Mad Men Mondays: What is going on?

During the third season of Mad Men Feministing writers will offer some of our thoughts on feminist moments, scenes, and themes in the new episodes in order to start a discussion about these topics in our community. *WARNING: Lots of spoilers follow.
(Apologies for the column being delayed again. I (Jos) had technology issues that made it impossible to put together yesterday.)

Peggy and Duck. Kinsey: “I know a nooner when I hear one.”
Ew. Just ew on the Duck/Peggy thing. More ew with Kinsey. -Samhita
Gotta say, I kind of love the term “nooner.” And that our girl Peggy is lured to the hotel with promises of a Monte Cristo sandwich. But I will never forgive Duck for unplugging that television. I have to wonder what story Peggy will invent to explain where she was when she found out Kennedy was shot. Gross. -Ann
“Wow, the president’s been shot. Better unplug the TV so depressing news doesn’t get in the way of teh sex.” -Duck -Jos
Margaret’s wedding.
So painful to watch, why did they go through with it? -Samhita
You have to love that when she found out about the assassination, Margaret is more concerned about it ruining her wedding than anything else… -Jessica
Margaret: “She said in India if the wedding doesn’t take place at the appointed time they burn the bride.” Mona: “Just because she went to India doesn’t mean she’s not an idiot.”
I believe they are referring to the cultural practice of sati that had long been outlawed at that point and happened when women were widowed they were thrown into the funeral pyre with their deceased husband, not on their wedding day. Other than being sexist, it was often even more tragic because wives were often much younger than their husbands. But that is irrelevant. They flattened the cultural history and reality of sati in India to demonize and scare Margaret into marriage, basically saying, we are just as sexist as those backwards Indians, so please don’t think twice (at least I would like to think that is what the writers were doing with that). -Samhita
Roger and Jane fight.
This entire episode seemed to be about men infantalizing the adult women in their lives. Roger yells for Jane like she’s his maid, and then scolds her like a child. (In fact, it’s a repeat of the tone he just took with his own child on the phone.) Although I gotta say, it feels very satisfying to see how Roger’s fantasy life with a much-younger wife has not played out at all like he’d hoped. I really loved seeing Mona in a position of strength and power throughout this episode. Lioness, indeed! -Ann

Don wakes up to take care of baby Gene. Betty: “I thought you’d left.” Don:”I’m here.” Betty: “I see. Well thank you.” Don: “I’ve done it before.”
Wow, what a gift Don is giving with his mere presence. *eye roll* I mean, I’m glad he’s trying to turn his life around and all that…but I’m not feeling giving him cookies for managing to be a decent dude for a hot five minutes. -Jessica

The assassination of President Kennedy.

Outside of the remarkably different ways the characters reacted to the assassination, this also obviously marked a change for the whole show. Pete’s wife doesn’t give a shit about him staying at his job anymore, or putting on airs and going to Margaret’s wedding. Roger wants to speak to Joan, the one who got away. Betty realizes she doesn’t love Don and needs to change her life. Most interestingly to me, though – was how the writers used the assassination to demonstrate how disconnected Don is from the people in his life: He walks into the office, totally confused as to what is going on while everyone else is watching/listening to the news; he continually tells Betty that everything is going to be okay, almost refusing to process what’s happened. Similarly, when Betty watches Oswald get shot, Don is in the other room. Now he’s not just distant from his family, he’s distanced from the world and what’s going on in it. -Jessica

Betty and Carla learn Kennedy has died.

I thought this was a really interesting moment – Betty is sitting on the couch, watching the news. When Carla hears the news as well, she goes over and sits on the couch – this may seem a small thing, but Carla’s status in the house isn’t one where she can just go and chill on the furniture. Visually, for me, it marked how in the midst of this tragedy – everyone, even if for a moment, was equal in their grief. -Jessica
I loved this shot of the two of them on the couch. For me, it was probably the most powerful scene of the episode. Tragedy is certainly a unifying force. -Ann
Not only does Carla sit down next to Betty to cry, but she pulls out a cigarette as well to comfort herself. -Samhita
Don: “Why are the kids watching this?” Betty: “What am I supposed to do Don? Am I supposed to keep it from them?”
Don actually tried to be a parent a few times in this episode, taking care of baby Gene and at least recognizing Sally and Bobby needed some protection from the immediacy of the assassination and help processing what was going on around them. This was so bizarre to watch because Don wasn’t terrible at taking care of his kids. It just took Betty learning his secret combined with Kennedy’s assassination for him to actually bother stepping into this role. Don only parents when he absolutely has to. -Jos
Roger calls Joan.
Roger goes to Joan when he needs to express a real emotional reaction to someone who understands him better than he understands himself. I’m critical of the idea of soul mates, but in the context of this fictional TV show… -Jos
Lee Harvey Oswald is shot. “What is going on?”
One of the things I love about Mad Men is how slowly the action and plot builds. When Betty loses it after seeing Oswald murdered, she’s not merely expressing her confusion and fear about the national news. It feels, to her, like an extension of the recent upheavals in her own life (her father’s death, the birth of her child, the discovery about Don’s past). -Ann
“What is going on?” could be a title for this season. The world hasn’t made sense to any of our characters since it didn’t end because of the Cuban missile crisis. Betty has represented a failure to understand the civil rights struggle going on within the US. The workings of Sterling Cooper changed in ways no one understood or expected as a result of selling the company. All the characters have been through personal upheaval that throws off their expectations for their lives – to name a few, Joan doesn’t get to be the surgeon’s wife, Pete doesn’t get to be head of accounts, and Betty doesn’t know who she is married to. And now the president has been shot. Betty is simultaneously developing a consciousness around her unhappiness with her life, which can throw a person off completely, and living in a world that makes less and less sense to anyone. -Jos
Agreed, Ann. The quiet and understated moments in this show are incredibly well written, directed and acted, but for me, it’s outbursts and momentary losses of restraint that make the show as satisfying as it is. Betty’s “what is going on?”, Joan’s vase-smashing, even Pete Campbell’s dorky little victory dance, serve as powerful reminders that as alien as 1963 might sometimes look, these characters are deeply human, and not that different from us. -Chloe
Betty and Henry Francis.
I’m not sure I get this romance. Does Betty like him for him, or because he’s not Don? Likewise, it seems like he is in love with the idea of her, but doesn’t know a whole lot about who she really is. (He wants to take her to her favorite movie, but doesn’t know what it is until she tells him?!) Generic romance = gross, although I could see it being slightly more charming when presented as an alternative to Don’s lies and deceit. But I’m still not sure. Betty just doesn’t strike me as a politician’s wife, although her growing feelings for Henry could be a metaphor for her political awakening. -Lori
My theory is that Henry could be anyone. Betty is looking for a way out of her marriage, and she clearly does not see single motherhood as an option. (Remember her reaction to the divorced mom down the block in season 1?) No, the only way she can escape Don is by finding another man. And Henry meets a lot of Betty’s needs: he’s powerful, stable, wealthy, and seems devoted to her. Though I have a suspicion that if she bites the bullet and leaves Don for Henry, her new life might not be all that different from the old one. -Ann
To Henry Francis marrying Betty can be something he wants to do. He doesn’t have to take it that seriously – he might even tell Betty he wants to marry her to get her to sleep with him. To Betty, unemployed and without marketable skills we are aware of, marriage is both oppressive and necessary. Suddenly the power dynamic between these two has radically changed – Betty may need him very soon, and he gets to decide what to do. -Jos
All very insightful points. But more importantly: most passionless kiss ever. -Chloe
Betty: “I want to scream at you for ruining all this. But then you try to fix it and there’s no point. There’s no point Don.”
Such an on point articulation of Betty’s reaction to last week’s conversation. Betty wants to yell, express rage, but Don is too good at managing communication. He is trying to fix the marriage, but everything was a lie to Betty so there’s nothing to fix. Betty knows she has to keep her thoughts on the big picture of their marriage, not one night of Don checking on baby Gene. And she knows her pity for Don can’t trump her own needs. These are major feminist revelations. Betty might be the most widely disliked character on Mad Men. I certainly don’t think we’d be friends in real life. But watching her slow feminist awakening over the course of the show and seeing that accelerate over the past two episodes due to her person experiences this season has been the most compelling aspect of season 3 for me. At the beginning of the show Betty was self-centered in a way that hurt others, especially her children, and did her little good. She is still a complex, flawed person and this includes still being the kind of mother who does nothing when her kids see the Kennedy assassination on TV. But she is starting to move from an illogical “me me me” attitude to actually identifying, articulating, and acting on her needs. -Jos
Betty: “I don’t love you.” “I kissed you yesterday. I didn’t feel a thing.”
Dang, this was so harsh. I don’t care what Don has done in the past, I felt bad for him during this scene. It seems like his worst nightmare is coming true: the person closest to him has found out who he really is- and is rejecting him. -Lori
A friend I was watching with commented at this moment, seeing Don’s face, “He really loves her and needs her.” I think the second part of that statement is true. But to Don, Betty could be anyone. What matters to him is the stability of his home and personal life. That it’s a controlled environment where love and acceptance (but no demands) are waiting for him. Betty saying she doesn’t love him is throwing a wrench into Don’s status at home. And given recent goings-on at work, where he has been undermined while trying to hire Sal’s replacement and feels disempowered after signing a contract, he is losing the one area of life where he still feels totally in control. -Ann
I was so happy watching her say this – it was almost as if she was realizing it for the first time, herself! It’s harsh, for sure – but no more harsh that Don lying to her about everything, cheating on her, being an absent dad, crappy husband, etc. Betty found her voice and I’m stoked. -Jessica
Lori, I agree, but his dismissal of Betty’s thoughts quickly lost him my sympathy. Why is it that even though “the whole country is drinking,” it’s only the womenfolk who are too “distraught” to make important decisions? In the aftermath of the assassination, Pete essentially decided to leave Sterling Cooper, and the rationality of that enormous decision wasn’t questioned for a moment. It didn’t occur to Don that Betty’s love for him has been fading for months, and that she has simply reached the breaking point she’s been moving toward for quite some time. To him, she’s a flighty and irrational woman-child – something of a theme for this episode. -Chloe
I just wish that it didn’t take Betty finding out about Don’s humble beginnings for her to “find her voice” and recognize her “fading love” for Don and have all these great and empowering feminist awakenings. I know there are a million reasons for her to feel as if she no longer loves Don, but I wish things had gone down differently where we could be more sure that the circumstances of his birth and his rough childhood didn’t play a role in her change of heart. -Lori

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • Shanna213

    I thought this was a great episode. I graduated with a history degree, and simply seeing the news of and reaction to the JFK was incredibly interesting. I was enthralled with this episode. At this point, I really don’t know what to expect in the finale.

  • argolis

    This entire episode seemed to be about men infantalizing the adult women in their lives.

  • Jos

    I’m not Ann, but my answer would be “Yes.” Can I give you a hickey?

  • Therese

    I actually like the relationship between Peggy and Duck. He may not be perfect, but he seems to be evenly matched to her. Peggy seems like a person that is mature beyond her years. Up until now, she has been dating boys. I think she really likes him. Uncertain how he feels, but she is not seeing him for what he can do for her. Peggy doesn’t do that. That is why she was confused by her roommate’s inquiry as to why she was seeing Duck if he was not married. Married men were more valuable per the roommate because they will buy you a bunch of expensive things and take you out to expensive dinners if you become their mistress. Peggy is independent. She likes sex and male companionship, but is seriously devoted to building her career and back then, you really did have to choose between those two things. Once you got married, in most cases, life as you knew it was over. Peggy wants a lover, not a sugar daddy – Duck seems to be a pretty good lover!

  • ohmyheavens

    I agree. I think they make a great match, and to be fair I don’t think Duck knew the president had even been shot. When he unplugged the t.v. the report had been that there were shots fired, not that anyone had been hurt or killed.

  • Mama Mia

    What I thought was interesting about the whole Duck and Peggy thing is how is compares to Betty and Henry Francis. Peggy is part of a different social class from Betty, has taken more control of her life. Therefore, if she wants to have no-strings sex (if that is what it is), if she wants to date an older guy because she likes sex, or whatever it is she is doing, she allows herself to do this.
    Betty, on the other hand, will only consider having sex with a guy in the context of marriage. When Henry tells her he would marry her, she happily kisses him. I don’t think she actually wants to marry him, or that she will. I think she wants permission to be sexual with him, and that can only be for her if marriage is possible.
    It kind of reminds me of women I remember in college who wanted to have sex, but would only do it in the context of having alcohol. They never regretted the sex, but alcohol allowed them to say they wouldn’t normally do that, they were not the type of girl who was just interested in sex. It was cover, like marriage is cover for Betty. Society won’t let them be sexual without that cover. (By the way, the comment about alcohol was not a negative statement on women who feel they must maintain their pure image- it was a negative statement on society that makes them feel that way)

  • Vivica

    Although Betty did have a one night stand with some random dude in a bar last season. Deliberately. She went out with the intention of hooking up with someone. Remember that?

  • Mama Mia

    That’s true, but that was in direct response to her discovery of him cheating, not because she was interested in sex. It was a secret power play on her part. Perhaps that was an early sign that she would eventually break out of her bonds, so to speak.

  • conductress

    It came across to me more as the *writers* infantalizing women. The reactions of Roger’s daughter and Jane were both so stereotypically woman-throwing-a-childish-temper-tantrum that it implicitly justified (at least some of) Roger’s behavior. I hated it.

  • argolis

    Right, because Roger was infantalizing Joan when he called her up in the dead of night, searching for someone who said something that made sense to him? Or when he called Mona a lioness during his speech? Was Don infantalizing Betty when he was trying to persuade her that their fairytale was still real with his kiss? Was that what Pete was doing when he curled up with Trudie on the couch, warming themselves with their haughty righteousness? Was he infantalizing her too?
    I admit that Don telling Betty that things will be ok could be argued as him “infantalizing” her but jesus christ you’re missing the bigger picture here when you flatten it to mister manly man treating his woman like a child. You’re missing Don, the ad man, creating a story, creating the the fantasy in which nothing can touch him as long as he is persuasive enough and finally that spell is broken. The clock has stuck midnight.

  • Elizabeth

    she didn’t say that ALL the men were infantilizing women, she said it was a theme. Don definitely was doing it, and so was Rodger Stirling with Jane, and you could argue that Duck was doing it with Peggy (although that seems to be a little more complicated). The point is that it was a major theme of the episode.
    and as for “missing” Don, that’s the great thing about this whole show: all the characters are realistically . In real life, you don’t have people that are labled as “misogynists” and “good guys”, you have people that are complicated and have different sides to them. Too often TV writers want to make it clear how you are supposed to feel about everything, and who is supposed to be the good guy and the bad guy. But real life is a lot more complicated than that, and so are the characters on mad men.

  • Elizabeth

    I think she was just angry because she found out Don was cheating on her, and Henry Francis is different because it isn’t spur-of-the-moment out of anger sort of thing.

  • fleuredeflorida

    I was actually really angry that Betty’s so called “feminist awakening” wasn’t her leaving Don because of the lies & cheating & all the goings’ because she’s fed up- but it’s because now she’s finally got an exit- which is just another situation where she’s trapped with a man. I think if Henry Francis was in the picture, she’d still be following the advice of the lawyer and sticking it out with Don. For Betty, it seems life without a husband is just not a possibility. And I don’t think she has to leave her marriage with Don to realize her “feminist” side, but rather stick up for herself and what she wants and make Don treat her like an equal. She thinks Henry Francis is going to be the promised land, but he’s going to be the exact same thing as Don.

  • Mama Mia

    When I was watching the whole Roger thing going on, I was actually thinking that he was discovering his respect for strong women. I think he was definitely treating Jane like a child who was equivalent to his actual child, but he complimented his ex-wife as a lioness and then called up Joan. I think he thought he made the right choice by getting the trophy wife to fix his mid-life crisis, and now he is realizing that was a mistake. He is an interesting character.

  • Zhyenshshina

    “Most interestingly to me, though – was how the writers used the assassination to demonstrate how disconnected Don is from the people in his life.”
    To elaborate on this point, I saw both Don and Roger–the two most powerful characters, socio-economically speaking–being the biggest failures at dealing with the situation, demonstrating how disconnected they are from everyone around them. Something in the understood societal power dynamics that secure their positions of control has visibly cracked, and they attempt to continue in their lives as if nothing has happened (Don going to work, telling Betty that everything will be okay, etc., and Roger orchestrating the wedding festivities). But it just doesn’t work without the general consent of everyone else.

  • salad_shooter

    But I think this is who Betty is – at least for the time being. We’ve seen in previous seasons how she’s developed as a character and become more emotionally mature, (and I think she’s still growing) but I think it would be too much of a jump for her to have a ‘feminist awakening’ in the sense that she will become a truly independent woman, leave Don and live and raise her children on her own. Betty is a very traditional person – she truly believes in traditional gender roles and old school values. I think part of her thinks she just made a mistake in marrying Don and is looking for someone to rescue her from her situation. She may also feel trapped. The comment made to her by her father’s lawyer was along the lines of “but is he a good provider?” I’m sure a huge part of her really wants to hold onto her middle class values and raise her children with someone who can suitably provide.

  • Hara

    Back then, generally,
    Men did not wake up to take care of the baby. They did not change diapers, feed the baby, dress the children, or deal with school issues, unless something really bad happened, then it was , “wait till your father gets home and hears about this” Big! trouble.
    So, Don trying to parent is huge, for the times.
    I found it interesting that Betty was more open with her grief about the president than her father’s death. She shooed her daughters grief away when it was someone she loved, from her family, but the president, we can all grieve together?
    Is that a WASP thing?
    i don’t get it?
    The first wife being identified as a Lioness while the moronic ex proves to the world that his baby bride is not what he’s hoped for is not comfort or consolation to the first wife. If this show was a bit more edgy, I would have loved for Mona to have called out “Fuck you!” at Roger.
    If Betty simply trades Don in for the politician- I will spit and stop watching the show.
    the viewers are due for a liberation-
    or 2
    or 3
    joan, Betty and let’s take Peggy up another notch too!

  • Hara

    By the 70’s women were having about face, total and complete life overhall liberation!
    I got to witness my beautiful mother experience hers.
    My mother, who dressed just like Betty and was perfect and beautiful and unhappily married- totally changed her life.
    I don’t think as many women were liberating in the early or even late 60’s (hippies were mostly young college students) but, still, it would be nice to see it on the show.

  • Yekaterina

    Do you always have to feel “something” when kissing someone you love?
    To me this is yet another princesses-unicorns-happily-ever-after-romance type of fantasy Betty is still immersed in, even as she is experiencing some rudimentary feminist awakening.
    Along the lines of what Mama Mia said about having an “excuse” for wanting straight up sex, I know a good number of girls who maintain they become romantically attached or even fall in love with a guy if they have sex with him. Sex=>love? A good kiss as a litmus test for emotion? It’s her preference I guess, but its suspect.

  • gothicguera

    good to see that I’m not the only one to like Peggy and Duck. she seems to more on a equal level with him, than the other relationships on the show. I recall that Joan told Peggy to told “stop dressing like a girl.” It’s my impression that her co-workers only see her as a girl and not an adult yet, she has more Independence than the other women and Duck(from what we seen) treats her like an adult not a child.
    I was pissed off the way roger talked to his wife.I that was me I would have said “My own father never talked to me that way when I was a kid and what make you think I’m going tolerate that from you?”
    On the JFK assassination
    I seems that Betty and Carla were upset about his death but he meant different things for different people. For Betty – JFK meant Camelot and he was this young dashing man leading the nation. His death meant the end of Camelot and the end of glamor and luxury it just added with her disillusion about her life with Don.
    on Carla-JFK was for racial integration and civil rights supporter, and during the 1960 campaign he telephoned Coretta Scott King, when MLK was in jail. His death a support of the civil right movement would have been a blow to her.

  • Mishi

    This may be an unpopular opinion, but I really don’t see Don lying to Betty about his past as a big of a deal as everyone else does. He wasn’t lying to Betty specifically, he was lying to everyone he met after the Korean War with the exception of Anna Draper. Would it have been nice for Don to trust his wife with his past? Sure. But he doesn’t really trust anyone. He knows how Betty is about money and how Betty’s a spoiled child who wants everything done for her. She’s a princess who doesn’t want to lift a finger.
    Don’t get me wrong, I think Don’s a cheating jackass, but I also think he’s more than that and his relationship with Betty is more than that. They’re two of the most flawed individuals on a show full of flawed individuals. They’re cold and distant and incapable of relating with anyone because they both think they’re better than that. When was the last time we saw Betty try to open up to Don? Try to relate to Don? I feel like it was season 2 at least. So Betty’s decided that this week she doesn’t love Don anymore. If she didn’t have another man to escape to, would she still think that? I don’t think so. Francis is just another man looking to put her in a gilded cage and it pisses me off. I want so much for Betty, she was my favorite character (other than Joan) seasons one and two but this season I’ve just gotten so frustrated with her childish behavior and inability to…I don’t know. Plan? Have some sort of dream outside of men? Be a parent to her children? It’s really awful when I feel like DON is the better parent, as I have felt this entire season. And I know he’s not because being the good parent when you’re only there 1/4 of the time is easy and Don let his 8 year old daughter get drunk in his office season 1, but the poor children have gone through so much this season and Betty’s been completely self obsessed.
    So maybe Carla’s the best parent.

  • Laydbug612

    The biggest child I saw in this episode was Pete. Creating a big pity party because he didn’t get a promotion and saying he was fired. Did anyone else notice Peggy’s ‘shame face’ when Pete walked out of the elevator after talking about Duck? Great acting…
    (I also loved Betty mouthing ‘of course’ when she saw Henry with whom she thought was a younger date)
    I am so interested in the Peggy/Duck affair. He sure seems like he knows what he wants and Peggy definitely knows what she wants. She obviously not in it to get married but just to have some fun. I also loved how he tried to get her there by telling her about a sandwich! Mmmm, monte cristo…
    Using real events to create an impetus for change was a brilliant idea. I was sure that they were going to end the season on the assassination, but i love have it equalized everyone in pain, but at the same time made people realize where they stood: Betty with Don, Don with Betty, Pete with Stering Cooper, Peggy and her dedication, Jane with Roger, Roger with Joan.

  • DRush76

    ["Gotta say, I kind of love the term "nooner." And that our girl Peggy is lured to the hotel with promises of a Monte Cristo sandwich. But I will never forgive Duck for unplugging that television. I have to wonder what story Peggy will invent to explain where she was when she found out Kennedy was shot. Gross."]
    Duck eventually did explain to Peggy what he had done. He had unplugged the TV because he could not deal with the news of the assassination at first. Didn’t you notice?

  • DRush76

    ["When was the last time we saw Betty try to open up to Don? Try to relate to Don? I feel like it was season 2 at least. So Betty's decided that this week she doesn't love Don anymore. If she didn't have another man to escape to, would she still think that?"]
    YES. What is this belief that Betty is nothing more than a princess who wants to be coddled? If that was true, why did she have such a negative reaction to her father calling her a housecat in her dream, in “The Fog”?

  • DRush76

    I don’t see Betty giving up men entirely as a sign that she is emancipated. I see Betty having the kind of relationship that she wants as a sign. She doesn’t want a relationship with a man who closes himself off from her or treats her like a child. She wants a man she can communicate with. So far, Henry Francis is that man. Will this always be the case? I don’t know. And whoever says that they know, makes me wonder if they are lying.

  • DRush76

    She is still a complex, flawed person and this includes still being the kind of mother who does nothing when her kids see the Kennedy assassination on TV.
    I don’t see that as a reason to criticize Betty. She was right. How was she going to shield this from Sally and Bobby? Even if she and Don had managed to shield them, they were going to find out at school. What was the point?

  • Elizabeth

    This reminded me of 9/11. I was eleven years old and my sister was 8, and the first we heard about it was when we turned on the television and it was on every channel. My mother, usually overprotective, didn’t try to shield us from it. She knew there was no way to tell us that she knew “everything is going to be ok” – which is what Don tried to do to Betty and the children, and that didn’t make them feel any better about it, because they were all smart enough to see through it.

  • DRush76

    Do you always have to feel “something” when kissing someone you love?
    To me this is yet another princesses-unicorns-happily-ever-after-romance type of fantasy Betty is still immersed in, even as she is experiencing some rudimentary feminist awakening.

    You honestly believe that you don’t have to feel something when you kiss someone you love? Or is this another attempt to paint Betty as some child in a woman’s body, because she is an unpopular character?
    It’s an interesting thing about MAD MEN fans. They use the smallest thing to paint Betty as a childlike person incapable of growth. Yet, whenever Joan Holloway makes a mistake or does something rotten, fans make excuses for her like there is no tomorrow.
    What’s the point in discussing the characters of this show when fans are incapable of being open-minded about all of the characters?

  • i_muse

    Huge generalization about fans of the show. Wow.

  • Pencils

    They flattened the cultural history and reality of sati in India to demonize and scare Margaret into marriage,
    It’s not marriage that they forced on Margaret, but the big society wedding. Not that they got it in the end, as it turned out. It was last season I think when there was a scene with Roger and Mona and “the kids” where Margaret’s parens talk her into it while her fiance says he’ll do whatever she wants.
    It’s why I thought Pete Campbell calling her a spoiled brat was so funny. He’s a totally spoiled brat, he just doesn’t think so because he hates his parents and he’s not going to inherit anything.

  • DRush76

    Huge generalization about fans of the show. Wow.
    No, this is not a huge generalization about the fans. This comes from two seasons of reading fans’ reactions to both Betty and Joan. Mind you, not all of the fans are guilty of making excuses for Joan, while criticizing Betty for the smallest thing. But most of the comments I have read about the two characters on NUMEROUS blogs and message boards seemed to come to this popularity contest between the two characters.

  • MsM

    I think DRush76 is describing Gawker. :-)
    While I agree that it’s no use to generalize when there are so many opinions out there, the way Betty is vilified in many places makes my stomach turn. Especially when she gets blamed for being a bad parent at the same time Don gets praised for being caring with his kids. Same goes for her being “like a child”, something that always gets lobbed at her for something or other. And while she does warrant the description sometimes, about 30% of the characters are about equally immature, all in different ways.

  • Lamour

    I actually think that’s a bit simplistic and somewhat unfair to Betty. To say that she realized JFK’s death was ‘the end of glamour and luxury’ is a bit far-fetched… although I agree that his death coul symbolize that marker in the show itself.
    I think Betty was simply very upset to see the President murdered. It was an unexpected and violent burst of the safe and innocent bubble of the ’50s, and her reaction “I can’t stop crying” was the reaction of many, MANY women at that time who watched this grisly murder/trial play out in front of them. (I say women not because I’m stereotyping, but gender norms would not have allowed men to bawl in front of their TVs, obviously). It was just plain SAD for Betty.

  • MsM

    I think they get compared because they are women, and out of the three leading female characters, they are the ones shown as conforming while Peggy is an outlier. Much of the comparing is due to women being seen as representatives of their gender and not just characters, I believe.

  • MsM

    I’m sorry. My reply is below, it went out of thread.

  • DRush76

    It’s interesting that the male characters are not compared and judged in the same way. Well . . . I take that back. Duck was compared a lot to Don, much to his detriment. The ironic thing is that I found him to be no better or worse than the other characters.

  • Toongrrl

    Thought provoking episode ever.

  • knitgirl

    When I was six years old I watched the Challenger explode. It had happened earlier in the day, but I saw it on the nightly news, watching with my parents. It would have been wrong of them to try to keep it from me, especially as we had been talking about it at school (with Christa McAuliffe becoming the first teacher in space and all). Both of my parents have vivid memories of watching the news of the JFK assassination as kids themselves. I don’t see letting the kids watch the TV as bad parenting – just the reaction of someone who is shocked herself and unsure how to react or shield her kids from an unraveling world.

  • Yekaterina

    Yes, I honestly believe that you don’t have to feel something when kissing someone you love. It may be possible and even common for people to feel the depth of their emotions for the other person while kissing her/him, but I do not see how an essentially physical action must inevitably lead to a confirmation of one’s emotional feelings.
    For me a confirmation of my love for someone comes in the process of conversation, or any action that reveals that person’s character, not in a kiss or sex or hand-holding or any actions of that sort. Those are among the ways I sometimes chose to express my love, but they are not the way I test for love.
    I find it ironic that you accuse the fans of the show of not being open minded when you yourself are so reluctant to even consider the possibility that kiss ? reliable love test.
    I happen to like Betty’s character, at least in this season (which is really the first season I’ve followed. I haven’t even seen the season 1 episodes yet). My analysis of her character as one deeply influenced by the patriarchal ideology does not diminish my sympathy for her. If anything, I admire her progress that much more because of it.
    As far seeing her as childish, in a great number of ways she is. Not in the same way Margaret Sterling is childish – Betty is childish in the way that the ideal housewife of that era was supposed to be. Dependent, ultimately obedient, and allowed an occasional temper tantrum. She is now shedding this infantalizing role, and yes, in a sense, growing up.
    I don’t think this diminishes her as a person, or underestimates her strength or growth capability. On the contrary, she needs that much more of it than, lets say, Peggy, since Betty knows that by virtue of her looks and social station she can live in relative comfort as a domestic “cat” with “little to do,” as opposed to struggling against her child-like position. So it is a constant temptation for her to accept.

  • Yekaterina

    @ Zhyenshshina: “Zhyenshshina” as in, “Woman” ? Just curious.

  • Tricia

    On the title theme “Grown Ups” —
    I saw this theme having less to do with gender relations than with the breakdown of order, with the impulse in troubled times to ask “Who’s in charge here?”
    We look to political leaders (especially hyper-idealized ones) and institutions to take care of us and to play in our adult lives something like the role of parents. An event like the assassination of the President leaves people feeling vulnerable. It also causes them to look to other forms of leadership, order, and stability in their lives. For the characters and historical moment of Mad Men, the paternal leadership and solidity of men was supposed to be the personal iteration of the overall structure of political and religious leadership.
    The infantilization of Jane, Margaret, and Betty in this episode predominantly showed, I thought, the failure of this paternal system. The men were trying to fulfill their roles as the “grown-ups” in their personal worlds, but came up short. Stronger characters like Mona and Joan had to intervene, further unsettling the men.
    **As an aside, I loved Pete Campbell in the fetal position asking for hot chocolate at the beginning of this episode. For me this demonstrated the degree to which his sense of manhood is centered around his harnessing of the larger institution of Sterling Cooper. When that institutional identity fails him in this episode, he devolves into a pouting child.

  • DRush76

    “The infantilization of Jane, Margaret, and Betty in this episode predominantly showed, I thought, the failure of this paternal system. The men were trying to fulfill their roles as the “grown-ups” in their personal worlds, but came up short. Stronger characters like Mona and Joan had to intervene, further unsettling the men.”
    I don’t know about Margaret, but I noticed how Betty and Jane eventually turned away from the male figures in their lives. Jane pretty much told Roger to “shove it”, as he tried to draw her away from the hotel kitchen’s television set – the same TV set that Bert Cooper was watching. And Betty finally let Don know how she felt about him. I

  • DRush76

    “Yes, I honestly believe that you don’t have to feel something when kissing someone you love. It may be possible and even common for people to feel the depth of their emotions for the other person while kissing her/him, but I do not see how an essentially physical action must inevitably lead to a confirmation of one’s emotional feelings.”
    Then I believe that you and I will have to disagree on this issue.