I’m not a huge fan of January Jones. I still can’t decide if she’s a good actress or if she is just playing herself on Mad Men, and I don’t think we’d be friends if we knew each other. But that doesn’t mean I am not going to call the fuck out of someone when I see them treating her in a sexist manner.
In today’s issue of The New York Times, there’s a profile of Jones that I can only describe as “gendered.” Basically, it’s about what a bitch she is for not working overtime to change the minds of all the people who don’t like her, for refusing to smile, and for daring to keep her personal life, well, personal. Conventionally beautiful women, it seems, have to be outgoing and goofy like Jennifer Lawrence (but not tryhardy like Anne Hathaway!) for the media to treat them like human beings. They are not allowed to be shy and introverted, or any other way but the Jennifer Lawrence way, really. And I think that sucks.
To illustrate this, I am going to do a little thought experiment where I pretend this profile was written about a man instead of a woman. Are you ready? Okay.
Jon Hamm, His Own Myth Of Masculinity
It isn’t easy to coax a smile out of Jon Hamm. Perched on a velveteen banquette at the NoMad hotel in the Flatiron district recently, Mr. Hamm didn’t engage in the dithery banter that in Hollywood passes for charm.
What he offered instead was a credible impersonation of Don Draper, the sweet and sullen character he plays in “Mad Men,” the role that has turned him into an emblem of sexiness as salty as his name.
He was dressed down in a T-shirt, hoodie and fashionably shredded MiH jeans. But easygoing as he appeared, you could be forgiven for confusing Mr. Hamm with his starchy alter ego, the immaculate Rockwell man married early in the series to the ice queen Betty Draper, then to Megan Calvet, the rising actress who rescues him from a life of lies.
[Does it seem ridiculous yet? I am just getting started!]
Certainly, viewers seem perplexed. They conflate the actor with his role, argues Natasha Vargas-Cooper, a pop-culture historian and the author of “Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America” — maybe because of the intimacy of TV. “He is in our living rooms,” Ms. Vargas-Cooper said in a telephone interview, “and that just brings up a lot of unsettling feelings.”
Indeed, viewers tend to ascribe to Mr. Hamm the chilly detachment, untreated alcoholism and existential angst that haunt and define Don Draper. And Mr. Hamm seems in no hurry to set them straight.
At 35, he is not much inclined to draw back curtains on a private life that seems by turns hermetic and crazily exposed. In recent months he made waves, not for his roles (he plays Sergio, a scantily clad saxophone player on “Saturday Night Live”) but for a string of romances that have scandalized his critics, providing steady fodder for tabloids and blogs.At an Oscars party earlier this year, Mr. Hamm was seen in the company of the musician Miley Cyrus, who was engaged to Liam Hemsworth, America’s on-again-off-again sweetheart. He has been linked as well with Sarah Silverman, his “X-Men” director, who is married to the model Matt Damon, and Noah Miller, the director of his latest film, “Sweetwater,” a Western.
[Look at all these unsubstantiated but totally true rumors! What a slut!]
The celebrity press has branded him as a coldblooded temptor, a homewrecker. Brian Moylan called him “a human ice luge” on Gawker.
[Are you going to tell me some sort of counterpoint now to restore his humanity?]
In person Mr. Hamm did little to counter these impressions.
[Nope! Guilty until proven innocent.]
He shook a reporter’s hand wanly.
[How dare Jon Hamm not immediately try to flirt with me?]
In conversation, he studiously averted his eyes. Nor would he dish about his off-screen romances. “I’m not trying to sell myself,” Mr. Hamm said matter-of-factly. “I wouldn’t know how.”
Actually, “he’s a little bit shy,” said Matthew Weiner, the creator of “Mad Men.” Yet this reticence, if that’s what it is, has succeeded in turning Mr, Hamm, and his character, into objects of redoubled scrutiny. Though Don has appeared only occasionally on “Mad Men” this season, he remains arguably the series’ most polarizing figure. Some see him as a victim, deserving of empathy; others as a dolled-up variation on an American archetype, the womanizing, alcoholic asshole.
“That was the fear for me,” Mr. Hamm said, “that we’d be in the third season, and you’d hate the character.”
[But who could ever hate Don Draper, no matter what terrible, hand-rapey things he does?!]
Mr. Hamm regards Don with compassion. “He is really searching for something, but doesn’t know himself well enough to know what might make him happy,” he said. If Don seems unmoored, “that’s because he is a little boy, an orphan,” Mr. Hamm said. “He has a childlike emotional response to things. You have to treat that very, very tenderly.”
Audiences have on the whole been less kind, some viewers dubbing him “drunk Don,” “selfish Don” or “old Don” for his morose attitude and irresponsible behavior with his children…
But such barbs are mild compared with the scorn heaped on Mr. Hamm himself by the gossip industry. “His treatment is totally unfair,” Ms. Vargas-Cooper said. But she thinks she understands it: Don, and by extension Mr. Hamm, “represents the frosty boy in high school who inspired rage because he’s just untouched,” she said. “Nothing seems to affect him. He is the popular boy who devastates lives.”
Unlike Don, Mr. Hamm has demonstrated a fierce independence, as single father to Xander, his 20-month-old son, whose mother he has steadfastly refused to name. Was it the actress Michelle Williams as has been speculated? Or is it Ms. Silverman?
“That’s my son’s business,” he said. “It’s not the public’s business.”
[Aaaaw look, he said something about his kid. What a strong, protective dad!]
Fans might relate better to him if he did discuss his private life, but the prospect seems not to interest him. “Jack Nicholson once told me: ‘You should never give your personal life away, otherwise people will pick you apart. They’ll never believe in your character.’ ”
While consistently guarded, Mr. Hamm can be self-mocking. “Men should have lots of secrets,” he said, a rare gleam of mischief in his eye. “It’s our right to have secrets. Otherwise, what would we write in our memoirs?”
He is forthcoming, though, about his appearance, which he has refined, he said, to counter Don’s tuxedoed period image. “Most of my choices are ultramodern and very thought-out,” he said.
Okay, I think that’s enough. Do you see how absurd this is? Traits that are assumed to be inherently bad in a woman (lack of effusiveness when speaking, a desire for privacy) are neutral or even admirable in a man. And then there’s the gross infantilization and speculation on one’s sex life that men are simply not subject to. I would expect this from, like, Drunken Stepfather, but not from The New York Times. Let’s raise our standards a little bit, people.