Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Betty Draper's comments were not out of character

In the first episode of the sixth season, Betty Draper glibly suggests to her husband that he "rape" the fifteen-year-old friend of Sally, Betty's daughter. Henry looked shocked (as anyone would) and many people who blog about Mad Men said that she had crossed a line, even for Betty. But Betty has always crossed lines of behavior, whether for shock value or for the volt of adrenaline that Don mentions elsewhere in the episode. I can think of a number of incidents:

1. She shot the neighbor's pigeons.
2. She manipulated a situation where a friend succumbed to lust and then Betty shamed her for it.
3. She teased the mechanic in the dead of night on a dark road.
4. She seduced a stranger in a bar in the backroom.
5. She allowed the neighbor boy, Glen, to cut a lock of her hair and didn't fully realize why the mother thought it was weird.
6. She became angry and jealous because Glen became friends with Sally.
7. And in this episode, she hangs out in the flophouse and reprimands the youths for being rude.

Betty routinely plays with boundaries. She's not a villain. But she is clearly struggling with her prescribed roles and is complex; her behavior is often in reaction to the way she is treated by men, especially in the earlier seasons. Mad Men would suffer for not having her in the show, though it would be interesting to see her find a purpose and thrive in it.

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