The Chrysanthemum and the Sword; Mad Men

Aug 29, 2010 by

I’ve tried to let the meanings of last week’s Mad Men, the Chrysanthemum and the Sword, sink in before writing anything about it.  And gosh there are volumes of comments already that have been made online about the show already.  So many have built the show around shame and how people do or do not deal with it.  Yes, there was a lot of it.

But here are some things that really stuck with me about the show:

It’s obvious Sally Draper is seeking an audience.  The problem Don and Betty and Henry are going to find is that where they have not been able to, or have not tried to provide such, Sally Draper is going to find attention and they’re not going to like what it looks like.

I’m struggling with the disasters formed because of my divorce in 2003 in my own three girls.  I’ve never been one to claim I’m perfect, though that sentiment has constantly been projected at me.  It’s clear from watching the episode that Betty Draper is truly a nut case that she is and that because of his own haste and blindness to rush into a marriage with her, Henry Francis, is sleeping with a walking-time bomb and doesn’t have a clue.

The fact that she lied to him about how recent it’d been since she’d seen a psychiatrist, “It was years ago,” and even his reaction to her telling him it’d even happened, shows there are still many things to left for Henry to unravel about his wife.

I thought it was classic when Sally’s counselor  suggested that Betty needs to see a counselor of her own.  And her denial; frankly I’m surprised she didn’t almost get up and walk out.   No, from Betty was the presentation that all in life is good. She’s the perfect mom.  It’s her kid that’s messed up. It’s because of Don that Sally cut her hair or is playing with herself.  The world according to Betty is that she’s perfect and the only problems in the world are shared by everyone but her.

And with how Betty reacts to Sally’s cutting her hair, with the slumber party mom who clearly was wanting to see Sally doing more than she actually was, visiting her once at the bottom of the stairs, it suggests that that scene has been previously played out in Betty’s life, with her being the operative Sally.

Betty says wants Don dead.  She now has a dad/crutch of a husband there to help calm her down.  Thank God Henry doesn’t act out in response to what Betty’s doing by calling Don at work and delivering his projected-produced anger at him, or calling friends of Don’s telling them they don’t need to be his friend, either.  But I can’t decide at what level Henry is really her puppet.  I guess we’ll see as we move forward.

And the irony continues about the Francis’ continuing to live in Don Draper’s home, basically being financed by him as though they’re obviously dependent on him.  Betty tells the counselor she had to go through with the divorce so she could offer her kids stability.  Yet with Henry and the whimsical ups and downs of political life, I can assure you, there’s nothing stable of living in four-year political cycles.  And so the irony is there.  At one point last season Henry is boasting that he doesn’t want Betty to be dependent on Don for anything, but they keep mooching off of him and living off his money and his house as though it’s some sort of an entitlement.

And then there’s the hypocritical nature of Betty’s accusations.  She is so wound up about Don’s activities, she is blind to the fact that she was having  multiple affairs–the guy in the bar, Henry, even the tempting of the horse jockey–and yet she’s so quick project Don as the slut.

She says she doesn’t want to know what’s going on in Don’s life. Maybe so, maybe not.  But you have to wonder, if she’s such a super mom to her kids, why are they coming out so bassackwards?  She tells Sally if she plays anymore solo tunes on herself in public that she’ll cut her fingers off.

It’s clear that so much that is Betty Draper is a lie.  She’s so dressed up in double-looped pearls when she goes to the counselor’s office, and even at first meeting, the counselor can see right through the phony.  And if Betty were so focused on what was right for her kids, wouldn’t she have been the one to take Sally to the counselors instead of the maid?  Wouldn’t Betty have been all about what was really going on in Sally’s life?

But no.  It’s better to perpetuate the lie.  She doesn’t work.  The kids are in school.  We’ve not been going to the stables in two seasons.  You’ve got to wonder what it is Betty Draper does during the day but sit around and bask in the surroundings provided by her former husband and think about how she needs to get more out of him. And then when it comes to dealing with Don in a proper way, say like deciding Sally needs to see a counselor, he properly points out, “It sounds like you’ve already made a decision, why are you calling me?”  Why did she call Don?  Simply so later on she could twist the truth again to say, well, I did call him.  Oh yeah, she did twist the truth in telling the counselor that “I don’t think you’ll ever see him,” dismissing him as not interested in the well-being of his kids.

I’ll let all the others explain to you about all the shaming that went on in this episode.  I got a lot more about how Betty Draper is just a nutty bitch who needs to get back to a shrink, one that might actually cut through the shit of her life and try to find if there really is a person in there after all.  What I really wish is that Don had his stuff together a little better and wasn’t living in an apartment and could spend more time with his kids.   But if he didn’t work all the time, what with the mooches Henry and Betty do?

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