Campaigning to keep Joan voluptuous

Womankind won’t spiral into depression just because Christina Hendricks from Mad Men is going on a diet.

Emily Hill

Topics Culture

Put your head between your knees and prepare to kiss your ass goodbye. Christina Hendricks, the woman who made it OK to have a rump the size of Venezuela, is going on a diet.

‘She wants to drop 35lbs off her bodacious 39D-30-39 figure’, says a distraught blogger. ‘Yes, the figure that has had Hollywood talking and American men and women wanting to high-five Hendricks. Unlike so many stick-thin actresses, Christina, as Joan Holloway, in the Sixties-era Mad Men drama, has become an inspiring role model for real women, and a sex symbol for oodles of men.’

The story was originally published in the Mail on Sunday, which quoted an ‘unnamed source’ who claimed that Hendricks is forgoing carbs in order to land juicy Hollywood roles. But while other hot celebrity sidebar stories just waddle about on the Mail website (‘Hey big suspenders! Rihanna dons pink PVC hold-ups for raunchy new video’; ‘Uma Thurman takes powdering her nose too far’; ‘Aren’t you a little old for that style? Madonna wears pigtails for dinner’), the Hendricks story has legs – big chunky ones with cellulite dimples.

How could she do this to womankind? Doesn’t she know that Britain’s equality minister Lynne Featherstone considers her a role model? The news that Joanie is dieting has caused a flurry of comment from disconcerted womanhood around the globe, despite the fact that it sounds like a totally manufactured story.

It is always best to interrogate an anonymous source to see whether they sound like a sensible sort of person. Or even a real person. And this one sounds hysterical: ‘She’s gone against everything she believed in before by going on the first diet of her life.’ Everything she believed in? What was she, worshipping at an altar of molten butter? On a crusade against celery? Oh clotted cream tea, hallowed be thy name, thy calories come, thy will be done, in tum as it is in Devon?

Do women really feel empowered by the mere sight of Joanie’s magnificent breasts, hips and ass, all poured into those office dresses and topped off with pillbox hats? Sure, she’s mighty pleasing to look at, but who’s kidding themselves that Joanie’s bootyliciousness is any easier to attain than Angelina Jolie’s recent impersonation of a rake? And while Christina looks great in those outfits, they’d be about as comfortable as a corset to eat lunch in. If we’re talking about the image of Joanie empowering women just to be themselves, someone needs to let those seams out.

Several big-girl pin-ups (who are never very big and always have impossibly pretty faces), like Sophie Dahl, have gone from blow-up doll to lollipop stick in recent years. But any notion that Hendricks or Dahl slimming down is going to impact on anorexic teenagers will be way off the mark. Anorexia, despite the tabloid narrative, is mostly to do with deep-seated personal anxieties and issues of control – not, primarily, brainwashing via images of skinny models on the catwalk.

It is really no one’s business but Hendricks’ if she diets or not. However fabulous she is, this mini-furore seems to ignore that she’s an actress, not a permanent public monument to voluptuousness. And as is the way with actresses, at times she will need to alter her appearance in order to inhabit a part. If Hendricks really is dieting, chances are she’s doing it to get everyone to stop going on about her iconic body and instead to focus on how well she can act. So best to stop flicking through celebrity snaps of her fatness or thinness and crack open the Mad Men boxset for an appreciation of her Ice Queen putdowns. If anything is really empowering about Joanie, it’s surely her no-nonsense attitude to ruling the world at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Emily Hill is a reporter on the Londoner’s Diary at the Evening Standard. Visit her personal website here.

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