“Mad Men” star told to GAIN weight

30th July 2009

“Mad Men” star told to GAIN weight

posted in Body Image, Pop Culture |

I’m apparently in the minority of people who aren’t mad about Mad Men.  A brief synopsis of the Emmy-winning AMC drama, courtesy of Wikipedia: Mad Men depicts parts of American society and culture of the early 1960s, highlighting cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, adultery, homophobia, antisemitism, and racism as examples of how that era was so much different than the present.” And now, it appears, show producers are also unwittingly highlighting the cultural differences in our ever-changing perceptions of beauty and the ideal woman.

January Jones, who plays homemaker and mom-of-two Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Draper on the show, has been told by producers that she’s too thin to fill out the Jessica Rabbit hourglass figure of her character.  According to OK! magazine:

“I got told a couple of days ago that I look too skinny, and I was in trouble,” January sheepishly told reporters at the July 28 party for the AMC network. “I’m naturally pretty thin, so I’m trying,” the beautiful blonde actress said, showing reporters she was drinking an Amstel Light beer at the party.

Also, January says, “I eat whatever is at craft services. I’m a big eater. I’m from South Dakota, so meat, potatoes, carbs.” The star notes that to maintain Mad Men’s early ‘60s look, in which women definitely had more meat on their bones, she and the other actresses are “encouraged NOT to work out. We want soft; we don’t want any muscle definition.”

“They tell us to gain weight, gain weight, gain weight, because they want a soft, voluptuous woman which they were [back then] which is beautiful, as it should be.”

Jones’ character, a former model, is supposed to be pregnant this season, so I wonder if if she would have been given the same weight-gain mandate if her character’s condition didn’t “allow” her to be fat  Nonetheless, cultural perceptions of beauty were very different in the pre-second-wave-feminist-movement decades of the 1950s and 1960s than the size-zero culture oppressing women today.  To give you an idea of the standards then and now, January Jones, left, epitomizes contemporary cultural standards of beauty, while Marilyn Monroe, right, was considered the reigning sex symbol of the age.  Monroe is erroneously reported to have worn a size 14 or 16, which would make her plus-size today, but this is only because American clothing sizes have changed since then. Times Online writer Sara Buys tried on some of Monroe’s clothes and she estimates them to be between a U.S. size 8 – 10 –still hefty by today’s standards when you consider that a size 8 is now the starting size for plus-size models.

January Jones - Marilyn Monroe

I’ve known really thin women who can eat and eat and eat and never gain weight and I know they can struggle with body image just as much as those of us on the opposite end of the weight spectrum.  And just as fat women are assumed to be binge eaters, some of the very naturally thin women I’ve known have been assumed to be anorexic.  The fact that no woman can ever reach the beauty bar just goes to show how impossibly high and out of reach it really is.

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There are currently 19 responses to ““Mad Men” star told to GAIN weight”

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  1. 1 On July 30th, 2009, Karen said:

    Size 8 is plus sized??? That’s absolutely insane.

    I was considering today why studies comparing anorexic women to control groups use the term “constitutionally thin”. If one can be thin just because one happens to have that body type, why the heck can’t one be constitutionally any size? Why is anything over a size 6 considered abnormal? Who makes this stuff up? And why do we put up with it?

  2. 2 On July 30th, 2009, Godless Heathen said:

    This is kind of nutty that they’d demand she’d gain weight. There were naturally thin women back in the 1960′s too, they wore padded bras to “fill out” the idea figure of the time. Instead of putting this woman’s health at risk, they could use it as a “teachable” moment to point out that the body ideal was no more attainable in the 1960′s than it is today. There’s a reason why hoops, bustles, bum rolls, corsets, and all manner of shaping and flattening accoutrement have been with us since clothing was invented!

    The ideal isn’t a reality, the moment it becomes a reality someone moves the goal posts!

  3. 3 On July 30th, 2009, Lynn (The Actors Diet) said:

    this has never been an issue for me as an actress – being asked to gain weight, so it sounds appealing – however, having people tell you how to look is a part of the business i’m not crazy about. for a starring role like january jones’ it’s “worth it” but that doesn’t not make it messed up.

  4. 4 On July 30th, 2009, Pegkitty said:

    You’re not the only one – I tried to watch Mad Men for Vincent Kartheiser, and just couldn’t get into it.

  5. 5 On July 30th, 2009, Samantha C said:

    What I never understand is why you would hire a naturally thin woman and ask her to gain weight for a part, instead of hiring a woman who naturally has the look you’re looking for.

    But absolutely, it’s unfair to ever imply that it’d be her fault for being too skiny somehow — the one thing that really hit home with me when I was first learning about FA was that we, as a society, accept that it’s possible for some people to eat and eat and eat and never gain weight, but we don’t acccept that it’s possible for others to diet and diet and diet and never lose. Acknowledging naturally skinny people is a big step toward accepting that body types are largely genetic and it’s not easy to change them from either end

  6. 6 On July 30th, 2009, Bree said:

    Mad Men may be set in the early 60s, but the shock-value of the plots is totally 2000′s. (I don’t watch the show but know people who do).

    I don’t know why the show wants Jones to gain weight; not all women in the early 60′s were voluptuous or trying to look that way. And it wasn’t that long before ladies like Twiggy and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas became the “ideal figure.” From what I’ve read about the show, each female character is vastly different, so why should they all look the same?

  7. 7 On July 30th, 2009, JennyRose said:

    I love the show and Jones plays a great character. Since its inception I have noticed that she is extremely thin. I think that is the only way most women actors can get roles these days. She also models and I have seen her in fashion spreads. If she wants to act and model, she would be better off having strategic padding on the show.

    I am not saying it is right or that I agree but that just seems how the business is today. Does anyone believe almost all women in mainstream media are extremely thin? I also suspect one of the other characters, can’t recall the name, wears butt padding. She looked liked she had haunches from behind in one scene.

  8. 8 On July 30th, 2009, Other Kate said:

    The most obvious sex symbol on Mad Men is played by Christina Hendricks, who appears to me to be larger than Marilyn (although she is still a very culturally acceptable hourglass.) I would say they walk the walk in terms of body types of the era–in addition to featuring curvier women, some of the men are pudgy and others are skinny, and the ones who are more musclebound are ex-military characters.

  9. 9 On July 30th, 2009, Lexie Di said:

    Both women pictured are beautiful! Just… different. And that’s ok! ^_^

    One of my best friends is a size 3. (I’m a size 24.) Recently we went to Anime Expo together and spent four days and three nights sharing a hotel. Therefore, we got to see how the other acts and their habits. The second night, we sat down to eat dinner, in the hotel room, some of the foodstuffs we brought along so that we wouldn’t have to spend money on meals. I finished eating and was watching TV when my friend, Shuka said, “Lexie, are you done eating?” I nodded. She was pulling out a bag of chips and sour cream and salsa to eat with them. “Really? That’s all you’re gonna eat?” I told her that yes, I was full. She said, “Wow, you really don’t eat a lot. It’s not fair that people assume you do. I’ve eaten twice as much as you already!”

    We laughed and talked about it a little. It was a good experience.

  10. 10 On July 30th, 2009, Frances said:

    Mad Men is completely lost on me. Boring boring boring.

    As Godless Heathen said, if she’s naturally thin, wouldn’t it make sense to give her padded bras and padded underwear to fill her out…?

  11. 11 On July 30th, 2009, Jackie said:

    It’s too true. I mean, I’ve been spending time on one of those types of “shoot the s**t” bulletin boards where almost everything goes. The way they judge women, her thumb is weird (about Jennifer Love Hewitt, who cares?!), she has a scar on her face, her nose is too big. I mean, it really hit me how there’s no point in really trying to measure up to the aspect of beauty, because it’s so impossible to be beautiful to everyone.

    Also, this board while engaging in fat hate most of the time, will have a chubby appreciation thread some of the time. I know I know, I shouldn’t be visiting at all, but it’s kind of addictive even though it’s kind of commiserating with the enemy.

  12. 12 On July 30th, 2009, Alyssa (The 39 year-old) said:

    I’ve been thinking some of the same things: why the f**k don’t they cast rounder women if they want rounder women? (I could have had SUCH a career, lol!) And if we’re not supposed to vilify women who are naturally skinny, why is it OK to vilify women who are naturally NOT skinny?
    Why is it OK to vilify ANYONE?!?!?!
    And just because there is a physical ideal for a certain time period, it doesn’t mean that EVERYONE fell into that ideal category. That’s why it’s called an “ideal.”
    When are we gonna accept that we come in all shapes and sizes, and there is NO “ideal”?!?!?!?!

  13. 13 On July 31st, 2009, Meowser said:

    I do love this show. And I’m not sure why JJ would be in “trouble” for being thin as such. The story also says she is supposed to be pregnant this year; when one of the other female characters (also naturally thin) was pregnant, they just padded her up, including a chin prosthesis. I think it’s more like they don’t want her or the other actresses on the show to look toned, like she goes to the gym, which is something women didn’t do then.

  14. 14 On July 31st, 2009, Jera said:

    Isn’t it-well, shouldn’t it-be more important to the show’s producers that January Jones be healthy…even if it means that she might have a naturally thin figure that doesn’t conform perfectly to the show’s ideals? I know they’re trying to go for “authenticity” but as someone above already said, weren’t there naturally thin women back then?

    She may be told to gain weight now but I wouldn’t be surprised months later to hear that she’s “gained too much weight” and is being told to take it off, but “not get too thin.” Personally I think she looks fine and if I saw her on Mad Men, she wouldn’t automatically make me think “oh, she’s too thin, she doesn’t look like women from ‘back then’” It would be suspect to me, however, if all of the women on the show had the exact same figure and proportions.

    The show seems to be successful even though January Jones doesn’t conform to the ideal perfectly. Can’t the producers find something else to fuss about?

  15. 15 On July 31st, 2009, Rachel2 said:

    It’s kind of ridiculous, really. The “ideal” is always two steps out of reach.

    When I was a kid, I remember when I switched from kid’s sizes to Junior’s. I went from a kid’s 13 to a Junior’s/Women’s size 6. I was 12 years old. From a clothing designer’s perspective, I had no hope. Ever.

    Why is it that for us women, it’s always “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?”

  16. 16 On July 31st, 2009, Toni said:

    I’m a huge mad men fan, and I think Meowser was right – they just do not want them toned. Christina Hendricks is “above model average size” and she is the sex symbol on the show. When Elizabeth Moss’s character was gaining weight due to a storyline issue, they gave her padding and prosthetics.

    This article is really interesting because believe it or not, one of the main central storylines in madmen is the sexism towards women of that day and the unraveling of the feminist movement. In fact, the Season 2 DVDs have a documentary on the history of the feminist movement!

    I think the reporters were kind of tongue-in-cheek in this article, especially because January Jones was drinking an Amstel Light.. if she was really trying to gain weight, you think she’d go for a full-bodied beer?

  17. 17 On July 31st, 2009, Rachel said:

    What I never understand is why you would hire a naturally thin woman and ask her to gain weight for a part, instead of hiring a woman who naturally has the look you’re looking for.


    I think the reporters were kind of tongue-in-cheek in this article, especially because January Jones was drinking an Amstel Light.

    It’s OK! magazine. Enough said. And speaking of the article… can I just say how much I hate the “meat on her bones” descriptor. Ugh. Women are not cattle.

  18. 18 On July 31st, 2009, SteveD said:

    Gee it’s easy to understand why She would do it.


    Big Money. What did that star turn down the other day for series? 14 Million a year. I doubt she gets that (not major star yet), but I bet it’s lots of moola.

    But I don’t watch this show along with hundreds of others. Heck I watch Nat Geo TV and about 3 shows I records on DVR.

    Plus the News.


  19. 19 On August 5th, 2009, Alex said:

    Am I the only one who’s skeptical of celebrities who say things like “I’ve always been naturally thin”/”I’m a big eater” etc.?

    I find it overwhelmingly likely that January Jones is not naturally as thin as she is, but whether she is or not I find it eerie that producers feel THEY should have control over her body.

    I do understand in the case of this show more than in others. It would be strange to see a Fergie or Keira Knightley-type six-pack rangy body in a historical role, if only because that type of body didn’t really exist (maybe in Olympic athletes?).

    However, I see this as being part of a greater problem of dictating that actresses conform to a specific standard of “beauty.” So many actresses begin their careers healthy and vibrant and end up having to lose weight, not because they’re playing a war rations victim or a starved person, but to earn leading roles as a “beautiful, sexy, powerful” woman.

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