The XX Factor

Is Holly Golightly a Feminist Fairy Godmother?

Mad Men continues to be a source of endless editorial delight . In yesterday’s Times there were two articles that used the AMC show as a peg: sometime- Slate contributor Katie Roiphe ‘s paean to the messy lives of the Mad Men set and Maureen Dowd’s bizarre op-ed comparing Breakfast at Tiffany ‘s heroine Holly Golightly to Mad Men ‘s Betty Draper.

Though you might disagree with Roiphe , her essay made a clear, provocative point-that Mad Men -obsessives are slightly envious of “the glamour of spectacularly messy, self-destructive behavior” they see on the show. Dowd’s point is similar but far less coherent. She starts by noting the similarities between Audrey Hepburn’s Golightly and January Jones’s Draper: They’re both beautiful and slender and supported by men. The difference between them is that Golightly seems free, while Draper seems trapped, Dowd says. Ultimately she declares that while we pity Draper, Hepburn’s “haute hooker … was a fairy godmother, not only to feminism but to the prevailing ethos that style and cool trump all.”

Dowd’s assertion that Golightly comes off as “a modern, fun-loving single girl,” isn’t quite right-ultimately she doesn’t seem particularly happy or fun at all to me, I always thought she was vulnerable and lost. Viewed through today’s mores, Golightly’s “haute hooker” seems just as glossy and empty as Betty Draper, and her dependence on men is just as unsatisfying. It doesn’t mean that the character doesn’t still have glamour-there’s a reason the vision of Holly in her little black dress still graces so many dorm-room walls. But it doesn’t mean she was a harbinger of feminism or that viewed with a critical eye, she isn’t wanting.