21.4.10

Mad about the girls

I took a brief break from powering through the first two seasons of Mad Men and, having started up again and promptly powered through four episodes in one evening, I feel stupid for ever going away.
I love this show. And the wonderful thing is, I don't know why. There's nothing obstentatiously screaming 'this is why you love me' about the show. Everything is sleek, subtle, like a present that takes considerable time to open or a truly delicious (and now four-course) meal. Let it win you over like Don Draper wins over clients and ladies alike.
Of course, the logical reason for me to love the show is the powerhouse female cast, January Jones as Betty Draper, Christina 'Goddess' Hendricks as Joan Holloway (yes I know she's got a new last name but where I'm at she's only just got engaged) and Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson.
First up, and I gather she's become a force to be reckoned with in the third series, is January Jones. Prior to this huge coup, she has been a popular extra in Richard Curtis films, playing one of a quartet of slutty fun-loving Wisconsin flatmates in Love Actually....
(with Elisha 'Girl Next Door' Cuthbert, Kris 'BT' Marshall and Ivana 'Mrs Le Chiffre' Milicevic)
...and the slutty gorgeously vacant wife of Simple Simon in The Boat That Rocked.

But now, she leaves the ditzy slut thing to Sienna Miller and moves into the big leagues as the sullen and spoilt housewife Betty Draper. Married to Don Draper (whose suave ways and smooth-talking pulling technique would make James Bond jealous), she doesn't seem to have wanted for anything, except the attention and devotion from her husband that she clearly got from her parents. Betty exudes suburban princess; even her riding gear is perfectly pressed and co-ordinated, no doubt, to match everything from her couch to her horse.
             
The series opens at the start of the 1960s, a decade which saw some of the most radical changes to womens' style. At the start of the decade, 50s styles were still all the rage, and Betty's prim, pretty princess manner suits this to a tee. Unlike the other female characters, the details of Betty's look are all in the accessories; a waist belt here, some gloves here, a conservative string of pearls everywhere else, and always the immaculate hair. If Blair Waldorf didn't originate the hairband obsession of the last few years, then Betty Draper did.
One woman who has no need for fancy clothes to draw attention to herself is the epitome of 'sexy secretary', Joan Holloway, played by the divine Christina Hendricks. My favourite columnist, Caitlin Moran, described her as having 'cleavage that would give a dead man hope and an ass that just won't quit', and she's not wrong. Before Mad Men, Christina had roles in shows such as ER and Firefly, but this is the show that's made her, giving her magazine cover after cover and earning the title of 'Sexiest Woman Alive' from Esquire in 2010. But I've already had enough time to wax lyrical about Christina's fabulous figure. Joan, her character, is as aware of this figure as the rest of us, and she's also aware that she can wear a binliner and look amazing. Joan's appeal is in her essence; her sweet yet steely smile, her sensual gaze and that walk. She favours loud block colours to compliment her bright red hair, and always leaves plenty to the imagination - she imperiously berates Don Draper's new secretary for wearing a low-buttoned blouse.
     
The women of Mad Men are mercilessly scrutinised because of their gender. Like Betty, some choose to conform to the stereotype of trophy housewife. Like Joan, some choose to become every man's fantasy with the brassiness and the balls to fend off advances and be taken seriously.
Or some, like Peggy Olson, find it a little harder to come to terms with their new surroundings and social standing. Arguably the key character in the series (as she arrives in the offices of Sterling Cooper, so do we), Peggy goes from lowly secretary to ambitious member of the ad team. She is played by Elisabeth Moss, who cut her teeth on critically acclaimed dramas appearing as First Daughter Zoey Bartlet in The West Wing. Like her chracter, Peggy's style has gone through some considerable evolution; from dutiful and dull office worker (varying in size in Series 1) to lone woman in the mens' club of copywriting, Peggy has some tough times to face, but she does it with poise, integrity (sort of, he wasn't technically married the first time they got it on) and just a little bit of quirky sex appeal.
               
                     
                                  
Make no mistake - this girl means business. All the women, despite being incredible soft-spoken, mean business.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch some more. And work on my Joan walk.

2 comments:

  1. From the pics I see there, i'm willing to bet Christina was sexier in Firefly. Her character in that was awesome.

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  2. Watch her in Mad Men. She's like Marylin Monroe, Dita von Teese and Lara Croft all rolled into one.

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