Wednesday, 15 February 2012 12:00

Sex Week 2012: Where Are The Boobs?

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CC2K's Tony Lazlo argues that top-heavy women in Hollywood get a raw deal.

Let’s talk about boobs.

I want to be clear: We’re going to talk about breasts, bra sizes, busty actresses, necklines, cleavage and everything in between. My thesis is simple: Hollywood doesn’t like big breasts, but that may be changing. Over the following few rollicking paragraphs, we’re going to talk about why big breasts seem to be so problematic for mainstream entertainment to handle. We’re going to be working largely in the unscientific realm of anecdotal evidence, vague recollection, and the occasional bald assertion, but fear not — every half-baked argument and non-sequitorial cognitive leap will be accompanied by a delectable video or photo of a top-heavy actress from Hollywood or elsewhere.

At first glance, my thesis sounds like madness. No boobs? What? Scores of broadcasts on hundreds of channels every day feature scantily clad women — for better or for worse — including many women in bikinis, low-cut dresses, and other revealing clothing.

Here’s the problem: The breasts on display simply aren’t large enough.

For last year’s Sex Week, I wrote a retrospective on the movies of big-bust maniac Russ Meyer. All of Meyer’s leading ladies came equipped with enormous chests. Behold the wonder of Christy Hartburg in Meyer’s Supervixens:

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Here’s my contention: Outside of Russ Meyer movies, we’ve seen fewer and fewer women of Meyerian proportions in the mainstream media over the years. Back in the olden days, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield were two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, to say nothing of Mae West, Jane Russell and Mamie Van Doren. (And even Monroe was almost always played as a tarted-up, ditzy, clownish sex symbol. Bus Stop might be the only straight-up acting role she ever had, and I don’t mean to disparage her comedic chops in movies like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or Some Like It Hot.)

But these days, the vast majority of Hollywood’s most famous leading ladies are of average proportions. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the problem is that there’s a whole subset of the population — women with larger-than-average curves — who are under-represented, and when they are represented, they’re played for laughs or are otherwise used as eye-catching props onscreen. In addition, women of Meyerian proportions are often buried under reams of fabric when they do appear onscreen for fear of their assets distracting from the overall story.

In other words, you don’t see super-busty women onscreen without comment, or at least you don’t see it enough. (I don’t mean to sap the fun from the proceedings, but as much as busty women make my knees wobble, they’re seldom simply given roles to play, or they’re made to feel self-conscious about their build.)

Let commence the bald assertions and the discussion of busty actresses, along with some guesses about bra sizes

Christina Hendricks

Estimated bra size: 38H.

There are reams of evidence that busty actresses are self-conscious about their build. Christina Hendricks, whose nuanced turn as Joan Holloway anchors the female performances on AMC’s already-a-classic series Mad Men, has repeatedly complained about the attention her body — and her ample chest — have attracted.

“Anytime someone talks about your figure constantly, you get nervous, you get really self-conscious,” she said. “I was working my butt off on the show, and then all anyone was talking about was my body. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

I first saw Hendricks on Joss Whedon’s sci-fi western Firefly, in which she plays the duplicitous drifter Saffron. Her first appearance, a memorable episode called “Our Mrs. Reynolds,” features a partial nude scene, as well as one scene that gives the audience an extended look at her decolletage:

But in the rest of the episode, as well as her crackling return appearance on the show, Hendricks is swathed in a larger clothes that have the overall effect of concealing her figure. (See? I told you my arguments and evidence were going to be ironclad.)

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No discussion about big boobs and Hendricks' excellent acting would be complete without a look at her role on Mad Men. For me, this role makes perfect use of Hendricks' acting skill and appearance. All the men at Sterling Cooper sexualize her incessantly, and it weighs on her character. Roger Sterling's (John Slattery) fixation on her borders on compulsive. Meanwhile, the showrunners clothe her in attire appropriate for the era and give her one great episode after another. Her role in the Ocean's Eleven-style finale of season three still makes me smile.

That said, there remains a wide variety of roles that Hendricks – and other women of her build – could and can play without their appearance and body type being the focus of her character. In saying this, I don't mean to dismiss the rest of Hendricks' lengthy acting resume; she's had roles like I'm describing before, but still: The signature roles she's been given are characters whose sexuality and appearance is either at the center of their personality, or is an object of obsession. Happily, the showrunners of Mad Men have expertly developed the Joan Holloway character over the course of the series. It's funny – as a guy who's had to keep expanding his skill set to remain relevant in the modern workforce, I've found it poignant to watch Joan struggle to remain relevant in her own workforce, especially in contrast with Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss), whose creativity lets her challange Sterling-Cooper's glass ceiling.

joan

Sofia Vergara

Estimated bra size: 34F.

Over on the popular ABC comedy Modern Family, Columbian actress Sofia Vergara delivers one of the best performances among a cast of talented comedians.

But at one point in her burgeoning Hollywood career, her publicist told her to get a breast reduction or she wouldn’t be taken seriously in America:

“I felt a little different,” she said. “My publicist [at the time] told me, ‘I think you should just reduce your boobs because nobody's going to take you seriously here.’”

(I’m not familiar with television or pop-culture in Mexico, Central and South America, but I think there’s a greater acceptance of large-busted women in those nations. I’d welcome any correction or guidance from our readers.)

That said, even though Vergara has landed a lead role on a major show, her figure is still very often played for titillation or laughs. Believe me, I appreciate the special idiocy of me complaining about all this in an article packed with sexy photos and videos during Sex Week. Still, I feel compelled to point it out.

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More Busty Actresses: Helen Mirren

Estimated bra size: 36DD.

There are other prominent actresses whose bustlines stand out. Helen Mirren, whose career includes three performances as the Queen of England and is the definition of eminence, complains all the time about how her good looks attract an undue amount of attention:

“I felt I should be able to be whatever I was inside myself without this other thing being imposed on me from the outside. And the thing that was imposed on me was vulgar and distressing to me — that big tits, blonde hair, Diana Dors, blowsy kind of thing.”

mirren

Diora Baird

Estimated bra size: 32DDD.

“It wasn't until in the last year and a half that I started making fun of myself and the fact that I have big boobs. I never really was comfortable with my large breasts. And I went to the plastic surgeon, and almost got a breast reduction. I didn't do it, thankfully.”

baird

In which our author lurches toward a conclusion

So what would the pop-cultural landscape be if large-busted women were simply given roles to play? It’s hard to say. In society at large, I’d contend that women’s looks are factored into their overall sense of worth in a way that men’s looks just aren’t. (I'd submit that as an axiom.) In pop-culture, it’s different. Both sexes are evaluated based on their looks to a larger extent, but when it comes to breasts, they’re a bigger variable in that equation, and very often, cup size and personal worth are inversely proportional and inescapably sexualized.

Imagine a world where men’s penis sizes were on display the way a woman’s bustline is. In that world, well-endowed men are played for laughs and generally seen as sex objects. This phenomenon is common in adult entertainment, where a guy like Ron Jeremy (who has a degree in theater) has never been able to make a complete move into mainstream entertainment.

But for women with exceptionally large breasts, such barriers remain in place. They may be lowering. Let’s hope so.

Last, here's a gallery of other talented actresses with large bustlnes, including Janet McTeer, Kat Dennings, Carla Gugino and Amanda Seyfried. Enjoy.

Read 18838 times Last modified on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 08:08
Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer

Robert J. Peterson is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a co-founder of the pop-culture emporium CC2K. He's written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, PerformInk, Space.com, the Telluride (Colo.) Daily Planet, Gridiron Goddess, CC2K and Geekscape.net. He's appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanboy Scoop, Geekscape.net and Fandom Planet.

His writing for CC2K is often reprinted on his personal blog.

He's written several novels, short stories and screenplays. He's the founder of the small publishing company California Coldblood Books. His novel The Odds is available wherever books are sold, or on Amazon.

In addition to his writing, Robert is a graphic designer and web developer who specializes in open-source technologies like Joomla, Wordpress and Drupal. He built this website with the Joomla CMS. As a designer, he has built postcards, business cards, logos and many other websites. He would also love to design more mood boards for motion pictures.

His friends call him Bob.

Website: www.robertjpeterson.com