The role of a woman was vastly different in the 1960’s than of today. Most women were expected to pursue lives as housewives instead of starting a career. The boredom and isolation of being at home affected women greatly which is represented with Betty Draper in Mad Men. The final episode, “The Wheel,” features a scene where Betty finds Helen’s son, Glenn in the parking lot. As one of the lowest points for Betty in the season, the music is slow and eerie as Betty pulls up and approaches Glenn who is alone in a car. She seeks comfort and ends up crying while talking to the child. This scene demonstrates just how alone and unhappy Betty is with her life when she goes as far as to look for any sympathy and comfort in the innocence of a child.
At this point Betty has little strength left; she constantly keeps up a cheerful appearance but is hurting inside because she realizes she has no one she can talk to. Glenn seems like a suitable companion not only because he once appreciated her beauty in a way Don doesn’t, but also because he’s a child and had not yet been corrupted. Throughout the season we witness Betty’s constant attempts to catch Don’s attention in any way. She is constantly keeping up the ideal image she believes Don would want for his wife whether it be how she keeps company and her demeanor or with her personal appearance. When Betty goes to watch Glenn and he admires her beauty, Betty not only tolerates it but is maybe even a bit flattered because she is getting the attention she never gets. It is common for many housewives, who had little to take pride in other than their appearance, to feel accomplished and justified when they felt they were desired by men. In this case, it slightly more disturbing as the admirer is not a man but a child, further putting Betty’s judgment into question.
As the scene continues, the unusual pair continues to talk and the discomfort from the peculiar conversation is felt and emphasized with a shot and reverse shot pattern. It focuses on the expression of uneasiness on Glenn’s face and the desperation of Betty’s. When Glenn refers to his youth Betty does not care because she doesn’t believe in the wisdom of adults saying, “Adults don’t know anything." Betty is drawing on the innocence of children. Her childhood, having not been tainted like Don's, is a memory of simpler times before the temptation of greed and cruelty reached most. Remembering this, Betty wants one just person, even if he is nine-years-old, to tell her everything will be okay.
At the end of the scene, Betty leaves immediately reverting back to her act of politeness having been somewhat rejected by the one person she tried to open up to when Glenn hints that his mother may be coming back. The quick shift from vulnerability to politeness seems drastic, yet it is only because for once the feelings Betty has are noticeably hidden. Once again Betty is left disappointed and lost, yet this facade is one she puts on on a daily basis. From the way she reverted back to it when leaving, one can see it is one that she will continue to portray. Betty is the portrait of the lonely and uninspired housewife revealing the frustrations many of the women like her felt in the days of Mad Men. Like Betty, it’s unfortunate that most of these women simply wiped their tears and continued on further intensifying their discontent.