Monday, October 27, 2008

Marilyn vs. Jackie

The Mad Men finale was on last night. I haven't watched it yet because I am a grandma and it comes on too late (I probably won't watch it tonight either because I must root for the Rays to avoid their first World Series loss (and don't tell me the Phillies deserve to win. I root for a franchise who's never won a World Series in it's 40 year history. Not winning since 1980 doesn't sound too bad to me), but this post is not about baseball), but, as I sorta mentioned in the comments section Friday, Mad Men has me thinking about women and they way they are, well, lusted after.

Mad Men has three female protagonists: There's Betty Draper (the gorgeous January Jones) who's a Jackie Kennedy...beautiful, matronly, Madonna-esque (as in, the blessed mother, not the dance-hall queen); Joan Holloway (my girl-crush Christina Hendricks) who's a Marilyn Monore...curvy, hyper-sexualized and objectified; and Peggy Olsen (Elizabeth Moss, much cuter in person than on the show) who's neither Jackie or Marilyn as she's pretty much devoid of sexuality and almost masculine in her behavior. Putting Peggy aside, the contrast between Betty Draper and Joan Holloway is nothing new. The feisty, psuedo-sexualized woman vs. the saintly mother has always been around (take Scarlett O'Hara vs. Melanie Hamilton or even Joey Potter vs. Jen Lindley). More often than not, it's Marilyn men want to sleep with and Jackie they want to marry. A very understandable choice, I suppose. Date and bed the exciting, yet difficult woman and marry the more stable, if boring, future mother of your children. Makes sense to me.

But what I find interesting is the attention paid to January Jones and Christina Hendricks in the media. January Jones, porno name aside, may be one of the most traditionally beautiful women, like, ever, but size 10 Christina Hendricks gets all the media attention. In a society where, not long ago, size 0 was established as the standard of beauty, I find this rather encouraging. I know most men have always preferred women with curves over the alternative, but this was not really reflected in popular shows like Friends or in the idolization of someone like Angelina Jolie. I guess my question is, why? What's changed in the past few years to generate more buzz for the busty redhead than the former Abercrombie & Fitch model? Or am I just kidding myself? And, perhaps most importantly, are you really still reading these ramblings? Can you answer any of these questions, dear reader?


The Imaginary Reviewer said...

The World changed when Whitney won Cycle 10 of America's Next Top Model.

(Now there's a sentence I never pictured myself saying when I woke up this morning)

BeckEye said...

Hmm, I would also like to believe that this is a new trend, but I think you're kidding yourself. I think she's focused on because she is an anomaly in Hollywood, but that doesn't mean that people are ready for size 10s to take over the entertainment world. If she didn't play such a vixenish character on the show, she probably wouldn't be getting so much attention. I mean, when tabloids talk about "full-figured" or "normal-sized" women in show business, they usually point to someone like Beyoncé.

pistols at dawn said...

If you think about it, what's a better story - "Yet Another Skinny Blonde Found Attractive?" or "Slightly Healthy Redhead Who Puts Out on TV Apparently Effable?" Just like we're in a bar, we're all checking out the one we'd like to go home with tonight, not forever. Forever's boring.

Still, I've always preferred the healthier-looking Rubenesque women - both naturally, and because of one thing an ex of mine said. We were staring at a bunch of Greek statues in an art gallery, and she noted her similarity to those depictions with a very quiet and sad, "If only I were alive back then, I'd be the standard of beauty." And then she bit her lip and hated herself inside and I felt bad for being in any way responsible for the culture that made someone feel that crappy over things she couldn't control.

Later, of course, I'd make her feel crappy for completely different reasons.

McGone said...

Let's hope it is a change in society, but Christina Hendricks demands attention, plain and simple. I couldn't imagine anyone not noticing her when she enters a room.

Hell, the first time I saw her was on the TV show Firefly, and I pretty much run that episode on a loop in my head, she left such an impression.

Malcolm said...

I think that the near skeletal figures of actresses like Calista Flockhart and Lara Flynn Boyle caused some to step back and ask, "Is that shit really attractive?" I don't know if the media's focus on women like Christina Hendricks can be traced to one moment. However, the success of the film "Real Women Have Curves" can be seen as a milestone.

The super thin look will remain the preference for some, but it's cool that the media has begun to focus on women like Ms. Hendricks and Queen Latifah to show that curves aren't a bad thing.

Falwless said...

I gotta be cynical and agree with Beckeye here. For every one article or mention of a curvy redhead like Christina Hendricks there are, unfortunately, 894 tabloid/magazine spreads with unflattering pictures of (*gasp* - horrendous!) celebrity cellulite or articles on how to lose those 20 pounds, when, in fact, those 20 pounds are exactly what makes the likes of Hendricks such a (gorgeous) anomaly.

I really wish the entertainment and fashion industries would wake up. It may be happening, but if it is it's at a terribly slow snail's pace.

words words words said...

The thing I'm most shocked at is that with all the Christina Hendricks love in the media, people even know who January Jones is. Anyone who knows me knows I love curvy women and redheads. But January Jones wins, hands down. She's just astonishingly beautiful. I don't care what her body looks like because I can't be bothered to look any lower than her neck.

I think the real tragedy here is that a size 10 is even considered "full figured", "curvy", or any other media euphemism for "fat". I'm pulling this off the top of my head, but I'm willing to bet the average size for a woman is 12-14.

BeckEye said...

Further proof that the cynical view is right.

I don't know about that Schwimmer chick, but I just read in Us that Cheryl Burke is a SIZE 4. And she needs to lose 10 pounds?? I guess dancers need to be thinner than average so the men can lift them up, etc. but if a guy can lift an 100 pound girl, he can certainly lift an 110 pound one.

Red said...

TIR: I love that you know who Whitney is...that's totally awesome.

Becks: I'd heard about Cheryl getting flack on DWTS. That's really disturbing that her cast mates are getting in on the trash talk. So sad.

Pistols: You are making strides for men everywhere...or something.

McGone: I never really noticed C. Hend until her turn on Life, but you're right. She demands attention. As all redheads I'm sure you know first hand.

Malcolm: Queen Latifah is another great example. She is so gorgeous.

Fal: I don't think the fashion industry will change much until it's no longer run by gay men...which will be never.

WWW: The average for women is 5'2" and a size 14. Well done.

Liz said...

I just love that you tagged this post - among other things - baseball.

Oh, umm, yeah, and Boooo society and its unnatural preconditions it puts on women! And stuff!

Anonymous said...

I think it changed a little when women like J Lo and Beyonce started being accepted. Sure you had jokes form folks like howard Stern but overall they received much attention for their curves. The small still outnumber the thicker women but now it seems like fewer people in charge of hiring turn their noses up so quickly at the likes of someone like the actor who plays Callie or Erika on Grey's Anatomy or even Hildi with her very curvy bottom on Ugly betty.

red clay said...

marilyn monroe had an innocence. she was almost unaware of her effect.
that redhead girl can smell it on you. bless her heart.