Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Christina Hendricks the Womanly Body

    Christina Hendricks

    Maybe it's just my recent stint on Pavarti K. Tyler's (nee Devi) 'blog, but lately I've been mulling over some of my opinions on more risque subjects. (Well, more risque than normally occupy this particular space, anyway.) Today I found a couple of items that reminded me of one of these long-held opinions. The first such item had to do with Christina Hendricks' long-held desire (longevity at least in Internet scale) to play Wonder Woman, and her Drive director Nicolas Refn's claim that not only was he interested in bringing that particular character to the big screen, but that Hendricks would be his...er...woman. The second had to do with Refn's particular take on the character and her world, insofar as he's dreamed it up.

    These public discussions about Hollywood casting rarely yield results, even when they're held after the movie deal has already been picked up, much less so when every single person involved in the conversation is speaking hypothetically. Now, too, studios are banking way too many dollars on their superhero franchises to leave decisions about casting to people standing so far from the board room. Case in point: Donald Glover for Spider-Man. An amazing groundswell of support (though, too, controversy) responded to the suggestion he play Spidey for the reboot, and that sure didn't work out. So I'm not banking on a Hendricks/Refn Hellenic team-up any time soon.

    What the possibility does raise is a couple of issues I'd like to address.

    The first is the as-yet-unspoken gimmick of one of the few lauded curvy celebrities playing a superhero who is also - let's face it - a sex symbol. (And feminist symbol; and if you don't believe me, do a web search for "William Moulton Marston" and "wonder+woman+bondage." [With safe-search activated {Of course.}.]) Christina Hendricks has somehow tread a brilliantly slender line in her career, being both of ample figure and widely regarded as sexy (and in some [these] circles, to "sexy," please append "as all hell"). And lest we forget, a damn fine actor, regardless. So we can say Ms. Hendricks would be an unconventional choice for the Woman, yet a potentially popular one. Sex sells in Hollywood.

    Detractors would complain that she isn't hot enough, or that she's fat. Neither is the case, by a long shot. Would-be supporters might argue that of course she's sexy - just look at that bust. To whom I must respond, of course that doesn't hurt (not in a bad way, anyway) but if you think that's why she's beautiful, you're missing it by a-mile-and-a-half. And finally, some really, truly, well-intentioned fanboys might cry that she has the nerd pedigree for her Firefly connection, and that with a dye job and some sit-ups they will welcome her with loving arms. Add to that a few of us who might even feel a little earned self-righteousness from endorsing a full-figured super-heroine. I am no better than these hypothetical people, but all of these miss the point when it comes to Hendricks as a good choice for Wonder Woman's boots.

    Christina Hendricks would be a brilliant Wonder Woman (particularly if paired with a director with real ingenuity, like Refn) because she understands all the complexity involved in and strength needed for navigating life as a determined woman with a powerful - not to mention inescapable - sexual identity. Not only has she had to see past the limitations of others' assumptions, but she's succeeded in being associated with good work that she presumably has a personal appreciation for. In some ways, this is a scenario in which any woman finds herself, in some way and on a daily basis. I just happen to think Hendricks is well-qualified to portray that fight with unique grace and sensitivity.

    Issue the second that this brings up for me is perhaps a less socially significant one; yet more important personally (I'm somewhat ashamed to admit). It also brings up a criteria that might put my dear Ms. Hendricks to the test, in a way.

    Women who work wear muscle.

    Look, I'm not a body-building fetishist, any more than girls who lust after brawny Hollywood hunks are. Taken to extremes, muscle mass is often freakish and Geiger-esque. The trouble is, ideas of contemporary beauty seem to limit us from finding any developed musculature on women appetizing. What is that? And why must it be used as an excuse for me to suffer through another fight scene such as this:

    I mean: really.

    The bad examples are too numerous to relate, and I can only think of a few positive ones; among them, Terminator 2 and G.I. Jane. T2 is of course well known for how impressive a transformation Linda Hamilton made. In particular, she went from making an especially soft impression in 1984 to a very lean and angular one. I don't mean to detract from that at all - it was impressive - but I also have images of Ms. Hamilton spending quite a bit more time on aerobics than anyone in her character's situation likely would. To wit: still an emphasis on weight loss. G.I. Jane's Demi Moore did quite a shade better, daring to wear biceps and actually demonstrating her strength on film.

    These examples remain in the minority, however. Most Hollywood images of powerful heroines still favor slinky dresses and long legs over developed shoulders. Sometimes this leaner physical type is handled better than others. Smart fight choreographers put such nimble minxes in fights in which they get to move fast and use lots of kicks and lower-body advantage (real advantage, rather than the fetishistic "leg lock" depicted in the video above), and intelligent directors offer plot-related explanations for ballet-bodied ladies putting the smack down on crews of mercenaries.


    But please to be noting, if you will, the distinction between the way the admittedly wonderful Summer Glau looks, and the way a woman (Bridget Riley) who spends her days actually working on fighting does:

    (To her enormous credit, Glau does manage that scorpion kick much better than Riley.)

    I know movies are not reality, and that men don't always rise to similar challenges, either (it would seem the Internet hasn't favored us with a capture of Kilmer's shirtless scene in Batman Forever). In recent years, however, Hollywood has held to a truer physical standard for their male superheroes, and I'd like to see a little courage in applying those standards to Wonder Woman, whenever she finally appears. Some may argue that women don't put on mass in the same way most men do, and this is the where the topic really does get a little personal for me.

    They do. They so do. It may not always read the same on women, but hard work = muscles. I have had the pleasure of working with female circus performers off and on during my acting career, and in particular in the past two years as I've studied aerial silks I've gotten to see women physically transform over the course of time. I can say with absolute confidence that when a women practices pulling herself up a few yards of fabric once a week for a month or two, not only do her arms get more defined, they grow larger muscles. Girls have guns, gang. Respect.

    That's it. In sum: Christina Hendricks, with some push-ups, as Wonder Woman: Yes. The larger issue is that I believe the predominant opinion of feminine beauty pretty much sucks. My two little opinions above don't even begin to cover it, of course. Plus they address my personal preferences just as much as Hollywood's bias, I suppose. That's all completely subjective, but I know female fighters have real arms, and nobody in this lifetime's going to convince me Christina Hendricks is less than beautiful or talented. But I pretty much expect the accusations of personal taste to start rolling in, so...hang on...lemme just get my latest issue of Guns & Curves in hand so I can read it (for the articles) at my leisure as the flame-war commences (I should be so lucky, to have such readership)...
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    Source URL: http://uutruth.blogspot.com/2011/09/christina-hendricks-womanly-body.html
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