Few television characters have the ability to inspire such universal disdain as Mad Men’s Betty Francis. From her questionable approach to parenting to her vindictive, childish attitude, it’s no surprise Betty is the character fans most love to hate.
When it comes to her ex-husband, however, it seems fans just can’t get enough.
Despite his chronic womanizing, rampant alcohol abuse, and social prejudices, viewers have no problem sweeping Don’s imperfections under the rug. Of course he cheats on his wife. Everybody was cheating on his wife. Drinking to the point of oblivion on noon on a Monday? Sounds like a typical day at the office in 1960s America. And how about overt sexism, anti-Semitism and a general selfishness? Well, that’s just how things were back then. It was a different era.
Why doesn’t this excuse also apply to Betty? Like Don, she also embodies a postwar archetype—the quintessential white, upper-middle-class suburban housewife, who is polite and poised on the surface but carries looming anxiety and frustration underneath. Shouldn’t viewers cut her some slack, too?
Let’s say we do just that—evaluate Betty through the same historical lens as we do Don. How do the two stack up?