Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Curves of Controversy

By Chelsea Whitton

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(Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Marilyn Monroe or Megan Fox? Christina Hendricks or Natalie Portman? No men, I’m not asking you, “who would you rather…?” But gals, what do these comparisons say to us? What body type would you work for? Endless legs and serious curves seem to be both shown off on the red carpet. We need to find a comfortable middle ground in the minds of young women.

If you are familiar with AMC’s hit show “Mad Men,” currently in between its forth and fifth season – would you rather be office siren Joan Harris played by real-life hottie Christina Hendricks or thin household ice queen Betty Francis (formerly Draper) played by the classic blonde beauty January Jones? Both of these characters fit the ideal for bodies in the early ‘60s, but are entirely different. We may not be teenage girls anymore, but image plays an undeniably profound role in the way we view ourselves and our world.

Media messages conflict and confuse when it comes to body image. There seems to be two extremes in this country, bordering between unhealthy and unhealthy on the large and small of things. In December, French model Isabelle Caro died of anorexia after a 15-year battle with the illness. Most famous for her advertisement on an Italian billboard baring skin and bones for a frightening anti-anorexia campaign, Caro’s death highlights the real dangers of anorexia.

The Massachusetts Eating Disorders Association reports 15 percent of women ages 17 to 24 have eating disorders and up to 40 percent of college females have experienced eating disorders.Middle ground for weight and image could become a safe haven for self-acceptance.

In a recent article published by the Boston Globe Lifestyle section last week. The article, “Body Building,” by Christopher Muther, outlines the question of what body types are popular in today’s world compared with old Hollywood’s. The article speaks with psychotherapists, psychologists and nutritionists reporting a varied sample of what seems to be the sought after body type.

Some suggest certain physique trends span over decades and then quickly change. In the ’50s Marilyn Monroe’s physique was considered insanely gorgeous and perfect – and it was natural. Today, the endless pictures of Megan Fox featured in Esquire Magazine, Men’s Magazine and others is what seems to be the idyllic look. In my personal opinion, Fox is brainless and can’t really hold a conversation or an intelligent sounding interview – so that doesn’t really give me reason to want to look like her either. But photos of her dominate the media and women’s perception of beauty.

Anyway, back to my obsession with a time when things were perfect, outfits untouchable, hair perfectly curled and glasses were always filled with just the right amount of Scotch. The Globe article and the Golden Globes reassured me of one thing – I’m not the only one with a fascination with the hit AMC show “Mad Men,” the 1960s and Christina Hendricks’ wardrobe. Hendricks, a Hollywood actress plays Joan Harris, a 1960s bombshell and office vixen with curves that make men question in the dialogue, “How does she not fall over?”

In real life, Hendricks’ ideals of body type parallel that of what her character portrays on the show. Her curves are real and are staying. Hendricks has said of her figure in an interview with Esquire, “This is the way I’m built, and I feel beautiful. It’s funny, because I don’t feel like I look that different from anybody.” Women should learn from this, and men, too. I know your all Google imaging Christina Hendricks as you read this.

Do we embrace curves signifying healthy not fat – hips and legs or do we narrow down at the University of Massachusetts recreation center? How are we to decide who we want to be and what we’d like to look like or what our natural self is supposed to look like if magazines are constantly handing out the latest tips and newest research and dieting trends? Cosmopolitan Magazine for instance gives tips on how to dress your body in the perfect dress, and then a link next to that online article will be one on how to lose two dress sizes in two weeks.    

With the recent passing of the Golden Globes which encapsulates bedazzled stars, flawless figures, perfected makeup and everything else made to fit in a perfect frame – and the media focusing so much on it – I was left asking what is normal? How in our day-to-day jeans and sweater lifestyles are we to accept and love who we are when we are being told that Christina Hendricks’ curves are nice and all – but January Jones has the better more typically lusted after body by the female gender.

In a 2009 interview with the modern day pinup Christina Hendricks, Esquire writer Ryan D’Agostino said, “Christina never thought that she would become the poster girl for…curvy girls.” “When the attention started to be about my figure, I was surprised, because it wasn’t something I was focused on. And then it became very positive, and people were saying very nice things,” said Hendricks. Perhaps this is a turn of the decade change in ideals as mentioned in the Globe article. Perhaps it is true there isn’t any particular mold you should fit.

However, to many women it seems possible the pressure for unattainable goals has lessened. “People have stopped trying to conform to something and just started to do the best they can,’’ said Women’s Health Editor-in-Chief Michele Promaulayko to The Boston Globe. “I think the desirable body type in Hollywood has broadened recently.’’

The article also reported “What I see is that people are less concerned with health, and more concerned about looking like the star of the moment,’’ Cassetty says. “But in a way I think people are always emulating what they see in Hollywood and in magazines, and that’s why you’ve seen these shifts in what’s considered ideal. You never know what body part a client will fixate on next.’’

Do people now buy this new ideal that there isn’t any particular ideal – or is the skinny blonde Paris Hilton type still secretly sought after? You make the decision. I’ve made mine. I’d rather look like Christina Hendricks and all her curvaceous glory than any other Hollywood actress in today’s limelight. It’s time to change with the decade – but this time we’ll get rid of the ideals and to turn to individual realities.

Chelsea Whitton is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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