Hollywood’s IT girl of the moment is Christina Hendricks, the voluptuous redhead who plays über-secretary Joan Harris on AMC’s MAD MEN. Hendricks (for those of you not paying attention) is a throwback to an era of Jayne Mansfield and Russ Meyer, the antithesis of the Size 0 pretzel sticks dominating the tube and screen. But with Hendricks in the running for Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive, could she signal a new standard of beauty in Hollywood?
Don’t hold your breath.
This is not to say that Christina Hendricks isn’t hot. Oh, she most
undoubtedly is. But part of the allure of the actress lies in the
character she plays on TV. Joan is, despite
the circumstances of sexism and paternalism in the 1960s, a strong
woman, smarter than the men who think they’re dominating her. Joan
carries a steely resolve as she suffers the slings and arrows of a
society that underestimates her as a servant or mere eye candy, or, in
the case of her ineffectual husband, a piece of property. All the while,
she embraces her sexuality, and not just because it’s a powerful weapon
in her arsenal. Joan is a sexual being, and she’s comfortable with it,
which is enticing to both men and women.
Beauty is subjective, of course, and some people prefer thin. But
surely I’m not the only person who finds the diminutive Alexis Dziena
(Eric’s annoying love interest on ENTOURAGE last season) being presented
as a bikini-clad sexpot in the execrable FOOL'S GOLD to be more than a
little disturbing. Her tiny, rail thin body looks, well, more like that
of a child than a woman in her mid-20s. But in Hollywood, Dziena is the
rule, not the exception.
Hendricks is the latest Hollywood anomaly of the “big girl” who
steals the thunder from the parade of starlets whose bodies barely seem
substantial enough to hold the weight of their heads (I hearby coin the
term, “Hollipops” for these walking candy sticks, feel free to propagate
at will). But the fact remains that film and TV is dominated by
actresses like Kate Bosworth, Olivia Wilde, Keira Knightley, The Olsen
Twins (do they count as actresses?), Katie Holmes, Lara Flynn Boyle,
anyone on 90210, Rachel Bilson, Rachel McAdams, Sienna Miller, Jessica
Alba, Thandie Newton… the list goes on and on, as it has for decades.
There’s even a sizeable sorority of formerly voluptuous actresses who
have since caved (literally and figuratively) to the teensy weensy
standard ala Jennifer Connelly, Angelina Jolie, Christina Ricci, Renee
Zellweger and Lindsay Lohan, just to name a few.
The point is, don’t believe it when people herald the ascendancy of
Miss Hendricks as the dawning of a more enlightened age of realistic
body types in the movies and TV. After all, most articles about
Christina have to go back a half a century to finds a comparable
bombshell in Marilyn Monroe (the same go-to comparison of every
curvaceous star since). Nobody’s writing articles about how Olivia
Wilde is bringing to mind the era of Twiggy.
This piece was originally posted on STARPULSE on April 28, 2010.