One of the recurring elements of Mad Men this year is the increased attention paid to Sally, the Drapers’ daughter. In this past Sunday’s episode, Sally’s brother, Bobby, caught Sally kissing a boy and teased her about it. Sally reacted with immediate fury, chasing her brother, catching him, and immediately smacking him around. As one of eight children who often had physical altercations with my siblings growing up, I thought to myself, “Nice reflexes!”
Apparently, though, I should have been appalled. Carla, the woman who watched the children while Betty joined Don on his quick trip to Rome, told Betty that Sally’s temper was out of control and something they needed to watch and probably address. (By the way, I liked how Don totally excused himself from this conversation by giving the two woman a look of helplessness and heading into the kitchen to check the mail – in the Drapers’ home in the 1963, domestic problems are women’s to handle.) Betty does speak to Sally, demanding that she apologize to her brother, which she readily does and which Bobby immediately and rather nonchalantly accepts.
And so the issue of Sally’s temper is resolved. Or is it?
There have been other situations this season when Sally’s emotions have got the better of her and she has reacted rather strongly, either verbally or physically. On one level, this scene just seems like another one of those, perhaps a stage in maturation that Sally is going through as she processes the death of her grandfather, the birth of a new brother, and the tricky realities of growing up in a family where the father is often absent, the mother is often surly, and expressions of love and support are rare.
But Carla’s suggestion that this is a problem that the Drapers need to address, it seems to me, serves the purpose of setting up Sally’s temper as a loaded gun placed in the parlor, all set to go off. The writers of Mad Men have a tendency to introduce an element of the story in a small way and then to return to it and have it implode – I think of the birds that Betty shot at in the first season, Frank O’Hara’s book of poems, Meditations in an Emergency, in the second season, Connie Hilton’s cameo earlier this season which has become a major factor in Don’s work, and of course the John Deere tractor, which had such an “impact” a few episodes ago.
And so my prediction: Sally’s temper will play a major role in the series later this season. In what way? I’m not sure, but I’d bet that at some point that gun goes off. Moreover, I suspect it will have an impact on Betty, because she hasn’t done much to address Sally’s temper and her difficulties adjusting to all of the changes going on around her. I can’t say exactly what will happen, but I’d watch out if I were Baby Gene!