04 May 2011

more than a handful

Yesterday was the birthday of Christina Hendricks, which occasion prompted a debate on Slog (and probably other places on the internet) about whether her breasts are real.  Hendricks is currently most famous for her role as Joan Holloway on Mad Men, a show which has been continuously and effusively praised for its artifice.  She also has the dubious privilege of being the go-to centerpiece for any hand-wringing think-pieces about body image in Hollywood, being at once almost impossibly beautiful and constructed at a scale that makes her co-workers look like snappable dolls.  This generally means that discussion of her dimensions will begin in the opening paragraph of the article itself, rather than with the first comment.

It's niggled at me for a while, this question of real breasts.   The term sounds like it ought to apply to people whose tits have been altered in the digital realm, right?  Breasts which are literally imaginary.  But no, someone whose breasts are unreal is a person who's pursued surgical implantation.

Implants are a job requirement for a bunch of female professions, let's admit that up front.  Natural breasts are untidy, usually asymmetrical, and behave like sacs of fatty tissue in motion.  Women generated with reference to some kind of Platonic ideal, as befitting fantasy industry professionals, should have breasts which remain conic as their hosts bounce around and fail to age.  And so women who want to do these jobs are gently but firmly coerced into submitting to horrifying surgery.

As a society, we tend to consider implantation (as well as less aggressive forms of fantasy-conformation, e.g.) to be dishonest, immoral.  So you have vehement fights in which one party feels they are defending the honor of a beloved figure by claiming that she would never be so awful as to physically change her body for acting, while the other party believes they're performing a public service by revealing a base fraud.

The problem is that our judgement of a real person who works in the dream factory implicitly compares her to the fantasy creations she's helped present, and the real woman--however plastic she may be--is inevitably found wanting.

1 comment:

  1. As Ms. Hendricks said, "Anyone who has ever actually seen a breast would know these are real"