I haven't read the article* about Mad Men actress Christina Hendricks being called a fabulous physical role model
because the concept of individual body shape role models is ludicrous**. She was born (I assume) genetically predetermined to have big boobs and curvy hips. Sure I'd love to look like that, but my body type isn't anything I can change to that extent. A better headline would be "Actress looks sexy; figure still unobtainable for 99% of women."
I can guess that the idea of someone being a "physical role model" is intended to mean that by seeing women with shapes other than the typical fashion model ideal***, pubescent girls will be more accepting of the bodies they grow into rather than starving themselves to be acceptably thin. But really, all that is done by setting up one person as a role model is saying there's now two
alternatives for acceptable body shapes.
One night while watching Big Bang Theory I said to T that one thing I like about the show is that some of the female characters don't look like some of the other female characters. The central female character, Penny, seems typically blonde, skinny and busty - especially in the first season**** which is currently screening on Go. The producers certainly toned her down as the show went along to make her look more attainable and 'girl next door'. Season 1 she's got bitch hair and boobs akimbo. But there's an episode some time before Penny and Leonard get together (IIRC) where another blonde woman moves in next door, and in comparison it's obvious that Penny is everyday, cute good-looking while her competitor is more your Amazon model type.
But blondes aside, there's Sara Gilbert (how much do I love having her and Johnny Galecki in the same show?), goths, average-looking scientists with bad dye jobs, big girls, Indian girls, and the desperate male geeks find all of them attractive. Many of the female characters are smart, too. There was a recent season 1 episode where Raj drunkenly pick up a plus size woman and the next morning we see him recoil and try to get away. From what I've seen of the show, this is one early slip-up relying on the universal joke of fat women being an object of derision and comedy. Apart from that, I find BBT a worthy of source of positive physical role models, by simple virtue of showing
different female body types and unconventional kinds of attractiveness.
Incidentally one of my favourite one-episode female characters was Sheldon's blind date (video here!
), who I've only now discovered was played by Blossom actress Mayim Bialik. A perfect example of taking a female character who in any other show would be an unattractive object of ridicule and showcasing her other, erm, "qualities". Would love to see more of this character!
* I also ignored an article claiming that women's boobs are getting bigger. No, the boob size of the female population at large does not fluctuate according to fashion. Mean average change would come about by smaller, older women dying off while well-nourished youngsters hit puberty. More accurate headline: "Phwoar, schoolgirls eh?" I feel so sleazy writing that.
** Unless it's Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. What woman doesn't plan to start working out for hours a day if they ever get locked in a mental institution?
*** Honestly, it would be so much easier to draft patterns for women if we all had the same proportions. The dart manipulation I have to do to fit my size 14 bust - 18 waist - 20 hips is ridiculous. No wonder designers hate us - they're too lazy to draft patterns properly.
**** We tape all the different screenings of BBT and watch them in whatever order they're aired. Last month Channel 9 was showing a current season while Go was screening two different older seasons, or perhaps the second season at different points. I don't even know how many seasons there are and don't want to check. Part of the fun of watching the show this way is guessing at what point in time the episode occurs. T says he likes to imagine it's an experimental narrative with a corkscrew timeline. Or Sheldon has perfected time travel.