Questions loomed last week during the two-hour premiere of Mad Men’s season five – where’s Betty? However, it didn’t take long for the sexiest blonde on the show to make her appearance in tonight’s second episode. Where was she? Likely in make-up putting on a body suit that has been likened on Twitter to that of Gwyneth Paltrow in Shallow Hal. However, this is not the same Betty we’ve come to know and love. We could say she was curvy, but really, Betty was just heavy. Christina Hendricks has curves!
Donning a body suit to make her appear much, much heavier than the model-esque woman who was married to Don Draper, January Jones’ character would likely be humiliated if she knew how Twitter was responding to her new figure.
At first, we thought it was just the over-sized pink robe the now Betty Francis was wearing. Then, admittedly having not watched season four, considered for a moment that she was pregnant with a fourth child. However, when her mother-in-law brazenly calls her out for her weight in not so many words, we had to face the truth that Betty had put on weight. After failing to squeeze herself in to an ill-fitting dress and canceling an attendance with her husband to a social event, Betty climbed in bed and felt sorry for herself.
The elder Mrs. Francis proposed that Betty get diet pills. Betty appreciated the thought of a quick fix and promptly made a doctor’s appointment, as in the 1960s such a treatment required his signature. We were impressed with a doctor who didn’t just sign the prescription pad and instead wanted to assess the reason for Betty’s weight gain. He explained that for a housewife like her, there could be a number of reasons for weight gain from depression or boredom to diabetes or hypothyroidism. Housewife or not, these questions should be at the top of anyone’s list who is trying to lose weight. Find out the why, and fix that.
This scene may have been set 50 years ago, but the reality isn’t too far off from what’s happening in women’s mirrors all over this country right now. Housewives and working women who realize their favorite jeans, or a swimsuit, or a beautiful gown fits far more snuggly than it should want to instantly be rid of the weight they’d inadvertently put on. They call a friend, they read a blog, they simply stroll an aisle at the pharmacy and want nothing more than to pop a pill, change very little, and get their bodies back.
It wasn’t going to help Betty and it’s not going to help any woman living in 2012 either.
As Betty’s doctor could diagnose, Betty was likely a combination of bored and depressed. Her new life wasn’t shaping up quite the way she’d hoped, so she sought solace in front of the TV and a bag of bugles.
While I’ve never truly had a struggle with my weight, I still have to work to maintain it, and I could identify with Betty in some moments. Women have created this sense of shame for ourselves when a dress our body used to rock makes us want to put on our softest over-sized T-shirt and leggings instead. We’ve all curled up on the couch when we feel at our lowest and mindlessly consumed the saltiest, crunchiest, worst-for-us snack in the house. And since becoming a mom two years ago, I catch myself snacking off of my daughter’s plate fairly often; in my case it’s usually uneaten fruit, but for Betty it meant a second hot fudge sundae.
Twitter was ripe with mixed commentary on Betty Draper-Francis’ appearance. Some was downright offensive, spewing criticism that can be safely posted under the veil of quasi-anonymity that the Internet provides. Some were comical, and some hit home. All were honest reactions to a woman regarded as one of the sexiest who had let herself go.
@MalenaLott saw no harm in a heavier Betty. “I love a bigger Betty eating Bugles. #MadMen”
If Betty could follow her eponymous diet, at the suggestion of @NicholasLeon, she wouldn’t need those diet pills, but she certainly wouldn’t be any healthier. “The Betty Draper Diet – salad, no dressing, wine & cigarettes.”
@ChetCanon poked fun at recent news of Betty’s portrayer’s, January Jones, new real-life dietary habit. “Betty Draper looks like she ate about 100 placentas. #MadMen.” Following the birth of her son, whom she was pregnant with during filming and thus the storyline for a heavier Betty, January Jones announced she takes placenta pills.
And @MegsOkay is making our response to tonight’s Mad Men episode, and everyone else’s, seem like a cliche. “I can’t wait for all the op-eds I’m going to read this week about how Betty Draper is finally likable now that she’s fat & maybe has cancer.”
If anything, we found Betty’s character less likable because she seemed to have lost some of that self-confidence that allowed her to stand up for herself and her desires in the first few seasons. She seems mousy tonight. Maybe that was the goal of the writers. We certainly don’t find her more or less likable because she gained weight. Even her new husband Henry still found her sexy, and why shouldn’t he? She’s still Betty, and if anything, his support will help motivate her to lose the weight. However, until she believes it for herself, and wants to make the changes, nothing will change.
No matter which decade you’re living in, that is the truth about weight loss. The only question that remains is, will we see Betty take on her weight loss in a healthy way, or will some Hollywood magic have her back in a pencil skirt in no time flat?
April 1st, 2012