Life Without "Red"

I’m going to take you on a journey to an alternative universe; one where chocolate is a vegetable, Snooki won an Emmy for “Best Actress in a Drama Series”, and our favorite redhead wasn’t on Mad Men. In this alternative universe, actress Christina Hendricks, who we know as the sassy Joan Harris (nee Holloway) was cast as the part she originally auditioned for in 2007: Midge Daniels. Okay, so she would be around, but only as one of Don Draper’s many mistresses who would soon be only a name on a list of women. All hypothetical situations aside, thinking about Christina Hendricks not portraying Joan creates a space to asses the influence of actress Christina Hendricks on Hollywood, the character, and the image of Mad Men itself. 

It goes without saying that Christina Hendricks is stunning, and could even go as far as to say that she has audiences universally stunned with her look and figure. Seriously, even on the show the male characters salute her butt, and women off the secretarial pool aspire to be her. This love of her body has been translated to real life as well. Christina Hendricks was named the new face of Vivienne Westwood's jewelry line “Get a Life.” Westwood chose Christina Hendricks because she believes that “Christina is the embodiment of beauty…” as she represents a return to the old glamour of Marilyn Monroe and pre-Twiggy models who were full figured and voluptuous. In addition to designer admiration, real women are also taken with her curves. One fan gushed to her “You look like what a real woman is supposed to look like, thank you for showing everybody you don't have to be a waif to make it in Hollywood.” The influence of Joan’s figure even inspired surgery; the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons attributed a ten-percent rise in breast augmentations in 2010 to her full figure. 
Hendricks personality also helped change the writing of Joan’s character, and her embodiment of the character has lead to a life of its own outside of the show. Matthew Weiner had a different idea for the character of Joan, until Hendricks was cast. His original concept of Joan was a “smaller and mousier and sharper-tongued,” and the way she portrayed her helped develop a new persona to Joan, making her into the Joan we know and love today.  People have taken the words written for this iconic character and translated it to real advice. There are websites that explain “What Would Joan Doin any-given real life situation, proving that she is not just a character. Her fan’s desire to understand her and take advice from her shows her character’s cultural influence on modern women. 
If the alternative universe existed, what would have happened? Would we be more in love with Don’s mistress Midge then any of his other mistresses or then his wife? Would we have been as captivated with a woman who is a “typical model size” as much as we have felt inspired by Joan’s relatable figure? Would Peggy have found her way in Sterling Cooper without Joan’s forward advice? We may never know. But I must applaud the creators, producers and casting directors on a job well done. Christina Hendricks, in my opinion, was the perfect choice; regardless of any other roles she will play in my eyes she will always be Joan. She defines and portrays a character that in turn has helped to make Mad Men into the culturally influential show that it is today. Who knows, without her, the show may have never made it past season one.


  1. I thought this blog post was very interesting, amusing, and enjoyable to read. Joan is one of my favorite characters on Mad Men, partly due to Christina Hendricks’ portrayal of her. I was surprised to read that she was not the original choice to play Joan Harris because it’s hard to imagine anyone else being able to capture everyone’s attention at Sterling Cooper as effortlessly as she does. The examples of how Joan’s look has transcended into modern day culture are intriguing because we are constantly being told how much of a negative impact the “culture of thinness” has on women, and to see someone having a reverse effect is refreshing. This effect Joan has had on culture demonstrates how influenced we are by the media and how it has infiltrated into every aspect of our lives. Overall I really enjoyed reading this blog because it was entertaining and provided interesting information about the character development in Mad Men and the effect Mad Men has had on our culture.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly that Christina Hendricks as Joan has had a huge influence on the direction of the show and her character. The women in the office, Peggy namely, and all of the men at Sterling Cooper would have had dramatically different interactions with Joan had she been portrayed by a "Twiggy" like model as Weiner originally wanted. However that should not be entirely attributed to Hendrick's body. Her personality as well (or at least her acting ability) allows her to play Joan in a very captivating way, that causes men and women to either envy her or desire her. Though I love Christina Hendricks and I love that the creators of Mad Men decided to cast a fuller women, I am wary of any body type that represents a "perfect women". Hendrick's beautiful curves could become just the next thing that women wish they had, and hate themselves for not having, shown in the spike in breast implants as stated. That being said, I appreciate the fact that Christina Hendricks provides at least some diversity of body type to exhibit that women don't have to look only one way. I do love how much of an impact the character of Joan has had, and I think Christina Hendricks does a perfect job of playing her. Hendrick's curves and bright red hair add to Joan's already firecracker personality. "Life Without Red" truly would be unfortunate.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree that Mad Men would be a completely different series if it were not for the influence of Christina Hendricks on Joan's character. Though I feel that this applies to many of the characters in Mad Men (because everyone is cast so perfectly in my mind) I think that Hendricks especially was cast perfectly in this role. Though Joan already sets herself apart form the other women in the office due to her firecracker personality, Hendrick's red hair and voluptuous body add to the domineering and intimidating nature of Joan. The men of the office wouldn't salute a "Twiggy" like woman when there are already plenty of Twiggys in the office. And Joan's mantra of being a woman instead of a man to get what she wants would surely not have been as pronounced if she was played by anyone other than Hendricks. This would greatly affect the way that Peggy and the other women in the office view her. Though I love that the creators of Mad Men decided to add a little bodiy diversity to the show, I am wary of Hendricks beautiful curves as becoming the next thing that women want but hate themselves for not having. I think that Hendricks body shows a different type of beauty from the typical cigarette model, however it also causes in its own right a need to be her, like any other beautiful actress (shown in the spike in breast implants). All in all, I love Joan and Christina Hendricks. Regardless of her body nobody could play Joan better than Hendricks, and life without her truly would be unfortunate.