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Betty Draper Francis Needs Your… Ice Cream? A Few Notes on the Evil TV Ex-Wife

So, Mad Men has begun. And, this weekend, we finally got our first look at Betty Draper. For those not spoiled by the Internet and its countless “Fat Betty” jokes: She’s gained weight. And I am beginning to fear that I may have to redact my previously stated love of Betty Draper Francis, Bitchmonster at Large. I’m starting to hate her, nowadays, in the precise same way that I hated the characterization of Vera on Downton Abbey.

Now, let us be clear, here: I’m still in favor of making Betty a miserable, stunted, mean person. I’m even in favor of making her a terrible mother. I still think that’s more realistic, and interesting, than “redeeming” her or keeping her around as a passive, pitiable victim. Betty’s culture infantilizes women — particularly pretty, middle-class white women — and rewards them for infantilizing themselves. In her society, she is the ideal, and her defects as a person aren’t solely her fault; they’re built into the ideal itself. I mean, this is not my idea. This is Mary Wollstonecraft’s idea:

It is vain to expect virtue from women till they are, in some degree, independent of men; nay, it is vain to expect that strength of natural affection, which would make them good wives and mothers. Whilst they are absolutely dependent on their husbands they will be cunning, mean, and selfish, and the men who can be gratified by the fawning fondness of spaniel-like affection, have not much delicacy… Men are not aware of the misery they cause, and the vicious weakness they cherish, by only inciting women to render themselves pleasing[.]

So, there you go.

And, aside from this, I selfishly want Betty to be awful because I just really enjoy unsympathetic female characters. I think they challenge the idea that women in the public eye should never be ugly; that a woman’s first duty, at all times, is to be merely “pleasing.” I enjoy a story that makes you hang out with flawed women, and forces you to value them for something other than conventional lovability. It’s why I’m obsessed with Katniss Everdeen, why I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on repeat in college, why I praised Bridesmaids. It’s why I like Season 6 of Buffy, despite every single argument against it. It’s why I like Britta Perry more than Leslie Knope: They’re both great. But if I had to choose, I’d choose Britta, simply because she’s the one that would legitimately drive you up the wall, the one whose flaws aren’t just cutely awkward, but socially catastrophic. The one who isn’t just quirky, but actually sort of ugly. On some level, I just love Betty Draper Francis, Bitchmonster at Large because of sheer, silly personal taste.

But there’s a difference between an unsympathetic female character, and a woman-shaped narrative punching bag. And, at this point, as more than one person has pointed out, Betty is beginning to cross that line.

The weight gain itself isn’t the issue. Making Betty “lose her looks,” depriving her of the one tool she’s reliably used to navigate the culture and attain some illusory security within it, could pay off narratively. (This is not to say that gaining weight makes you objectively “less desirable,” but in 1966, I doubt that many people would be willing to have that conversation. They aren’t especially willing to have it in 2012.) It’s the spite with which her weight was presented: Cutting from a shot of Betty struggling to zip her dress to a shot of Don easily running a zipper along his new wife’s lithe French-Canadian frame. Or revealing, at the end of the episode, that Betty isn’t REALLY sick — she just can’t help stealing her daughter’s ice cream sundaes! I mean, come on. There’s a way to present a character’s weight gain in a way that makes me think you are not mocking the very concept of a woman gaining weight. Having her STEAL A LITTLE GIRL’S ICE CREAM, SO THAT SHE CAN HAVE MORE ICE CREAM, BECAUSE SHE IS FAT NOW, BECAUSE SHE EATS ALL OF THE ICE CREAM, is not that way.

It’s not that Betty is unsympathetic. It’s that, at least in this week’s episode, the show isn’t trying to make the ugliness of her personality interesting as anything other than a punchline. “Unsympathetic” does not have to mean — shouldn’t mean — “unworthy of your time.” Sympathy and empathy are not the same thing. The great thing about ugly characters is that they push you to broaden the limits of your identification.

For evidence, I present: Don Draper. He’s a fraud and a philanderer. Last season, he was also a drunk. He habitually gaslighted his first wife, and he’s already starting to treat his second wife badly — going sullen and cold and insulting because she threw him a party, of all things. As a father, he’s distant, unreliable, and mostly absent. He is, as one wise and freshly-banged secretary pointed out, “not a good person.” But the show can hold a space for this complexity — make him compellingly wounded, and brilliant, and charismatic, and human, and even capable of deep and genuine love — rather than flattening him into some caricature of a shitheel. This show has a protagonist who spent its first three seasons psychologically destroying his wife, and we still love him. That used to be the sort of uncomfortable proposition the show excelled at making.

Except that now, we’re seemingly supposed to hate his ex-wife so thoroughly that we don’t even need to see her as human. Which makes Don far less interesting. If you flatten Betty into a pure villain, and make her an object of unmitigated contempt, then Don becomes just some guy who screwed up while dealing with an impossibly awful woman. Really, the show is saying, if you think about it, wasn’t she asking for it? What would you do, in his place?

Which brings me to Vera. If there’s one thing I hated about Downton Abbey, it was Vera. It wasn’t because I disliked Vera’s personality. It was because Vera didn’t actually have a personality; for the most part, she was just some vague woman-shaped ball of malice, with no inner life or personal history that did not revolve around destroying her ex-husband.

This wasn’t just boring. It made her ex-husband, Bates, boring. Bates could have been a great character. He was an an ex-alcoholic who’d done jail time and had a weird habit of disappearing for weeks at a time over minor bullshit related to His Honor. (Bates, let us acknowledge right now, is basically a Klingon.) He was also a stand-up guy who had to deal with discrimination in the workplace. That could have been a fantastic take on redemption. But the show couldn’t follow through; it couldn’t make Bates a fuck-up and a hero. Instead, it insisted that Bates was a saint, and that all of his problems were related to his ex-wife being pure evil.

Every time Vera came on-screen, I wanted to punch a Downton Abbey writer. Like, yes, yes, this is how ex-wives of ex-drunks totally are, dudes! They’re harpies bent on revenge who will never let their men be happy, ever ever ever, and they hound their men and torment them and just want all their money, and also want to steal their exes’ genitals and keep them in a box somewhere, and those men are TRYING to get Saved By The Love Of A Good Woman but those bitches WON’T LET THEM, and sometimes they try to get their ex-husbands to hit them so that they can, like, pretend to have been abused and shit, and do you know why their ex-husbands had to go to jail in the first place? THOSE BITCHES, they did it, EVERYTHING IS ALL THEIR FAULT. And also if those women kill themselves it’s out of revenge. Because that’s plausible. Don’t be sad! They totally just did it to frame their exes for murder! That is a thing, that happens, that human beings could or would conceivably have any fucking reason to do!

Ugh. I mean: You may like the Vera story. It was campy and soapy and all of the fun things that I normally like about Downton Abbey. But it wasn’t just that Vera hated Bates. It was that she explicitly hated him for no goddamned reason whatsoever. Nothing about her behavior made any sense, if Bates had always been a nice guy. She might as well have killed herself to take revenge on her wallpaper. And despite my love of a well-executed female villain, I just couldn’t stop thinking about how great the show might have become if Vera had showed up, and had actually been totally nice. If Bates — lovable, stand-up dude Bates — had actually treated her badly, and was re-inventing his life, but had this one woman hanging around asking him to be accountable to who he once was. Some part of his past that couldn’t be erased. How would that have problematized the currently boring-as-hell relationship between Bates and Anna? (“My wife’s a bitch.” “I know!” “I’m going to destroy myself, For Honor.” “Please don’t!” — Every Conversation Between Bates And Anna, Ever.) How would that have made his bizarre Klingon Honor routine more understandable? What if Bates was obsessive about personal morality precisely because he was actually capable of being a terrible person? That’s an idea that Downton Abbey flirted with, once, and it was a good one. But then it decided to make Vera a bitchmonster from Planet Blackmail, and all of that went away. Bates was actually a stand-up dude all along. He just had a terrible wife, and is Klingon. Problem solved.

These stories don’t exist in a void. They actually mimic — and reinforce — the stories we tell ourselves about male accountability in the real world. Men have more of an assumed right to recover from and forget their mistakes; this is true for things like abuse and unintended pregnancy, obviously, but it’s also true for the basic, petty moral failings of day-to-day life. The result is these tales of men who just so happen to have married women who have subsequently sworn eternal vows of rat-poison-swallowing revenge, for no apparent reason whatsoever. And the result is also angry women who can’t express or deal with their anger appropriately, because they feel guilty about having it in the first place.

Yes, Betty is an asshole. And I like that about her character. But the truth we keep avoiding, about assholes — male and female — is that they usually don’t get to be that way because they’re happy and fulfilled and have always been treated well. Usually, assholes have their reasons for believing that they won’t benefit from acting nicely. Unhappiness and unfairness don’t make people more noble. Typically, they just make them angry. And angry people tend to be jerks.

Which is the other reason I love unsympathetic female characters. I don’t endorse being a shitty person, obviously. But there have been plenty of times, in my life, when I found myself to be unsympathetic — angry, or bitter, or self-pitying, or just worn raw. And I suspect this is the case for many women; we get caught between pain, and guilt for feeling that pain, until we become unable to take care of ourselves, or accept ourselves. One thing that I think women need, even more than they need strong role models, is realistic representations of female unhappiness. Pictures that include ugliness, and don’t shy away from it. That keeps us from isolating ourselves, shaming ourselves; it keeps us from becoming Betties, choking our anger so far down that we can’t even name it, and find it leaking out all over, or fermenting into pure poison. Sympathy isn’t empathy. But a good female villain can, ultimately, make you feel both. Both for her and, maybe, for your own worst self.

Or, you know, you could just put her in a fat suit and have her prance around stealing people’s ice cream. That works, too.

22 Comments

  1. destro wrote:

    Uh. Just because the tumor was benign doesn’t mean she wasn’t sick. It was still causing her to gain weight, it just wasn’t one that was going to metastasize to other parts of her body.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink
  2. Sady wrote:

    @Destro: Well, I am no cancer doctor. I am merely a person who complains about things, on the Internet! They don’t make us get medical degrees, as far as I know.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink
  3. Kate wrote:

    God I agree about Vera. Well said. Not sure I agree as much about Betty — for one thing, that scene is complicated. She doesn’t steal the ice cream; Sally takes a long look at her mother, says she doesn’t want any more, and excuses herself. a) Hello Sally’s coming eating disorder, 2) hello payback for when Betty used to harass Sally about her weight. Betty is sad when she eats that ice cream, and I felt sad for her. I think of all the women on this show she is most ripe for having a life changed by feminism.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink
  4. JfC wrote:

    http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments//the-orange-couch-episode-3-of-mad-men-tea-leaves#292693 What do you think of Amanda Marcotte’s take of the ice cream as symbol? I think the writers may have had high-minded intentions with it, but that it came off as LOL fatty.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
  5. JfC wrote:

    “Except that now, we’re seemingly supposed to hate his ex-wife so thoroughly that we don’t even need to see her as human. Which makes Don far less interesting. If you flatten Betty into a pure villain, and make her an object of unmitigated contempt, then Don becomes just some guy who screwed up while dealing with an impossibly awful woman. Really, the show is saying, if you think about it, wasn’t she asking for it? What would you do, in his place?” I think this process started in season 4. At the end of season 3, Don just looks like an unmitigated jackass at the end of that marriage, so Weiner had to make him look better. He chose to do this by making Betty a child-hating monster. I haven’t seen enough of the Megan/Don marriage to make an informed decision about the quality of Don’s husband-ship in that marriage. I do think he acted ass-y about the party, but at the same time I’m wary of people springing unasked-for gifts and putting you on the spot. When the gift-giver asks like you now owe them something, I think that is somewhat abusive. It reminds me of public proposals. A lot of pressure for you to say “yes,” virtually no opportunity to decline.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Permalink
  6. orlando wrote:

    In the final episode of the previous season my thought was exactly your point about the hand of the writer being too obvious. It wasn’t firing Carla, that felt real. It was only paying her to the end of the week and refusing her a reference: that felt like a bunch of guys sitting around a table coming up with ideas to make Betty as awful as they could. My second thought was “I hope they switch strategies next season, or this is going to reach boring fast.” So here we are at boring fast.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink
  7. “One thing that I think women need, even more than they need strong role models, is realistic representations of female unhappiness.”

    THANK YOU. The focus on “strong female role models” in Hollywood and feminist-ish circles is so. irritating. Here is a rant, get ready: when my mom was young, women in the public eye had to behave themselves, be somewhat modest, avoid being reckless or publicly nasty. And nowadays women are supposed to be “role models” whenever they emerge as any sort of celebrity, and shame on them if they stray from that path! Think of the children!! People are constantly asking, “Is so & so a good role model for girls? Is such & such good for women?” As if girls and women are especially vulnerable to influence. It’s the same old crap in the name of “feminism.” You don’t hear people chastising every famous male who acts like a stupid teenager during puberty or mildly trips while carrying a baby or plays an asshole or violent person in a film or makes music hinting at sex or cursewords. (example: Rihanna’s “Man Down” video controversy versus the overwhelming tide of videos made by men featuring violence and murder causing nary a peep). Are they being good role models for boys?? Think of the children!!!

    And the watered-down effect of advocacy for strong female characters, while itself admirable and much-needed, has led to an endless parade of irritatingly sassy and absurdly violent female characters who proclaim insipid one-liners about corsets and independence right before they deliver a sexy ass-kicking (I’m looking at you, WhatsHerFace from Pirates of the Caribbean). And how are those ass-kicking characters who have superhuman powers, role models? How can girls aspire to something that is *physically impossible within the bounds of our reality?* It’s like the writers thought “awesome female character? Impossible, we’ll have to resort to magic.” There’s nothing ickier than a glimpse of what misogynists *think* feminists want.

    The thing is, if female characters existed in abundance (like male characters) and as fully-formed characters rather than cliche’s or sex objects (like most male characters), in all their glorious variety, then it would naturally follow that a portion of those female characters would be awesome role models. If there were 10,000 portrayals of actual female characters rather than 10, not only would many of them be role models, but there would be lots of different kinds of role models for different kinds of girls. There would be way less pressure on women to always get it perfect, to represent womanhood in a perfectly “Progressive” way, because it wouldn’t be our only shot at an accurate portrayal or representation. SHEESH.

    I’m cutting my rant short (believe it or not!) to say Sady, awesome criticism. Especially where you pointed out the narratives don’t happen in a void.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink
  8. JfC wrote:

    I hate comments that begin with “uh” or “um” (might as well go the whole hog and start the post with “d-uh-uh”). But yes, benign nodules on the thyroid can cause hypothyroidism and thus weight gain. I was confused too, though, and asked my medical friends about it, because the show definitely implied (intentionally or unintentionally) that Betty gained weight by emotional eating alone. At first I thought it was medical cluelessness, but I realized upon a second viewing that Betty saying she was “just fat” could mean that the nodule was only causing hypothyroidism, not cancer. The line in context definitely made it sound like she meant that the nodule wasn’t causing any weight changes, and she was “just fat” because of diet. But yeah, the show didn’t make the medical realities very clear for lay viewers.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  9. emkfeminist wrote:

    I think I like Tiger Beatdown so much because the posts here always make me think. Sady, thanks for perfectly articulating my thoughts on Betty Draper Francis. I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said; Betty is much more interesting as an asshole, especially when we get to see some of the reasons behind her behaviour. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but it seemed to me that Betty was much nicer in this week’s episode than we’ve ever seen her be before. Just a coincidence that they made her fat and nice(r) at the same time? I wonder if the idea of a fat woman who is still a completely mean person and bad mother is just too much for audiences to handle.

    My only issue with this article is the assertion that “we still love [Don Draper]” even though he’s such a terrible person. I am compelled to keep watching the show because I enjoy the ensemble cast and the interesting story lines, but I actually really REALLY don’t like Don and I kind of want him to get what’s coming to him. It also really ticks me off that most people seem to be way more forgiving of his bad behaviour than Betty’s.

    Anyhow, thanks for the great post.

    P.S. You also mentioned loving season 6 of Buffy despite what other people think of it. Have you written about this before? (I haven’t read every post as I’m somewhat new here). As a HUGE Buffy fan, I’d love to read your thoughts on that.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Permalink
  10. Sean wrote:

    All I know is Betty eating that ice cream is possibly the happiest she’s ever looked on the show.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Permalink
  11. Kate wrote:

    Alice Morgan from Luther comes to mind as an unsympathetic but still fascinating female character. She’s a psychopath, a serial killer, entirely lacking in empathy or, like, your average human emotions but she remains SO GREAT.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Permalink
  12. ash966 wrote:

    I like fat Betty! Maybe it’s just a hunger for representation, but she could be fat and still be an asshole. There is plenty of possible conflict with her and Sally there.

    In real life, people sometimes get fat and stay that way, but this rarely happens on TV. It always means a temporary bad spot for the character, like Lee on Battlestar Galactica and Daphne on Frasier. If the actor gains weight, it’s usually ignored, though they did have a good Designing Women episode where Suzanne was afraid to go to a high school reunion but finally said, screw it, everyone’s changed since then.

    I’m guessing they will make her a diet pill addict instead, so we won’t see a fat female major character. Some media have called Joan fat, but in the show I don’t think anyone has. Maybe 60s models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton starting to be popular will make her feel that way, though.

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 3:52 am | Permalink
  13. Baeraad wrote:

    The whole Vera thing is why I don’t usually like or watch shows like Downton Abbey. They aim to surprise the viewers and make them uncomfortable. That sounds like a good thing, but the problem is this: you can make viewers uncomfortable by showing them an ugly truth, sure, but you can just as easily make them uncomfortable by showing them an ugly lie – and there are only so many ugly truths for you to turn into plotlines, whereas ugly lies are an infinite font of cheap shock value.

    Anyway, I agree with your post pretty much completely. I’ve been thinking about it myself lately, actually – not about flawed female characters per se, but about how I’d like to see more female characters who get to stomp around, take up space, and be the center of attention. In particular, I think that there are too few female versions of the Insufferable Genius type – you know, characters that are dysfunctional of personality and dubious of morals, but who everyone has to put up with because they’re so obnoxiously brilliant at what they do. I can’t actually remember any of those offhand, and that’s really a shame – the fantasy of being able to really live out your personal defects while still being a highly valuable member of the team is just such a satisfying one, and no one should be deprived of it. ;)

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink
  14. ash966 wrote:

    There have been some jerkass/antihero/sympathetic villain women in ensemble shows: Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica (gotta love a woman who won’t divorce her husband for her lover because extra-marital sex is hotter), Atia & Servilia in Rome, Clarice in Caprica (love that Polly Wolker), Cersei in Game of Thrones (Robert WAS an awful husband), Anna in V (hey, bliss does make everyone happy), Ros in Spooks/MI-5, Adelle in Dollhouse. Even TV Sarah Connor was kind of a bitch (Lena Headey does “bitch” very well).

    @Baeraad: It’s true, one thing we haven’t seen is a jerkass female protagonist the whole show revolves around, like House or Cal Lightman in Lie to Me. Also, no villain protagonist/extreme anti-hero like Walter White in Breaking Bad or Tony Soprano. Tanya in Hung is almost a co-protagonist, but she is sometimes made too pathetic.

    I haven’t seen Nurse Jackie or Enlightened, and only one episode of the Big C, which I just couldn’t get into. Do those characters go into asshole territory?

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink
  15. Kate wrote:

    When did Betty steal a little girl’s ice cream? In the scene I watched, Sally said she doesn’t want to finish hers, then got up and left the room. I’m kind of at a loss for how anyone could interpret that scene as “STEAL A LITTLE GIRL’S ICE CREAM, SO THAT SHE CAN HAVE MORE ICE CREAM, BECAUSE SHE IS FAT NOW, BECAUSE SHE EATS ALL OF THE ICE CREAM.”

    I like everything you have to say about the importance of unsympathetic female characters, but I just don’t understand this particular criticism. Or at least not the repeated use of the word “steal” to describe eating ice cream that Sally didn’t want and wasn’t going to eat.

    Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 4:09 am | Permalink
  16. Valerie Chapman-Stockwell wrote:

    As for unsympathetic heroines, what about Scarlett O’Hara? Scheming, conniving, husband-stealing, emasculating, avaricious, etc. — definitely not conforming to the feminine ideal of her (or our) times–yet, by god, we still root for her.

    Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink
  17. Surgoshan wrote:

    I didn’t see it as Betty stealing Sally’s ice cream; I saw it as a Depression era ethic of not wasting and also doing what a lot of parents do; finishing their children’s leftovers, particularly if they’re tasty snacks, and second as Betty snagging herself some comfort food. She’s engaged in a lot of unhealthy behavior, and overeating, a few years after her marriage to Henry didn’t result in heavenly marital happy ending times, isn’t out of character.

    And I always saw Vera as mean, but not unrealistic. The prospects for a divorced woman, even one with a small amount of money, would have been rather shitty in the early part of the twentieth century. Bringing Bates home and forcing him to share a home and income, if not a bed and wedded bliss, was probably her only real option. I doubt she had a pension coming.

    Sunday, April 8, 2012 at 1:26 am | Permalink
  18. aurelie wrote:

    I really have to disagree with this. I always have felt that sympathy for Betty, I think the show is able to showcase very well the reasons behind her behaviour, in much the same way as Don is treated. I actually think it’s the misogyny in the audience’s reception of her that turns her into a flat villain – people are more willing to overlook the nuances of her character and mark her down as simply a shrill harpy. I thought the way the camera treated her, lingering on those uncomfortable moments, helped to show Betty’s discomfort with her weight (understandable given her history, upbringing, the world she inhabits etc.) and her situation. I didn’t laugh at Betty in the bath or trying to put on her dress, I empathised with what she must be going through in those moments. I thought her journey through this episode was incredibly interesting. Yes, the final shot shows her finishing her daughter’s unwanted ice cream (I truly would not call that ‘stealing’) – obviously the impression we’re supposed to get is that Betty’s weight gain is caused by her overeating. How is this problematic? Betty is fat because she eats too much, but she eats too much because of the situation she is, because of how she feels, because of her mental state. I thought the episode made this pretty clear, I’m finding it hard to see how anyone could watch it and think it was supposed to be a bunch of fat jokes at her expense.

    Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 1:48 am | Permalink
  19. Fede wrote:

    Although I have never watched that particular show, this was still riveting reading. All of it, but not least this:

    it couldn’t make Bates a fuck-up and a hero. Instead, it insisted that Bates was a saint, and that all of his problems were related to his ex-wife being pure evil.

    rings true for so, so many shows.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink
  20. tinfoil hattie wrote:

    Betty is fat because she eats too much

    No, she is fat because she has a nodule on her thyroid. Which is why I didn’t understand the “Look at Fatty polishing off two sundaes, the fat pig, amirite? Her DAUGHTER isn’t piggy enough to eat even ONE whole sundae!” twist.

    Why have the whole thyroid storyline if the writers were going to just make her a fat piggy?

    January Jones, of course, is/was pregnant, and this was the “bold” way (as one TV critic put it) the writers dealt with it.

    Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink
  21. Micaela wrote:

    I agree with a lot of the post but I too have to take issue with the stealing of the ice cream bit. It’s a common joke among parents that the quickest way to mindlessly put on pounds is to regularly finish your kid’s food… after a while it adds up. I am also diagnosed as hypothyroid, what Betty was diagnosed with: it’s difficult to treat even in 2012 and contributes to depression, fatigue, and weight gain. Some days I get so swollen I look like I’ve gained 10lbs overnight. I don’t think Betty was being nice-r because she was fat, I think it was because she was scared she was going to die. And I wonder if we weren’t set up (someone else posted this online, Ezra Klein maybe?) to think she dodged the cancer bullet only to find out later in the season that she’s hiding a cancer diagnosis from everyone. (go back & rewatch the conversation when Betty is asking her friend what it’s like to have cancer at lunch) I do agree with the commenter who said we may be seeing Sally struggle with an eating disorder later as a reaction to Betty and also a teenager’s way to manipulate for attention, and that would be really interesting too.

    Sometimes I get frustrated because Betty gets so much attention from other feminists and Joan & Peggy don’t. I really like what they’re doing with Joan (who is definitely an asshole too, BTW) this season. And I’m hoping they give Peggy even more of a fully-fleshed life. I’m also rooting for Megan, she may have taken a shortcut out of the secretarial pool but she too deserves that we root for her. When she asked Peggy in the first episode if she was allowed to go home, didn’t your heart break just a little? She doesn’t even know what her rights are as an employee because so much of her position in her workplace is tied to her husband’s!

    Season 2 of Downton Abbey was very poorly written, and the Vera storyline was very Silas Marner to me, so I just chose to shrug it off. I really wanted Anna to come to the US and discover a life outside of Downton & Bates, but I was sorely disappointed.

    As to Baeraad’s question, there’s Tempe Brennan in Bones, Mary Shannon in In Plain Sight, Nancy Botwin in Weeds, Jackie in Nurse Jackie (which I had to stop watching because I wanted to punch her so badly), Olivia Pope in Scandal, and Kate Reed in Fairly Legal. This last show has also taken the evil stepmother thing in a great direction which I’m really hoping they won’t ruin. (the show is pure fluff, and I spend more time admiring Kate’s clothes than I do caring about the cases, to be clear that this is not riveting drama by any means) Oh! And speaking of evil stepmothers, what about the women of Once Upon a Time? Now we just need more of these complicated women to be WOC.

    Finally, y’all do know that the reason they presented Betty as fat was because January Jones was visibly pregnant in real life so they *had to* deal with the actress’ size difference somehow during shooting? Which is also why they made Daphne on Frasier fat for a season?

    Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 12:15 am | Permalink
  22. Finisterre wrote:

    Amazing post, Sady – so much rang true for me. You do write fantastically.

    @Ash966 – Nurse Jackie is a total asshole at times, with absolutely no redeeming features. I love it for all the reasons Sady listed.

    The only thing I’d disagree with is about Leslie Knope. Man, I love that programme and that woman, for showing that comedy doesn’t have to be cruel to be funny as fuck.

    Monday, April 30, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink