Dreams in the Mist

 Posted by on September 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm  Characters, Season 1, Season 3, Season 4
Sep 152010

“Do you remember what happened to the little girl in Gone With the Wind?”
~Betty Draper (no Francis yet), For Those Who Think Young.

Spare a little candle, save some light for me.
Figures up ahead moving in the trees.
White skin in linen, perfume on my wrist,
And the full moon that hangs over these dreams in the mist.

Darkness on the edge, Shadows where I stand
I search for the time on a watch with no hands,
I want to see you clearly, come closer than this
But all I remember are the dreams in the mist

The sweetest song is silence that I’ve ever heard.
Funny how your feet in dreams never touch the Earth.
In a wood full of princes, freedom is a kiss.
But the Prince hides his face from dreams in the mist.

“Where’s Don? … Where is he? … Bullshit! He’s never where you expect him to be! … Someone call him? I don’t want to be here.”
~Betty Draper (still no Francis), The Fog.

You don’t want to hear it now — Scarlett O’Hara.
~Gene Hofstadt, The Arrangements.
(Thanks, Bling!)

…And something terrifying was pursuing her and she was running till her heart was bursting, running in a thick swimming fog, crying out blindly seeking that nameless, unknown haven of safety that was somewhere in the mist around her.

Rhett was leaning over her when she woke, and without a word he picked her up in his arms like a child and held her close, his hard muscles comforting, his wordless murmuring soothing, until her sobbing ceased.

“Oh, Rhett, I was so cold and so hungry and so tired that I couldn’t find it. I ran through the mist and I ran but I couldn’t find it.”

“Find what, honey?”

“I don’t know. I wish I did know.”

He gently placed her on the bed, fumbled in the darkness and lit a candle … Scarlett, still shaking with fright, thought how strong and unyielding that chest was, and she whispered: “Hold me, Rhett.”

“Darling!” he said swiftly, and picking her up he sat down in a large chair, cradling her body against him.

“Rhett, do you ever think I’ll get there to safety?”

“No, he said, smoothing her hair. “I don’t. Dreams aren’t like that. But I do think that if you get used to being safe and warm and well-fed in your everyday life, you’ll stop dreaming that dream. And, Scarlett, I’m going to see that you’re safe.”
~Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind.

(Before I begin, I know a lot of people don’t like Betty. I know they see her as pampered and spoiled and weak. They are welcome, as much as it’ll frustrate me, to comment. I share many of the same frustrations as the most vociferous of her detractors, but I also do seem to understand her on some level and continue to find her interesting. That means that this entry will nor be without sympathy.)

Betty thinks she wants to be rescued. The little girl in her, and some say she’s all little girl, wants to feel safe and protected and loved. Beautiful, raised on fairy tales, she is the princess in need of rescue. She is the heroine of her own life — aren’t we all? She’s looking for her Rhett Butler.

Here’s the truth of it though. There are men who have the swagger and caustic humor of Rhett, but they’re rarely the ones who’ll hold you when you wake up crying because something keeps eluding you in the mist. Well, sometimes maybe. An Ashley Wilkes or a Henry Francis, they’ll be there, but as generations of women know know, Ashley is no Rhett.

Henry Francis saw a princess in need of rescue and thought, “I can be that! I can be the good guy who rescues her!” What I think happened in The Summer Man is that he realized she doesn’t really want to be rescued from Don. It could make a good guy feel like a real chump to have spent a relationship thinking if you love someone enough that the bad dreams will go away, only to discover she’s eager to go back to sleep.

Betty loves and hates Don. I won’t speculate on which emotion is stronger — okay, hate — but she’s not letting him go. We spend a lot of time figuring out when Don is Dick and Dick is Don, I do it too, but we’re really splitting hairs. Betty’s first husband lied to her, a lot, but it would be silly to say that there was nothing real there. Betty loved and desired the man she knew as Don Draper, and I think the thing that pissed her off most of all before the big revelation was that he was never completely hers. That is NOT the way fairy tales work. What pissed her off after she found out his lies was, of course, the betrayal. The being played for a fool. But it was also that he didn’t trust her and it was also…

“I want to scream at you — for ruining all of this. But then you’d try to fix it, and there is no point. There’s no point, Don.”

That scene from The Grown-Ups, complete with Betty’s cold “I don’t love you,” is easy to watch from Don’s perspective. Even now, watching it a minute ago to get the quote, my heart goes out to him in much the same way it did in The Suitcase. The feeling that must have settled in the pit of his gut. But Betty’s got a right to those words, that anger.

She’s pissed at this man not just because he’s not the runaway football hero, but because her anger at him is so intense, her pain at his betrayal so agonizing, that he kisses her and she feels — nothing. This is the man she couldn’t wait to see at the end of the day, and now he kisses her and she’s numb. Dick Whitman stole her husband from her in a way that Bobbie Barrett couldn’t.

Betty has a right to every feeling she’s ever shown on the show, but the way she handles those feelings is what makes the viewer angry more than anything else. Also, the simplistic thought that if Don is the hero, she must be the villain, but that’s a post for another day.

She can’t let the past go, Don go, or the house go because she cares too much. The hatred and anger she feels is real, but only because she did love him. She fully invested in the dollhouse fantasy, the storybook ending. She was in the market for all of it, but Don convinced her he was the prince. And then wouldn’t even be there for her when she grieved her mother.

I think of the scene early on when Don calls her at her father’s house to tell her about Roger’s heart attack and she’s preoccupied with the-woman-who-is-not-her-mother. Don ends up going to Rachel. I’ve seen it interpreted as Betty’s self-involvement making him seek out comfort, but they mutually failed to reach out to one another, hear the other person’s pain. Betty couldn’t let her mother go and Don probably just wants to give her the “it never happened” speech, and she ends up the “bad guy.”

We can sit her all day talking about what Betty needs and a lot of the suggestions would be a variation on a good, swift kick in the ass. Ya know, can’t disagree. All the things I think she needs the very most are based on being from different generation and are represented in the people who wonder why she can’t be stronger and more independent. I’d love for Betty to get stronger and more proactive. I’d also love for her to have a real partner in a relationship who will comfort her and with whom she can share.

Now, yeah, Henry Francis could be that guy. Except that what she probably needs to share is the real reason she’s so angry at Don, the real reason she won’t leave the house they shared, how she really felt when she saw him with Gene. It’s debatable if she even knows completely how she feels about it, and she seemed to fool Henry in the end. However, when he crashed into those boxes I think his vision was 20/20.

Gone With The Wind, book version and movie version, shows Scarlett running in the mist toward Rhett. It’s her dream come to life, and now she knows what what eluded her before. When she finds him and he sees her, her heart feels like it stops, because he looks at her devoid of passion. She notes that “drink and dissipation had done their work on the coin-clean profile and now it was no longer the head of a young pagan prince on new-minted gold, but a decadent, tired Caesar on copper debased on long usage.” Of course, when she tells him this, that it was never Ashley, he looks at her and tells her that this is now her misfortune — to have figured it out, but too late. He tells her that even the most deathless love can wear out.

Henry Francis thought he was Rhett, but he’s really Ashley, and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, because one of the great rediscoveries of GWTW as an adult is that Melanie was pretty awesome and that the only problem with Ashley is that he’s not the hero of the piece. I think Henry and Ashley are destined to have the words “pales in comparison” attached to their descriptions.

Betty, like Scarlett, thinks she wants an Ashley when she wants a Rhett.  Betty, like Scarlett, really doesn’t need either — only Betty has never fully figured that out. Hey, Scarlett lived it more than understood it and the book ends with her still not understanding it.  Betty seemed to be getting there during her separation from Don. She realized how alone she’d been even when they were together and she told him life wasn’t all that different without him. There was a moment there when she almost figured it out, understood what she really needed and who she could be. And then she found out she was carrying Gene. She could have told Don to go pee up a rope, she could have taken him back on her own terms and demanded more from him and from herself. Instead, she was a daughter of her time and so she chose the fog.

What Scarlett discovers in the end is that she didn’t understand Rhett, never fully knew him. Nearly everything he seemed to disdain was what he wanted and valued. We all remember Rhett’s last line, but this is what came before it in the novel:

“Scarlett, I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken — and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.”

Betty is a woman who strives for perfection. She would be the first one to see the glued together parts of a broken vase. “I want to scream at you — for ruining all of this. But then you’d try to fix it, and there is no point. There’s no point, Don.” Of course, that means she’s more Rhett Butler than she could ever see — longing for lost days, the perfect symmetry of Grecian art, and only seeing imperfections. A second marriage means something was irreparably broken.

I think that an adult reading of Gone With The Wind, at least a reading separate from a romance novel interpretation — and I love romance novels — is that Scarlett brought about her own pain, and that Rhett might be gone for good. I think the standard reaction is to think that Scarlett will get him to come back to her, but the truth is that the relationship might be beyond repair, and to think otherwise is to do herself further harm. I do think there’s a lesson in this for Betty too about moving on.

I think Betty’s dress and hair at the party are telling. She’s looked older than her years much of this season. Matronly. Trying to age herself up to a man with adult children. At the end of The Summer Man she looks like the mother of a two year old, the Betty Draper we met her at the end of “Smoke.” Henry makes a tentative move to protect a house and, let’s face it, a woman who isn’t his. Betty hands Gene to Don with a “say ‘Hi’ to daddy,” and Don sure does make a handsome daddy — and for a moment she remembers what it’s like to feel whole as Henry fades into the background.

Francine: How was it?
Betty: You know. It was all a fog.
~The Fog


  63 Responses to “Dreams in the Mist”

  1. Wonderful and elegant post. Now I need to research GWTW!

  2. Beautifully written tie-in to GWTW. Not sure if there is another point you are trying to make but, like Mike C. above, I now have an urge to read GWTW again. Well done.

  3. Thanks. I think there are a lot of points I could have made, but I do know how wordy I can be. I rather imagine, hope, I’ll express the rest of the points during discussions here. Hmmm … maybe at least one fast edit.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cantara Christopher, Michelle R.. Michelle R. said: Dreams in the Mist.(Mad Men) http://bit.ly/aRbtdi via @AddToAny […]

  5. I would be interested to read more of your points on the connection between MM and GWTW, especially in relation to Betty (whom her father called at one point Scarlett O’Hara).

  6. What kept going through my mind as you compared MM with GWTW is the pretense. Both story lines involve pretense. . .

    Betty and Don are often referred to as the “couple from the top of the wedding cake”. These cake toppers are not real. They are manufactured people to represent the ideal. When Betty discovers her groom was not a perfect tuxedo, but rather a shadow in coveralls (farmer wear), this pretense is shattered.

    In GWTW Scarlet is constantly putting on airs to be respected, just as Dick/Don, has done. But neither can keep the rouse up to hold on to the ideal love they think they want.

    I think that Don and Scarlet are the same. . .both looking for love in all the wrong places. (yep I am singing that song in my head now too!) and trying to create and maintain a life that is not real. It doesn’t work.

    Betty too, can’t live in her manufactured world either. She is trying as hard as she can to keep ahold of what she wants, or thinks she wants. But none of it is making her happy. Like in the scene at Sally’s Psychiatrists office when Betty stares into the doll house. She smiles at the perfect scene. . .

    Just like Don, Peggy, Joan, Roger, etc. . .they all “think they know what will make them happy”, but in reality. . .they are all a bit lost.

    Love the show, just found this blog. . .love it! love it! love it!

  7. @bling — added the quote you mentioned, meant to add it at the time. I think that Gene’s comment refers to Scarlett’s refrain that “she’ll think about it tomorrow” and “tomorrow is another day. Scarlett O’Hara is often considered brave, but she actually thought she couldn’t handle dealing with her life in the now. Betty wants to be the version of Scarlett that is the hothouse flower rather than the steel magnolia.

    There’s a scene toward the end with Ashley where he talks about the days before the war and we at last understand that what keeps Scarlett moving forward is not thinking about what was lost. She’ll can’t think about the past, and she refuses to think about the present. Of course, that’s not healthy, but Betty’s choice to only dwell on what’s gone is no better.

    Part of what I edited out of the dream scene was Scarlett talking about being hungry in her dream. Rhett teasingly, but lovingly, tells her it must be horrible after having had a seven course meal earlier. In her dreams, Scarlett is starving. In her waking life, Betty is stuck in the moment of loss.

    @justj9 — Hi. You’re right that Don and Scarlett both chose reinvention, but each gave up important things in the process, like their history. Maybe it’s something you have to lose or toss away to appreciate. Dick didn’t have the time or perspective in that moment of taking on another man’s identity to understand the repercussions — that it would lead to him telling a stranger it’s his birthday and weeping because losing Anna was losing another piece of his past and a real human connection.

    Part of the schism between Rhett and Scarlett was his decision to seek out and embrace what he’d tossed aside:

    “Scarlett, when you’re forty-five, perhaps you will know what I’m talking about and then perhaps you, too, will tire of imitation gentry and shoddy manners and cheap emotions. But I doubt it. … I’m going to hunt in old towns and old countries where some of the old times must linger. I’m that sentimental.”

    Of course, you know, slavery was part of the old times too.

  8. I’m awesteuck by your post. The Lippster herself couldn’t have done it better. As a huge Don fan,and a Betty detractor to say the least, I must admit guilt in lookin at Betts through a very narrow focus. As a viewer in the 21st century it is incomprehensible to me how a woman can be so tied into the dimsel in distress fantasyworld that she chooses not to adjust and try to make something of herself. No one I know would be caught dead in a relationship with a woman with so little ambition. Don’s mantra is ‘move forward’ and that’s a lot more appealing angle from which to view life from my modern prism than Mrs. Francis. To be fair she is of her generation, raised by Grandpa Gene(ode to darling Sally) to be Snow White, he over-protected her. Raised her to ONLY be swept away by a Rhett of breeding and class, never showing her in his words”what was possible”. Don as we all know is not from this acceptable world. I do sympathize with Betty’s plight. Its just frustrating as all hell to see her doing nothing about it except to offer her nails-on-a-blackboard petulant look. Wonder if she’ll live vicariously through darling Sally, who will be a go-getter(unless the drugs get her first). Or she becomes like Joan to Peggy; resentful of another woman who has the balls to strive to make it in a ‘man’s world’. Looks dark for Betts thru this looking glass.

  9. Doesn’t Gene even look a bit like the actor who played Scarlett’s father in the movie?

  10. Freddy looks more Scarlett’s dad. With the owl-like jowls.

  11. @Tilden,
    Gene probably gave her some mixed messages. He was full of contempt when he called her Scarlett O’Hara. I think that his comment about Don having no people indicated he had certain standards that weren’t being met. Gene (in Betty’s dream) also labeled her as a house cat in The Fog — important, with very little to do.

    I think Gene did help shape her and then mocked what he had a part in making. He was a better grandfather than a father.

    I’d like to think Betty will be proud of Sally, but not this current incarnation of Betty — she’s going to just be really angry and jealous.

  12. Excellent post and how clever to compare to GWTH. I never could understand Scarlett’s attraction to Ashley.

    I’m really struck by your words

    “that he was never completely hers”

    So true and so sad when you remember how actually crazy about Don Betty was… She tells him in “Three Sundays” – “I want you so badly” and he tells he that he’s hers, but he’s lying and she knows it. She tells her psychologist, “he (I’m paraphrasing) does things (in bed) that someone must like, but not me.”

    I really feel for Betty and I’m so glad you wrote a detailed analysis of her story. There will be more to the Betty – Don story, I am certain…

  13. There are two images from Season 4 that keep rattling around in my head but I can’t seem to figure out what the underlying meaning is, so I humbly appeal to the smart-than-me Basketcases for a Matt Weiner-worthy interpretation.

    The scene where Betty slaps Sally scene post the Bad Behavior Haircut opens with Betty and Henry in the Ossining living room opens with Betty lying on the sofa with her head in Henry’s lap. At the end of the long night’s journey into day in “The Suitcase,” Don/Dick collapses (drunken but also in despair) into Peggy’s lap and passes out. The departed Anna appears to him, clothed in yellow and carrying her going-to-heaven suitcase, he wakes up, see her, and then falls back asleep.

    Does anyone see any thematic connection between these two scenes and if so, what’s the connection? Given that it’s MW, I am always sure that EVERYTHING ties into to something that happened before but this one has me puzzled.

    Smart people? Any ideas?

  14. Oops–sorry for all the typos. Shouldn’t post while on the phone waiting for someone from Unemployment to explain yet another incomprehensible letter they sent me. I’ll do better in the future.

  15. Interesting–but Betty is no Scarlett. Scarlett saved Tara and ran a business.
    If anyone could get Rhett back, she could. It might also be said that Henry is in the same position as Rhett–with a woman who really wants to be with someone else. I don’t think that Betty is going to wake up one day and realize that Henry, not Don, is really the man she always wanted.

  16. What a great essay, Glass Darkly. So much food for thought. Thank you!

  17. THANK YOU for posting this. I don’t know why, but I, too, feel for Betty. She frustrates me, irritates me, but in the end, I see why she is the way she is and wish she could make a move to better herself, because she’s no arm candy. We have had plenty of hints that she’s smart. And plenty of proof that she loves Don. I recall an episode where she and Don are in the car and she’s beaming because they just came back from a work dinner and she says she liked feeling like they were a team (I’m paraphrasing this and possibly not getting all the details). She longed for so long for the man she loves to let her in. He was so cryptic, so closed, and, I suspect, changed from the man she married. As he grew more successful, he bought his own PR, cheating and lying and becoming Don Draper. I remember the look he had when he was giving the presentation in the carousel, how the pics of him and Betty kissing seemed to remind him of a gentler time when he was, in fact, happy. They were once happy. But life had already begun to unravel the moment we met these characters, and somehow, it’s sad to see these two apart. They aren’t happy together, and they’re unhappy apart.

  18. @13/Help

    I think few people understand Scarlett’s attraction to Ashley and casting a forty-something year old in the part of a man in his teens and twenties certainly confused the issue more.

    One of the most controversial scenes in the movie has Rhett carrying up the stairs to make her his as she struggles — and her glowing the next day. Definitely something that would not fly today, but I think it’s at the heart of why Ashley was so ill-suited for Scarlett. She is thrilled in that scene that Rhett’s stronger that she is, that she can’t bully or break him — that he has the power to bully and break her.

    I think the reason that people don’t get Ashley is because they know that Scarlett would have him for breakfast. The aforementioned scene, politically correct or not, is probably a scene that Betty liked and understood and even craved. We know Don had the ability to be physically rough with Betty and while I’m not saying that appealed to her, it might also make a certain sense to her, might fit into her view of a real man. In a life of increasing numbness, it might have felt like a reprieve.

    We bitch about Betty being stuck in childhood, but Don didn’t ask of her more than that. I got into a debate in one of these threads on whether or not Betty is frigid. I find that notion absurd as all indications are that she has a more than healthy sex drive, and some unexplored fantasies. I think that as attracted to Don as Betty was, they’d never really taken their sex life where Betty would be willing to go — because Don was invested in seeing her as an angel. He was quick to call her a whore later on, but that’s only more proof of how high she’d fallen from the pedestal.

    I HAVE to do that as a post some day.

    Don might never have been faithful to Betty, but he never invested fully in finding out either. The anemic efforts at domesticity still didn’t allow him to know his wife and vice versa. She had a hand in the ruin of her own marriage and she was the one most responsible for her own fulfillment, but I reject any interpretation that she drove him out because she was frigid.

    Which is the long version of saying that she likes sex with Henry Francis, but she would have done any number of wild things for Don had he asked — but he simply wasn’t interested in that with her. Countless other women, sure.

  19. WARNING : GWTW Spoiler!

    GWTW/MM compare & contrast — so interesting!

    I bet Betty would make a good survivor like Scarlett. We’ve already seen her shoot a gun. Rhett/Don — I can see that one, too. The womanizing, opportunistic, hard-living, hard-drinking cad attracted to a cold, calculating, childish woman.

    But I thought Betty’s quote that kicks off this post — “Do you remember what happened to the little girl in GWTW?” — was a reference to Bonnie Blue Butler, Scarlett & Rhett’s daughter! She falls off a horse and dies, and the Butler marriage falls apart.

    Scarlett isn’t a little girl in GWTW. The only little girl is Bonnie Blue.

  20. “We bitch about Betty being stuck in childhood, but Don didn’t ask of her more than that.”

    I think it goes way beyond not asking for more – it’s what he wanted. Every spark of independence she ever showed, he had to put it out. Every time she tried to engage him as a partner, he shut her down.

  21. @16/annereed

    **Interesting–but Betty is no Scarlett. Scarlett saved Tara and ran a business.
    If anyone could get Rhett back, she could. It might also be said that Henry is in the same position as Rhett–with a woman who really wants to be with someone else. I don’t think that Betty is going to wake up one day and realize that Henry, not Don, is really the man she always wanted.**

    I predicted this post and it actually needed to be said

    No, Betty is no Scarlett. Don is no Rhett. Henry Francis is no Ashley for that matter. Betty could use more of Scarlett’s fight. Here’s the thing though: she is the heroine of her own life. When we relate to fictional characters, it’s rarely because we’re exactly like them, but rather because we either want to be like them or we share some similarities.

    Of course, Betty is fictional too — but she doesn’t know it. 🙂 There could be a whole cottage industry in explaining the feelings that she brings out in people.

    Here is what Betty and Scarlett do share in common — they’re pretty flawed, the both of them. The same is true of Don and Scarlett. The flaws that Don and Scarlett have are more easily forgiven by modern audiences than the ones most apparent in Betty.

    Betty thinks the story of her marriage to Don was lies and betrayal. Don thinks that he was always right that Betty couldn’t love him if she she knew his identity. Both of them are not completely wrong, but they’re not completely right either. They come to these conclusions because of who they are in their own story.

  22. Re: #18

    Reading your post reminded me how tender those moments were.

    In the Carousel, I saw Don as a man who had love available to him but because of his inner tragedy, was always a bit too late. Anna said Don thought he was alone but he wasn’t. He had Betty. He even had Adam.

    Now the marraige is over and everyone endures the fallout. Betty seems more damaged and ill equipped to cope. Don hit a bottom of sorts but seems to be adapting and moving forward. That shouldn’t be a surprise, it is what he does. Pity any family he leaves behind as he does.

  23. @14/Really in a fog, I think there was discussion on this before. I’m going to say it was SFCaramia’s Lady Madonna thread:

  24. @20/jzzy55 — Yes, it was Bonnie Blue. It was my way of establishing that GWTW was firmly in Betty’s psyche. That Betty has even made a casual connection between Sally and Bonnie Blue further casts her in the role of Scarlett.

    In addition, Rhett spoiled Bonnie Blue and cossetted her in a way he longed to do with Scarlett. He said that he saw BB as Scarlett before the war had done things to her and one of the best scenes in The Fog was Don and Sally and their late night snack.

  25. #18 sjw – “They were once happy. But life had already begun to unravel the moment we met these characters, and somehow, it’s sad to see these two apart.”

    That statement triggered a memory in me. I read the following dialogue, written by Anthony de Mello in his wonderful book One-Minute Wisdom: “A newly married couple said, ‘What shall we do to make our love endure?’ Said the Master, ‘Love other things together.'”

    Scarlett and Rhett could stay together and share with one another as long as Bonnie was alive, because they both loved her. Even when Rhett took her away for a time, Scarlett did not lose the love she had for her daughter. Then after Bonnie was killed, they did not love the same things, and they could not stay together.

    Don and Betty had nothing in common to love, really. I don’t think either of them – then – valued the children enough for that to be what kept them with one another. They both have palmed the children off on Carla more than they have spent quality time with them. Don valued work; Betty valued her image, but not enough to keep her hands from going numb. I believe that Betty is a study in, among other things, thwarted ambition in just the same way Joan is a study in thwarted ambition. They are both capable. Joan got to see her capability in a work situation, and if Harry had had any brains, he would have insisted she stay in his department. Betty only got to see her capability as an ornament. “As long as men look at me like that, I figure I’m doing my job,” or something along those lines. She was “hired” to be beautiful and to have Don envied by being his appendage.

    But, from her point of view, Don didn’t play fair.

    Yes, GWTW could actually be quite a typical formula romance (except for the ending): when Rhett is after Scarlett, she makes that impossible because she fancies herself in love with Ashley. Then when Scarlett wants Rhett, he doesn’t find out she is calling for him (after her miscarriage) and assumes she did not. That puts the final nail in the coffin of his feelings for her. In a romance, the two would discover all the misunderstandings and end up together. GWTW doesn’t have it happen that way, and that’s one of the things that lifts it to a different level.

    MM is by no means a romance. Betty and Don both went into the marriage with expectations for one another. Betty likely met a great many more of Don’s expectations than Don met of Betty’s. But, with one of the themes of this season being the difference between what others expect of us and what we want, I’m curious as to whether what Don and Betty expected was what either of them actually wanted. If Don could have shared his passion with his work with Betty, and if she cared about it, that might have been one way of helping them to love other things together. But he didn’t, and he probably didn’t want to, or didn’t think it was appropriate. I’m seeing something of the same pattern with Henry – his work is meaningful to him; it doesn’t seem to be interesting to Betty. And her? Do we even know what’s of major importance to her?

    What does Betty want? What would make her happy? I would love to know. Because it would give her a dimension which isn’t clear now. Both Scarlett and Rhett had strong drives, and we knew what they were. That they were in conflict with one another on many of those drives was part of what moved the book along. I believe that Betty has strong drives, but like a good girl (and someone whose background is Northern European, not Southern), she sublimates them. Scarlett’s passions were right on the surface; Rhett’s were no secret, either, despite his overt cynicism. Don has been hiding everything.

    Sorry if this rambled. It feels as if an insight is just right over there, but I haven’t been able to get there yet.

  26. When Betty say’s to Sally “Do you remember what happened to the little girl in Gone With The Wind?” she’s explaining why Sally can’t go horseback ridding with her. She is making an excuse that it isn’t safe when she’s really just trying to get her alone time or make eyes at the engagged male rider that she pushes onto her married friend.
    I roll my eyes every time she tells those kids to watch TV…

  27. Well then, sorry Glass Darkly, I think this is a BIG reach. Sorry, not buying this one today!

    Is it just me, or do the premises for articles posted after Tuesday get kinda weak?

  28. @28/jzzy55

    I write about what interests me — the way I relate to the characters and the story. I don’t promise universal truths, just the connections I make. Sadly enough for me, I suppose, I’m capable of writing this on a Monday too. 🙂

  29. Don and Betty had a marriage based on physical attraction, sex, and mutual need.Betty was the blonde trophy wife who Draper could show off. Don took care to give the her the lifestyle she was used too. They both got what they wanted. I really never thought they loved each other deeply. Both Don and Betty came ill prepared for marriage. Abigail clothed housed and fed Dick Whitman, but gave him no mothering. Betty also grew up in a family concerned more about status than love. It could only go on for so long. Betty quickly found another caretaker in Henry. As for Gone With The Wind, Dick/ Don had the same conversation that Scarlett O’Hara had with herself; as God is my witness I will never go hungry again. Betty has not but soon will unless she learns to stand on her feet. Pity Sally Bobby & Gene.

  30. Part of the reason GWTW is soooo much in Betty’s mind has to do with the time period-her generation grew up on that movie. It was groundbreaking for its time in 1939, and Betty is just the right age to be highly influenced by that movie. In fact, the movie rather than the book is what most Americans think of when you mention GWTW. I remember my mother, who would be just a little younger than Betty in MM time, teling me how often she watched it as kid and they didn’t even have VCRs back then, just to remind ya’ll. She told me there was once an April Fools joke by one of the networks(?) that they were going to air it on tv back in the 50s or early 60s and people got all excited and it was false. She saw it many times as a child in the theaters, and as soon as she deemed me old enough, back in the late 80s, we watched it on PBS together. It was soooo influential on that generation that Betty comes from, so this analysis is very appropriate and timely for the era the character is drawn from. For a movie released in 1939 to continue to be played in small town movie theaters in the 1950s-ma came from coal and steel hillbilly country in Ohio-shows just how big it really was, and how lasting its popularity was. Not to mention all the awards it won, which oddly links it to MM in a way, no? Weiner’s referenced this movie a lot in his show, and the correlation goes deeper than just Betty/Scarlett. The presentation of race in GWTW and MM would also be an interesting exploration, I think.
    Kudos! Quite a stimulating and introspective examination of the broader themes of our beloved entertainment, and the reasons why it entertains so much. If GWTW was simple, we wouldn’t still be talking about it today, and we all know MM will go the same way. Proud to be an admirer of both!
    And yes, a giant nerd.

  31. @Glass Darkly: Love the analysis! I fully agree with you, even though I am one of the Betty-haters. Well…hate is a strong word…

    Personally, I am not a big fan of Betty Draper and it has nothing to do with the character but everything to do with the actress that portrays her. I just don’t think January Jones is very good for this role. Or else she has as much disdain for (her perception of) her character as a lot of other people do.

    I compare her to Pete Campbell who I LOATHED the first few episodes of season one. Pete Campbell, on paper, is kind of a…jerk. But Vincent Kartheiser found a way to put nuance into his performance. There are levels (in my opinion) that make Pete accessible and fill him out as a character. Most of the rest of the cast do that wonderfully.

    Love Actually is the only other work I’ve seen JJ in, and she was great there. Betty Draper has the potential to be such a rich character. I agree with your analysis 100%. It would be wonderful to see that depth of character displayed on screen.


  32. Wow, what a knockout.

    I also don’t think Betty was necessarily attracted to Don’s “breeding.” His genes, yes; his breeding, no. Big difference. She knew he came from nothing; he was working at the fur shop when they met, going to night school. She might not have known he came from less than nothing, but I don’t think she harbored any illusions that he went to boarding school or any of that crap. She likes self-made men, people. She does.

    But she couldn’t hold his interest, and the reason she couldn’t hold his interest is this: Don is not capable of monogamy. It doesn’t matter who he marries; he’ll get bored, he’ll get frustrated, and he’ll seek attention elsewhere and get it. His best bet is to recognize that, and find a partner who is allowed her own extracurricular interests, if he can stand the ego puncture thereof. It probably still kills her that she couldn’t hold his interest, but truly, nobody could hold it full-time, forever.

  33. The main thing I think Scarlett and Betty have in common is rushing headlong into things, only to see the consequences later. I’ll think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.

  34. This line that jumped out at me: “Betty [has] a right to every feeling. . . but the way she handles those feelings is what makes the viewer angry more than anything else.”

    Like every human being on this show and I would argue in life, Betty takes her anger out on those that have nothing to do with causing it. What makes us angry the most? I guess it’s those moments when the anger that is so deep and so violent surfaces when her children need her to be a loving, compassionate mother. I think it’s the most heartwrenching part of the show to watch because it is so identifiable in all our lives. It’s American. We can identify with the children, because we are them. And most of us can see ourselves in Betty too assuming that we are capable of being honest with ourselves.

    Thanks for the post. Allowed me the opportunity to forgive that bitch Betty.

  35. @31/Rowan — I first saw GWTW in the 1970s when I was probably about Sally’s age. I knew nothing about the Civil War, but I was dazzled by the movie. For the longest time, I quit watching in the last several minutes to that I could imagine a different ending and even when I did watch I kept hoping it would change.

    I once had a very frustrating argument with a boyfriend about imagining what happened after the book and/or movie ended. He thought it was crazy that I speculated on this or any other work. The last page or the last frame is the end and these people don’t exist beyond that. “But, Theo, I know they aren’t real, but we can imagine what they would do if they were real, right?” Yeah, no, he just thought I was crazy. This post and many others prove I’m still crazy after all these years. 🙂

    @32/Monapily — I like January Jones and feel she plays the part the way she’s directed to, with a lot going on underneath the surface. I accept that her portrayal doesn’t work for a lot of people. 🙂

    I’d agree that some of her previous roles, Love Actually and American Wedding, haven’t been impressive. She was just the pretty girl. I believe that the role of Betty Draper has revealed that there’s more to her though. She plays a woman that’s hard to like sometimes and one who is emotionally frozen and that’s tough. Maybe a different actress would be able to do more with it, but as is often the case the actress and the character are now one in my mind.

    I recently watched a movie called Pirate Radio in which she played a small part. Let’s just say that I quipped, “Don was right — Betty IS a whore.”

    @33/Meowser — as always, love your insight. Betty has went back and forth in her relationship with Don and has wondered at one time or another which one of them was not enough. She tells Dr. Wayne this in The Wheel, that perhaps the problem is with Don. Of course, she knows Don is going to hear all about the session, but that was actually a powerful moment for her. In Shut The Door. Have a Seat Don throws at her that he was never good enough for her, and she angrily agrees, but it is anger talking and not as helpful as the earlier moment. Don’s comment in that scene was also on the heels of her saying that she knew she’d never been enough for him.

    They each don’t feel worthy of the other person and both have had that fear realized.

    Don couldn’t be faithful to Betty because he couldn’t be honest with her and give himself over to her knowing him fully — or finding out who she was aside from his casting of her as an angel. He couldn’t allow her to be woman enough for him and maybe even if she had been her full self he still would have been incapable of fidelity. I just can’t help but think that even if they’d failed, if they’d been real with each other, they would both have been better off. Of course, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride and my scenario is fantastical at best based on the fears and limitations of both of them.

    @35/mowhawkairlines — Don’t worry, Betty will do something hateful again soon!

    You get what I was saying though. Betty’s anger is okay and understandable for a great deal of the viewers, but Betty’s directing it towards her children is a bridge too far for most. No one bitched when she abused the chair. 🙂

  36. @15/Partially out of the fog — sorry, had wrong thread — here it is:

  37. Wookin’ pa nub in all the wrong places
    Wookin’ pa nub…

  38. Hellhund, is Betty Buckwheat in this scenario?

  39. @Glass Darkly–thanks for the link. Got it–Betty’s found a father, Don’s found a mother. I think that’s a pretty spot-on reading. And now, I’ll return to my standard lurking and try to remember posts I’ve already read (and recently) but obviously forgotten.

    Your overall essay on the relationship between MM and Gone with the Wind was, to me, a revelation. I too have memories of my grandmother taking me and a few girlfriends to see it in the mid-50s. I never thought about the fact that the movie was at that time nearly 20 years’ old but still being shown in first run theaters. That says such a lot about how pivotal a movie/story it was.

    Again, thanks for the insight and the memories!

  40. Ah, don’t go back to lurking, even though you keep changing your name just enough to mess with my head. You and Pedro both caught what I totally missed.

  41. Great post, although I do think Henry is better than Ashley Wilkes, who I remember as being extremely weak and wishy-washy. (It’s been a while since I’ve read it, though!) Henry seems much stronger.

    I do agree that Betty loves and hates Don, and as you said, she has every right to feel anger and betrayal.

    Exhausted tonight and not coming up with many great insights, but I do want to add: “These Dreams” by Heart is one of my favorite “guilty pleasure” songs. Guilty pleasure because I know some people I know would probably consider it too sappy. 🙂

  42. “Interesting–but Betty is no Scarlett. Scarlett saved Tara and ran a business.”

    But, Betty went outside and coldly shot a gun towards the pets of her neighbor who had threatened her children’s beloved dog…..

    Although at times she is quite fragile, in that scene, she was tough as nails.

  43. # 28 jzzy55: That’s rather rude. You’re entitled to your opinion, and you don’t have to like every piece, but if you don’t like it, it’s really not necessary to insult writers.

  44. Generally speaking, parents on MM are not good parents. Look at Peggy’s mom – guilt machine extraordinaire (remember “you’re gonna be raped”). Betty’s mother seemed to have been quite harsh and judgmental. Pete’s parents are hideous. Roger is a pretty bad father, and Mona has never been shown as especially nice to her daughter. In fact only Trudy seemed to have good, loving, and present parents. Don is arguably a good father, that is when he can spare some time for his children, which has never been that often, what with all the nights with Suzanne and all the others, and now with dates with Bethany.

    Once again, MM presents as grim a view of parenthood as it does of other relationships – power plays contaminate all of them.

  45. Darkly, I, too, used to wonder what happened to the characters. I saw the movie long before I ever read the book, but once I did I took to the book more-I prefer literary versions over tv/movie ones usually. Then, I was able to go and get the “authorized” sequel and find out for myself what the Mitchell family allowed another author to create as the ending to the story. It’s ok-I still prefer the original, and have gone back to loving the movie for its merits as a film. I am an historian by trade, and I do study the Civil War, and this movie is considered AWFUL history and horribly racist in most historical circles. So I have to take off my historian hat and put my girly one on and just sit back, enjoy Vivien Leigh-who I LOVE-and marvel in all the technical beauty that made that film so big for its time. The GWTW allusions in MM perfectly match up historically and thematically in terms of characters and their emotions.

    Love that we can discuss broader context like this here! Thanks for the essay!

  46. I always take it as a sign of a good work of fiction if I’m engaged enough by the characters to wonder what happened to the characters. That’s why I’m so ofen disappointed in sequels.

    I even found myself doing it with MST3K movies. The made me think, did “Squirm” and “The Girl in Lover’s Lane” really deserve the MST3K treatment?

  47. @42/43/44/MadChick — I do think that Henry Francis is a stronger romantic partner than Ashley. He’s still screwed though — the guy she thought she wanted as opposed to the guy she really wants and he’s clearly getting fed up.

    Betty’s moment in Shoot is really iconic and I think led people to expect so much more from her from a modern stand point.

    I’m okay with jzzy55. Yeah it was mean and I’d be like you if this had been directed at another blogger, but I’m not terribly hurt. Sometimes pieces flow better than other times, and this was extremely fun for me to write and I felt like I could have kept going. People responded well to it. As Peggy would say, “I’m in a good place right now.”

    When Roberta emailed me in July ’08 she wrote in part that I had complete editorial freedom, could drop f-bomb, be rude, and disagree. She also said I could make fun of Kartheiser, but I think that was more a hope. I’ve pretty much taken her at her word on all of that and so if next week something reminds me of an episode of Underdog, I’m blogging it. (Hey, the voice of Polly Purebred was the mother of the actress who played Nellie Oleson on Little House on The Prairie.)

    jzzy55 thought maybe the quality went down after Tuesday, but I don’t see it. I think Wednesday is often the best day, and not just because it’s my regular day. It’s the busiest blogging day, if I recall correctly, and so there’s often an embarrassment of riches.

    I think that the whole team does a great job every single day.

    @45/Bling — I think people have said before and I agree that we have higher standards of parenting for fictional characters than we do in real life. I think even by the most generous standards these people make some jaw-droppingly bad parenting decisions, and there’s no denying it, but some of the things we’ve seen are not to far off from the mistakes that generally good parents make.

    I think it’s a toss-up over who is the worst parent between Betty and Don, but mothers don’t get a lot of slack. We give Betty hell for foisting the kids on Carla, but Don has the luxury of drunken weekends where he sleeps through visitation while paying lip service to missing them when they’re not around. Of course, Betty is hands down for physically abusive. As far as I know though, she was never willing to run off with Rachel Menken, kids be damned.

  48. Ugh! Gone with the Wind made me sick. I didn’t have any sympathy for any of the slave-owning massahs. People who would own other people are the crudiest people in the world. Yay! General Sherman and his march to the sea!

  49. #44 I agree. @jzzy55, I don’t know if you’ve ever blogged, but until you do as a regular daily responsibility, watch what you say about posts being “weak.” This is a pretty remarkable web site, both in insight and quality. I love coming here for posts like this.

    I have a different, more sympathetic view of Ashley and why Scarlett pined for him in the way Betty imagined Henry. Scarlett was the daughter of a self-made man who married up, as we think Betty was. To Scarlett, Ashley was the ideal, in gentility, education, manners. If a man like that found her worthy, then it would prove she had climbed above her background and actually escaped it.

    With Henry, Betty could imagine him – imagine them – into something beyond what she grew up in. Gene and her mother were hard on her. Henry worshipped her and she could see herself as something more than the “fat” girl her mother told her she was, and the wronged spouse Don turned her into. Henry was going to rescue her from such unpleasantness.

    Of course, it didn’t turn out that way for Scarlett since Ashley really loved Melanie. And it won’t turn out that way for Betty, because she’s not over Don.

  50. Note to Peggy: Joan can take care of herself!

    I’m not as big on the flights of literary fancy as some folks. I like a different kind of analysis, one that rests on the text itself, as it were. What I’ve noticed is that on Sunday and Monday, we talk about the actual episode, who said what, and why, and the historical aspects. That’s my primary interest — being the same age as Sally, and having grown up in a suburb of NYC myself.

    Then as the week goes on people start spinning their own interpretive webs. Some of these work better for me than others — in some cases the threads of the web seem stretched way too thin and the arguments made don’t hold together. I prefer the posts that don’t press my “OK, that was really a reach, and when I examine the basic premise, it doesn’t work” button.

    Writers take risks; they don’t always work. GD gets big points for giving it a go and having a good imagination. I could have clarified my response better, but GD got it — clearly a writer’s mind at work!

  51. #45 Bling

    “In fact only Trudy seemed to have good, loving, and present parents.”

    Don’t forget that Trudy’s parents are intrusive, controlling, and unable to stay out of their daughter’s marriage. I guess no parent is perfect. In Pete and Trudy’s case, though, these qualities have certainly been an asset to them. It’s sure to backfire at some point…

  52. @49/Josie — I hope you know I’m not “yay, slavery!” I do think that if we discount all shows and literature set in a time when we don’t like the political landscape or the values that we’d be screwed. The show Mad Men also comes to mind. The values we hold today are not the values our kids and grandkids will hold — and that is tentatively encouraging.

  53. Facinating post. I still want that frigin’ dress.

  54. #33- Not it probably still kills her , it does still kill her. Betty knows it and so does Henry. The only one that doesn’t ironically is Betty’s best friend Francine. Let’s see how long it takes her to figure it out.

  55. The dress from A Night to Remember? I know!!

  56. As a certified Betty-hater, I must admit that I spent the entire post nodding my head and saying ‘hummmm..” You have provide a dimension of Betty that I never wanted to open myself up to. Thank you, thank you, thank you a million times over.

  57. Thanks, Charclax.

    Betty creates some intense feelings in viewers, I know. Mixed feelings too. Even the people who like her struggle with frustration and irritation. 🙂

  58. #13, Help4NewMoms

    Ugh! Betty’s “want you so badly speech” is 1st Season “Babylon” NOT “Three Sundays” – This has been buggin’ me all week. I happen to think one of January Jone’s finest moments.

  59. You’re right — I love that scene and point to it every time people start the “Betty is frigid and hates sex” nonsense.

  60. Right? I agree completely. You won’t find a sexier or more intimate scene than that one – although Rachel and Don on the coach comes pretty darn close.

  61. Wow, great post and great comments. I’m not a Betty hater, because I totally see her as typical of her era and upbringing, just like Joan, and all the characters really. I think the presentation of Betty is wonderfully authentic and I think January Jones is amazing. She said in the (excellent!) Rolling Stone article last week that her goal is to not judge Betty. If you want to see her in something very different, watch her in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada with Tommy Lee Jones and Barry Pepper. Her role is small but important, and she’s quite interesting, IMO. I think it’s quite unfair to complain that JJ only plays the pretty girl every time – what sort of parts do we imagine she gets offered?

  62. What I meant about her playing the pretty girl before was that she only had the opportunity to be … pretty. There was no range needed. Mad Men showed she could rise to the occasion. I don’t see that as unfair, but rather complimentary. 🙂

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