Why the Moms of “Mad Men” Fascinate Us So Much

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“Mad Men” — from its fitting title to its closing credits, often lingering on some sultry, brooding image of a lone Don Draper — is supposed to be about the men, right? Their missteps, their philandering, their business prowess, their complicated inner lives. But if this is the case, why are we so consistently captivated by the ladies of “Mad Men,” the Bettys and Joans and Peggys and Maries?

I’ll tell you why:

1. They’re often objectified, exploited minorities in their world, fighting the good (and sometimes downright dirty) fight to shatter their own particular glass ceilings, in hopes of being seen, heard, and respected. Simply, underdogs are fun to watch, and the cards have been stacked against these ingenious, cunning gals from the start.  

2. Underdogs were never so GLAM. The hair, the clothes, the shoes, the gems, the homes. Hell, even when Peggy’s office ensemble resembles something Velma from “Scooby-Doo” would wear, there’s still something undeniably fetching about it. And is there a woman on the planet who wouldn’t trade her closet for Betty’s or Joan’s? Me thinks not.

3. They’re moms. Complicated, screwed up, well-intentioned, often-in-over-their-heads moms — maybe not so unlike you and me and our neighbors and girlfriends and sisters, right?

Let’s dive into the maternal madness and find out!

 
1. Betty Draper Francis

Mother to Sally, Bobby, and Gene, played by January Jones

Parenting Style: Dismissive, selfish, and sarcastic. When she is occasionally warm or attentive, it’s so out of character, it’s actually off-putting. Also, I mean seriously, what rich New York politician’s housewife (with a maid, housekeeper, nanny, and groundskeeper) has the time/energy to pay attention to her children? Let’s just say the TV is on A LOT in the Francis household.

Priorities: Her image, attracting the attention of other men and boys, and avoiding the obvious reality that she’s still unsure of who she is or what she’d really like out of life.

Vices: Cigarettes and cocktails. All. Day. Long. (We won’t go into that brief “Fat Betty” stage.)

Quintessential Mom Quote: “Go to your room.”


2. Marie Calvet

Mother to Megan, played by Julia Ormond

Parenting Style:  Boss, nag, push, and guilt, even when it’s flagrantly hypocritical. (Maman knows best… period!)

Priorities:  Living it up (in serious style) at high-end events where she can banter and flirt with wealthy, fascinating men (so long as he’s not her husband).

Vices: Cigs, cocktails, bossing around grown children, and cheating on her husband (particularly with Roger Sterling).

Quintessential Mom Quote: “Not every little girl can do what she wants; the world cannot support that many ballerinas.”

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