Mad Men’s Premier

I finally watched the TiVo’d episode of Sunday’s premier of Mad Men on AMC. It is probably one of the most well written shows on television right now and I had absolutely no expectations going into it. I’m not one of those who likes to endlessly pick apart a program like Lost fans do or even The X-Files and I was a fan of The X-Files. I am not a fan of too many convoluted plot lines, not because I don’t want to think but because no show has ever pulled off a satisfying resolution that made sense from all that went before (exception Battlestar Galactica) No, sometimes I just like to watch a little slice of life and remember the good ol days of the Sixties. NOT. I like to watch for a good story, good acting, and a compelling plot.

Don Draper is one of the most compelling characters I’ve seen on television, but the one who really fascinates me is his wife, Betty. June Cleaver she is not although she would fit right into that kaffeeklatch on surface.  What fascinated me this time around at the beginning of Season 4  is that one doesn’t really know Betty Draper. We have no way of knowing what she thinks, what she wants, or if she even thinks about anything at all when she sits and smokes her cigarettes. We cannot get inside her head. She is a character on which all of us housewives can project our feelings. The way Betty Draper treats her children is interesting. Betty comes from privilege, which is telling, and every time one of her children needs something she is dismissive and is often what parents now would call abusive. This is the “be seen and not heard” parent. Betty would be happy if her kids sat in front of the TV all day and left her alone. In a way, she’s almost like a piece of furniture in the Draper household; good to look at and admire and to demonstrate functionality.

On Sunday’s episode, Betty is at a Thanksgiving dinner in her new husband’s home. Her son and daughter are with her and everyone is trying to be nice but the atmosphere is extremely awkward and tense because of the new arrangements. Betty’s daughter Sally has the audacity, when asked, how she likes her food and Sally says that she doesn’t like it at all. Of course Betty is appalled that Sally said anything out loud and forces her to eat her food, which Sally promptly throws up on her plate.  Betty is even more appalled and drags her daughter out of the room by the arm. Obviously she’s not embarrassed to be doing that in public.

Ah, the memories! Betty is certainly not a good parent, but who was in the pre-historic Sixties? Like Sally, there were many awful dinners at our house growing up. Our step-monster (e.g. step-father) would force us to eat the grossest things (we thought) and one time, after being forced to eat all of my portion of disgusting cow’s liver, I threw up all over him. That was a very satisfying experience. Did I get in trouble for that? You bet your ass I did, even though it was his fault. To this day I have never ever touched organ meats again nor have I ever forced my kids to eat anything. I mean what message does that send?

Mad Men is a great show because it doesn’t whitewash the Sixties and it presents people in all their good moments and bad, just like life. Of course, if it were exactly like real life we would have many varieties of women and men in all sizes and shapes, but we don’t and have to start somewhere. For that, we need to watch re-runs of The Sopranos. But Michael Weiner does try. I’ll give him that.  As long as Mad Men makes me think about real life and all its gritty reality, I will continue to watch it.