An impassioned defense of the notoriously affectless actress.
X-Men: First Class star January Jones has become one of the most hated actresses in America — you either haven’t heard of her, or you disdain her. “I fucking hate that face,” wrote a blogger for Gawker, in a post titled “Which Actresses Do You Irrationally Hate?” While that writer at least acknowledged that his hatred was irrational, January Jones is also despised for purportedly rational reasons by fans of the two properties she’s associated with, Mad Men and X-Men — a hazard of working on projects with crazy die-hard fans. But, as a fan of both Mad Men and X-Men, I say Ms. Jones is less despicable than you think — not only should you not hate her, you should embrace her! Here’s why.
1. She’s very good at playing blank women.
The party line on January Jones is that she’s creepily affectless and flat of voice. And, yes, her notoriously awful Saturday Night Live appearance taught us all that she is not the second coming of Kristen Wiig. But the roles she gets don’t exactly require her to be Kristen Wiig. In Mad Men, she plays a woman bound up by all the emotional repression of the early 1960s; her flatness and awkwardness works perfectly with her awkward, isolated character. In X-Men, she also plays a woman bound up by the emotional repression of the early 1960s — and she’s a mutant who can turn into ice. (A casting decision that seems like a not-so-subtle joke.) Jones might not have much range, but she's perfect for those parts.
2. She’s private, like celebrities should be.
We also know next to nothing about January Jones personally — we don’t even know who the father of her kid is yet. While that sucks for Perez Hilton, it’s great for us, because she lives in our minds as her characters, not as a drunk-driving party girl or homophobic ranter. Because she’s so villainous onscreen, it’s pretty easy to assume that if one met her in real life, she’d make a dismissive remark and then stare off into the middle distance, like Betty or like Emma Frost.
3. When she goes public, she’s entertaining.
It’s okay for celebrities to be a little dumb — when did we decide they all had to be enlightened Ivy League grads or environmentalists? And January Jones, so good at playing disaffected ice queens, is charmingly removed from reality. “I don’t judge Betty or necessarily understand her,” she said, of her Mad Men character, in perhaps the first ever instance of an actress not bragging about her preparation. “I… like… fire,” she told GQ, like a slow-speaking caveman. When she got in a car accident, she called a Food Network host, who told her to flee. It’s been too long since we had a great airhead actress to entertain us.
4. She has good taste.
Maybe she’s just gotten lucky. But come on — everyone’s favorite TV drama and a way-better-than-expected summer action movie? She’s on a roll — you may as well get used to her.
5. It’s not that serious.
Mad Men fans, you don’t have to love every element of the show (I certainly don’t), but January Jones has been exactly the same kind of actress for its entire run, and she’s that kind of actress in other projects she’s hired for. Go along with it. She’s a crazy-gorgeous blonde who wears period clothes (check her all-white miniskirts and go-go boots in X-Men) and says silly things and might be fun to hang with. No one’s nominating her for an Oscar — so why worry?