Sally & Betty, “…Bulimia’s so ’87…” -Heathers

Okay, but Mad Men…

I took two notes only during this week’s episode. Here is one:

“…yeah, she stayed skinny but her breath smelled like vomit all the time.” -gal at Miss Porter’s

So here we go. Sally’s concrete introduction to Bulimia right after Betty has mysteriously gotten down to her, “fighting weight”. Tom & Lorenzo fleetingly touched on this a few weeks back and any good viewer knows Betty did *whatever* it took to drop the pounds. And indeed, as control of her weight (despite unhealthy means) increased, Betty has become a happier, lighter Betty. Attention is back on her. She is valid again. She isn’t, ‘overweight and sad,’ like the Miss Porter’s student assumes, and society says that she should be at this point.

“Fat & happy” is nowhere in Betty’s realm of reality. We don’t even hear Betty say out loud that she is “happy” in her life until the tryst with Don at camp. All of the precarious pieces of her life are at that second, okay: Her worth is in tact (attractive, slim wife with “perfect” kids/husband/status), and she is so desirable that even her first husband, who put her through Hell, still wants her, not to mention the gas station attendant, and the acquaintance of her husband’s, and, and, and…

As a daughter to two eating disordered/addict parents, Sally’s future road is very likely a grim one, even if she can achieve a sheen of “success”. The choice to go to Miss Porter’s sets up a surprising turn. Viewers, myself included, predicted a quick turn to rebellion after witnessing Don’s pathetic infidelity (let’s admit it, zero about that scene was sexy — just desperate, gross, and sad… an addict with a drug), and indeed Sally could have taken that road. I mean, if Don doesn’t give a shit about his family or commitments, why should Sally? But Weiner is thus far taking us in a smarter and probably equally likely direction by exhibiting what we knew: that Sally is the singular adult of the whole family. Aside from Henry, the adults are virtual children and now Sally wants out of her role of having to always: state the obvious, speak the truth, and treat people according to the respect they’ve earned, rather than what they think they deserve. She’s done giving her energy to being the glue for a family that doesn’t care. She’s going to parent herself, responsibly, and well.

Let’s say Sally stays at Porter’s, gets into an Ivy League school or a European equivalent. Flash forward to 1984 — a late 20’s Sally is… what? Hyper successful, hyper perfectionist, likely emotionally shut, eating disordered, maybe addicted to something to keep her “edge”… a lawyer, a businesswoman… The images rolling through my brain are: Less Than Zero, Debra Winger, Jane Fonda, Legal Eagles, Murphy Brown, etc. That’s who Sally is set up to be. Where Betty was bred to succeed at being marriage material, and the perfect wife and mother, Sally will fall into the late 70’s-80’s: “Women can do it. All.” mindset, and we can already predict the cost.

Eating disorders for Sally are already ingrained and learned. Now, with her own concept of her success above her parents and family at stake, they will likely bloom.

The second note I made about this week’s ep. wasn’t so much a discovery as a summary about Don’s motivations. More on that later…

2 thoughts on “Sally & Betty, “…Bulimia’s so ’87…” -Heathers

  1. This is interesting! I didn’t make the eating disorder connection with Betty as quickly/easily as you did. I’m not super consistent with watching so sometimes I “need” to catch up quickly. This makes me feel like I miss the occasional detail here and there. I was shocked at how quickly Betty shed the pounds especially after struggling with it for a little while. Did the show allude to her engaging in disordered behaviors beyond the weight loss itself?
    And I can’t even imagine growing up as Don + Betty as parents… jeesh

    • Hello! Oh wow, an honest-to-goodness reader! Usually my friends come over from FB, read, then go back there and carry on with a long conversation… But you! You are a person reading this that has fresh eyes! A warm hello to you!

      I should have mentioned I wrote a long paper about Betty and her eating disorders last year. I intend to post it here, in chunks, thorugh the next few months. I also believe that Don has a significant eating disorder as well, but haven”t written that paper yet. It would be a bit harder to make the argument, but the pieces are there.

      Betty has long displayed anorexia and many of the hallmark symptoms associated with disordered eating anorectic behavior; it’s subtle, but very vibrant. Please keep eading and I will share more soon!

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