Countdown to Mad Men: The Nearly Perfect Betty Draper

Each day this week, I’ll attempt to offer an in-depth look at Mad Men's core characters by highlighting the five moments that have defined, so far, their arcs, along with predictions of what might happen to them in the coming season. After all, between the Beatles coming to the United States, the Civil Rights Act, and the expansion of the Vietnam War, 1964 can only make for some majorly dramatic television.

Today, we'll discuss the beautiful train wreck that is Betty Draper.

1. Model Behavior

Episode: Season 1’s Shoot
Betty Draper is pretty much a vision of perfection with her Grace Kelly looks, it’s no wonder why Don married her. Her life too seems perfect with the house, the two kids, but it becomes clear that she’s miserable after we see her go though a series of anxious episodes. So Betty is thrilled when Jim Hobart, a high powered executive, asks her to model for an upcoming Coca Cola campaign. She finally feels she’s regaining her identity through this work until she discovers her new job was just a ploy to get Don working for Hobart’s agency. It’s the scene when she wanders into the yard, in her day gown, cigarette hanging from her mouth, and points a gun up at the sky to start shooting her evil neighbor’s birds that we understand her need to regain power in her life.

2. Feminine Mystique

Episode: Season 1’s The Wheel
Sure, Betty needed someone to listen to her needs, but it was such an odd surprise that the person with whom she shares turns out to be a little boy named Glen she once babysat for. She tells him, “I’m so sad. Please tell me I’ll be okay,”. After this moment, it’s clear that Betty’s work at embodying the perfect housewife is wholly unsatisfying.

3. Life Coming and Going

Episode: Season 3’s The Fog
Betty, while giving birth to her third child, in a drug induced fog, sees her long passed mother and recently deceased father. It’s an odd scene, in which her mother essentially tells her that it never pays to speak up, and her father’s message is the same. It becomes clear that Betty’s upbringing was filled with suppressed feelings, giving her adult life of total frustration even more significance.

4. The Beginning of the End

Episode: Season 3’s Souvenir
When Betty accompanies Don to a business trip to Rome, she is just coming off of the high that another man, Henry Francis, has expressed sincere interest in her. The escape from her home life to somewhere exotic, whets her appetite for a drastic change altogether. The scene where she meets Don at an outdoor cafe dressed in the most au current fashions, is a romantic and sad one. Betty, newly empowered acknowledges Don in a frazzled state, and sees her trip as one last fling with the man that she married.

5. The Key

Episode: Season 3’s The Grown Ups
Betty’s life changes in a whirlwind of huge events. First she discovers the key that opens a drawer where Don has been keeping mementos of his secret past. Not long after confronting him, JFK is assassinated all the while her affair with Henry Francis becomes more intense. It’s the day that Harvey Oswald is shot that everything falls apart. No doubt, these larger world catastrophes shook Betty into realizing that nothing is permanent or as controllable as she once believed. Feeling betrayed and justified, she tells Don that she doesn’t love him anymore.

So where does that leave us?
Betty and Don are officially getting a divorce and last season left us with imagery of her flying off with Henry Francis, her new fiance.

Predictions: Betty will perfectly play the role of the politician’s wife, complete with hosting parties, perfect skirt suits, and appearances in the media. She’ll help campaign for Barry Goldwater during the presidential primaries.

Comments (2)
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Jul 23, 2010
I think Betty saw Henry as her preverbial knight to save her from her loveless marriage to Don but fails to realize that he is just another version of Don. At the end of the season 3 after her marriage was officially over, you see Betty on a plane with Henry traveling together, but notice how they don't even sit together. He's working, she's carrying the baby... not even acknowledging one another. In the beginning there might be some heat between the two, but that will quickly fade and she'll find herself in the same perdicament she was in when she was with Don.
Jul 23, 2010
Another beautiful woman. I'm wondering though whether the numb hands from season 1 will come back as something worse in future seasons.