Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How January Jones Got "Heigled" -- The Case Of The Monstrous Mad Men Mom

Mad Men actress January Jones was recently criticized by her 11-year-old former co-star in an interview for being "really serious about what she does" and "not as approachable as the others." This is apparently Big News, as a quick consulation of Google finds over 180 news stories about the child actor's accusation that Jones is apparently very serious about her job.

Why all the hub-bub, bub? Would we see so many headlines if, say, Mad Men actor Jon Hamm was said to be serious about his job, and didn't stop to pat his child co-stars on the head and give them lollipops and packs of Yu-Gi-Oh cards every time the cameras stopped rolling?

This is because it's my belief that humans largely operate from deep, primal, parts of the brain and have certain instinctual reactions and expectations. Women are expected to be nurturing -- not by the entire population, but a good percentage of it. Fertile young pretty women of child-bearing age such as Ms. Jones have even a greater expectation placed on them to be this never-ending fount of nurture and care. When this expectation is frustrated, and a female like Jones tends to be serious and concerned more with the quality of her job than demonstrating a pseudo-motherly attitude towards little (and big) kids -- she gets demonized.

As the media operates largely by pushing the right primal buttons on the populace, an item like this child accusing Jones of essentially not being a nuturing female is ripe for sensationalist headlines. These articles position January Jones as some sort of inhuman monster -- essentially a "bitch" -- who can't even spare some time to be nice to a cute little kid. She might as well have stolen their candy too.

The "mirror darkly" reflection of this media phenomena is, of course, the Casey Anthony story. Here is another attractive young female -- this time being accused of not only not being nice to a child, but killing one. While there are unfortunately tons of similar news stories involving murdered children every day, this case particularly seemed to captivate the world. Now, why is that? In the end -- at its very core -- it's the same situation as Jones. By not being "approachable" to little children, Jones has, to the primal human brain, committed a crime similar to actually killing one.

It's the Lady Macbeth archetype, essentially:

"I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out"
Lady Macbeth is The Monstrous Woman: cold, a schemer, willing to murder babes, willing to even "unsex" herself if it means getting rid of anything that makes her vulnerable. She and Casey Anthony are the exaggerated fear of the unmotherly female made manifest, comic book caricatures of what January Jones, by being "really serious about her job," represents to the ancient lizard portion of the human brain.

Of course it goes without saying that the real irony here is that Jones has been typecast in such a Bad Mother/Ice Queen role -- and I mean, literally. She plays The Monstrous Woman in Mad Men, the Cold Mother -- and Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class, the emotionless woman with skin as hard as diamonds.

And in addition to being publicly criticized by a boy, she has also recently been called out by an actor who often plays a boy-like character, Zach Galifianakis. In response to being told that Jones called him "the most naturally funny man she’s ever met," he said:

"I was at a party — I’d never met her — and she was like, ‘Come sit down.’ So I sit at her table and talk for 10 minutes, and she goes, ‘I think it’s time for you to leave now.’ So I say, ‘January, you are an actress in a show and everybody’s going to forget about you in a few years, so f---ing be nice,’ and I got up and left."
While other actors might be similarly curt for a whole host of possible reasons, this anecdote by Galifianakis regarding Jones also made headlines, and for, at the heart of it, very similar reasons as the one concerning the Mad Men child actor.

All of which might place Jones in a similar precarious position as actress Katherine Heigl, who after several public criticisms of her by similarly boy-like actor Seth Rogen and his friend director Judd Apatow, has seen her career permanently damaged, her reputation being that of "a bitch." Some of those complaints revolved around her calling the movie they all made together, Knocked Up, sexist. Specifically, Heigl said the movie "paints the women as shrews" whereas the men are portrayed as "loveable." What silly Heigl didn't realize was that not only does not being a nuturing female sour the primal male (and female) brain towards oneself, but pointing out the mechanics of it all also sours said hive mind (with enlightened exceptions, to be sure, which includes no doubt Dear Reader).

Which is all to say, I guess, that if you subscribe to the Primal Lizard Brain Theory Of Why People Do What They Do, this post I just wrote is somewhat of a boner-killer.