If there is one seemingly iron-clad rule in movie marketing it’s this: Whenever possible, avoid showing a woman’s entire face on a movie poster. It’s okay to reduce her to legs, lips, or a torso. But if a woman’s eyes, nose, and mouth are all visible simultaneously, people might get the impression that that she’s an individual and not an interchangeable sex object.
New York comic Marcia Belsky started noticing this disturbing trend appearing in way, way too many movie posters, so about a month ago, she started an entire Tumblr about the topic called The Headless Women Of Hollywood. She also has a companion Twitter account about the same thing. The message of the project, says Belsky, is simple: “WE WANT HEADS!” How can gender equality ever be achieved in movies if women are being chopped up for spare parts in the ads? The cliché of decapitating and therefore dehumanizing women in movie marketing is so common that people may not even notice it, so Belsky has plenty of ammunition for her Tumblr account, for which she also takes reader submissions.
Viewers might associate the “headless women” trope with more recent sex comedies, and that happens a lot, too:
But the cliché is so common, so all-pervasive, it even turns up in the marketing campaigns for CGI animated films aimed at young children:
Belsky recently discussed the project with writer Kathryn Lindsay in a Hello Giggles article. “What mostly inspired the project was a combination of things I learned in school about the consistent fragmentation and objectification of women’s bodies,” Belksy told Lindsay, “and then the frustration of still seeing these images of headless women everywhere.” Maybe by drawing the public’s attention to this cliché, Belsky can put a stop to it. For now, though, it’s such a pervasive advertising meme that even Hollywood’s most famous, recognizable actresses are not immune. Sorry, Scarlett Johansson.