Helen Gurley Brown, the author of Sex and the Single Girl and former editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, recently died at the age of 90, leaving behind a long legacy of emboldening “a generation of women with her controversial views about female sexuality, and laid the groundwork for today’s sexualized fashion and celebrity culture.” In August 2012, Booth Moore wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times entitled “Helen Gurley Brown Leaves Behind Lusty,Busty Legacy." In this article, Brown is portrayed as a feminist trailblazer and the inspiration for characters like Carrie Bradshaw and of course, Mad Men’s Joan Holloway.
Moore briefly elaborates on Brown’s early professional life as an executive assistant at the Los Angeles based advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding, where she eventually became a copywriter (similar to the future career path of Joan). No information is given on how she became the editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, but Moore does describe how Brown adamantly supported the use of scantily clad women on the cover of Cosmo to both bolster sales and promote the concept that women should own their sexuality.
Quotes from Brown’s peers make up the majority of the article, and while these quotes further illuminate Brown’s modern views on sexuality, Moore does not connect them to the social implications of Brown’s actions. Moore does mention in passing that the new Cosmo covers sparked an interest in “Miracle bras”, but what about the reception of the covers. A more in depth analysis on Moore’s part would shed light on the various social implications of a woman embracing her body. This in turn would strengthen his argument about the connection between Brown and Joan by demonstrating how they let go of society’s traditional views surrounding women and endured society’s critiques in the pursuit of independence. Moore’s article fails at portraying how difficult it was for women to define themselves and not let a man’s perception of her define her.
Moore’s article is effective in that it adds more depth to a seemingly one-dimensional character by equating Joan to an early champion of women’s rights. In Season One of Mad Men, Joan is portrayed as the femme fatale of the office. Feminist is the last thing that comes to mind while we watch her purposefully ignite the passions of the men prying for her attention at Sterling Cooper (remember the Belle Jolie scene?). Moore’s article casts Joan in a different light. Suddenly her flirtatious smile and curve hugging dresses are not things for women viewers to envy, but something we should all be proud of, a woman in control of her sexuality.