Thursday, August 30, 2007

ACT-ing! (Or is it COS-tume and MAKE-up!)

The AMC series Mad Men hits the midway point of its first season*, and I hope AMC has enough money to make more. There is also a positive review on The Huffington Post by Jon Robin Baitz this week, and though I already gave it a positive review at the beginning of the run, I also wanted to give it another plug now. In some ways, I want to make up to my readers who might have watched all of The Company, a show I recommended after two hours that I regretted watching after six hours.**

I love the attention to detail in Mad Men, which I will extol by showing a picture of a pretty girl. Christina Hendricks plays Joan, the office manager of the ad agency. Checking on her other work on, I found that she had a recurring role on Firefly, Joss Whedon's short-lived cult favorite that spun off a movie version called Serenity. (Ms. Hendricks is not in the movie cast.)

On Mad Men, Ms. Hendricks' character is very much in charge and very confident in her sexuality. She dresses "professionally", at least the 1960 version of that concept. Her clothes aren't shiny, she shows no cleavage, her hemline barely shows her knee, but it is acceptable to put 120 pounds of her in a 100 pound sack, so to speak. Besides being a redhead with an attractive face, she has a va-va-voom-y figure, much more like Mamie Van Doren than Mamie Eisenhower. The men at the agency, who are portrayed as swinish women chasers (except the closeted gay guy, who still has to pretend to be a swinish women chaser) all see her round and womanly curves as the pinnacle of feminine attractiveness.

On Firefly, her character was introduced as a waif from a poor village on a backwater planet. In the two pictures at the top, you can see the dramatic difference in her hair style and get a glimpse of the difference in costume. While the dress in the picture on the right appears to be low cut, she does not show a lot of cleavage, except in a few scenes in private with characters she is seducing.

Ms. Hendricks does great work with both these different roles, but the differences in her acting approach is just part of the chameleon work shown in the two roles. In Mad Men, she's usually the tallest woman in a scene and the camera often gives her center stage. In contrast, Firefly has a very tall cast of men and women, and at 5'8" she is usually the shortest person in most of her scenes, and she acts in a mousy way and often is away from center stage. The costume she is put in, the camera angles from which she is shot, and the reactions of the rest of the cast to her all add to the illusion of her frailty.

If you haven't been watching Mad Men, I don't recommend you jump in half way through and try to figure out what's going on, but eventually it will be on DVD, and if you haven't seen it I definitely recommend checking it out. I also recommend the DVDs of Firefly and Serenity, but I'm a sci-fi geek and Joss Whedon fan, just so you know that going in.

*Edited because of an error spotted by Monique R in the comments. Thanks, Monique!

**In short, The Company suffered from not enough Alfred Molina, way too much Chris O'Donnell and about a jillion cliches. (Smart American guys breed orchids! Smart Russian guys play chess!) Even Mr. Molina has a crap scene where he is supposed to be in retirement and taking up golf. That's the ugliest looking golf swing in recorded history, Al. Show some pride, for pity's sake.


Monique R. said...

Mad Men is not a mini series and is not coming to an end tonight. There are 13 episodes and tonight is the half way point. Also, conventional wisdom suggests that there will be another season in the works soon as well.

Matty Boy said...

Thanks for the info, monique.

Also, Yay! More Mad Men!