Betty Draper’s Parenting: A New View

August 23rd, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  5 Comments

I will cut your fingers off!

I will cut your fingers off!

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.”


  1. Didactic Pirate says:

    August 23rd, 2010at 10:30 am(#)

    I agree with you. I keep waiting for the show to give us some moment with Betty after she lashes out at her kids, something that shows us another dimension: vulnerability, guilt, something. But I guess that’s not in their plans. Riveting, but depressing.

  2. Matt says:

    August 23rd, 2010at 12:38 pm(#)

    Actually, I keep waiting for the moment when she really goes too far, and does something that can’t be fixed with an apology and a trip to the beauty parlor.

  3. Clark Kent's Lunchbox says:

    August 24th, 2010at 10:16 am(#)

    No argument here. If fact, for me, I detest Betty more than any other fictional character on TV (I stress fictional). My opinion admittedly is skewed by the striking similarities between Betty and my ex-wife. Pretty much every interaction she’s had with Don, I’ve experienced too. And although, my Ex isn’t an abusive ice queen as a mother, she does do her best to keep me away from my boys which in a way is just as detrimental.

    Incidentally, they’re doing a nice job with Don in portraying that feeling of being at a loss in knowing what to do for your kids after a divorce. The thing is both Don and Betty are bing selfish, and what I keep waiting to see is if Don will be the parent to step up to the plate. He has the edge almost be default.

    Luckily, being CST, my wife and I get an extra hour to hash out our observations.


    Yes, Betty Draper is a bad mom. « Devoted Daddy
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