First, I have to clear something up with Young Dan, who in his last post chided Weiner for a “current” reference, when really Henry Francis’ character was referring to the elder Romney, Mitt’s dad George. I think Dan is young enough to claim ignorance on the role of George Romney in American politics. Here’s Vanity Fair:
On last night’s episode of Mad Men, Henry Francis, a high-ranking operative for Republican New York mayor John Lindsay and Betty’s mostly supportive, Bugle-blind second husband, took a phone call at his home in which he told his interlocutor, “Romney’s a clown and I don’t want him standing next to him.” Francis was referring to George Romney, Michigan governor (1963–1969) and father of current presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney, a Republican with relatively progressive views on civil rights, became something of a political pariah following his public opposition to G.O.P. presidential nominee Barry Goldwater in 1964. That might explain the “clown” comment.
Now, I’ve been thinking more about Betty Draper Francis in light of all the flak she’s taking from critics and other fans on the internet today. Let’s get this out of the way, first:
1.) That fat suit sucks. January Jones MAY have gained some weight after just having a baby before filming began, but THIS (left) is what she looked like just weeks after having that baby. Those fake fat jowls didn’t work in season one, they were painfully distracting in season five.
2.) Betty’s character could be less compelling (even though you could argue Don is just as bad or has been just as bad) because of the limitations of January Jones as an actress. But we’ll just focus on her character and the storyline presented to her.
So… Should we feel bad for Betty, or just wish that she were off the show?
This is a woman who is stunted, spoiled and vain; she’s shortchanged her three children, behaved badly as a wife and seems to see everything in the context of her own narrow worldview. (Note that she went instantly from her cancer scare to not happiness and relief, but just more pouting about being fat.) She’s empirically incapable of thinking about the needs of anyone else. But she’s also trapped by her time, was the unwitting part of a loveless marriage based on a lie, and “nurture” does have something do with the way she turned out.
So now she’s permanently dissatisfied and unhappy. I think the reason I’m bothered by this character and her arc is, where is it going? After watching her over the past six years, she hasn’t “grown” at all, while we’ve watched the other characters face situations in which they’ve been forced to flex or adapt and if not, at least become more sympathetic to the viewer. Betty seems stuck in time to me, and so I question her usefulness or place on this show.
Or am I wrong? Does she serve to say something about the larger questions asked on Mad Men — Is Betty losing weight control a sign of the times, an ushering in of a new feminist idea that women should not be objects? Who are we? How much is how the public perceives us a part of our identity? Should it matter?
To Bugles and ice cream sundaes,