originally posted 7/17/2020
The World’s Messiest Divorce
Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story is the latest true-crime mini-series on USA starring Amanda Peet and Christian Slater. Amanda Peet brilliantly portrays Betty, the discarded wife who can’t move on after the divorce and spirals into mental illness. Christian Slater masterfully plays the cold and calculating husband, Dan Broderick, who discards his charming blonde wife after the many years she supported him through medical and law school with four young children at home.
The story is a sad one. Described by Oprah Winfrey as one of America’s messiest divorces even before it ended in double homicide, the disturbing but compelling tale spans the 1960’s to the 1980s. Betty endures hardship and poverty for years by her husband’s side, only to have him leave her when they finally start to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Betty Broderick – a Sympathetic Defendant
Amanda Peet’s astonishing performance in Dirty John-The Betty Broderick Story enables viewers see Betty as a vulnerable and mistreated wife pushed to madness by her husband’s behavior; she appears sympathetic despite her horrendous acts of murder. Scorned women worldwide understood and supported Betty, and many sent cards and packages to her in jail. As a result, Betty confidently maintains that anyone in her situation would behave the same way and shows no remorse. Her parole repeatedly denied, she remains in jail today.
“Everyone Wants a Kitten, No One Wants a Cat”
It was not unusual for women married in the 60s to lose themselves in their marriage and children. Many sacrificed their personal and professional goals so their husbands were free to easily pursue their careers. Betty was smart and had a college education, but after years of not working outside the house, she not only lost her wealth and standing in the community with the divorce, but also found she was unemployable. This line, “Everyone wants a kitten, no one wants a cat” from the show was one of my favorites; it illustrates issues encountered by divorced women at the time very well. Today, women have far more opportunities, though many who choose to stay home with kids still find it difficult to reenter the workforce years later.
Watch Dirty John-The Betty Broderick Story on USA network or Netflix
image source: Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash.com