After re-watching Mad Men’s first season (and almost all of the other seasons), I have come to a conclusion: I have a severe disdain for Betty Draper. From her cold, distant gaze to her ridiculously childish personality, Betty is by far one of my most hated characters on the show, which actually says a lot because I think that Glenn Bishop is the strangest, creepiest character ever. Ken Levine’s blog, “… by Ken Levine,” gave her a perfect name - “the Wicked Witch of Westchester County” - and I cannot agree more.

I started out the series feeling bad for Betty, sympathizing with her because of Don’s womanizing habits. I felt terrible that she would be waiting for him to come home at night, alone with the children not knowing that Don wasn’t actually at the office but off in some Manhattan apartment doing inappropriate things with inappropriate people. My heart would hurt as I watched her sit around her kitchen, lighting a cigarette all made up in a fantastic dress with nowhere to go. But as the series progressed, my sympathy for her declined, and quickly. The audience began to see how she treated her children (“Go bang your head against the wall” from season three’s “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”), how she allowed herself to be treated by Don, and her clueless actions (giving Glenn Bishop a lock of her hair). While it could be argued (and rightfully so) that Betty is this way because her mother was mean and judgmental towards her, Don cheated on her all of the time, and she was so depressed with her life, my problem with Betty is that it takes her so long to actually do something about her situation. Up until season three, Betty rarely stood up for herself, like she had no backbone. And by the time Betty actually did leave Don (after she took him back), my opinion of her was already formed and solidified. Also, when she left Don, she didn’t change. I was hoping for some sort of transformation from stone cold housewife to happy, loving, strong mother and woman that would have perhaps allowed myself to hate her a little less. Unfortunately, that moment never really came. As of the conclusion of season four, she is still and terrible mother and seems unsatisfied with her life. She still relies on her husband for everything, especially reassurance that she has a purpose in the world. Forbidding the creepy Glenn Bishop to see Sally just reinforced her childish nature and she rarely leaves her house, still. Hopefully season five will bring a new Betty Francis, but I am not getting my hopes up.


  1. I have to say, I share your distaste for Betty. As you said, I began the series with an enormous amount of sympathy for her situation. She remained a weaker character for some time, but the social pressures of the time seemed like a worthy explanation behind her behavior. My biggest problem with her character, besides her horrible parenting skills, is that she seemed to become a static character in Season 4. Perhaps this is the fault of the writers who simply failed to take Betty in a more interesting direction, but I felt like her character arc almost came to a halt last season. She'd been progressing, albeit at a snails pace, to a stronger character. But to my chagrin she spent Season 4 acting like a petty, spoiled child much of the time. Her lines for the duration of th season seemed to amount to being angry at Don, or angry at Sally. I felt that Betty's fleeing to the bathroom after seeing Don at dinner was possibly the lowest point for her character. Maybe this is all by design, and she is meant to be emotionally stunted by her relationship with Don. Either way, I too was disappointed at her lack of growth or likability.

  2. Is it possible that Betty was enduring an emotional meltdown over the end of her first marriage and the knowledge that Don had lied to her for the entire ten years of their marriage?

    And why do people insist that fictional mothers be perfect? I find this assumption very annoying. Sally wasn't exactly the perfect daughter. I think that too many people had ignored that.

  3. Though I agree that Betty's actions and decisions on the whole are selfish and childish, she isn't entirely to blame. Yes, she may be acting out in response to a negative childhood or because of her mental condition, but Don also keeps his bride in a stagnant state of permanent youth. He treats Betty like a child, so much so that I believe Betty begins to feel as though she is a child. It traps her in her relationship with Don by creating a feeling of dependence on him, but as Betty begins to feel betrayed by Don, I think it forces her further and further away from growing out of her childish ways. She begins to see that she can't trust her husband, her doctor, her neighbor, or anyone in her life, adding to her paranoia and depression.

    Should she seek help? Of course she should. But from who? Her husband talks behind her back with her doctor and vice versa, her close friend and neighbor is going through marital issues, her father's health is deteriorating, and her mother is gone. The only one left to help Betty is Betty. But society refuses to accept that she may need help, leaving her to feel as though she shouldn't have to get it in the first place, that she should be ashamed. The world is conspiring against Betty, but she's holding up as best she can.