the Jezebel article was taking both liberals and conservatives to task exactly as you are. What they said is the Weiner gave the female characters short shrift in order to make Don Draper look better, which is institutionalized sexism.

    As for Pete, the reason I love him is because he is a nuanced portrayal of what might otherwise devolve into the kind of stereotype the writer decries. He's a jerky privileged dude, but he's also wrestling with this about himself. He knows he got his job because of his connections, and it bugs him that others see only his blue blood. He does struggle to take African Americans seriously, though it's only about the market and he fails utterly to really "get it." But jesus, it's the '60s, it's the time when more openminded whites were just beginning to pay attention civil rights. And Pete in his weenie, privileged, whiteboy way, is actually the first MM to be doing it.

  11. Interesting blogs – thanks for the links. While I don't agree with everything posted on them (or here, sometimes!), it's great to see such passionate discussion about MM! Yes, there are times I hate ALL of the characters, until they do or say something I feel is 'redemptive' and then I say "ok, I'll give her/him another chance"… all the characters are products of how they were raised – and their reactions to it… I'm eager to see how they all review their opinions as non-white non-middle-aged non-males start becoming vocal about their needs in American society. I'll admit it – opinions I held at age 18 have been proven wrong by just LIVING in the world – I think the more the MM characters interact with a faster-moving society of multiple hues, the more they'll need to think about themselves and their place in the world…I can't WAIT to see how it rolls out!

  12. I have been a lurker for a year. I love your blog and the the show, but would like it to get beyond the progressive preachiness of it some times. Many, many good things came from the various "liberations" of the 60s. Some bad things came from it as well. The characters are very multidimensional, except Betty, it seems. Her spurts of spirit and life are rare and short-lived. Betty has sold herself short. She, unlike Don, has exhibited little empathy for any one else–except Don that night of her confronting him, interestingly enough.

    Marriage and motherhood are what you make them; but yes, marriage in particular requires both to work and be honest. Don failed miserably in his role. Betty has been paralyzed. [Wasn't "Bewitched" on yet? Could she get some tips from Samantha on being an ad man's wife--w/o witchcraft? ;^D]

    I don't agree with much of what I've read on Pandagon. I've read conservative Rod Dreher off and on for years. I don't agree with all he says. I am a committed evil capitalist–even more so than my huz–who gave up a career to be home with my kids for 3 years now.

    I like the SC (now +DP) action. It is SO like my position in my last job, a small consulting firm. My name really is Peggy. We had many of the character types in the show. It's amazing to me every week seeing my career and that firm play out on TV–30-40 years earlier.

    I've gotta go volunteer at my kids' school.

  13. What's cool about the Betty Effect on Mad Men: on the blank slate, you see whatever you need to see.

    In a confessional age like ours, if you happen to be a woman, what you see in Betty might easily be yourself. I've watched as defenders of Betty rise on this blog as her affect flattens.

    If you seek a return to a world where women felt fulfiilled with men in the role as Provider, what you see in Betty might be Ideal Woman. Her refusal to break away and be a 1960's woman — to choose Henry Promises, instead — might seem a step in the right direction for you.

    If you're a person whose own primary parent was cold and withholding, Betty works as Bad Mother. (Here's where JJ really cranks the bat, and smacks it out of the park, for this viewer.)

    If you are a feminist of either sex, Betty might be a maddening cipher. Conditioned to cheer for women who stand up for themselves in bad marriages, but wanting them to have some sense of who they are as individuals (not prospective second-insta-wives! Not chilly, abandoning mothers! What the hell, Bets!), you may not know where to turn with her.

    And here, the actress forces us to do the last thing we want to do … as viewers, as judges: Wait.

    Everything we've watched on TV in the past decade or so hes conditioned us to judge. With Betty, we can't. Because we don't know her. At all.

    Maddening, isn't it? :)

  14. Hey you guys!
    I am a 23 year old gay man, living in Vienna, Austria, and the character I most identify with on the show is Betty.
    Yes, she's cold and totally self-absorbed, but why? Not because she just IS that way, but because she is EXTREMELY depressed, and she has no one to talk to about it, and if she would, she wouldn't even know what to REALLY talk about.
    I hope they don't write her off the show, and give her some opportunity to grow.
    Maybe they start the 4th season shortly after Betty's 2nd divorce?
    Anyway…
    Thank you for this great blog!

  15. "Another Mad Men wedding: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/12/ron-livi

    Midge got married!"

    So, Rosemarie DeWitt married Ron Livingston of OFFICE SPACE and BAND OF BROTHERS? That's pretty cool.

  16. People have been beating up on Betty because she only left after she built herself a "life raft" in Henry Francis. Her situation is not unlike Peggy's. Peggy got beat down by Don but never stood up for herself until now because of Duck. Like it or not, Duck reinforced Peggy's self esteem. She was able walk away from Don because she knew she had another job offer waiting for her. Betty left only after she got another offer because her job being someone's WIFE.

    Yes, she didn't leave Don until she had a fallback plan…but is that so bad (she does have kids to consider)? Many of us don't make major changes without having "plan B" in mind either. Does all this make Betty any less of a spoiled brat? No. Does this mean she'll be happy with Henry? Probably not. But she's too old to do any serious modeling, and she can't do Peggy or Joan's work. Betty's specialty and only career path is to be the trophy wife.

  17. I got this from the article about Pete:

    "Pete Campbell reminds me of the human embodiment of white privilege. There are no mitigating factors. Just pure, unadulterated privilege – that people celebrate! Other people are happy to watch him, wishing they were him. No matter how prickish he may act, they root for him."

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but this guy simply sounds like a bigot. He seemed to be judging Pete for his race and class without bothering to know the guy.

  18. I want to welcome Claude — and thank you, our new friend, for your authentic male feminist voice.

    You're going to like it here. :)

  19. #7. You're right about bandwagons. At the moment, finding new and more insinuating ways to hate Betty seems to be the biggest bandwagon in Mad Men. A lot of people seperate Betty and Don's behaviour, but marriages are not seperate. These two people have made each other miserable. One line I'll always remember is Don describing Betty to Anna, saying; "She's so happy." Betty wasn't always cold, sad and repressed. It doesn't all trace back to her rich privileged background. It is Don who has made her this way, just as Betty has added to Don's burdens of shame and secrets. The relationship was bad, even unhealthy, for both of them.

    To be fair, the blog about Pete Campbell and white privilege was written before the start of season 3, so some of his distaste of the old guard that Falafel mentioned hadn’t happened yet.

    No, we didn't see Pete becoming an Ebony reader until S3 but no distaste for the old guard? Since S1 we have seen Pete as the black sheep of both the Campbell Dykeman family and the Sterling Cooper agency. Pete has a deeply ingrained sense of entitlement for sure, but he has always been rebellious and forward thinking too. But that doesn't matter to these sorts of bloggers because they are so determined to take these characters at surface value and make sweeping generalisations.

    In Mad Men, practically the entire show is an idictment of the racism, sexism, and privilege of those times.

    Well exactly. These attitudes are ingrained in the whole culture of that generation. It is not just embodied in one or two characters.

  20. Yup. All the Mad Men are white–although Pete is a fine example of upper class twit. He is trying to expand his mind, though.

    And his worst offense was committed against a member of his own race. But the other gender.

  21. DRush @15 – I want to marry both of them! RL is just great in everything, and I loved Midge. I want to be Midge.

  22. I love Amanda Marcotte's views on Betty at Pandagon…she is so spot on with that character.

  23. In Mad Men, practically the entire show is an idictment of the racism, sexism, and privilege of those times.

    Too bad it only seems to exacerbate the "isms" of our own.

  24. "Maybe they start the 4th season shortly after Betty’s 2nd divorce?"

    I'm kind of hoping for this too, in addition to moving out of that damn house in Ossining.

  25. Anne B hit on a key point that occurred to me this afternoon. WE DON"T KNOW BETTY. We have had the benefit of seeing Don's unfortunate beginnings and painful upbringing, but not Betty's experience. I also wonder about the writers' predispositions against marriage as an institution in that era. Marriage is not the problem, however, Betty and Don are the problems that lead to the failure of their marriage.

    About Betty, why isn't she more like, say Trudy or Mona, who seem to be of similar socio-economic background? If she had a college education in the 50s, why is she not a bit more progressive? Why isn't she lunching with ladies or more involved in civic matters? Why isn't she actively helping to promote her husband's career and professional standing, rather than just simply attend events at his request? Trudy is not a newfangled model in the career-partner wife. In the first season we did see Don keep Betty in a box, but did we see that right, in retrospect? She is only held back by herself now, it seems. Why did she submit entirely to a bleak existence as a wife and mother?

    Not every woman was unhappy in those roles. I am worried that the writers are getting us to think about women's roles, not about the characters' behavior and attitudes. Women's roles at the time are not the primary problem in the Don-Betty marriage. There is huge infidelity and deceit on Don's part of course. The women role issue is more related to Betty's expecting men to give her direction and happiness. She finds no or little happiness in motherhood either. She could only be happy in their marriage when they were fantasizing in Rome; she was really snotty about the charm Don gave her as a momento. This is real life Betty. Rome is not. I don't think she gets it. Wait til Henry Francis disappoints her.

    It would be interesting to see what her upbringing and college years were about and how she and Don met. We know some facts, but what were the underlying influences that led Betty to where she is today? How did she react to major events and challenges?

  26. @18

    Oh thanks Anne B!
    Actually I've been here since season 3 started, after I watched the 1st and 2nd season the first time in less than a week in the summer.
    Since then I am totally addicted to this show. And to this blog, of course!
    And by the way, I've always loved your posts and comments, Anne B! ;-) oh so very corny…

  27. Midge got married!”

    So, Rosemarie DeWitt married Ron Livingston of OFFICE SPACE and BAND OF BROTHERS? That’s pretty cool.

    Then it dawned on me where I'd seen Midge before – in the short-lived series "Standoff" co-starring with Ron Livingston! Their characters were both hostage negotiators and were having a clandestine relationship in defiance of the no-fraternization rules of the FBI or whatever fictional crime fighting force they were working for. Guess they got to know each other then?

  28. WE DON”T KNOW BETTY. We have had the benefit of seeing Don’s unfortunate beginnings and painful upbringing, but not Betty’s experience.

    I disagree that Betty is a cipher. We know a lot about her upbringing, we've met her brother, sister-in-law, nieces, father, stepmother and nanny. We've sat in on her sessions with her shrink and her coffee clatches. We've seen how she treats her friends, their weird children, her maid. We've seen her react to both parents' deaths and to her children and husband misbehavior. We've even seen her give birth. What more do you want?

  29. #28 Sorry hit submit by mistake, continuing…..But that was mostly seasons 1 & 2, so maybe people forget the stuff they learned about Betty then. Season 3 really didn't give us much.

  30. Actually, instead of "Henry Promises", I think I'd rather call him Henry Chances. :)

    Good question, Donny Brook. I'm not sure I can answer it … except to state that I went through the traumatic and unexpected death of a friend with someone who is a bit like Betty, and I know her no better as a result.

    It's more than twenty years later and I am done wondering who she is. I have decided that she knows, and maybe she's decided to share her knowledge with her husband. (They too are a piece of marital work.)

    But I don't know for sure. Most married people want intimacy, compassion, deep exchanges of shared experience, real pleasure, communication above and around and beneath any words they might exchange.

    Hers isn't that kind of a marriage. That's all I can say.

  31. "she was really snotty about the charm Don gave her as a momento. This is real life Betty. Rome is not. I don’t think she gets it. Wait til Henry Francis disappoints her."

    I actually kind of understood why she was disappointed, I mean she's unhappy and a friggin charm is an insulting gift after a new life was just dangled in her depressed face. She just wants adventure, although I guess we all do.

  32. @#28
    All those things are the outcome of her upbringing…we see her interaction with those around her, but have not had definitive scenes of her past as we've had with Don. All we can do is extraplolate backwards from what we see. Did Gene molest her? We don't know. Did Mom completely freeze her out? We don't know. What were her hopes for this marriage when she got married (other than landing a hunka Don?)? We don't know.
    She really is a blank wall that we project onto. And what we read into her is really saying more about us than her (ohhh shades of Plato's cave again!).

    Anne,
    They let you out of the storeroom! Welcome to Room 435!

  33. #28. I agree. Betty has much more backstory than other characters. In 3 seasons we've never seen or heard mention of Joan's parents/family. Betty's dreams in The Fog took us inside Betty's mindset than we have gone with anyone else.

    Personally I wish they would give flashbacks to characters other than Don. I'd love to see a glimpse of what Pete and Peggy's childhoods were like. I'd love a flashback to a young Bert Cooper starting his agency with Roger's father. I don't see why we can't delve into their pasts like we have with Don.

  34. I dunno – what was Don supposed to buy her?

  35. Don saw the charm as a momento of their vacation of happiness…Betty looked at it and saw their vacation as a momento of everything her everyday life wasn't…

  36. Gypsy,
    I think ANYTHING Don gave her at that moment would have reinforced this…

  37. I just wanted to call my husband …

    Thanks, dance! I'll show up anywhere if I hear there's cake. :)

  38. #33. Flashbacks to other characters would be great. Childhoods of Betty and Pete, Joan's college days, Bert and Roger Sr. Don't as interested as Peggy cause she seemed to have the most normal, loving childhood of them all. They might start doing that in S4. The kid actor playing bowl-cut Dick Whitman is growing up fast.

  39. I LOVE how Trudy has grown!

  40. I don't know about Peggy's childhood. Comments like "I was raised on whiskey" are telling … not to mention what she told Don in "The Grown-Ups":

    "My mother was crying and praying so hard there wasn't room for anyone else to feel anything."

    Not to mention that a woman of Peggy's time who doesn't want to get married must have a reason for it. A good one, I'd think.

    I am not as interested in seeing the other characters' childhoods as I am in seeing Betty's. I am sure that flat affect of hers is a learned response, and what's fascinating is how complete it is.

    That scene where Betty is crying as Don comforts Bobby? Betty touches her own forehead, feels up into a furrow in it, and changes her expression. Just freaking irons it out, as if it's a damned blouse and she's taking a big Kenmore with a steam attachment to it.

    That lady is batsh*t broken, for real.

  41. I see such DEEP depression and frustration when I look at Betty…it's so overwhelming it's like watching thunderclouds gather. Bad enough to be depressed and FEEL it…but she was raised WASP and Nordic…letting out your feelings is "just not done". Pushing down her feelings is SOO ingrained in her…she can't even feel to ackowledge it, much less think about it or act on it or try to change it. It must be put aside. The facade is all.
    Broken indeed.

  42. The facts have a liberal bias, Mark. Deal.

  43. I really don't think we need more "backstory" to explain Betty or any of the other characters. Psychobabble "explanations" for Don still don't tell me why he is such a bastard to everyone around him. Is it just because he's keeping a secret? Is it because his dad knocked him around? Does it really matter? Any compassion I feel for Don is more about Jon Hamm's nuanced performance, his ability to evoke inner turmoil and conflicting feelings in the moment than it is knowing about Archie Whitman.

    A person's "inner life" is more than memories from childhood, it's what has become ingrained through an entire life, not just childhood. It's their thoughts, dreams, plans, way of relating to themselves and others. And good actors convey that stuff in their performance. Despite Weiner apparently thinking Betty is just a spoiled brat rich girl, January brought plenty of pain through that tough Nordic exterior. But maybe people just got turned off by her coldness and couldn't see it. Maybe I'm just Nordic myself, so it seems obvious.

    And every interpretation of every character says more about the viewer than the character, not just Betty. There are fans and detractors for everyone.

  44. #44 Donny Brook,

    Any compassion I feel for Don is more about Jon Hamm’s nuanced performance, his ability to evoke inner turmoil and conflicting feelings in the moment than it is knowing about Archie Whitman.

    Oh, my goodness. AGREE.

    As great a job as everyone did on "Shut the Door. Have a Seat" (and on "The Gypsy and the Hobo"), Matt Weiner and staff landed those entire two episodes squarely on Jon Hamm's face.

    The man can act circles around any other actor I can think of. On any size screen, anywhere.

  45. @ Anne B for #13 above – Excellent comment. Thanks!

  46. Pandagon is a fine place and Amanda really seems to enjoy writing up the show. I think her description of Betty is more right than not. Her commenters particularly in that thread make some interesting points, check out #42 wapsie about liberals not "getting it" all the time and if you read the Dreher piece then #66 Yamara lands a simple straight jab of an inside joke that tickles.

    Amanda takes some grief for putting up at the top a hunky photo of our man Don when she really writes primarily about Betty below. Her response? "I felt like looking at Jon Hamm. There wasn’t anything deep there. I like to look at Jon Hamm, as does most of America. He’s so hot he transcends sexual orientation, and straight dudes want to do him, too." I thought about this for a minute and I think she may be right.

    Also since pandagon references the Atlantic article by Benjamin Schwarz which the Lipps had linked up last week I thought I'd throw a link to Michael Berube's place here where he unpacks that piece a bit and discusses elitism, education, the Bryn Mawr-7 Sisters sorority issue and spending "cultural capital." It's a good read, comments also.

    I think we know enough about Betty for now. I might not like all of it but I understand her and she gets bonus points from me for holding her ground against the Brute. Should I be upset that she doesn't instaneously become uber-Friedan-IamWomanHearMeRoar Ms. Betty ? Well, it took us humans a little while to leave the water, lose the gills and stand erect, so I'm willing to give Betts a few years to blossom.

  47. "Why isn’t she lunching with ladies or more involved in civic matters? Why isn’t she actively helping to promote her husband’s career and professional standing, rather than just simply attend events at his request?"

    Didn't Betty participate in her local Junior League, this past season? And how can she help promote Don's career, when he doesn't open up to her? I mean . . . look at Pete this year. He has been very open to about his problems at work. Betty found out about Don's reluctance to sign a contract, because of Roger. And when she confronted Don about it, he tried to shut her out.

    The one thing Betty did that really frustrated me was her decision to go ahead with a third pregnancy and reconcile with Don at the end of S2. I think she had lost her nerve and went ahead with something that I could tell she didn't want to do.

  48. You politically correct liberals really ruin the show for the rest of us, you know.

  49. “Why isn’t she lunching with ladies or more involved in civic matters? Why isn’t she actively helping to promote her husband’s career and professional standing, rather than just simply attend events at his request?”

    Why isn't Don at home interacting with her in the evenings instead of down the block schtupping Sally's former teacher. Huh?

    Surprising to me that in S1 the writers clearly show Betty hanging on Don's every word, looking for a connection with him. It's clear that she needs that connection and as the series progresses and we find out more about Don it's clear WHY there's no connection: he's not a partner to Betty!, he has his own identity, he lives in his own world, he comes and goes as he pleases and he doesn't offer up any information to Betty. He gives nothing of himself to her.

    STILL, the viewers seem to feel that:
    - SHE'S responsible for fixing the emotional emptiness of their marriage
    - he provides financially for their family, so he's done all he needs to do…
    - any resulting depression that she's experiencing is causing HIM problems (and not the other way around)

    ARGH!!!!

    It's 2009 people! Relationships are partnerships.

    I think MW should make viewers endure 12 minutes/episode of Don and Betty working out their relationship sprinkled throughout every episode until the public gets it!!!! This is important stuff.

  50. Surprising to me that in S1 the writers clearly show Betty hanging on Don’s every word, looking for a connection with him.

    GladMadWoman, I sometimes wonder if some of these people on the "Betty is pure evil" train have seen the S1 episodes. Yes, Betty was different then. She had many moments of playfulness and affection, with her kids as well as with her husband. She didn't start getting really pissy until after she found out he was getting reports from the shrink and began to suspect him of adultery. It escalated from there.

    Thing is, Betty probably doesn't know the half of where he's been. We know there have been at least eight mistresses during the marriage (the six we've seen and the two others referred to by Bobbie); he's actually screwed around enough to have a reputation, which for a man in New York (especially one who's not an entertainer) is no small feat.

    I keep coming back to, what would have happened if she hadn't found the box? Don already had a foot out the door with Suzanne. He already spent as little time at home as he could possibly get away with; he was there to put in an appearance so his kids wouldn't think he had abandoned them and his wife would keep her mouth shut about his absences one more day, and that was it. What if he and Suzanne had gone on their trip? Would they have fallen in love for keeps then over that long weekend together? And how much longer would it have been before Betty (and Sally) found out?

  51. This comment at pandagon was interesting, I wonder if this is what Don meant by that comment about a life raft…was he admiring Betty's skills of manipulating this guy?

    "No way she marries Henry. She’s leaning on him and allowing him to help her, but she’s essentially using him. He is her life raft. You use a life raft to get to land, you don’t marry it."

  52. Meowser – that is an interesting thought, because S1 was when I fell in love with both the Betty character and JJ's performance, but I get why so many people don't.

    The name "Betty" implied to me from the beginning that this character was representing the bored, lost housewife examined by Betty Friedan and, IIRC, "the problem that had no name." What was amazing to me was how fully fleshed out they'd made the character, finding a real woman behind the stereotype.

    I am with those who believe we know a lot about Betty – in fact I think we know enough to see her very clear. Not just her background, but her actions in the three seasons all point to the kind of woman she is and her motivations. We know her mother was not warm to her, and was a big factor in Betty believing her only assets were beauty, poise and pedigree. I think it is pretty clear that any other talents she may have had were downplayed – and she does have them. We have that when we've seen Betty in action, both as Don's partner (with the Barretts and the Utz folks, at the Heineken dinner, in Rome) and on her own – as a model, sharpshooter and effective amateur politico. Her major in college also implies a greater intellect than she shows.

    Even Betty's "rebellion" focused on her looks – running off to Italy and modeling, and we know how much her mother liked that. So Betty rebelled a little more even as she did the stereotypically correct thing – married a handsome man and became the perfect wife and mother.

    The problem is that Betty is not terribly good at the one job she's been told she must be a success at – and Lord knows she's tried. From S1 through the baby and the S2 reconciliation, all the way up to the month or so after Don's admission of his past we've seen her commitment to maintaining the social expectations. The morning after Don's confession and on the day of the Kennedy assassination, before the news broke, we saw how much Betty was trying to make her marriage work – and I really think she thought there was a chance. Betty knew there was a distance between her and Don, that he really didn't understand her. She thought it was because of his reticence, which was explained by the admission of his stolen identity. The night Don told her the truth was the first time he was totally honest and open with her, and she thought that was the first step towards something different.

    But Don and Betty's marriage is not faltering just because he lies, or even because he cheats (which was expected at the time – although Don has been horribly indiscreet), it is because Don fundamentally does not see Betty as an equal. She is younger, she seems to be less intelligent (I don't buy that) – she's the perfect image of the perfect wife, but she isnt' a whole person to him. I don't know if he realizes that even now. Certainly we saw in both "The Grownups" and "Shut the Door, Have a Seat" that Don was still treating Betty the same – there was no real change in their relationship.

    And Betty was not made to be a suburban wife and mother – and that is why she hates her life, her friends, Ossining…The tragedy of Betty is that she still can't see beyond societal expectations, especially about divorce. We saw how the neighbors treated Helen Bishop, and time and again Betty's fear of that kind of social isolation. She is only willing to leave Don now because a) there's a backup husband to retain her status and b) Don's lies have given her the moral superiority in the relationship – it's all his fault.

    Betty needs to realize – and I thought she might after "The Grownups," that she needs something for her self – a job, a charity, a passion. It will make her a better person and a better mother, but she simply cannot see that right now. She will be as bored with Henry as with Don and I don't think we've seen the last of her. I really believe MW has an interesting future for the potential feminist.

  53. Also, I didn't interpret Betty being on the plane as equaling she's not going to see Sally and Bobby at Christmas. Henry was with her, remember; he's got a job, and it's highly unlikely he plans to blow that off to live with her (not to mention that it would have been scandalous for someone in his position to shack up with someone before marriage, let alone with someone who hasn't been divorced yet).

    And I don't think Carla's going to abandon her family over the holidays to babysit them 24/7 that whole time, either. I'm interpreting that shot as they're going there for a couple of days to help nail down a place for her to live after the first of the year (since people usually do sign leases or whatnot a couple of weeks before they move in, and he's paying for it), and then she goes back (sans Henry) after the holiday to live out her residence and get the divorce. The older kids are in school, which is why she has only the baby with her now, and will probably stay there while she's in Reno so they don't have to be yanked out of class.

    And if she doesn't look ecstatically happy, well…who does after they've just split with a spouse? Even if you know it's the right thing, it still sucks. Also, I say no way does she marry Henry before he gets to know the kids. Even Henry would agree to that. (I also think there's a pretty good chance he'll relent on the no-money-from-Don thing, since Betty could easily make the argument, "What if something happens to you?")

    Oh, and on watching the episode again just now, Henry looked asleep to me on the plane.

  54. Matt Weiner has said that he decided the ending of S3 and worked back from there. So if Betty and Don were headed for Divorce and Don’s the protagonist in this story, maybe he chose to show the decline of their relationship partly by showing Betty’s increasing depression, which translated to a dull and mean personality to the viewers. With the exception of “The Souvenier”, she was shown less layered this season than in previous seasons (especially 1). Or maybe JJ played her a bit “hard”, not sure. I had no problem relating to her point of view, but I feel like a lot of viewers just didn’t get it.

  55. "Or maybe JJ played her a bit “hard”, not sure. I had no problem relating to her point of view, but I feel like a lot of viewers just didn’t get it."

    That's the one thing I love about the acting on this show, none of the actors are afraid to play unlikable. If they must show an awful side to their character, they do it and don't try to mask it in any way.

  56. I agree, especially JH, VK and JJ. JJ is FEARLESS!

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