Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Footnotes of Mad Men: "They See In Her Disaster" or, Love Amongst the Cheaters

Monogamy can be such a grind, right? Cheating is tough too, though. There's that terrifying halo of guilt that radiates around you after the act. It serves as both repellent and aphrodisiac, causing one's partner to inch ever-closer to you after a tryst. Then there's a particular upswing from the adrenaline. What a fool you were to put such a thing at risk! After all that comes the slow-boiling and consuming resentment towards your partner, the one who has robbed you of spontaneity and anonymity. You know what helps? A sudden trip and/or a new hairdo.

§ Let us first turn to Betty's magnificent make over. Sophia Lauren? Anita Ekberg circa 1963? I think we can narrow the prototype down to Brigitte Bardot, actually, in her middle Euro sex kitten period. (That's long before the outspoken racist period.) In a 1961 profile of the then-26-year-old actress, Life magazine tried to pinpoint what made Bardot's on and off screen persona so appealing to both mass audiences and the European intelligentsia:

Roger Vadim, Brigitte's first husband, close friend and often director, thinks he knows. Vadim says, "Women are passing through a terrible crisis. Brigitte symbolizes their strivings for equality in conduct with men. That is why her real fans are not men, as some think but women."

Novelist Marguerite Duras, who wrote Hiroshima Mon Amour, says the opposite. "Bardot represents the unexpressed desires of males for infidelity," she argues. "Many women do not like Brigette. They never look her in the face. They look sideways, shrinking away. They see in her disaster."

Well. By golly, as Connie would exclaim.

§ Ah, Connie. Here is a little something from his 1957 autobiography, "Be My Guest," about the ethos of the Hilton brand in far-off lands. Hilton wrote that each of his international hotels was "a little America," a "laboratory" where foreign guests could "inspect America and its ways at their leisure." Seems like a certain American couple's idea of leisure is being away from America.

§ Did you catch the quick Ogilvy reference this week's episode? (I've taken to chanting Oggy Oggy Oy Oy when the Ogs is mentioned. Fun drinking game!) Don referenced his Hathaway shirt.

§ While we missed Peggy, we did get some Joanie-ah, did you like the Hermes logo looming in the background at Bonwit Teller (RIP), which now I've decided is just a Mad Men visual cue for regrettable sex. So Joanie mentions to Pete (ugh, that cad! He is the wormiest) that her hubby is thinking of going into psychiatry!

Psychiatry still had a dubious reputation in the mid-century, as it was considered only as a viable treatment for social deviants and criminals. Attitudes towards psychiatry started to thaw in the mid-60s. Thanks to a mental health speech given by President Kennedy in the summer of 1963, the profession was rapidly becoming more mainstream. Kennedy loosened up federal money so states could begin to deinstitutionalize state mental health programs and allow doctors to set up private practices in the community. Psychiatric hospitals were essentially warehouses for the crazy and senile at the time. For instance, this description from 1963:

Georgia's only mental hospital, saddled with the stigmatic name of State Hospital for the Insane at Milledgeville, was a monstrous snake pit. Behind the façade of an administration building that looks like the White House, it was crowded to its rotten, rat-infested rafters with 12,000 patients. At least 3,000 were senile oldsters who did not belong there-any more than the epileptics, dope addicts or alcoholics who jammed the hospital. Comparatively few patients ever got better, and those who did succeeded mainly on their own resources, for among Milledgeville's 50 doctors, many of dubious repute, were only three psychiatrists.

States like Georgia, Nebraska, and New Mexico with small populations and less wealth were set to gain the most from Kennedy's initiative. It was now the doctors who appeared on a wait list instead of the patients. Perhaps that's why Joan's rapey hubby suggested relocating to Alabama?

Captivity, it seems, is bad for everyone.

Natasha Vargas-Cooper always has more Mad Men Footnotes here.

61 Comments / Post A Comment

I found the peculiar situation of the amazing-looking Betty translating between what the Italian men, who wanted to take her home, were saying about her husband, pretending to be a stranger in a strange city, slyly sexy.

I know! It was so role-playing and sexy. I feel like, when Betty wants to be, she's quite sexually advanced, no? Maybe? I want to feel that.

That scene in Rome with the role-playing was the first time I ever understood what Don saw in Betty(outside of January Jones being jaw-droppingly hot). I feel like maybe she was this much cooler chick back in her model days before she started popping out little kids and lost her sense of self. Although the moment she got home, she become the ice princess we all love to see Don cheat on.

Patrick M (#404)

(buuuut except I sort of feel like every sentence she said in French was something that she would have picked up in French lessons in finishing school: e.g., "You are not a gentleman.".. I'll bet the original script had a "Where is the library" line that they cut because it oversold it..)

Fnarf999 (#1,831)

Italian, not French.

Patrick M (#404)

I was literally about to fall asleep and my brain said, "I think you said French instead of Italian back there," and I turned the computer back on to check. Thanks, brain/Fnarf999

fnarf (#1,695)

'sokay. Sometimes I turn brain off to save battery life.

propertius (#361)

"I never knew la Bardot looked so much like the young Louis XIV."*

*"Je n'avais jamais su que la Bardot ressembla tant au jeune Louis XIV".

propertius (#361)

I'm trying not to forget French. That's my effort for today.

Oooh! I take back all I said about automatic page reloading 'cause it makes mah Footnotes appear to me that much faster! Hooray!

propertius (#361)

Whoa that tie. Want want want.

propertius (#361)

Guys just don't dress like that anymore.

Oh and throw in the platinum-colored one too.

Look at how high the inseam is on the guy in the back. RISKY!

propertius (#361)

Yeah those are high rises. But on the plus side, your tie can overlap your belt and reach the top of your fly.

bb (#295)

well, guys do dress like that (ties and short sleeves) but they are not slick. That ad is confusing to me.. what is up with the eye patch???

MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

You're so right! BrigitteBardot:Contempt::Bets:MadMen (and we all know how that ended).

Have you seen the greatest trailer ever? From 1963, nonetheless!


MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

Omg — that was sooo amazing. I can't hear that music without crying a lil (even tho the last time I heard it I think it was for a perfume commercial, ugh). Hardly a day passes when I don't dream of living in that house in Capri. BEST MOVIE EVER.

My uncle was housed in a mental institution in Washington State in the late 60s/early 70s. Due to the poor conditions of that place, the family moved him to a better facility in New Jersey (which was staffed with many newly trained psychiatrists who could work in proximity to NY).
Also, my grandmother continued to dress in Betty's Italian costume well into her 90s.

sigerson (#179)

Was this the first time that we've seen Don and Betty make love? Wasn't sure.

Of course the only time Don notices his absolutely beautiful wife is when she tarts herself up and trolls in front of some Italian studs, provoking Don's territorial nature. Yuck.

I got the feeling they'd planned that little charade beforehand.

Previous bonings include: that time on the floor at Betty's childhood home.

There was that super sad scene in the hotel room for Valentine's day when Betts dressed up in skimpy lingerie. And Don was too drunk and it was like JESUS JUST LET THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE TOUCH EACH OTHER ON MY SCREEN!!!

adriana (#1,654)

I know, right?!

Gumbo_Ya_Ya (#1,833)


libmas (#231)

Are you forgetting the kiss on the lawn at the end of Roger's party? I think he noticed her then. Also at the end of Season One, looking at photos of their early days during the slideshow.

I am forgetting that!
You guys? Is Pete the new Don???

Fnarf999 (#1,831)

Pete's not the new Don. Pete's the only one on the show who doesn't know how to lie properly. His face gives him away every time. If Don Draper raped some au pair in an apartment building, you can bet there'd be no tears afterwards — not for him, at least. Pete is a weakling.

belltolls (#184)

I will only refer to that rapist Pete as the "small peened one" in the future.

Did you know that if you download Nino Rota's soundtrack for La Dolce Vita and play it while reading your notes, that it makes an already great column transcendental?!

belltolls (#184)

Oh, and that thing with the little Coliseum charm for Betty's charm bracelet (my grandmother had a charm bracelet with all the great events of her life –trips, children, dead dogs–and as a child I would sit with her and go around the whole thing saying, "What's that? What's that?" She would respond with a little story about each charm and they would tinkle and jingle and I was a happy child. Betty does not want that.

My mom has one too!

Also? Pretty tacky on Don's part. He totally underestimates Betty's taste.

I'm writing this from inside a fountain!!

BlinkyMcChuck (#202)

I'd expect nothing less!

I'm with you on the role-play sexiness finally making sense of them. And how Betty is advanced, once she walks out of that house. She knows the burbs are killing her. That's why she wants out of them. That was what the ending was so clearly about to me. She doesn't want to be the woman she is when they get home.

tralafel (#1,221)

@Blinky: TOTALLY. Remember how she mentioned to Henry last episode that she used to live in Manhattan?

tink.fast (#1,829)

Who else was completely thrilled/heartbroken to see Joan end up in retail? She was clearly embarrassed to be discovered by Pete, of all people. I'm hoping she saves her earnings to run far away from Dr. Date-Rape …

bb (#295)

the great thing about her storyline is it is the least predictable.. I mean, we had a shot at the Drapers splitting up but that didn't happen. At Peggy being an exception to sexist norms and that only sort of happened. But with Joan it's unclear what will happen, no?

I think that's exactly right. Joan is the wild card on the whole gender dynamic sitch. I thought Kinsey would play Don's foil for the sensitive, soft, man. Also, thought he'd play my boyfriend. I've been wrong!

LondonLee (#922)

It's Sophia Loren, not Lauren.

La Dolce Vita was the first thing I thought when I saw Betty's 'do. One of those moments when I say "It's the Sixties coming!" to my wife. I think the first time was when Don's skinny new secretary Jane appeared.

atipofthehat (#797)

I disagree with the Bardot idea. It's all Audrey:



atipofthehat (#797)

I fought the AWL and the…AWL won.
I fought the AWL and the…AWL won.

bb (#295)

That first paragraph is such a good summary of what was going on there (the drawing in and then the pushing away). Thank you.

Also, footnotes might like to explore how Italy appeared to Americans in the 60s. Post Marshall plan, it was still pretty new as a symbol of glamour, and there are hints at Italy as a grimy, loud, crazy place as Don and Betty are grossed out by the smell of diesel from 50000 vespas and fiats. Though admittedly this is 10 years after Roman Holiday, so I could be wrong.

brad (#1,678)


did you know jesus gave the country the constitution? do you like super fine art? would you like to laugh out of one side of your mouth and gasp with horror through the other?

click the link. it's a safe for work piece of fine art. drag your cursor over the painting for the words of the artist to fill your soul with righteousness.

Fnarf999 (#1,831)

I agree with atipofthehat. Bardot was the wild child, unpredicable, always making a scene. Her hair was always tousled, even when it was up. She spent half her time in a bikini, or naked. Betty is none of those things. Betty's a princess, like Audrey. The hair, the dress, the posture, the aristocratic flirting. Bardot wouldn't be sitting there all prim, with sidelong glances; she'd have a dirty look in her eye, and her foot up in Don's crotch, shocking the matrons at the other tables.

What was happening here was Betty playing one of Don's conquests. Don could get into it, because he's done it before. A little roleplay lets her taste the magic of Philandering Don, not boring, mean old Household Don.

Italy was just starting to become fabulous after a long period of poverty; their GDP per head was rising rapidly but still barely half of the US (which was half of what it is today). Tourism was just starting in a big way; while Italy pretty much invented tourism, the "Grand Tour" beginning centuries earlier, it was just opening up to jet travel and mass tourism. Many or most of the romantic ideals of Italy date from this time — moonlit walks by the fountain, singing gondoliers in Venice, etc. Of course, the reality today is wall-to-wall people snapping photos with their cell phones, but back then, the romance was real. Sort of.

Of course, nothing about Betty is real.

Whaaaa? Betty is the realest! So the most complete and complicated female on the show. Joan is an overboiled sex pot and Pegs is a prototype feminist.

As a lady, I can tell you ASSUREDLY that Betty Draper is the most authentic woman on that show.

Fnarf999 (#1,831)

So, every kiss is just a shadow of the first? I must be doing it wrong. I think Betty's certifiable.

libmas (#231)

I will fight on this one. Joan is an overboiled sexpot? After the way she handles her husband at his blunderingest (prepping for the dinner party) and his most pathetic (after not making resident)? I say no. Also, in her exchanges with Peggy – the refusal to be looked down upon as a secretary coupled with a genuine willingness to help a sister out? The general savviness about men (a savviness that admittedly deserts her at crucial moments)? Betty is a little girl, crushed by her mother and disappointed by her father – that conversation about the funeral! – who is passing all that crushing on to her daughter. She may be real, but she sure doesn't come across as complete.

I think I also haveta say no, darlin'.

All the laydee characters are well nuanced, I'd say.

But I still can't tell whether the Betty moments are complicated because they need to be complicated. Or because January Jones is SUCH A DUMMY.

Fnarf999 (#1,831)

I can't believe that last shot of Bardot shouting over the railing looks like Julie Christie from about the same era. If I hadn't seen the magazine I'd swear it was her.

Fnarf999 (#1,831)

Please insert the words "how much" between "believe" and "that", thanks!

mathnet (#27)

Oh my god. OHMYGOD. I hate this fucking automatic refresh situation! I just lost my entire brilliant analysis because you demanded my goddamned refreshment before I hit the motherfucking SUBMIT BITCHES.

mathnet (#27)



Fnarf999 (#1,831)

I can't verify this, but if you hit your "back" button right after the autorefresh, before doing anything else, you might find your comment sitting there waiting for you. It works on a lot of sites.

atipofthehat (#797)

It happened to me two days ago, and I was crushed. Next time I will not type my plans for a car that runs on Mr. Pibb into the comment box. Now I can't remember how I had it worked out. Thanks, Awl, for destroying our only chance to stave off global warming and boost Pibb sales.

katiebakes (#32)

I know I'm late to this but I just watched the episode and OMG THOSE LAMPS IN THE ROMAN HOTEL ROOM. I want to buy-for-free those lamps a dress and then force myself upon them.

tink.fast (#1,829)

But at least be a gentleman about it and offer the lamps some schnapps first …

Ommggg the humiliation I'd endure for those lamps!

atipofthehat (#797)

I have some. Let's talk.

SemperBufo (#1,849)

The revalation for me came at their last scene, when I realized that Betty is more likely to skip out on the family than Don.

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