January Jones is best known for her time on the show Mad Men. In that series, she played Betty Draper, the housewife to Don Draper. Her performance was outstanding.
During the show’s run, she found herself pregnant at one point. Rather than write her pregnancy into the storyline, the creative team behind the show figured out a way to incorporate her weight gain in a way that worked with the show and the character. Here’s how they were able to do it so effectively.
January Jones career overview
While Jones worked consistently as an actor before Mad Men, the role of Betty was the one that would change her life. According to IMDB, from 2007-2015 she portrayed the Drapers’ sullen and moody matriarch. She’s also appeared in big-budget Hollywood productions like American Wedding, X-Men: First Class, and Unknown across from Liam Neeson.
Jones hasn’t found another part that served her quite as well as Betty did. She did have a good run on Will Forte’s sitcom The Last Man on Earth. She’s still searching for that second breakout role, however.
Mad Men put Jones on the map in a big way. It showed off her acting talent. She complimented Hamm well. They both did a good job portraying two damaged halves of one messed up whole.
Watching their TV marriage disintegrate was always compelling television, and those two are largely to thank for that.
How Betty Draper helped redefine the portrayal of the 60s housewife
While Don and his fellow advertising colleagues were the main focus of the show, Betty highlighted the plight of the 60s housewife. Viewers followed her as she went from attempting to be a doting housewife to a more independent figure when it came to her kids and personal life.
Betty wasn’t always portrayed in the most positive light. She often appeared to be a bad mother. But to look at Betty as all good or all bad misses the point of the character.
She was attempting to deal with the rampant misogyny of the time. In many ways, Don helped create the character of Betty in how he mistreated her.
Betty had a sad fate to end the show — a fatal cancer diagnosis. Throughout her failed marriage to Don or her slightly more successful but still fraught with complications marriage to Henry Francis, she was always interesting to watch. That’s all thanks to Jones’ expert performance.
How ‘Mad Men’ hid Betty Draper’s pregnancy
During the filming of the show, Jones became pregnant before season five. According to People, the show’s creative team got around this in an inventive way. They put Jones in a fat suit and had a subplot revolving around Betty gaining weight.
On the show, doctors informed Betty she had a benign tumor on her thyroid which led to her gaining weight. The real-life pregnancy was obviously not mentioned.
What made the move so clever is that it totally fits the character. Betty lived in a world with impossible standards. Not only did she have to manage a household, but she also had to stay perfectly thin — an archaic standard — to satisfy her husband.
Eventually, Betty lost the weight and went back to her normal appearance, but the weight gain helped develop the character as she struggled through society’s body-shaming standards.
One of Mad Men’s strongest attributes was the brutal honesty with which it covered intergender relationships in the 60s. It provided a textured backdrop for the masculine-dominated world by showing how the women involved in it lived. The Betty weight gain subplot did a great job in supporting that mission.
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