The Voice of the Devil (Mad Men Tuesday) (updated)

Is there anything funnier than Don Draper pretending to talk like ol’ Lucifer?

Is there anything tougher than watching your slimeball serial cheater ex enjoy a life that seems to be much better than the one you had with him?

In the world of Mad Men, at least, no and no.

And check out this visual image of what it’s like for women in this world:

Stuck in boxes, competing with each other for dribbles of reward, measured by clothes and body size and little else.

Wait, what year is this?

Internet, I want to propose something. In my teacherly mode. Some people call this a “thought experiment”: What would happen if you try to live in Betty’s dress for a few moments?

WHAT IF all that pop psychology from Weight Watcher’s class has led her to believe that more honesty may help her feel happy enough to stop eating her feelings?

And WHAT IF her mentioning Anna Draper to Sally was not, as Don and Megan and most of the Internet believe, an attempt to destroy their marriage? What if Sally’s family-tree project made Betty think about families, and think about the weekly self-realization platitudes, and think about ways that Sally is capable of dealing with more honesty about the family? And that more honesty would be good for everybody?

What if she knew that Megan knew Don’s secret and didn’t care? What if she simply wanted Sally to know the truth about her family?

But she couldn’t tell Sally Don’s secret herself, so she sent Sally to find out from Don and Megan?

WHAT IF Betty is really trying to change? What if she’s trying to be happier not by screwing with people, as she did before, but by being honest with them? And appreciating them?

Can you put aside your Betty hate and think about that for a second?

Do you buy it at all? Or has Betty just proven to be so hateful and immature for so long that you cannot consider the possibility?

The voice of the devil, of course, wants you to believe the worst in these characters. Except for Don, who’s a better parent. (Not that he’s all that great. He stayed late at work, never got Sally’s colored pencils, never came home to say goodbye to them before they left for another 2 weeks. How is that better than Betty again?)

The voice of the devil wants you to think Betty will never grow and change. Don’s the only one who gets to do that.

The voice of the devil wants you to hide the new guy’s work, which is better than yours, so you can feel temporarily young and fresh.

The voice of the devil wants women to compete with each other through manipulation, back-talk, passive aggression, and insecurity. Because when women have no real power, that’s what they’re left with.

The voice of the devil tells us we ain’t nothing unless we are worth some dollars–if we are men, we need to possess dollars, and if we are women, we are the equivalent of dollars. So the devil tells us.

The voice of the devil uses “impactful” without laughing.

But they all listen. So Roger tries to buy Jane back and mark her as his. Don tries to get the new client by stealing opportunity from his junior staffers. Bert and Roger scheme some new business from Pete. Pete has fantasies of possessing another man’s wife. Betty tries to starve herself back into being arm candy, so she can restore her own true value.

And Sally tries acting exactly like every adult she’s ever known: pouty, secretive, manipulative, hurtful, and selfish.

Megan seems to be immune to the voice of the devil, like Old Scratch has a ring tone only older generations can hear. She obscures the line in the photo above, while Betty is entirely boxed in. Maybe she can reject the human = $$$$$ devilspeak because her dad was a Communist? Or maybe she’s just “one of those girls.”

And Peggy tries to protest: She can write for Manischewitz just as well as Ginsberg. “I’m not an airplane!” she proclaims, after reminding us that her work for Mohawk Airlines was just as good as any man’s.

Poor Peggy. Everyone’s too deeply in thrall to the voice of the devil to even hear her, let alone acknowledge she’s right.

Ginzo tries to protest too, but he ended up looking like an excitable puppy instead of a pro.

I’ll say publicly to you, Internet, that Betty really didn’t seem mean this episode. She seemed hurt, and I would be too, if I found that note. But her talking to Sally seemed more sympathetic than cruel. Her schpiel to Henry seemed more genuine than robotic. January Jones is not the best actor in the world, but I felt bona-fide softness from the character this episode.

And Peggy is right: we are all tired of thinking like the devil.

By the way, I’m not the only Betty-defender on the Internet. But I’m close to it. There’s certainly evidence that Betty is a s&$*#()t. But I think the opposing evidence is there, too, if you want to look for it.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if Betty, not Megan, not Peggy, not Sally, became the woman of consciousness-raising sessions, bra burnings, and lesbian experimentation? What would happen if Betty finally kicks the voice of the devil (who is probably more like the voice of her mother) out of her head?

Or she can just get a new decorator.

(UPDATE: I re-watched that scene where Betty tells Sally about Don’s first wife, and Betty is clearly acting out of vengeance, after seeing Don’s loveydovey note to Megan. Oops. But I stand by my sympathy for Betty, and the remarkable way she seems to soften up in “therapy” type situations pointing to some potential growth.)

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