Over at BadAssNerd I’m getting called out for the Mad Men alignment chart:
Betty isn’t evil. At all. Frankly, I think it’s sexist that she keeps getting pigeonholed as the bad guy on the show when she’s no more bad than many of the men. Her crime – she’s not that much fun. Which is why the truly evil Roger Sterling gets to be Neutral Evil on the chart. He’s fun. We like watching him. But unlike Betty, Roger deliberately hurts people, and he does it for his own pleasure. He’s mean and he’s untrustworthy and he’s vain and he’s selfish. Truly Chaotic Evil.
Firstly, “the men” on Mad Men are varying levels of bad. Lane is honestly pretty decent, all things considered (yes, I know, disintegrating marriage – but he tries to make it work for longer than he frankly should, continues to support his estranged wife as is proper, and immediately tries to find another dedicated relationship). Sal is a big sweetheart. Don usually tries to be a good person and succeeds maybe half the time if he’s lucky. Ken is self-interested, but not amorally so. Bert Cooper is old-school for both good and bad. Harry is developing his asshole streak at present. The only real bastards on the show are Pete and Roger, and oh look they’re in the bottom row with Betty.
Secondly, I take issue with the idea that Betty isn’t evil because she’s “no worse than many of the men.” Betty is a meanspirited person. She clearly takes pleasure in hurting people she doesn’t like. She’s incredibly hateful – even borderline abusive – towards Sally. She’s capricious, inconstant and unreliable. She’s wildly paranoid and a massive control freak as regards her own personal preferences.
Now, because Mad Men is a good show, it develops why Betty is these things. I mean, Betty is pretty clearly fucked up. The show’s implied that she’s the product of an abusive, loveless upbringing. She’s so terrified of her own problems she’s only willing to talk about them with a child psychologist and then only in the context of small talk.
All of this is certainly true, but just because there are valid, understandable reasons that Betty has become a horrible person doesn’t change the fact that she’s a horrible person. It honestly strikes me as patronizing to say that because she’s a woman and therefore without an equivalent degree of personal agency to the men of the show, she can’t make her own moral and ethical decisions: she does so over the course of the series and unflaggingly makes the wrong/bad/selfish ones constantly. That’s evil, for the purpose of the Alignment Game.