Fat Betty Draper on Mad Men – Let the fat shaming continue

Do you watch Mad Men? I recently got into the show, and ripped through all of the episodes on Netflix, one after another, on hazy Friday nights with a glass of wine and husband by my side. I really like it because it bears a lot of similarities to what I do for my day job (and yes, that is unfortunate in some ways), and it’s a well written, cheeky show.
~~~~Spoiler Alert: Do not keep reading if you haven’t seen the episode yet! ~~~~~~

Last night was the second show of the season, and there seems to be ONE thing everybody is focusing on. Fat Betty Draper. Betty Draper is the frosty yet freakishly beautiful housewife – the ex wife of creative director Don Draper and current wife of politician Henry Francis. Much of her role on the show has been to serve as the 1950s arm candy to her husbands – as a lithe, gorgeous blonde, her main job was to prove to hungry potential business partners that her husband(s) (be it advertising or politics) were all around good guys.

January Jones, the real life actress who plays Betty, was pregnant while filming, so the writers decided to write her in as having a potential thyroid problem, and in the episode she appears to have gained 30-40 pounds. The scene opens with her trying to squeeze into a dress and faking sick when she realizes she can’t get into it. I really empathized with Betty through out the episode – as someone who has perpetually been fat, I know what it’s like to feel like your whole self worth is based on your jeans size. The show was very well written, and didn’t seem to focus on fat as a bad thing, just a change for appearance in a main character.

However, I’m more interested in the reaction of the public. Check out this headline by the Hollywood Reporter – c’mon – was the pun THAT good? Really?

People all over Twitter showed their emotions with expressive tweets like these:

“Betty (Draper) Francis really needs to die. Can’t stand her and now that she is fat, she serves no purpose.”

“My motivation to hit the gym today is chubby Betty Draper.”

“After seeing what fat Betty Draper looks like, I kind of want to starve myself…”

“ill correct that. january jones pregnant. not betty draper fat. thats gross.”

I just want to know what it is about FAT that freaks people out in such an extreme way. I understand the tweets above are directed at a character, not a real person, but the reality is we all know plenty of people who look like Betty or are even heavier. Even with her excess weight she was a stunner, but people can’t seem to handle her metamorphosis from string bean beauty queen to larger leading lady.

Why do people hate fat people so much? Is the sight of obesity really so vulgar and offensive? Also, what makes fat people an easier target to pick on? Sure, sure, people picked on Angelina’s weight at the Oscars – many claimed she was skeletal – but I think this leads to a bigger issue, that we’re a society so accustomed to constantly picking apart the physical appearance of women that it’s become the norm. If Don Draper had porked up in the episode, I bet the reactions would have been more along the lines of, “Oh, he’s got a big beer gut – too much schmoozing with the secrataries!”, and his portliness would be applauded as a direct result of his success, not that he “let himself go”.

What do you think? As a fellow voluptuous blonde, am I just being too sensitive to people’s harsh comments about fat Betty?

6 thoughts on “Fat Betty Draper on Mad Men – Let the fat shaming continue

  1. I don’t think you’re overreacting at all. I think it’s sick that weight matters so much to fuckin’ everyone else. Hello…since when did my weight become YOUR problem? (Obviously not directed at you, Alyssa–that’s just how I feel about everyone’s relentless need to comment and body snark.)

    It drives me nuts. I want to shake those people by their shoulders and show them the incredible amount of damage they’re doing.

    Blargh. I have very little faith in humanity sometimes.

  2. You’re not overreacting at all. Fat hatred is extreme and ubiquitous and it terrifies me. I don’t understand why it’s considered acceptable when other forms of obvious prejudice are considered at the very least, impolite for public discourse, and at the worst, abominable. Something does need to change.

  3. I kind of think people are harsher with people on TV because A) they don’t seem real; B) the fantasy world they form a part of doesn’t usually include fat people; and C) we’re jealous of people who live in a fantasy world and therefore hold them to higher standards. That’s not to say there’s no “fat hating” going on. Just saying I think it’s worse for people in the public eye. And while the tone is different toward women and men, men get it too. I’m thinking of the whole “Will Jonah Hill still be funny?” issue–different perspective, same basic problem.

  4. I actually think that I reacted negatively towards Betty’s weight gain myself, and I probably weigh more than her character supposedly does. For me, it was the way that Betty was carrying herself and her obvious discomfort about her weight. She has always had mental issues, and now she seems to be soothing herself with food. But enough about the show. Those tweets are mean-spirited and ridiculous, and I wouldn’t pay much attention to them. I read just as many (if not more) hate-filled messages about Meghan (Don’s new wife) and her bra/panty scene. It saddens me how ugly people can act sometimes.

  5. Hating fat people? My morbidly obese mother-in-law ridicules overweight men and says catty, malicious remarks about fat women. She’s much tougher on the women than she is on the men; she’ll actually make fun of them, and giggle and laugh at them, after they leave the room.

    MIL is also one of the most self-loathing people I’ve ever known. That’s why she hates overweight people — she’s ashamed of her own size, and detests herself for being that way, so she feels better when she can debase someone else. How sad is that?

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