Will Betty and Sally Draper Be the New Big and Little Edie Beales?

Illustration for article titled Will Betty and Sally Draper Be the New Big and Little Edie Beales?

In an effort to flee her increasingly disappointing parental relationships, Sally Draper decided that boarding school would be her best bet to avoid anymore emotional scarring. Much to her mother's delight, she had an opportunity to interview at Miss Porter's School, whose most famous alumna epitomizes old-money-meets-modern-sophistication, the perfect combo of class and classy: Jackie O. But it's also the alma mater of Jackie's cousin: Edith Bouvier Beale, better known as Little Edie of Grey Gardens.


Having seen something that she can't un-see (Don on top of the neighbor woman, who happens to be the mother of Sally's crush), she wants to get the hell away from her dad, and making up excuses as to why she can't visit him on the weekends probably won't fly for much longer. Betty has an in, through Henry, at Miss Porter's School (also known as "Farmington," for the name of the Connecticut town where it's located) and Don is all but too happy to pay the tuition if it means that he'll not have to confront the ickiness of the damage he's done to his daughter and to his relationship with her. A super heartwarming episode to air on Father's Day.

Sally spends the night in the dorms for something of an "audition" with a couple of students, from whom she'll need glowing reviews. They try some mean girl tactics as a form of hazing but it doesn't really work. It turns out that Sally is super cool and knows how she can score them booze, cigs, and weed. She has Glen and his friend Rolo sneak over and the five of them party.


Here, we see shades of her father emerging. Aside from getting "really drunk," Sally demonstrates Don's ability to fit in anywhere. Literally over night she was able to leave her old, painful life behind and create a new, well-liked identity, just like her father did when he shed Dick Whitman for Don Draper.

More than anything though, we see that Sally is her mother's daughter, particularly when she flashes that smile after getting Glen to beat up his friend Rolo for her. She enjoyed that realization of the powers of womanly manipulation. It was very Betty. (On the brighter side, it was kind of nice to see Glen step up for her. At least there's one male in her life that has been consistently there for her, doesn't let her down, and that she can always count on.)

A lot of times, the teenage girls who fight so viciously with their mothers eventually figure out that the reason they don't get along with them is because they're so similar. Sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes it's a bad thing. In Sally's case, I think it's actually good. Time away from Betty will probably ease the tension for both of them, and make them a little more appreciative of each other.

Interestingly, their ride home from their visiting weekend at MPS was almost exactly the opposite of the scene in Mommie Dearest when Joan Crawford yanks Christina out of boarding school after learning that she was caught making out with a boy. When Joan tries to swig on an empty flask Christina dryly says, "There's a liquor store on the corner."


Joan yells, "I should've known you'd know where to find the boys and the booze!" And the hurls the flask at her.

In contrast, Betty shared a smoke with Sally, saying she'd rather do it with her than behind her back.


Betty isn't really a Mommie Dearest type after all. She's been a little cold, un-nurturing, and selfish, but she never set out to make Sally's life hellish—probably because she wasn't that interested in Sally's life. Until now. Instead of being jealous of Sally's opportunities and youth, Betty is actually making sure that Sally makes the most of them. She wants Sally to have all the things that she didn't have, even if it's just some boarding school mischief. Sure, it's probably less about giving Sally the best than it is about living vicariously through her, but either way, Sally is still being given the best. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement, which evokes the title of the episode "The Quality of Mercy."

Taken from Portia's speech to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.


Basically, she's saying that mercy can't be something that someone is forced to give, but if he'll give her a break, they'll both benefit from it. And so it was with Sally and Betty. (And also Bob and Pete.)

I also can't help but wonder if this boarding school thing is a huge mistake. Sally was getting loaded and having a jerk get aggressive with her within the first 24 hours. While a lot of that is kind of par for the course with being a teenager, it's also trouble. At the same time, back home she was being held hostage by burglars and walking in on her father being slimy so it's kind of up in the air right now which is a better environment for her.


That being said, not everybody who goes to Farmington turns out like Gloria Vanderbilt, Gene Tierney, or Jackie O. For example, there's Little Edie Beale, whose life had a lot of similarities to Sally's. They're both the oldest of three children, each having two little brothers. They come from respectable, wealthy families, with a large house in the suburbs and an apartment in Manhattan. (Edie was actually born on Madison Ave.) Both children of divorce, they became estranged from their fathers, never receiving any form of support from them that wasn't financial. Fighting with their fathers made them closer to their mothers.

But Little Edie's relationship with her mother eventually stunted her own growth as a person. Her mother held her close but also held her back. Of course they were both complicit in the arrangement. I'm not saying that will happen to Betty and Sally (Betty would never live in a shit hole like Grey Gardens) but basically the lesson here is that Farmington cannot protect a girl from shitty parenting, because that's something you take with you through life.

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There was a really interesting profile on Miss Porter's (and the aggressive girl-on-girl bullying that apparently runs rampant there) in Vanity Fair a few years ago.

Also, I would appreciate it if all future Mad Men related articles ended with, "and then Ken got shot in the face."