Unpacking the Mad Men star’s delightfully ridiculous Instagram, a fitting mirror for our pandemic-induced malaise.
VANITY FAIR – This year we received an unexpected celebrity gift: the Instagram presence of January Jones. During Los Angeles’s confusing and unrigorous lockdowns, the actor, known best for playing Don Draper’s long-suffering wife (then ex-wife), Betty Draper, on Mad Men, has kindly granted bored and discouraged scrollers access to her own droll and kooky interiority. As 2020 unfolded, she gave us colorful, unskilled dance videos, Barbie doll theater, lackadaisical garden tours reluctantly shot by her young son, ridiculous yet boldly chic looks, and one-act plays about quickly losing your mind during the pandemic.
While she puts on a distressed shtick, Jones doesn’t claim to be suffering in any serious way; she plays up the Marie Antoinette-ishness of her well-appointed conditions with astute comedic timing. She’s not angling to flatter or impress, either. Instead, she animates the most idiosyncratic parts of her personality to make us cackle—without letting her playful self-awareness slip into a grating self-consciousness, as is common with the celebrity Instagram set. A single mother bored to pieces in a huge house, she dressed up as Miss Hannigan for Halloween, posing with a bewildered look in her widely featured bathtub.
Of course, the press, so to speak, has noticed. Jones recently took a break from her regularly scheduled programming to flippantly respond to the National Enquirer’s ploy to concoct a story about her “attention-grabbing bikini pictures” on the ’gram. Her social media presence, the tabloid claims, is worrying those in Jones’s inner circle, who are convinced that her “acting work appears to have dried up before the pandemic took hold.” In a brief caption, the actor responded, “Shit. They’ve discovered my secret. Consider this my public apology to my ‘friends.’”
Jones’s P.R. team may very well be shaking in their boots, but perhaps they understand that a huge part of their client’s appeal is her devil-may-care attitude toward the most opportunistic of voyeurs. In fact, if I were a comically inclined director with fine aesthetic tastes (Elaine May, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sofia Coppola: I’m looking at you), I’d hire her immediately.
One wealthy white woman finally lands on the right tone in depicting her “life” to the desperate masses, and suddenly she’s in crisis? Well, if this is what trouble looks like, sign me up. Here are Jones’s top five posts of 2020.
Jones often uses memes of her old Mad Men character to answer life’s more troubling questions, like where the National Enquirer might have gotten its big scoop from.
Recalling the 2014 film Goodnight Mommy, Jones tucks in for some self-care on Mother’s Day.
In a bold move, Jones acts and directs at the same time, in a Grey Gardens–inspired robe.
Serving us Monet realness in a halter wrap dress, the actor puts on a bit of doll theater featuring the unforgettable line, “You’re so classless, you silly bitch!”
Inspired, perhaps, by the queen of online wellness, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jones gets in some cardio.