A pearl forming in an oyster

April 13, 2010

The Season 3 finale of Mad Men had me riveted to the screen. Jon Hamm ought to get an Emmy for the last two shows of that season. His acting was incredible.

M. says that the ending smacked too much of Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney and “Hey kids! Let’s start our own agency!”

But for me, the Betty Draper storyline was the thing.

Betty is gorgeous. And in a very 1960s way, she’s a showpiece for Don. It’s not like they relate in any deeper way. He wears her like a fine suit and that’s not unusual for that era.

Don’s philandering is a key part of his storyline. In the finale, Betty decides she no longer loves Don and starts divorce proceedings.

However. And here’s the rub:

She’s already lined up her next husband. A handsome, older man who’s an aide to the Governor. They’ve seen each other a handful of times, exchanged a few kisses and she threw a completely inappropriate hissy fit (and a box) at him in his office. On that basis, he proposed. (It’s TV.)

If he had half a brain, he’d realize what a spoiled, Mainline brat she is, just from their interactions. But he’s already proposed and is very involved in her divorce action. He’s fallen for her beauty.

I’m thinkin’ that next season, we’re going to see that Betty hasn’t improved herself any with this new relationship. She was housewife, mom and arm candy for Don. It’ll just be more of the same with the new guy, only maybe he won’t cheat. And she’ll probably do more pushing back.

Betty did something that men usually do. She lined up her next husband before getting rid of the first. Today, women usually leave for their own reasons. It’s men who are most apt to get ensconced in their next gig before leaving.

But Betty’s got her second husband in the queue, awaiting the divorce.

Mad Men
takes place on the cusp of the great social upheaval of the mid-1960s. Just before women’s liberation takes root.

So, I’m interested to see where the brilliant writers of this show take Betty’s story next season. What social history it might remind us of. And in the comparison, we might see how far we’ve come.

I can’t help but think of how a pearl forms in an oyster. It’s an irritant. But something beautiful comes out of it.

I’m not sure we’ve reached the pearl stage yet in the arena of social change. Still looking for that ripple of hope to spring eternal.

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