Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mad Men: Back, and to the Left

To this spoiler-rich video summary of the penultimate episode of the current Mad Men season I will add the observation that its Betty-Don interaction can be construed as a vindication of blaming women for men's bad behavior.*

Consider that for all of seasons one and two, and continuing well into the episode previous to this one ("The Gypsy and the Hobo"), Don has been lying and philandering ceaselessly, treating his marriage vows in the same way that Dick Cheney treats the law. Betty has suspected this, she has at times known this, but she has stayed at Don's side, albeit less than happily.

Then comes "The Gypsy and the Hobo," the central drama of which was Don's complete, or nearly complete, self-revelation to Betty: he gave her a detailed account of his former name, his decidedly unheroic exit from the army, his previous marriage, such as it was. He let loose all his secrets, looking shaken and deflated as he did so.

Thus Don lost his mystique; the truth set him free in a way that years of flagrant philandering, lying, and scheming never did. Just one episode later -- just a few conversations later, really -- Betty is seen hiding away with another man, kissing him, cementing a new romantic bond, daydreaming of different ways of living, talking marriage. Disenchanted with Don -- mirrored by the larger society's sudden disenchantment based on seminal events in Dallas, November 1963 -- she matter-of-factly informs Don that she no longer loves him. To all appearances their marriage is over, and she's most of the way to a new man who looks the part but about whom she knows little.

One wonders if she'll be in much the same state with this second husband a few years down the line.

What would a Don Draper learn from this? Lie and cheat without serious consequences for years, but tell the whole truth -- unburden your darkest secrets, pierce the veil of mystery -- and everything falls apart. The truth, and truth's vulnerability, kills faster than a magic bullet.

* Note I said "can be construed as ...", which is not the same as "I believe ... " or even "the writer believes ... " I don't know what to believe, and I don't read minds. Not well, anyway.


Mad man said...

Strange thing that Betty falls into the arms of a man working in politics. This is surely more secrets to come. And bad ones...

I am really waiting for next episode now.

Dale said...

Mm, me too. I speak as though I have some notion of what will happen next, but of course, I have no idea. This show swerves its own course, and deliciously so.