Season 6 of Mad Men premiered Sunday night and, babes, it was glorious. Roger Sterling’s therapy sessions/waxing on death after his beloved Mimsy dies were worth the price of admission alone. (Now seems as good a time as any to shout SPOILERS.)
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I’ve been waiting roughly five months — since this column debuted — to write about Mad Men and, more specifically the women of Mad Men. What follows is not a recap; that’s what THE REST OF THE WHOLE INTERNET is for, and may I humbly suggest Grantland’s Molly Lambert as a suitable Mad Men spirit guide.
No, what follows is a column all about my new favourite TV super villain lunatic Betty Francis.
The former Mrs. Draper was feeling some feelings during the season opener. She’s thicker and older now, living in the suburbs with husband Henry Francis. She’s still a bored housewife, but she’s got a more sinister bent these days. And she’s doing things that prim-and-proper, gloved-and-coiffed Betty simply doesn’t do.
She’s pulled over for reckless driving. She mysteriously makes goulash for a bunch of stoned hippies in a flophouse. She dyes her famous ice-queen blonde locks deep brown, ostensibly in response the hippies mocking her suburban housewife life: “Eyes? Blue. Hair? Bottled. We don’t like your life any more than you do.” (The hair-dying was a move son Bobby was NOT DOWN WITH, BTW. “I hate it. You’re ugly,” he tells his mother, before stomping out of the room, personally offended. Still, the look on her face was one of pure defiance, which softened to pride after Henry tells her she’s a dead ringer for Elizabeth Taylor.)
Oh, and then there’s the casual, no-bigs RAPE JOKE (!?) she tosses out. A friend (maybe? it was hard to tell) of Sally’s named Sandy is staying at the Francis house and charms the family with her prodigal violin playing. Betty ‘playfully’ jokes that Henry and Bobby had the same look on their face when they were watching her, and Henry says something about leaving her for a 15-year-old musician. Then Betty says, “She’s just in the other room. Why don’t you go in there and rape her? I’ll hold her arms down.”
That’s some dark shit, Bets. Real dark.
The Elizabeth Taylor reference was apropos; as Rachel Eddin noted in her recap for Wired, “Betty is working hard to achieve her long-term goal of actually living Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” Yup! She’s slowly becoming ol’ unhinged harridan Martha (a role that won Liz an Oscar, I might add). AND I AM EXCITED ABOUT THIS.
See, I’ve long held the belief that Betty was an interesting, complicated character — or at least capable of becoming an interesting, complicated character. But that distinction was always reserved for Don — who is equally as unlikeable, I might add — while Betty was always relegated to vapid and vain. So I was thrilled when the writers decided to put pregnant January Jones in a fat suit in Season 5 rather than hide her behind strategically placed handbags and vases and give her SOMETHING TO DO. When we left her, she was grappling with the father of her children living with some hip, young thing (the endlessly boring Megan) while living in a body she no longer recognizes.
To see her take some ownership of her life and appearance on Sunday night’s episode was exciting.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love my homegirls Joan (WTF was with that abomination of an outfit?) and Peggy KILLING IT! Olson. But Betty — she’s fascinating. Maybe January Jones will finally get her Emmy this season.
Jen Zoratti is a Spectator Tribune columnist and freelance music journo. Her favourite woman of Mad Men is actually Sally Draper. Follow her on Twitter @JenZoratti.