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September 06 2008

The Los Angeles Times asks, "Is Joan on MAD MEN too plump for prime time?" Are you guys ready to respond with a resounding "NO"? Grrrrr.

I know there's a few of you Whedonites out there who might have...um...some sort of opinion on this. ;-)

Mods: if this post wording is too incendiary, or needs to have Ms. Hendricks' name added more prominently, do your duty...

[ edited by Caroline on 2008-09-06 01:56 ]

Yeah, made it a little less incendiary.
Good grief! Having seen Ms. Hendricks in person, plump is the last word I'd use to describe her!
What? Huh? What?

She looks gorgeous in that picture, by the way.
Alright, so the article isn't quite as loathsome as its title.

Still, not my favourite topic ever: seeking validation for something that simply doesn't require it. Why must it be 'in' for people to look how they look?
I was watching the new 90120 the other night and I had to actually pause the frame for a second because I could not believe how skinny those actresses were. How do they find pants?

Christina Hendricks is a breath of fresh air! Plump? please. Normal is more like it.
Sounds like the same kind of crud that Amber Benson went through when she was on Buffy. Times apparently have not changed much.
She's one of the prettiest people evvvvvah.
She really lights up the screen. Love her on Mad Men.
"Portly"???

*excusing myself from participating in this thread any further lest I get myself put on timeout again for my indignation-induced potty mouth*
She's a completely different person on Mad Men than in Firefly. I spent the first two episodes of the series looking for Christina Hendricks, because I could've sworn that she was supposed to be in it... and then I figured it out.

I think she does a super job (though admittedly, I'm not so crazy about the character). And she's very nicely shaped.

[ edited by Jobo on 2008-09-06 02:39 ]
The problem is that she's too sexy for primetime. Gods forbid a teen-aged boy should catch a glimpse of what a real woman looks like, he'd never go back to the Barton's and Hilton's of 'celebrity'.
I'm torn between saying she's just right as she is and the sense that taking the question seriously demeans her and me.
Christina Hendricks is so hottttt--as Our Mrs Reynolds and as Joan--that she almost turns me straight.
She's beautiful. Strip away her demeanor, which would be de meaner for bereaving her of beauty's true throne, and she's still outwardly beautiful.
I guess I'm in the minority here but I don't think this article is insulting at all, aside from maybe a few poorly chosen words which are causing this debate. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think she's praising large, full bodied women on television (gods know we need more). At least the way I read it seems to be doing so.

I think the question being asked is whether or not viewers are ready to accept the idea of a full bodied woman on television. The author goes on to say that she is astounded when she watches Mad Men (I am, for many different reasons) and sees Christina and then realizes that most other women on tv are twigs and that this has led to a poor representation of real females.

Or I could be entirely wrong, but I digress.
She isn't even "full-bodied"! American Ferrara was when Ugly Betty started, but even she's trimmed it down, too bad.

Hendricks is ka-pow. My favorite word to describe Cordy's figure. It applies here too. Christina's bee-yootiful, and extremely sexy.
She's beautiful and has the best hourglass figure ever. It gives me hope that I don't need to starve to be considered beautiful.


Although I wish people would stop saying Marilyn Monroe was a 12 or 14, when yes, she was a twelve or fourteen in the sizes of the 50's. She'd be a size 6 today, tops.
Pardon my inebriated post, but WTF??? too plump??? Put the crack pipe down! Anyone thinner than CH is clearly damaged psychologically. I'd love to see her even more "healthy". She's an attractive woman. Still prefer the look of Nandi (Melinda Clarke, apparently in "Chuck" this season)
ETA: not that I think one is more "healthy" than the other. I just love the look on her face in the "morning after" scene with Mal. Beautiful.

[ edited by JadeHand on 2008-09-06 04:17 ]
I agree with you "The Xan Man". I think the article is pointing out that because so many sticks are on our screens, when we see a real sized woman (well technically by world standards she's thin at a size 8, as a size 16 is the average) we automatically compare to all those sticks and many come away thinking she is "portly" in comparison.

Think of if a new fashionable hip burger joint opened, ran for years with little burgers. We know they're little because the local burger place has bigger ones, so does everywhere else. But they're fashionable, and everybody wants to eat there. One day they introduce a new burger, and it's a fair bit bigger than the others they sell, but still not as big as those at every other shop. You'll automatically compare it to the ones in the new shop, and say it's a BIG burger.

Maybe not the best analogy, but I think this journalist is calling christina hot, and that her figure should be the norm for TV, not someone like Teri Hatcher.
She's a lovely lady. I've noticed she seems even more curvaceous in Season 2.
I think the article's kindof a misfire - it wanted to be in praise of curvaceous women, but it didn't know how, and did it, um, very ham-handedly, if that's what I mean.

"My first reaction is always: She's huge! What a silly reaction to a woman who is probably a size 8 or 10." Ms. Corcoran is saying that her first reaction is screwed up - that she's been programmed by constantly seeing very thin women as the norm of TV. She's trying to open a discussion about this programming, and trying to get the reader to re-perceive somewhat larger, more curvy women as sexy. Many of us already do. And sadly, I don't think Ms. Corcoran has added much to the conversation.

Of course, I think Christina Hendricks is lovely. I do wish that the era in terms of fashion was a little farther back, when the dresses had fuller skirts and were more accommodating and flattering to a curvey figure, but unfortunately the early 60's pencil silhouette was what was coming in.

Oh, and I do find that I am no more interested in hearing fellow beings referred to as "celery stalks" or "sticks" than I am "fatties" or "chubbies." There are a number of reasons that people may be very thin - including starving themselves, of course - but it's not my job to decide why or judge them, and I see no reason to insult them - I'm happy to leave that to the Lilahs of this world.
Oh, and I do find that I am no more interested in hearing fellow beings referred to as "celery stalks" or "sticks" than I am "fatties" or "chubbies."

Agreed. And yet whenever this discussion comes up in this fandom, that attitude is precisely what rears its ugly head. I'm as tired of people barging in to explain to us all what "real women" look like as I am of people barging in to explain what a "real fan" is.
Yeah, I had a picture taken with her and Morena once. I don't think my heart started beating again for an hour.

Christina Hendricks is basically my dream woman. Or among them. Also, hot?

(Is this creepy? I don't mean to be creepy.)
Yeah, I'm never reading the LA Times again. What utter garbage.
I agree with The Xan Man that the article is not insulting, with QG that the author did a pretty poor job of making her point, and with b!x that it's presumptuous for anyone to define what a "real woman" looks like.
I think she's hot, and definitely not "portly". Gods, what is wrong with the world? She is not overweight or unhealthy, so what's wrong with some curves? I have them and are proud of them! Show off what you have!
I'd say this article insults prime-time TV.
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, someone who is a natural size 2 or 4 in American sizes is as much a *real* woman as someone who is a 12, 14, 16 or whatever.

The harm comes in showing only the super tiny end of the range as being worthy of casting in TV or film roles .

Christina Hendricks is a gorgeous woman and actually pretty tiny.

It's a warped world which would even think of describing her as large.

And that type of thing inspires other actors to slim down to below their natural body weight in order to get roles.

Which is a problem for several reasons

1.Because if you're not naturally that shape/body type you're going to look rather less than attractive if you diet to that size, protruding rib cages, collar bones and hip bones are so not a good look (The amount of airbrushing that goes on to tone the bones down for photoshoots has to be seen to be believed)

2. Extreme dieting or weight control is horribly bad for the health, possibly even more damaging to health in the long term than obesity.

3. The major one. An unrealistic *ideal* body image is very damaging to young women who may either strive to emulate it or have poor self esteem because they are just not built that way.

Conversely , criticism of the size zero craze can be damaging to those who are naturally slim and get rather fed up of being accused of not being "Real Women" because they lack the "womanly curves" which such criticisms praise.

The right way for media to portray women is in all their infinite and glorious variety.

And of course for the paparazzi to put away their telephoto lenses and stop alternating "OMG so and so has cellulite/ has put on weight/ is a flabby wobblebottom" stories with " OMG so and so is anorexic/ bony/ skeletal/ has taken the size zero craze too far" stories.
Started on our various comments first and was all prepared for a really insensitive article basically making a case for thinness and calling Christina Hendricks fat (to match the level of writing I was just going to say "Christina Hendricks is teh hotz0r" ;) but it's nothing like that - not a great article maybe, as others say it doesn't add much to the debate BUT at least it's bringing it up and that can't happen often enough I reckon.

This is one of my least favourite types of phenomena, it's a matter of fact which is solely decided by consensus i.e. it's only true because we all of us make it true. It's fine to condemn "the paparazzi" or "the media" (there's a lot to condemn there) but the sad fact is it's "the us" that buy the magazines and into the latest diet fad, and accept clothes lines with unrealistic sizes or shifting goal-posts - if paps weren't getting paid thousands for pictures of "too fat Sienna" or "too thin Kate" then they'd move on to something else.


ETR an 'n' from an 'an' that an 'an' ain't ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2008-09-06 10:13 ]
Something I love about Christina - she's not afraid to eat. I was able to chat her up far too much at DCC...and while we were talking, she was eating a burger. Beyond the fact that she was actually eating in front of fans - she definitely steered clear of the celery. She ate an actual meal, because she's healthy.

To me, that's the important distinction. Super skinny, curvy, athletic build. Whatever. Are they healthy? Healthy comes in many shapes and sizes.
So basically:

Provocative headline to get noticed.

Main body of text incredibly meandering and doesn't have that much to do with the headline.
That was exactly my thought, too, Simon. And yet most of us became the 'we' to whom Saje refers without a second thought by giving this article the time of day.
Isn't it normal for newspapers that someone else than the writer creates the headline ?
The one setting the headline having the specific job of attracting readers to the text while the writer (hopefully) have something to say.
As a few people seem to have noticed, the article actually seems to make a case FOR Christina.

And yes, curves are beautiful, and so is Christina.
How come male celebrities are never questioned out their weight? GRRRRR ARRRRGH!
Isn't it normal for newspapers that someone else than the writer creates the headline ?


Yep, normal for newspapers and magazines. The same often goes for the lead. Any headline (and lead) written by the writer is considered a "suggestion". Of all the published articles I've written for magazines, I think at most five kept my suggested titles and not one of my longer stories kept their leads.
Having just posted a reply to the LA Times article, I note the number of Browncoat responses there already. = ) I will not be surprised if it does not draw one of the highest number of responses in their experience. And I hope Christina has the opportunity to see the love and appreciation not only for her talents as an actor but also for being who she is--just as she is.
The article is in support of Hendricks and her figure. If there's a "grrr!" response, email it to the editor who thought up the headline.
Isn't it normal for newspapers that someone else than the writer creates the headline ?


Seconding what GVH said. The title being incongruous with the rest of the article is likely not the fault of the writer.

I didn't think the article was all that bad. Enough of these kinds of discussions might eventually lead to a change in criteria for the entertainment and advertising industries hiring actresses/actors, and models so that they are less likely to present anorexic bodies as the ideal of beauty.

I thought having Christina Hendricks in the cast of "Mad Men" was brilliant, because she represents the ideal of beauty in the early 1960's. I wouldn't be surprised if the show, assuming it lasts long enough, addresses the pressures on healthy women whose size was just fine to lose weight with the introduction of Twiggy. Joan could feasibly be struggling with her weight just to keep her job, because of changes in the criteria for the appearance of women working there.
I already opined, but just wanted to also agree with Braeden Fireheart that "this article insults prime-time TV." That's how I read the headline. It is an indictment of the TV culture and by extension us, the audience, as Saje points out. The author includes herself in that assessment:
Frankly, I am so accustomed to seeing protruding hipbones that I have to adjust my own visual definition of what is womanly. That's pretty screwed up, in fact.

Making voluptuous women and fat women feel bad about themselves is a product of Hollywood and the media. And it is seeping into the public consciousness much more than I would like it to. It is definitive proof that if Hollywood were to review and revise its strictures about weight, instead of casting fuller-figured women as objects of derision (Ugly Betty), the wisecracking housekeeper (Conchata Ferrell, Two and a Half Men) or the eccentric best friend (Camryn Mannheim on The Ghost Whisperer - has it already been forgotten what an impact she made on The Practice?) and people saw themselves more fully represented in all kinds of roles in television and on film, believe me, attitudes would change for the better.

The key is expanding your consciousness beyond what Hollywood and the media wants you think. Things are changing, but it is far too slow a process and women are still vilified for their weight. If you haven't viewed the photos of Leonard Nimoy's exhibit and book, The Full Body Project, it would be a start. It's an amazing collection (not safe for work viewing): The Full Body Project

[ edited by Tonya J on 2008-09-06 21:29 ]
Well, if you have to ask the question, then the automatic answer is she is too plump . . . for the pinheads who choose the images we're allwoed to see, that is.
How many "normal" women have ever had a total stranger walk up to them to say "you are too fat"? I have total strangers telling me I am too thin (5' 5", 115 lbs). I am 51 and have weighed the same since I was 18. I do not diet. Chocolate and bread are my favorite foods. This is just the way my body is.

I am a little sad (and fed up) that we continue to have this discussion. Women come in all sizes. Each lovely in their own way. When size comes up there are disparaging comments made about "thinner" women as a back-handed way to "praise" fuller ones. "Sticks", "psychologically damaged", "not normal", etc. For some of us, "thin" IS normal. This is yet another way to make women feel bad about their bodies; too thin, too fat, too tall, not pretty, too flat, too big, too butch, too girly. Can we please just leave this alone?
I've never had a problem telling thin women from unhealthily thin women, everyone has a "natural" weight for their frame and IMO it's pretty plain when people move too far either way from that weight. The problem, as is so often the case, is generalisation - what's right for one isn't right for all and a box one woman (or man) can fit into is painfully small for another.

As to why male celebrities aren't asked about their weight, luckily it hasn't (yet) got to the point where male actors are asked to choose between health and social/career acceptance but it's still true that e.g. Tahmoh Penikett isn't built as he is due to his strict regimen of sitting on his arse watching telly and eating pizza, he has to work at it. As soon as the expectations placed on men are as unrealistic and widespread as those placed on women then men'll be in exactly the same situation (and that time is fast approaching IMO).
Christina Hendricks, a size 4 or 6, tops (no way she's even an 8), is "zaftig"?

I do not think that word means what you think it means.
Saje, I think there's some level -- particularly from American television - of unrealistic expectations of men. Obviously, nowhere fucking near those of women, but I still feel bad for not spending my free time in the gym. And not being pretty. And Joss Whedon's work, by the way, fuels that.
Aye, unfortunately equality isn't approaching in the form of women having as little pressure put on them regarding their appearance as traditionally men have, but in men getting all the pressure women have now. Which goes to show it's also about money - the fashion/diet/beauty industry sees another market.
Better question: "Is Joan on Man Men too sexy for prime time?"

I appreciate it's on the "blog" section of the site, but I'd be ashamed if I were a journalist and this is what I ended up publishing. Total hack.

ETA: Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh, I didn't realise the writer might not've written the headline (just been reading upthread). I'd assumed because it was a blog...

[ edited by MattK on 2008-09-07 02:46 ]
Sorry if I'm beating a dead horse, but I don't think the headline is a problem. I don't think it presumes the word "plump" is pejorative (unless placed in the perspective of prime time TV, which is the point). Would it be better to say "Is prime time TV too fixated on thin women?". I think the headline is only provocative if we presume that the audience by and large reads "plump" as pejorative. Should we? (Am I being naive?)
Too thin, too fat...problem is the degredation comes from stripping women of their individuality. It's not the pressure to be thin or the pressure to not be thin but the pressure to be someone you're not.

I don't speculate on a woman's dress size because the sizing system is not standardized. It's meaningless. It's not based on anything other than the whims of the clothing manufacturer. It would be like if food producers were allowed to arbitrarily decide how much energy equals a Calorie and put that number in the Nutrition Information.

However, women are partly to blame for that for buying clothes based on feeling good that brand X has a numerically smaller number despite being the same size in inches as brand Y. As they say, money talks and BS walks.

It's hard to put a word to what a healthy woman looks like. But I'm gonna try. Propotionate. Women are not parts. They're not Mr. Potato Heads. They're the sum of their parts, and I think an attractive woman is one who's parts are proportionate to her own body.
Sometimes I have to wonder if our backlash at "stick like" women may be partially because we (USians) are pretty obese as a nation. It's an epidemic. We're fat. I'm including myself in that. At a size 14 I'm 40 lbs overweight for what is a healthy weight for me and my bone structure. We also want to point the blame at someone else (fashion industry, TV, movies) instead of looking at the facts that a lot of us are just unhealthy, fat, eat too much, and don't exercise. YMMV.
jam2: Headline-wise, I think the "too" implied it was a pejorative.
Not necessarily. e.g. "Is Joss Whedon too smart for prime time?" is not faulting Joss for being smart, but prime time for not being able to handle that. Same here, methinks.
True, I see what you mean. In that example, it is still making a judgment, i.e. prime time isn't appropriate for smart shows. I suppose it's just a bit ambiguous.
I’m a person that wears many hats and one of then has to do with sales at a luxury retailer. It burns a hole into the depths of my soul when these young girls come in and begin to put themselves down by saying they are fat because they're not a size 24. They usually start pulling at there “fat” at this point.
If you notice TV actors usually start out reasonably sized but as the shows popularity grows and the seasons go on, we begin to see them disappear. Buffy, Ally McBeal, Ugly Betty etc. Put on any disc of Buffy season one and look at SMG, then put on a disc from the last season…point made. The industry forces these women to become “smaller” because of what mass media’s reflection of beauty is.
Dear god Christina Hendricks is jaw dropping! Lager is something she is not, to me with her soft voice and full red lips and hair, and skin like warm milk… umm… and now im back….((laughing) think I just walked into creepy zone) is beautiful. But hey that’s just what I think.

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