In this Mad Men Supercut created for NY Magazine, Betty Draper is pissed and she’s pretty sure she knows why. The TV series takes place in the early 60′s and the Feminine Mystique is in full swing. To cope with being an unhappy mother and a trapped spouse, Betty drinks, smokes and yells at her kids for being kids. It’s easy to scrutinize Betty Draper’s character flaws as neatly fitting into the stereotype of The Bitch, The Bad Mommy and/or The Frustrated Housewife but Betty’s role is more subtle. As one of the few characters in popular culture who embody the problem with no name, Betty’s flaws illustrated in the remix below lie at the intersection of the personal and political and exemplify the ways in which we scrutinize mothers without fully acknowledging the cultural complexities of their situation.
By the time 1965 rolls around in the show’s forth and current season, women had been experiencing an ideological and psychological yo-yo that pulled them in very different and competing directions. One minute, women were encouraged get jobs and work outside the home, emulating Rosie the Riveter and wearing overalls (aka PANTS!) to manufacture planes and ships during World War II. The next minute, 4 million women were fired (despite wanting to stay in the workforce) because their employment threatened the availability of jobs for men returning from war. Then women were told to go back home and get in the kitchen as magazine articles titled “Proof That She Is the Stronger Sex” and “Women May Control US” helped convince women that they already had power as housewives and mothers since men depended on them to cook their food and do their laundry.
Betty Draper is overwhelmed with this tension between her identity as a mother, a wife and an individual and as a result, she becomes unbearable both to herself and her kids. Betty’s not perfect by any means, but she’s negotiating the necessary tensions between her concept of Leave It To Beaver womanhood and her new realization that she’s perfectly dissatisfied with the expectations placed on her. As one of the few characters in popular culture who embody the problem with no name, Betty’s flaws in Ugly Betty converge at the intersection of the personal and political and exemplify the ways in which we are quick to scrutinize mothers, both fictional and non, without fully acknowledging the cultural and political complexities of their situations.
I originally posted this article at PoliticalRemixVideo.com and reposted here with my own permission.