After this week’s episode of Mad Men, I am left with one question–Why didn’t the Rolling Stones let the producers use a song of theirs? Or was this a deliberate effort to not use any Rolling Stones songs by Matthew Weiner? Was he afraid it would be too obvious? I guess it would have been.
Another reason might be that this episode seemed to cool it on the use of music. The season premiere was full of music, and even had what sounded like a score, very unlike Mad Men. This episode brought the show back to its minimalist soundtrack style, only featuring the sole outro song during the credits. This week’s choice was “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” from the Sound of Music. Interesting choice considering the face I made when we found out Megan’s age (see here).
But this was a very Betty-centric episode. We’ve discovered that poor Betty, even though she has what appears to be the perfect life, is struggling with her weight. Can I say that it really is too bad that Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” doesn’t come for another decade or so? Betty is even called “middle-aged” by her doctor. What surprises me is I feel it necessary to mention these things before I even give a thought to the fact that Betty had a freaking CANCER scare. It somehow seems secondary to the fact that Mrs. Perfect’s veneer seems to be breaking down.
A little more about the song–”Sixteen Going on Seventeen” is from the acclaimed musical about everyone’s favorite Austrian songstress, The Sound of Music. In this song, Rolf is trying to convince Liesl that he is mature because he is all of 17 years old and can traverse the world in a way that Liesl cannot because she is merely 16 and, well, a stupid girl. But in reality, Liesl is really the mature of the two.
So what does this have to do with Mad Men? Well, have we established that Betty is a stupid girl? While I am not a fan of her, I do not think she is stupid, but I am pretty sure everyone in her life thinks she is. Sometimes she acts in such a way that encourages those thoughts (sorry, I am trying to be a feminist about it and not call her a dumb bitch). The doctor talks to her like a 10 year old. She needs Don, her asshole ex-husband, to tell her everything is going to be okay. Her mother-in-law thinks she’s fat (omg), and she’s only good for keeping her husband happy. In the meantime, her husband seems to be the only person in the world who likes this woman for longer than a few weeks, and yet she is cold as ice to him (Emma Frost reprise?).
Betty is the sad reality of what housewives had to look forward to. While we have the Peggys of the world (and I dare say the Megans) who have decided to work and fight for their own place in the world, we also have Betty, who dedicated her life to her children and her husbands, ahuge part of which is hinged on her sexual desirability. Fortunately Betty’s new man seems less worried about it and still finds her attractive. She seems so worried about her weight, and then he validates her size, makes her feel better about it. Are we supposed to see her eating the sundae at the end as Betty coming to terms with her size or giving up?
The beginning stanza of “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”–”You wait little girl / On an empty stage / For fate to turn the light on / Your life little girl / is an empty page / that men will want to write on.” Betty in many ways is still a little girl.
Which makes me wonder about the other women portrayed in the episode and how they are often infantalized by the men around them. Let’s talk about Peggy. Peggy is a capable, hard-working copywriter. And yet, rather than advocate for her to do the Mohawk Airlines job, they have Peggy hire a man, someone who confuses her for the secretary and completely disrespects her in the interiew. Rather than kick this guy out on his ass, she gives him an interview with Don. What the hell, Peggy?
“I am 16 going on 17 / I know that I’m naive / Fellows I meet may tell me I’m sweet / And willingly I believe”
Seems like Peggy has a Liesl-complex, too.
To shift the conversation a bit, let’s talk about The Rolling Stones. While obviously there was no Stones in the episode to discuss in terms of actual songs, I found Don’s reaction to the young fangirls really interesting. Is Don becoming a prude? Sure, Don is getting older. In fact, he has a tween daughter. But, I mean, it’s Don. Don freaking Draper. His wife is barely older than these groupies for chrissake. Was he disturbed at how willing these girls would have been to give it up to these rockstars? Was he jealous it was not him? Is Don becoming out of touch? Most importantly–IS ROCK AND ROLL MAKING AN OLD MAN OUT OF DON DRAPER? Something all the whiskey and cigarettes in the world could not do. Way to go, Mick Jagger.