“But that’s life. One day you’re on top of the world and the next some secretary’s running you over with a lawnmower” – Joan
In the shady world of Mad Men, between the innumerable extra-marital affairs and the blatant sexism/racism/alcoholism, is the beautiful Joan Harris (née Holloway). A lady who steals every scene she’s in, Joan is not only incredibly beautiful, she’s also inspiring.
Joan is a stark contrast to the other female leads of Mad Men. Whilst Peggy fights the sexism and proves her worth, rising to be the first female copywriter at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and Betty strives to be the perfect home-maker, Joan unashamedly uses the attitudes of the men to her advantage, rising to a powerful position, but always letting them believe they have the upper hand. Eventually, in Season 3, the men realize that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce will go nowhere without her, and recruit her to help found the company. Later, she becomes the only female partner in the company.
Even through a questionable storyline in Season 5 where the men basically use Joan’s beauty for their own gain, Joan still made it her own choice. She proves she can handle the accounts as well as the financial officer, and that she can hold her own against the sly remarks from anyone at the company. From her clever one-liners to earning the admiration held for her by the other characters (“Marilyn’s really a Joan, not the other way around” being one of the most memorable lines), Joan is an icon for women everywhere. In a world where women aren’t expected to have ambitions past raising children, Joan shows that you don’t have to be male to be respected. Even Don Draper admitted that she scared him.
One of Joan’s shining moments was overcoming her difficult and abusive marriage. She proved that suffering abuse does not make you weak, and you don’t have to endure it. As one of the strongest characters in the show, seeing Joan suffer at Greg’s hands – and be too scared to leave him – was shocking. But she told him to leave, and is working hard to provide for herself and her baby: and in a time when being a single mum was even harder than it can be today, Joan is doing remarkably well.
Even with her sharp tongue, Joan is a likeable lady. She shows that no matter what your circumstances, you can still be confident and admired. Overcoming abuse, single-parenthood, a mugging, heartbreak, having to leave her job, and boundless sexism, Joan Holloway is a standout character, and an inspiration to women today.
Even better, she does all this looking absolutely perfect. Christina Hendricks has shown women everywhere that thin does not have to mean beautiful. Hailed by the British Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, as the ideal shape for women, she isn’t afraid to flaunt her curves in gorgeous dresses, also proving that sexy does not only come in skimpy.
So here’s to you, Joan Holloway. If you can be feisty and confident in the face of adversity, so can we.
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