In Danny Miller’s article “In Defense of Betty Draper,” he describes how hearing harsh criticism of Betty makes him defensive due to her parallels with his mother. He, and like many other viewers of Mad Men, see the Draper family’s struggles and hardships as memories from their childhood in the 1960s. Like Miller, my own mother and grandmother identify with the characters on the show: my mother with Sally and grandmother with Betty. In Betty, my grandma sees herself waiting up for her (now ex) husband to come home to Short Hills from his job at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. Like Don and many other men of the time, my grandfather was unfaithful, and eventually my grandmother left him. My mom sees herself in Sally when she excitedly receives the horseback-riding boots from Betty as a present to distract her from her missing father in the season two episode “The Mountain King.” In Don’s confident work attitude they see my grandpa and his friends. They see the show and feel like they are watching home movies; everyone had a girl like Carla, all the housewives smoke, drank and gossiped, and many the men “worked” late.
The fact that so many people can relate this well to the show illustrates just how good of a job the writers are doing at depicting the time period. One episode that proves this point is season three’s “The Grown-Ups”. This episode depicts the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath. It shows the shock and sadness that swept through the country as Walter Cronkite reported the incident moments after it occurred, and it shows the devastation of the American people when Kennedy was officially pronounced dead.
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One of the things that stands out most in my mother's mind is how Sally and Bobby were glued to the television, just as she and her younger sister Jane were at the time. The wedding of Margaret, Roger’s daughter, trying to continue on the day after the assassination despite more than half the guests missing depicts just how difficult a time it was for the nation. Even those in attendance at the wedding would slip away to catch the news updates. Not only were many guests not in attendance, but waiters also did not show up and guests had to help themselves to the food. The next morning when Lee Harvey Oswald is shot on live television we see the shock and outrage of the American people through the reactions of Betty and Pete. The episode continues to follow the characters through Monday November 25th, the day of JFK’s funeral. Peggy and Don are the only ones to come into the office: Peggy because she cannot bear the sadness from being around her roommate and family and Don because he cannot stay at home and all the bars are closed. The whole country stood in mourning that Monday, everyone in their own way, and Mad Men is able to capture that feeling and share it with its viewers.
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