I just figured something out: Betty has a clear vision of who she is. The thing is, she very rarely expresses that vision; she very rarely even allows herself to know she has that vision.

In Shoot, she has perhaps her most revealing therapy session. She talks about how important it was to her mother that Betty be beautiful, how she pushed her in that direction. But then, when Betty became a model, her mother disapproved strongly; called her “a prostitute” (which is holy shit, pretty nasty).

Now we see her anger at her mother, and also her anger at Don (although they don’t discuss that). Just as mother tried to stop her from modeling, Don succeeded at stopping her (by getting her pregnant and marrying her and moving her to the suburbs, away from the Manhattan modeling world). As she tells the story of the end of her modeling career, her voice gets flatter, less animated, sadder word-by-word (great acting, that).

She wants to model: She comes home from therapy knowing that. She’s excited, animated, and ultimately, aroused. Now, I’ve talked about how passive Betty’s sexuality is, but after a modeling job offer, after a day of power and acknowledgement, she is aggressive. It is she who sits in Don’s lap, she who kisses first, she who says “Let’s go upstairs.” And when Don, very turned on, suggests they do it in the living room, she is totally good with that.

So we see a woman who is acting on her vision of who she is. Betty knows she is beautiful, and she knows that gives her power. She admits to Francine in Red in the Face that she enjoys that power. Jim Hobart handed her a vision of power when he offered her a job, the gay art director at McCann-Erickson reinforced that power throughout the photo shoot.

…and then it went away. And Betty said she never really wanted it, how could she, when she has “all this”? She’s back to flat again, saying “all this” without enthusiasm, without a gesture or a smile or eye contact. All this. Ossining and Bobby and Sally and Polly and Don. All this.

She is depressed because she is suppressing rage, that much is obvious. But she’s also depressed because she’s suppressing her vision. Betty knows who she is. She’s a beauty. She’s Grace Kelly. And she’s not supposed to be Grace Kelly. She’s supposed to be June Cleaver. The core of her suffering, I think, is not her rage, but her knowledge. She’s really Grace Kelly and every day she has to pretend she’s not.

Betty and Grace

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