It’s become accepted Mad Men fan wisdom that Betty Draper is a horrible mother, an ice queen, one of those wire-frame monkeys from the Harlow experiment. Up till this week, I only half-bought it. Betty, I always thought, was just supposed to be a chilly WASP archetype, not much worse than the other moms on the block. Okay, maybe a little worse, but for heaven’s sake, she was married to Don through half a dozen affairs. You could forgive Betty a little anxiety.
Needless to say, if you saw last night’s episode [SPOILER ALERT, for you patient DVR people], that is no longer a tenable position. She has revealed herself to be a cruel and utterly self-absorbed disaster around her daughter. Sally acts out, and gets slapped across the face. Sally dares to mess around with her own body, silently masturbating late at night during a friend’s slumber party, and Betty thinks it’s purely about embarrassing Mom. She threatens to cut her daughter’s fingers off.
If I were a certain sort of blogger, I would here try to build a contrarian position: that Betty Draper is, actually, a good mom. (Keeps a nice house, is always home for the kids, may not be as horrible to the boys as she is to Sally.) Nuh-uh. She’s horrible, and getting horribler. And I can’t wait to see more of it. Come 1969, around season 6 or 7 of Mad Men, Sally will turn 15, and you don’t have to be Matt Weiner to see that she’s headed off from Ossining to Woodstock in the back of some dude’s VW.
The only other thing I have to say about Mad Men, for now, is this: AMC’s decision to air the episodes at 10 on Sunday is a vicious thing. At the end of every wrenching hour, I find myself pacing the floor, picking over the episode. This is no way to go into Monday morning: As my wife put it just now, before vainly trying to calm down and go to sleep, “Goddamn Matt Weiner… I start every week now at a deficit.”