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Christina Hendricks Talks Joan, Feminism, and Bitches in the Hollywood Reporter

Calling all Mad Men fans! Christina Hendricks, known to us all as Joan Holloway/Harris, is on the cover of next week's Hollywood Reporter.

Christina Hendricks on the cover of the Hollywood Reporter

Did you know that Hendricks originally read for the part of Peggy, and then for Midge? Who else but her could play our beloved Joan? Her first thoughts on the character weren't all good though:

In the series' early days, Hendricks found the role a bit of challenge. "I thought Joan was such a bitch, and I struggled sometimes trying to make her as real as possible because I thought, who would be so mean?" she says, recalling how surprised she was that viewers found Joan to be empowered rather than cruel.

She's not mean! She's complicated!

And here's what series creator Matthew Weiner had to say about Joan:

"I thought Joan would be more like an Eve Arden type, that she would just be Peggy's friend. [...] Christina brought all of this power, sexuality and confidence, and I recognized this dynamic between her and Peggy. I thought, this is going to be interesting to see how this office works, especially since I had been so influenced by the books Sex and the Single Girl and The Feminine Mystique."

Did you catch those feminist references? No wonder the gender dynamics on Mad Men are so nuanced!

Read the full interview here. (Spoiler alert for "The Other Woman.")

h/t Tom and Lorenzo

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Comments

8 comments have been made. Post a comment.

feminine mystique

I didn't connect The Feminine Mystique to Joan right away (although it's possible!) when watching Mad Men, but I did connect it to Betty. The book explores the emptiness that many housewives felt, having been taught that they should be completely fulfilled by their roles as wives and mothers. I think this describes Betty's situation to a T; though much of her unhappiness does come from her relationship with Don, I think the show does show how the fact that she doesn't have dreams and ambitions (that she follows at least, or that aren't stopped by Don) outside the home.

There's maybe like two feminist things about Mad Men, maybe.

Helen Gurly Brown, her work at Cosmo and on Sex and the Single Girl are iterations of patriarchy, not feminism. Sex and the Single Girl is more or less about how to be a desirable, albeit a financially and sexually independant woman. The book's emphasis on personal choice was surely encouraging at the time, but it presented personal choice as mainly a consumerist activity, i.e. be a choosy shopper! Anyway, I'm not trying to be mean or anything, sorry if I sound like it. I get annoyed when ppl cite HGB as a feminist just because she wrote stuff about women having a sex life. I think that sets the bar pretty low for what qualifies as feminist. But I'm not surprised to hear Weiner (haha it's too perfect that that's his name) thinks HGB is feminist, because Mad Men seems to be pretty confused about what feminism is, and treats its female characters pretty terribly. Particularly Joan. As for the sleeping her way to the top deal, there's so many other ways they could have written her story so she made partner! Most obviously she could have found out Layne's embezzlement secret and negotiated something, but instead they HAD to make it about her sexy bod. What's even more disappointing though, is the way the writers shame Joan for doing it, framing the whole scenario as if it's traumatic for her. They moralize the shit out of the whole thing and victimize her unnecessarily. Joan didn't need to lose control like that. Sure she's etremely sensitive about her sex appeal, but think about how even more pivotal that story could have been if they had also used it as a moment for Joan to become MORE comfortable with the effect her body her has on men. They present her as terrified and humiliated when she could have been confiedntly running that entire sex scene. What a wasted opportunity! Yet the show is so damn proud of itself all the time. Mad Men is such a freaken misogynistic and racist show. I mean, I still watch it every week. But let's be real that it's a love letter to white men. I'm completely mystified as to why people insist the show is productive in the feminist dept.

Honestly, I think that plot

Honestly, I think that plot point was more about showing how the male characters still have little regard for Joan as a person, just as a piece of ass, despite her continued insight and talent at effectively running the entire administrative side of the office and how invaluable she was in their transitioning to SCDP.

And Joan has always been comfortable with the effect her body has had on men, but this situation is different. These are men she trusted essentially pimping her out to gain leverage in business, even though it wasn't strictly necessary for them to gain the Jaguar account.

I agree. The whole thing was

I agree. The whole thing was about how inappropriate Pete was for not saying no to Herb in the first place, and none of the men sticking up for Joan after Pete brought it up. It's unfortunate that Joan went through with it, but through the men's various actions, she was shamed into doing it. Pete telling her *she'd* had to tell the company they didn't get Jaguar...? That's all on how awful the men are and what a crappy situation the women are in just by being there. :/

HGB

Lizzy Jane,

You're right that Sex and the Single Girl isn't an explicitly feminist book. Maybe I should've been more clear about what I meant by "feminist references"—namely, that both of the books Weiner mentioned had an impact on the second-wave feminist movement and explored gender dynamics during the time Mad Men takes place.

I have to disagree with you about Mad Men's misogyny, though. I find the gender dynamics on the show to be nuanced and well written, and the fact that many of the women don't have the agency we'd like them to have speaks more to the time period than to the show's sexism. I thought Joan's decision was about way more than her sex appeal and her affect on men—they'd been building up to it for years through her relationships with Roger and Don and her position at SCDP. I also didn't see her as terrified or humiliated so much as disappointed in her colleagues and frustrated by lack of options. Then again, the fact that there are so many ways to interpret the show is what makes it worth watching!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

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I completely agree. The show

I completely agree. The show based in the 60s without sexism would be unrealistic and utopian. It's an unfortunate truth. I do think the writers do a great job bringing complexity to the female characters. I also think they depict certain sexist dialogue in a way that should piss you off. I don't think when Betty Draper's therapist reports everything to her husband in season 1, treating her very childishly this was an act the writers found commendable. I think they showed it as a reality of what happened to housewives at the time, and yes, it should be upsetting.

Not to mention, if you want

Not to mention, if you want to talk about a racist, antifeminist nightmare of a show, let's talk about The Walking Dead.

This. I watched for 3 seasons

This. I watched for 3 seasons waiting for the show to critique the sexist, racist world it portrayed. Boardwalk empire does that well. It also portrays a society that excludes and demeans POC and women, but it gives them screen time and dignity, doesn't punish them the same way Mad Men does. I tuned out after Joan's rape was swept under the carpet. Gross.