If you’re not already watching Mad Men on AMC, you’re an idiot. Season 3 is amazing so far – each week’s episode better than the last. Oh, and if you are watching but aren’t caught up, stop reading – a couple of spoilers coming.
First things first. When Betty walked into the bakery last week for coffee with Henry, I gasped aloud. Seriously – look at that dress. It is gorgeous. And those sunglasses? Perfection. But really, look at the entire shot below: the old-fashioned gingham curtains on the door playing against modern print of her frock, the silhouette of Betty’s hand through her lacy glove, the gumballs echoing the colors in her dress, the ghostly apparition of the wedding cake in the window, the sunlight suffusing the whole scene with a glow and keeping your eyes focused like a laser beam on Betty. The composition of this shot is masterful – like pretty much every scene, a key part of the genius of this show.
Of course, things only got better this week, when Betty decides at the last minute to join Don on his two-day business trip to Rome. And she reinvents herself, if only for these few days… When she showed up on screen with this new hair-do (after calling the front desk at the Hilton and, in perfect Italian, requesting a hairdressing appointment), I believe my exact words were “OH MY FUCKING GOD!”
Betty was delightful in Rome – confident, flirty, carefree. When she and Don returned home to the ‘burbs, she almost immediately lapsed back into her frosty and distant self. It made me a little weepy – because I totally understand that feeling after a trip abroad. Traveling to a foreign country is like stepping into another life – everything is new and exciting and different… Coming back home can be bittersweet – and in Betty’s case, mostly bitter, as she returns to her dreary suburban life, expected to be a devoted wife and doting mother, an existence she clearly finds unfulfilling and stultifying – though I suspect she’s not sure why… Paging Betty Friedan!
Whenever I read online recaps of an episode of Mad Men, many people seem to really dislike Betty’s character. They complain that she’s cruel, self-centered and uncaring – and she has certainly exhibited all of those characteristics. She is no dummy – yet she is expected to be satisfied with the quotidian life of Tarrytown, picking up dry-cleaning in her station wagon, looking after the kids and keeping dinner warm for her philandering husband. I think she envisioned a life for herself much different than the one she is leading… And the trip to Rome was a rather stinging reminder of that.
Anyway, I love Betty – I suppose because I see a lot of myself in her… especially some of the less attractive parts of her character. Though in my case, I’m sort of the opposite – I’d love to be able to stay home, join the Junior League, take riding lessons, have lunch, pick up the dry-cleaning, cook elaborate dinners… But no kids, please – they’re so selfish… What with the crying, the demanding to be fed and have their diapers changed – what about my needs? But I digress…
Oh, and as long as I’m singing the praises of the show, can I just reach a bit further back to mention this?
Watching this scene as a gay man, it was a flashback to my own first kiss with another man – and I’m guessing for many other gays of a (ahem) certain age. For me, the experience really was a case of the veil being lifted from my eyes, all in a split second. Hindsight immediately became twenty-twenty… All the things that made me feel “different” from the time I was little boy suddenly made sense. And just the physical sensation of touching a boy instead of a girl – so different, so right, so magical… Anyway, I don’t want to get too graphic (my family reads this blog – I’m sure they’re already grossed out) – but this was an amazing scene.
And damn that fire alarm! At least I didn’t have to deal with that when I had my first kiss with a guy… Of course, mine wasn’t as hot at that bellhop – and he drove a Camaro and wore British Sterling cologne. Yikes… Trips down memory lane can be hazardous…