Modern Manners: OMG, Betty Got Fat!

April 2, 2012 | By | Comments (0)

In last night’s new episode of Mad Men, Betty Draper faced a thyroid cancer scare – but the real tragedy, everyone on the show agreed, was that she had gotten fat.

Betty’s mother-in-law came to visit and recommended “diet pills.” And after the doctor’s office called to say the lump on Betty’s thyroid was benign, the mother of three didn’t consider the news good – how was she going to explain the extra pounds now? Her doctor suggested it was all her fault, saying that sudden weight gain in a middle-aged housewife (his description) was usually explained by a “psychological reason.” This was life in 1966.

It’s also pretty much what life is like in 2012. In our culture, getting fat is still considered a shocking tragedy.  In sharp contrast to last week, when no one I know had much to say after the ho-hum two-hour season premiere, this morning I woke up to find my Inbox flooded with email from friends who watched last night’s show. Some sample subject lines: “BETTY FAT? I’M GOING FOR A RUN!” and “Devastating” and “her life is OVER.”

A few things have changed since the 1960’s, to be sure. “Diet pills” have been replaced by new, more sophisticated strategies for weight loss (“boot camp,” anyone?). We understand more about nutrition. We know more about the biological reasons women gain weight as they age. And we emphasize exercise over smoking cigarettes as a way to keep weight down.

But in a nation where more than one-third of adults are obese—the federal government reports a dramatic increase in weight gain in the past two decades—we’re still incredibly unforgiving of the condition. It’s a health problem, but we still blame the victim. Why?

(image via CafeMom)