Does Anyone Else Find the “Fat Betty Francis” Twitter Problematic?
Betty Francis (January Jones) of Mad Men has gained a few pounds—as well as a Twitter account, “Fat Betty Francis.” Does anyone else find this kind of disturbing?
When the fifth season of Mad Men premiered on March 25, there was one major question ricocheting around during the days following it: Where was Betty Francis? As played by January Jones, the former Mrs. Draper was strangely absent from the show’s long-awaited return. But with this past week’s episode, we got Betty back—and then some. As the wife of Henry Francis, she has, shall we say, put on a few. Much has been made of the extra padding the normally svelte January donned to play the role, as well as the fact that the weight gain was written in to work around the actress’ pregnancy; but at the end of the day, what we have is a character who, simply put, got fat.
So of course, Fat Betty Francis now has her very own Twitter account. And in light of this development, I now desperately need to pose a new question: Does anyone else find this extremely problematic?
Twitter is no stranger to novelty accounts. After the Oscars this year, Angelina Jolie’s right leg, Jennifer Lopez’s nipple, and Bradley Cooper’s mustache all spawned their own Twitter feeds; so, for that matter, has Snooki’s unborn baby, under the name “Spawn of Snooki.” There are also accounts like Death Star PR, which sends out messages such as, “Replacing Darth Maul with Justin Bieber in the lightsaber duel would instantly make The Phantom Menace the GREATEST film of all time” (which, by the way, is true). There’s one called Feminist Hulk, which sends out feminist teachings in the guise of the Marvel character The Hulk (“TEACH GIRLS STRENGTH. TEACH BOYS NURTURING. TEACH BOTH THAT ‘BOY’ AND ‘GIRL’ ARE JUST SUGGESTIONS. SMASH START EARLY!”). There’s even one for Samuel Pepys, the noted 17th century British diarist, who reveals to us such thoughts as, “My eyes very bad, and every day worse and worse, I fear; but I find it most certain that stronge drinks do make my eyes sore” (Pepys? You may want to lay off the booze a little. Just sayin’). And generally, all of those are pretty funny. Sure, a lot of them poke fun at real people, but they’re mostly good-spirited and not totally damning (and you all know how much I love a good celebrity joke).
Not so for the Fat Betty Francis account. This one is fat-shaming, pure and simple, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t find fat-shaming at all funny. Want a couple of examples? Here you go:
Betty has had a history of weight-based trouble over the course of her life. As a chubby child, her food was policed by her mother; she later became a fashion model, subsisting on barely-there lunches to keep her frame in check. She’s now a housewife, and she’s depressed. Though she was also depressed while she was married to Don, it’s taken a different form this time: She eats. And eats, and eats, and eats. So why the heck are we making such merciless fun of a character who a) so desperately needs help, and b) might not be that far off from where a lot of real women are in their lives?
I’m lucky enough never to have struggled with my own weight, but I have plenty of friends who have battled with theirs, and on both ends of the spectrum at that. In some cases, it’s been caused by a thyroid condition; in some, it’s been from an eating disorder; and in others, it’s simply been from dealing with being a different size or shape than society deems ideal. And it’s no laughing matter. Furthermore, fat-shaming is damaging to more than just those with weight issues; it perpetuates the myth that all fat is ugly or dumb, and in Betty Francis’ case, that clinical depression is something to mock.
I don’t know. Maybe this is just me. But I kind of think we owe it to ourselves and to the world to break the fat-shaming trend. What do you think?
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.