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News Flash: Christina Hendricks Is An Articulate Person. And Has Jugs.

I am on the record as someone who watches Mad Men compulsively. I am also on the record as someone who does not get the crazy fetishization of Joan and/or Christina Hendricks. In fact, I am annoyed by it, mostly because the public discussion around Joan tends to take one of three forms: (1) OMG BOOBIES, (2) wow, she is just super fat and I must be really open-minded for liking her OMG BOOBIES, or (3) see? Women could get ahead in the 1960s! By being sexy! In related news, BOOBIES, OMG.

Also, Peggy is better. Sorry! She just is.

Anyway, imagine my surprise at discovering that, when interviewers are not focusing specifically and entirely on the culturally significant breasts of Christina Hendricks, she has interesting things to say! Behold, from this recent piece in New York Magazine:

“What’s astounding is when people say things like, ‘Well, you know that episode where Joan sort of got raped?’ Or they say rape and use quotation marks with their fingers,” says Hendricks. “I’m like, ‘What is that you are doing? Joan got raped!’ It illustrates how similar people are today, because we’re still questioning whether it’s a rape. It’s almost like, ‘Why didn’t you just say bad date?’ ”

Whoa hey! A solid point! About how Joan’s rape would not have been recognized as such in 1962 (because her rapist was the dude to whom she was engaged) and, honestly, many people still have trouble calling such incidents “rape” now!

The interview concludes with Christina Hendricks answering a question about her breasts.


  1. RMJ wrote:

    I'm watching Mad Men season one with commentary right now, and all of the actors, writers, etc are very illuminating and articulate.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  2. snobographer wrote:

    Off to read that interview, but yeah, I hate how practically every mention of Joan as a character is something superficial, like her figure or her clothes or how she leverages her sex appeal.
    Remember that episode where she did that assignment reading TV show scripts to make sure the ads fit into the right slots, and she got really into it and had great ideas and scored a big client some really choice ad space for cheap? And then the permanent job was given to some 20-year-old dude off the street whom she had to train? I thought that pretty much put the nail in the coffin of Joan's ability to get ahead, by means of her sex appeal or whatever else. She never gets ahead. She remains a secretary and a meatsock, no matter how smart she is or how much ass she kicks. I feel bad for Joan. I think I like her and Peggy sort of equally though – maybe a little edge goes to Peggy.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  3. Sarah wrote:

    I love Joan's character precisely because she is so internally and externally oppressed by her own upbringing in a sexist society. All of the lectures she gives Peggy about using the job as a platform for marriage… and then the look on her face when Peggy gets promoted… She's NOT getting ahead because of her sex appeal, and I think she realized that when it came to her affair with Mr. Sterling.

    Or geez, reading the article, Hendricks made the same damn point: "…She has the confidence of a man and that really hurts her."

    Anyway, I think conflicted characterizations like Joan's really confuse some people. They're exactly like those high schoolers who fall in love with Holden Caufield.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
  4. Sady wrote:

    @Sarah: The Holden Caulfield point is BRILLIANT.

    Actually, on the Joan tip, I'm watching "Babylon," the episode in which Peggy gets her first copywriting assignment. And it's really bringing into focus the reasons that I get frustrated with Joan (although I don't dislike her – I don't dislike any characters, except Midge) and why I always feel compelled to defend Peggy. Joan not only plays by the rules that say being sexy and accepting your predefined subservient office-manager role will bring you power, she HATES it that Peggy isn't sexy, doesn't want to stay in a secretarial position forever, and gets away with it. Peggy gets ahead, she breaks rules, she gets a job that matters, and Joan undermines her and talks down to her and puts the Xerox machine in her office and sneers at her and tells her to lose weight throughout, because Joan has accepted this totally sexist vision of what a woman's power can be, what a woman's LIFE can be, and can't stand the idea that someone else might genuinely succeed and do better than she has, especially if they don't play by her rules. She's so invested in the system that she can't feel liberated when some woman breaks through it: she's actually threatened, and angry, and cruel. Joan = Agent of The Patriarchy, and Joan = Victim of the Patriarchy, and Joan = Not Able To See That She Is The Victim of This Totally Fucked System She Continually Supports.

    But, then again, if it weren't such a smart show, we couldn't discuss the ramifications of the Peggy/Joan rivalry, could we?

    Basically, the only time "Mad Men" ever fucked up, with its female characters, was Midge, and her two-dimensional "Greenwich Village! Beatniks! Liberation" bullshit, because (a) women were VERY DISTINCTLY marginalized in that scene, they were the OPPOSITE of liberated, and the writers never address that fact, and (b) Midge is the most patently artificial pose-addicted hipster twit ever and I cannot stand a single one of her calculatedly quirky and cool little Moments, nor can I stand a single line that comes out of her mouth.

    When is Rachel coming back? Oh, that's right, never. BOO.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  5. Other Ashley wrote:

    Season 2 seemed to me to be driving home with a sledgehammer the limits of sex as power in a sexist society. First of all, that currency loses value fast, as evidenced by the fact that Joan's age (OMG EARLY THIRTIES!!!!) is a subject of ridicule in the office. Secondly, it's an absolute dead end. Denied the job she was perfect for but didn't even know she wanted, Joan is presented with marriage to a complete asshole as her only remaining option. In other words, Joan being typecast in her professional and social life as the sexpot is leading her toward a life that is arguably even sadder than Betty Draper or Bobbie Barrett's, and her rape seems is flashing a giant neon sign saying "POWERFUL SEXY WOMAN IS REALLY PRETTY VULNERABLE ACTUALLY AND ALSO THIS IS VERY SAD"

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    Rachel's not coming back? Bah! How can they set up a character like that only to squander her? Only recently finished season one down here in Australia, so illicity sucking up spoilers. There was a woman in Midge's flat in one episode (I don't think they ever gave us her name, but you could practically see the white hipster dudes thinking how much cred it gave them to have a black chick rolling with their crowd) who complained that the women at their gatherings were expected to sit quietly and listen to the men say Important Things.
    – Orlando

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 7:07 pm | Permalink
  7. k wrote:

    I wish I could watch Mad Men. I quit smoking right before watching the first season finale and it's clear to me that I can stay quit of smoking or I can watch Mad Men (because the smoking! is so so so … smoking) and I picked my lungs. Damn it.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Permalink
  8. QL wrote:

    Once more i feel compelled to scream –
    "Why in god's name is it news that a slightly larger woman is sexy?!"

    Do you see what I did there? I called a woman with absolutely no resemblence to the term in reality 'slightly larger.' INSANITY.

    She's not a plus-sized beauty, she's not a role model for teenages because she eats. She's not an anomoly because she's considered beautiful and doesn't fit into a size 2.

    She's a Sexy Lady and that's all there is to it.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Permalink
  9. ChelseaWantsOut wrote:

    Whaaaat, Sady? I liked the parts with Midge and her little beatnik friends! I liked the girl who said, "How come every time we have a party the ladies just sit around and listen to the men talk?" and the part with the lady reciting poetry and then someone in the crowd saying, "Take off your top!" and then the woman just does it. I thought the show did a fairly good job of saying to the audience, "These women have been sold a bill of goods! That's right, audience, we said it, albeit a little more clumsily than we've said some other things." But perhaps, Sady, you know something I don't know that makes these acknowledgements of the beatnik ladies' marginalization inadequate, in which case, plz tell me b/c I want 2 no.

    Monday, August 3, 2009 at 11:17 pm | Permalink
  10. Adrianna wrote:

    I live in constant worry that my favorite non-sexist/minimal sexism/enlightening shows will be canceled because of the tiny clustered fanbase issue. That more people know about "Wife Swap" than "Mad Men" makes me want to yank out my hair.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 1:05 am | Permalink
  11. wildlyparenthetical wrote:

    I love Joan. She *is* totally hot, and whilst I agree with option (2) above, I actually *am* impressed that real actual curves are being made sexy on TV at the moment. And yes, that might be partly my own investment, but I have to say, I can know,know,know that the privileging of extremely slender women as beautiful is selective and sexist and inaccurate, but Joan shows me how much that is the case and how ludicrous it is. Then again, I adored Christina Hendricks on Firefly too, so I think she just gets my vote all round.

    But wow, it's so true that Mad Men does amazing things with the depiction of misogyny (and sexism, and racism, and homophobia, and…). It's the reason I love it. And the reason I think it works is because of the point Hendricks makes: we keep telling ourselves we've come so far, in fact, some people even say 'we're all equal now'. But Mad Men shows us that we really haven't come that far, and that we're really not equal.

    In relation to Joan as a character, though, I find her relationship with Peggy fascinating. I actually think that part of what's going on there is that Joan has always thought there was one way to have any influence at all, and it's to be sexy, as well as very good at her job – and that's not her fault, it's the limited imaginings offered her (and even she, I think, is kinda transgressive of some patriarchal norms). Then Peggy comes along and reveals to her that there's another way, but it's too late for Joan, because everyone around her already has her carefully boxed up, and she herself can't imagine a way out of the box.

    Another thing I think is interesting is how swiftly people disapprove of Joan for her sexpot-ness, even though *all* the men on the show wear their sexualities on their sleeves, and don't hesitate to use them to get what they want (which is often sex, but sometimes a client etc). And in relation to that, I think there's something refreshing about how confident and at home Joan is with her sexuality. (I guess what I mean is that that confidence and at-home-ness kinda challenges the idea that women's sexuality is only ever passive and complementary to men's, so there's something progressive about her claiming that space). Which to me is why her rape is so very tragic: one of the few spaces in which she has felt she has power, and it's so swiftly and easily taken from her. It's awful. And her putting herself back together again afterwards felt to me like a grasping back for that sense of confidence and power which will probably never be quite her own again. Oh god, it's making me so sad, just thinking about it!

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 1:13 am | Permalink
  12. Sady wrote:

    @Everyone, About the Joan/Size Question: I, too, appreciate the fact that a woman who is not as unrealistically tiny as most actresses is being allowed her sexiness on the teevee. It weirds me out, however, because while some people genuinely celebrate her as a step outside of a restrictive body norm, other people gawk at her and treat her as an oddity. Like, since when is it news that, if your body is big and soft, some of the bigness and softness will show up in your boobal and butt regions? But we're so used to this insane fantasy of the girl with zero body fat and huge breasts that people are genuinely sort of puzzled by this. And they act as if she's much bigger than she actually is. So it turns into this thing of, "whoa, look at the fat girl! She's so fat! But I'm turned on! Weird, right? I must be super cool." Add in the fact that, since all the actors are wearing period-specific undergarments, Joan is probably in some kind of corset that makes her more hourglassy than usual, and you have this discussion that actually reinforces destructive body standards by saying that it's OK for THIS ONE WOMAN to be slightly bigger than other actresses (though not bigger than most women) since she carries most of it in her fantastic breasts.

    @Everybody, about the Midge Thing: I could go on for years about Midge, and I will try not to. I did like that one scene in the loft, since it was the only open acknowledgment of the fact that the Beat scene was hugely, openly, legendarily misogynist. ("Pretty girls make graves," anyone?) Women were there to get fucked or, if the men needed it, to give the men cash and dinner and a place to crash and have Deep Discussions. And, yeah, you could see the hipster douches congratulating themselves on having a black lady present, and then when she speaks up, they give her the most evil, dismissive look, because: she's not there to challenge them! She's there to make them feel cool!

    The scene with the lady poet I liked less, because I thought she was supposed to be Diane Di Prima (redhead, poet, Beat-adjacent, and the shot of her reading looked very much like a shot I've scene of Diane Di Prima giving a reading in the '50s or early '60s) and then her poetry was terrible and she took her shirt off for the boys. Which, when you consider that Diane Di Prima is actually one of the only women to successfully resist the scene's sexism, create community with other women, and do awesome work while maintaining her radical politics, was a missed opportunity, at least in my Di Prima-worshipping mind.

    But, yeah, by the time the scene in the loft came around I was already sick of Midge's Wigtacular Journey and wanted her gone. Sorry!

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 7:45 am | Permalink
  13. Sady wrote:

    @Sady: "Like a shot I've SEEN." My God. My comments continually reveal the fact that I am borderline-illiterate. Sorry.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 7:47 am | Permalink
  14. Sady wrote:

    @Everybody, Because I am Verbose This Morning and Would Rather Comment Than Actually Post: Anyway, the reason I get so invested in this discussion is that I've heard/seen MEN discussing the female characters of Mad Men, and, especially during Season One, a lot of dudes were hating on Betty and Peggy (the "not fun" female characters) and loving on Joan and Midge. And I was just like, "No! False! Wrong! They are all victims of the same system! Joan and Midge just don't get how FUCKED they are! You like Joan and Midge because they are PLAYING ALONG! YOU GUYS THE POINT IS OVER THERE I REALLY THINK YOU MISSED IT COULD YOU TRY TO GET BACK TO IT PLEASE." Season Two was a lot more explicit about this stuff. And yet people still don't like Betty because she has a case of the Feminine Mystique, and people still don't like Peggy because she's "cold" and "selfish" and "frumpy" and not a sexy fun time. Ugh.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink
  15. DNR wrote:

    Spoilers for both seasons (I learned my lesson on a thread about sexism and The Wire)

    I didn't like the beatnik scenes because they were such feeble, cartoonish opponents to Don Draper. They're easy caricatures and generally the show avoids that: Jimmy Barrett is more loathsome than them, but he gives as good as he gets.

    It's possible to dislike Betty Draper while realizing the awful position she's in. You can understand why she's tries to set her friend up for an affair while still thinking it's creepy. Ditto her anti-semetic outburst to Jimmy Barrett. She's been trapped in a child-like cocoon, but she's still responsible for her actions.

    And at the same time, the show can whiplash and make you feel sympathetic for a spoiled little back-stabber like Pete Campbell and mourn what he could have had with Peggy, without whitewashing his essential nature. Don telling Peggy "it will shock you how much it never happened" is both a warm act of mentoring and a chilling reminder of what he did to his brother. It's possible to feel how almost everybody in the show can be to a greater or lesser extent a victim and a victimizer.

    Except for Duck Philips. Dude kicked his dog onto the streets.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink
  16. ChelseaWantsOut wrote:

    @DNR: I know, right? WTF, Duck!?

    Personally, I've never had any sympathy for Pete. Okay, maybe a tiny wisp of sympathy here or there, but there has never been a time when I have been like, "Oh, eff this show for making me like him!" the way I've been with Don Draper. My husband, on the other hand, has great sympathy for him and we actually got in a big argument that time Pete bought a rifle with the chip & dip return money.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  17. snobographer wrote:

    Oh I don't lament what Peter could have had with Peggy. Peter was just yanking Peggy around. I loved her last speech to him – 'I could have had you, but here's just how much I didn't want you.'

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  18. Other Ashley wrote:

    @Snobographer: Yes!! Yes, yes yes. That moment was my absolute most favoritest thing that has ever ever happened on that show.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, Sady, but I think what you're saying about Joan is that while it's totally cool and shit to celebrate the fact that a woman with a double-digit dress size is a sexual icon, some of the "discussion" of her hotness has developed into a weird, fetishy sort of thing. Sort of like Kate Harding says, people who acknowledge that fat women can be and in fact are sexually attractive to many different people perhaps even themselves are great; fat-fetishists for whom contact with a fat body regardless of that particular woman's personhood or desires are just participating in a whole different kind of objectification.

    And Betty is, to me, one of the most fascinating characters on the show. Season One seems to be demonstrating how being essentially a grown-up infant did not save her from heartbreak and alienation, and Season Two seems to be exploring her other remaining options. In order to have some power she has to do all kinds of things considered to be unacceptable/unattractive in our culture: 1) Leave the raising of her children to a black woman (I could write volumes about how significant it is that this show acknowledges that the self-fulfillment narratives of many wealthy white women–think The Awakening–were dependent on the largely invisible labor of women of color), 2) become a nagging shrew who unloads her anger toward her husband at her son, 3) participate in nasty back-biting schemes, 4) have a complete and total nervous breakdown. THIS IS THE DEFINITION OF A NO-WIN SITUATION, PEOPLE. When Betty was performing "perfect suburban wifehood," alot of fans didn't like her because she was so childish. Turns out the alternatives that still allow her to remain in her marriage and retain her privileged position in society suck pretty badly too.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  19. Other Ashley wrote:

    I also thought the camera work during that rape scene was pretty effective at portraying the rape through her perspective. We get that close-up shot of her face as she looks away and can almost she her dissociating her consciousness from what's actually happening to her body, then we get that perspective shot of the couch from the floor, which for some reason just drives the sense of heartbreak, humiliation, and alienation home.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  20. Anonymous wrote:

    People don't like Betty? That never occurred to me. One thing that's been endearing me to my Nigel while watching this show is how mad he gets at Don for looking for a real partner in other places, instead of realising that he could have that in Betty if he just treated her with some respect, instead of alternately dismissing her and treating her as a servant/concubine/substitute for whatever he missed out on in his childhood.

    As previously mentioned, though, still only seen season one. – Orlando

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Permalink
  21. Other Ashley wrote:

    I'm watching the "Rise of the Independent Woman" special feature on the Season 2 DVD collection, which started with pretty standard Feminism 101 stuff and is now making me do some stomach flips with it's "being a liberal doesn't mean you're not a sexist" and "black women had an ambivalent relationship to the March on Washington because female speakers were denied a voice" and the one dude in a panel of about 4 or 5 women shamefacedly admitting that he used to have his girlfriend type his anti-war speeches for him and the fact that she totally called him on that shit and the whole unpacking of the homosocial…

    So, yeah, recommended viewing. I'm kind of shocked to see this as a DVD feature.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 6:24 pm | Permalink
  22. minniethemoocha wrote:

    Wait, Other Ashley — are you saying that "Rise of the Independent Woman" is a special feature on the Mad Men DVD collection? Because OMG! I have to see it.

    Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink