Can Betty be redeemed? (LINK: Alyssa Rosenberg) #MadMen

Can Betty be redeemed? (LINK: Alyssa Rosenberg) #MadMen

Over at ThinkProgress, Alyssa Rosenberg offers an optimistic take on Betty Draper Francis’ hopes for season six of Mad Men:

“You go to college. You meet a boy. You drop out. You get married. Struggle for a year in New York while he learns to tie a tie and then move to the country and just start the whole disaster over,” Sandy, the teenaged violinist who’s been living with Betty and Henry Francis, tells Betty over a midnight snack during the first episode of the sixth season. Betty’s reaction is telling—not anger, precisely, but frustration. “That’s an arrogant exaggeration,” she tells Sandy. But it’s also the first time someone has but the trajectory of Betty Hofstadt’s life, with all of its disappointments and wasted potential, in an actual context and acknowledged to her that her choices are shaped by larger expectations, rather than simply telling her that she’s a selfish, immature brat. Lots of fans dislike Betty, whether she’s been Draper or Francis. But Betty’s story in the season premiere left me hoping that Mad Men might finally be recognizing bigger plans for her, that just as Don’s found himself at sea and Peggy and Joan have, through very different means, found places for themselves in the changing world, the sixties might finally reach Betty Hofstadt deep inside her cellophane prison.

. . .

What this means, and whether Betty will continue to look for Sandy, or return to the kind of surrender to the easiest route that’s always been her trademark, remain open questions. But the fact that they’re posed at all gives me hopes for this season, and for Betty. Of all the characters on Mad Men, Betty, for all of her initial privilege, has had the longest road to travel towards self-actualization. She has none of the freedom that accrues to Don as a man, none of the independence that comes from working to support herself decently that’s empowered Joan, none of the identifiable talents that propelled Peggy out of the typing pool and into Freddy Rumsen’s office. Her only value is as an ornament, her only skills in attracting men. Betty’s been trained to be oriented outwards, and she has to learn to identify her own desires before she can even begin to pursue them. I don’t know what Mad Men has planned for her. But I’m as excited to see if Betty will experience a more radical makeover than the kind that can be purchased in a salon as I am to finally learn if Don Draper is the man falling stylishly and fatally out of a skyscraper window.


Gone Girl Review (without spoilers)

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of your own expectations as a reader. Gillian Flynn’s novel is a tense, tightly coiled thriller; I had some trouble relaxing and letting the story unfold on its own. I’m a reader who likes to peek ahead, even if it’s just scanning a dozen lines down when something interesting happens in the top third of the page. And “Gone Girl” is as dangerous a novel as its two main characters, Amy Elliott and Nick Dunne.

The pair are married, and on their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing in a presumably violent way. The book ping-pongs its point of view, alternating between Nick’s present-day narration (beginning “The Morning Of”) and Amy’s diary from the first time the couple met. It’s somewhat common to refer to form or structure as “daring,” but Flynn’s choices do actually dare the reader to spin theories, engage fears and suspicions, and of course, read on.

Halfway through the novel, I felt unshakable dread. Was I enjoying it? I couldn’t relax enough to say for sure. I was caught up in the story, but I was also afraid of where it would end. I really didn’t want the climax to be a gruesome flashback of Nick bashing his wife’s head in.

And of course, I’m not going to spoil. Each reader can make her own choice about what literature she chooses to engage. This book is dazzling. Amy and Nick are fascinating, gruesome, ticking, beguiling, hateful, brilliant characters, and they’re backed up by some lovely, rounded secondary characters in Boney, Go and Andie.

“Gone Girl” is a novel about marriage, power, dynamics, misogyny, roles in relationships, play-acting, true crime, the media–it darts so quickly through the plot, and places itself with such immediately believable scene work that it finds resonance everywhere. I’m recommending it to my mother and my best friend, and I’m eager to hear what others think of it. The fun part is seeing what other people take away from novels, especially ones as obviously well-crafted as “Gone Girl.”

I won’t ask you to work for free. Ever.

I’ve been doing a lot of work lately for people–helping with letters, essays, CVs. And I’m generally happy to help. But at the end of the day, it’s work, and so I would like to be paid. And when I shared this page on facebook, I typed and deleted “I’d love to be able to help for free…” or “Now that I’m working…”

I stopped feeling bad the second I remembered that I don’t ask anyone to work for free. Ever. I pay my friends for their art, their expertise, and their time. Because getting paid rocks. And paying your friends for their art and time and expertise rocks.

I will, however, bring something delicious to your party completely gratis. If we’re friends like that.



*Because this is The Internet, I feel compelled to point out that I’m not retroactive billing, duh.