Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Two Mrs. Don Draper



Back in the Season Four finale of "MAD MEN" called (4.13) "Tomorrowland", series lead Don Draper aka Dick Whitman had proposed marriage to his secretary, Megan Calvert. And she said yes. Many viewers commented that Megan was just as beautiful as Betty. She was younger and seemed to be a better parent than the first Mrs. Draper. 

Other fans criticized Don for dumping the pragmatic Faye Miller for the superficially satisfying Megan. Some waxed lyrical over Don's new choice, claiming that she will prove to be the perfect addition to the Draper family, despite some misgivings they harbored toward Don's engagement to Megan.  At first, it seemed that many of them fell in love with her during Season 5. Why?  It seemed to me that series creator Matt Weiner portrayed Megan as the perfect wife/mother. She quickly accepted Don as he is and was not concerned with the truth about his real identity.  And during the early years of Don and Megan's marriage, she was portrayed as the perfect stepmother toward the Draper children.

Although some fans complained about the amount of screen time given to Megan during Season Five, many were still willing to give her credit for perfect stepmother.  We live in a society that believes the perfect mother is one that indulges her children, not discipline them. Weiner made sure to portray Megan in the way many had earlier wanted Betty to be portrayed – as the perfect early 21st century mother . . . in a story set in a mid 20th century. And I hate to say it, but Weiner is just one of many television showrunners who now have noticed his tendency to kowtow to fans' demands of how they perceive certain characters.

As for Betty, who had been Mrs. Henry Francis since Season Four, I never thought she was a monstrous mother to begin with. I have always viewed her as a conventional and somewhat mediocre parent. I also suspect that during Season Four, Betty was having a difficult time dealing with her divorce from Don, and the fact that she had spent ten years with a man who had been lying to her since they first met. For me, that explained the meltdown she obviously had during Season Four.  But many other fans did not view Betty as someone emotionally dealing with a divorce.  They saw her as a monstrous mother, due to her clashes with the eldest Draper child, Sally; and a woman who was beneath contempt due to her failure to become a working woman.  The problem is that our society seem to frown upon people having emotional difficulties in life. We would prefer if everyone (especially fictional characters) behaves perfectly or as if we are not having any personal problems . . . all the time. Especially mothers. 

Many have accused Betty of harboring this same attitude and trying to project this image of perfection. And they would be right. But these same fans seemed willing to ignore the fact that most of the series' characters are also like this. Even Megan, who proved to be something of an attention seeker, harbored similar views.  In fact, I suspect that many of the show's fans are like this, as well. They criticize Betty for trying to project a perfect image . . . and failing; yet they ignore this trait in the other characters. More importantly, they ignore this trait in humanity. They seemed to be unaware of their intolerance toward Betty's flaws and their demands that she behave like the perfect mother. Quite frankly, I find this behavior a lot more disturbing than Betty's or that of the other characters.

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