The Misunderstood Beauty of Joan Holloway And Christina Hendricks

August 4, 2010

One thing I should make clear is that I think Christina Hendricks is the Millenial generation’s Helen of Troy or Marilyn Monroe. But like a lot of things, I think Hendricks is also grossly misunderstood most of the time. This article is a perfect example of so much that’s wrong with the way the media has approached Christina Hendricks:

“Mad Men” star Christina Hendricks couldn’t be happier with her “incredibly tight” onscreen outfits and size 14 figure.

Although she admits her character Joan Harris‘s clothes are a bit form fitting, she said in the September issue of British GQ, “I adore the incredibly tight clothing!”

Hendricks also embraces her new status as a sex symbol.

When asked about being labeled a pinup, the 35-year-old replied, “Well, I’m thrilled. I’d love to be thought of as that.”

It’s just this confidence that recently led Britain‘s Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone to honor the buxom redhead with some major kudos.

Featherstone, who is currently waging war against photo retouching in the fashion industry, has hailed Hendricks as the ideal role model for young girls, according to the Guardian UK.


But GQ‘s cover girl says some fan reactions still catch her off guard.

“I had a girl last year who wrote me a very long letter about how she related to my character the most and how wonderful it was because she was having an affair with her boss at work,” she explained. “It was at that point I said, ‘It’s not my place to give any advice on this one!'”

First of all, I have a feeling that this article has been exaggerated a bit. Hendricks has said before that she’s tired of being considered the “curvy” beauty avatar of a generation obsessed with Misha Barton and Paris Hilton. I’m personally more than okay with curves —hell, I think voluptuous women are downright more attractive than the super skinny, but I don’t think Hendricks ever signed up to be the face of a beauty revolution. She’s just working with the cards she was dealt.

More substantively though, a lot of people miss the important idea behind Joan Holloway: even with intense beauty and allure bordering on the impossible, Joan still has problems, she’s still the victim of incredibly gross mistreatment, and her sexuality often gets her into more than a little trouble. Most importantly though, I think, is that Joan’s use of her sexuality doesn’t completely liberate her. It partially perpetuates the oppressive world she lives in. For instance, unlike Peggy, Joan has always felt that she needs to settle down, she’s always been searching for a husband, she’s always thought a healthy sexual hunger was part of being a woman. Peggy, on the other hand, has grappled with those ideas throughout the entire show. Part of this is because Peggy is not nearly as beautiful as Joan (let’s be real here people) but part of this is simply because Peggy is less likely to accept the status quo than Joan. That doesn’t mean that Joan is anything like, say, Betty, but she’s far more conservative in the literal sense.

The response to Joan has been one of a sexual liberator, that she’s fighting the culture in a different and important way than the other characters. But, as this article implies, is it really so good to have an affair with a coworker? Is that the kind of relationship a woman should strive for? I have a feeling the next few episodes of this season will hint at an answer.



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