Big, Important Question of the Day.

Is Betty Draper an annoying character being played well by a really good actor, a well-written character being played by an annoying actor, or a really annoying character being played by a really annoying actor?
I can’t seem to figure it out.
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Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs about race and ethnicity for National Public Radio. He is a native of South Philly and reads and writes and runs and rants. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to him on Facebook.

8 comments to Big, Important Question of the Day.

  • Cubist P

    I would say that BD is an annoying pretulant child of a character played perfectly by January Jones. She seems, to be a nice enough person. I think she’s just acting her ass off. Seriously, everyone on that show is pitch perfect.

  • Dara

    The last one. Even during the first season, when Betty didn’t initially understand that she was unhappy because she was trapped–or that she was unhappy at all–January Jones delivered her lines like something she knew she was obligated to say but didn’t feel any connection to. That would be an appropriate read on a more self-aware character, like, say, Betty during the first half of the second season–before she got taken over by the crazy–but it made it impossible to believe in her as a character becoming aware of the bad hand she’d been dealt. I just don’t think JJ understood that a housewife of the time might have accepted her role in the world first and asked questions later.

    She’s doing petulant and naively manipulative pretty well right now, because she can understand it as a response to existential housewife despair. But I think petulant and naively manipulative gets old fast. I really wanted the Junior League to turn into something other than a device to line up a romantic interest–it could have been an interesting explanation of the midcentury local groups that Putnam talks about in “Bowling Alone,” which Weiner has strenuously ignored so far because his most interesting characters are loners or outcasts.

  • ladyfresh

    I haven’t seen JJ in anything else. Nonetheless i shall weigh in lol.

    When a character’s personality gets under my skin to this extent (recent example: Col. Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds) I tend to chalk it up to good acting. But in JJ’s case her character does seem a bit one dimensional like Dara said “petulant and naively manipulative” which leans me towards the bad actor stance. Although recently stronger subtler notes(trip to Italy) have been added which also leads me away from the bad acting stance and more towards the annoying character.

    Basically i fluxuate with a steady hand on this character irritates me!

  • cjl

    I vote #3. JJ guest starred in an episode of Law and Order (maybe a year ago). Her character was supposed to be a criminal mastermind and manipulator but JJ played her with the exact same wide eyed, blank (alternately petulant) look she employs in portraying Betty. She even used the same mannerisms. Throughout the episode I kept thinking: “Boy is Don going to be mad when he sees what kind of trouble Betty has gotten herself into”.

  • Zesi

    I kind of like Betty. Yes, she never does what I want her to do when she’s pissed off. I look at her as that woman “with the perfect life”…but it’s not what she wants. She got married and pregnant too young to have seen the STOP! signs and blaring lights. Maybe it’s not a naturally sympathetic story—the women in my family had it much harder than Betty–but I feel for her situation. She’s an Ivy grad unprepared mom who sits around the house all day. Her breeding…unfortunately…has led her to stuff everything in and it leaks out. All that wasted talent in Betty, I say.

  • evie

    Both. I’ve seen January Jones on a talk show and was spectacularly unimpressed, much to my chagrin. I was hoping there was more there there. Just like I constantly do with Bets.

  • Jane

    This is a great thread: I’ve been perplexed by exactly the same question posed here all through MM. A lot of the time I think it’s “a well-written character being played by an annoying actor”.

    Where Betty doesn’t work for me, is believing that Don really loves her. She’s too much like a child. I always find the women he has affairs with (especially his Jewish lover in Season 1) far, far more interesting than his wife. It’s a shame. The other women cast in the series (Peggy, Joan) are brilliant.

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