Monday, June 21, 2010


The other day I watched an embarrassing old episode of The Avengers called "The Decapod" (it went downhill after the title). The plot was some sort of nonsense about a Balkan dictator/playboy who's going to be assassinated by some guy in a wrestling costume, only it's really him all along and he just wants to steal the UN's money and go on cruises, or something. But was really struck me was this:

That's Julie Stevens as Venus Smith, who was briefly one of John Steed's sidekicks in the early years of the show. She was a lounge singer, and each of her episodes included a musical number or two, which, you know, kind of tiresome since the music is bland, but nice, I guess?

Anyway. I have a minor temporomandibular joint disorder, which basically means that my jaw has a tendency to get painfully tense and can lock sometimes and occasionally feels like it doesn't fit right, which is terribly uncomfortable. Smiling or laughing for prolonged periods can be particularly bad for it. It's nothing tragic, and considering that it's currently my only notable physical ailment aside from back pain due to shitty posture, I'm not going to complain all that much about it.

My point is, look at that picture. The muscles in poor Julie Stevens' jaw must be so goddamn tense. And she's making that face--completely unmoving, incidentally, I wish I had a video to share--while singing. And then she smiles through the rest of the hour-long episode, in which Steed discovers that the Balkan dictator has a thing for blondes and is coincidentally looking for a "private secretary," if you know what I mean, because the last one was sexily killed by a man in a wrestling mask, so then he tricks Venus into thinking that the dictator is actually some kind of entertainment impresario who wants to book her for a tour of the Balkans even though he's never heard her sing, and then she falls in love with him because he kidnaps her.

Smiling all the while.

Women of the world, if I may, I would like to sincerely apologize to your temporomandibular joints. If you don't want to smile all the time, that's totally fine with me. Next time someone stops you and asks "Why so glum?" or ingratiatingly tells you to "Smile, it's not so bad," sock him one for me. Maybe you can fuck up his jaw, too.


Bolo said...

Hmm... Now I wonder if I have such a disorder too. I can no longer yawn fully without popping my jaw on the left side (unless I move my mouth a certain way first, but that's hard to do when a yawn catches you by surprise) and I've locked it a few times when really stressed out.

I can't imagine smiling all the time like that...

Ethan said...

Bolo, that sounds like my situation (I know exactly what you mean by "unless I move my mouth a certain way"). I find aleve-like medicines help a lot, as do some stretches (keep the tip of your tongue touching your palate just behind your teeth and slowly open your mouth as wide as it can go without moving your tongue or hurting yourself) and strengthening exercises (put your fist under your chin and open against that pressure). The thing that seems most helpful for me, though, is occasionally noticing how tense my jaw was and just making a conscious effort to relax it.

BDR said...

Wow, that episode is even pre-Honor Blackman. Watching them figure out what to do with Steed in the earliest episodes I find fascinating.

I've always felt bad for Linda Thorson - following first Katherine Gale and then Emma Peel, Tara King never had a chance (and I hate Mother).

Ethan said...

what to do with Steed in the earliest episodes

I've found so far that their solution to this is to make him as pig-headedly misogynistic and incurious as possible. He's still got that going on later on in the series, but he's significantly less charming early on.

I don't think I've ever actually seen any post-Rigg Avengers....any good?