Bye, Bye, Birdie: “Mad Men” Bids Farewell To Betty Draper Francis (Spoiler Alert!)
“Mad Men” is striding with quiet confidence towards its finale, and last night, Matthew Weiner slammed the door shut on one of the show’s equally hated and adored characters: poor Betty Draper , who no one would ever call “Mother of The Year,” was given her death sentence by way of a serious lung cancer diagnosis. It’s an end that could’ve easily befallen any of the inhabitants of this world — they smoke like chimneys, as was customary for the time — but instead, Weiner sacrificed Betty. And on Mother’s Day! Even though she’s proved herself time and time again to be not the best at the job she’s unwittingly taken on, cruelly extinguishing her in one cancer diagnosis feels like short shrift.
Betty has not been the best mother, something that she seems to be punished for time and time again. She came up in an era where being a stay-at-home wife and mother was the best you could hope for, and pretty blonde girls like Betty didn’t get to have ambition. No one did. Her transformation over the last seven seasons has been subtle, but it’s been inspiring to watch. On last night’s penultimate episode, we saw Betty. finally going back to college, wade through the masses of shaggy-haired young men who smile and call her Mrs. Robinson when they bring her to the infirmary. Betty was getting her life together, wresting control from the men around which she has orbited, finally breaking free. But, before her story could have an ending of her choosing, it was truncated by nature.
The episode itself was gut wrenching in so many ways. Sally’s reversion to childlike denial, clapping her hands over her ears as an emotionally-wreaked Henry broke his vow to Betty by breaking the news to Sally. The simple, tidy letter Betty gave to her daughter, full of calm instructions on the practicalities of death, written on her icy-blue letterhead. And of course, while Sally’s world was rapidly changing before her eyes, her father was reverting back to his pre-Madison Avenue, pre-ad man self, a thousand miles away. While Pete and Don were up to their usual antics of avoidance and slimy reinvention, the star of this second-to-last episode was Betty, through and through.
In celebration of Betty, that ice-queen, that helmet-haired blonde beauty, here is Betty at her Betty-est.
Befriending Glenn, the neighbor boy, in a search for the love and affection she wasn’t getting at home. Their relationship was creepy on some level, but it was also an example of Betty’s constant desire/need to reaffirm her attractiveness, in a world where she has been relegated to the often thankless labor of motherhood.
Here she is, trying her hand at being the mother she knows she’s supposed to be. Women are supposed to be polite, respectful and not shady as hell. Her children were blessed to have her.
The cigarettes would kill her, we all know this now, but had they not, I’m convinced that this is the kind of old woman Betty would’ve become.
What woman wouldn’t turn to household appliances when her husband was spending his free time sticking it everywhere he possibly could — except for in her.
What I liked about Betty was how she showed the ugly side of motherhood, saying the things that many mothers probably wish they could say out loud, but never, ever would. She reminds me of my own mother, in this way, and that’s a good thing.
Goodbye, Betty. We’ll never forget you!