Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mad Men: "Tears rise in the heart and gather to the eyes"

“God, I miss the fifties.” Roger Serling

“I miss the blacklist.” Harry Crane

“I missed not live blogging with you all last week. Thank God my Norwegian ancestors kept me from being sad about it.”

Okay, so I have now seen “The Benefactor,” where Roger and Harry had throw away lines waxing nostalgic for their own recent past. The episode did not follow much of the story lines from the previous week-—we learned nothing more of Pete and the loss of his father.

Instead, it was Betty’s day. From her horseback riding to being the show horse on Don’s arm, inquiring if the dinner at Lutece is one that she’s supposed to talk at or not.

We can compare and contrast her to Don’s new dalliance-—she doesn’t qualify as a mistress—-the wife/manager Bobbie Barrett. Much blogbabble ensued from Don’s ladies room move on Bobbie, when he grabbed her nether reigns to get her to do what he wanted. It was crude, because of the time and place; it’s not heat between lovers, but the violence of a desperate, frustrated man toward a woman he doesn’t much like.

Bobbie acquiesces, while it is Betty who ends the evening in tears in the car. A woman doesn’t cry genuine tears like that in from of her husband if she can help it. The anguish is SO out of context for the average man that he will have no way to process it. As it was for Don, who, when he asked why she was crying, believed the “I’m just so happy” line.

But Betty isn’t happy. We see her being fairly detached from her children. She tried to go back in to modeling, but was boxed out by the stratagems of several mad men. Her husband cheated on her, and she must have given him an ultimatum, which has kept him home. But it feels like a forced victory. It’s not that he much wants to be home with Betty, but he is doing it out of obligation. That would leave an emptiness where Betty wanted to find the core of her life.

In Alex Witchell’s NY Times Magazine article, this is what January Jones had to say about Betty: “She’s so lost. She’s supposed to be this perfect Grace Kelly wife of a businessman, and it’s just not going the way she imagined.”

It’s sadly ironic that she draws the analogy to Grace Kelly. There have been many stories about how difficult her fairytale marriage to Prince Rainier was. That he was cold and not very interested in her outside of his heirs, and how as a young bride his family did little to help her.

This Sunday brings us the episode “Three Sundays.” The advance clip on the AMC website has Betty saying that it is Palm Sunday, a designation you don’t often hear on tv episodes. Tom Watson and I will be back in the live blogging chair over at newcritics. Come spend your Sunday night with us.