Why is Hollywood fixated with headless women?
‘Headless in Hollywood’ serves up endless examples of how ingrained the movie industry’s dehumanisation of women is
Some of the many Hollywood movie posters featured as part of the Headless in Hollywood project
At this month’s Oscars, Frances McDormand even used her platform to call on fellow performers to adopt “inclusivity riders”, or stipulations in one’s contract that insist on diversity, in gender, race and sexual orientation within a production’s cast and crew. Through such gestures, and the work of the #MeToo movement, awareness has been raised everywhere about wider issues relating to gender and sexism within the movie industry.
In those clammier corners of the internet, there was a fairly swift backlash against such comments, and pampered female celebrities getting preachy on the subject of feminism. In fact, business is booming for those who want to make inclusivity seem less like common sense, and more like a stepping stone toward a future in which men everywhere must fear being marched out of their offices and into internment camps should they so much as turn their calculator upside down to spell “BOOBS”.
Luckily, for those who find it obnoxious when actresses lend their support to the feminist cause, the splendid blog Headless In Hollywood is on hand to show them a vision of the future where those very faces are removed entirely. Run by comedian Marcia Belsky, the site – and its associated Twitter account @HlywoodHeadless – collects representative samples of a trend so extreme, unsettling and seemingly frequent, it’s extraordinary that greater attention hasn’t been drawn to it before; the practice of chopping off the heads of female characters on movie posters, but leaving the male’s intact.
The phenomenon sees poster artists going out of their way to depict breasts, thighs, bums, backs, and even necks, but never those pesky, empathy-attracting faces.
Though the trend is particularly prevalent in adolescent comedies such as Beauty & The Geek, Porky’s, Dirty Grandpa, Hall Pass and Click, there are numerous more “high brow” examples also, such as Colin Firth-starring Nick Hornby adaptation Fever Pitch, or Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth that also fit the headless brief.
Ditto women-centred movies such as A League Of Their Own, which marry a rousing, up-with-women narrative, with an image of an unidentified, head-cropped character on its promotional material.
The message of Headless in Hollywood is not that each individual example is a conscious sexist act, but that the casual dehumanisation of female characters is so socially ingrained that a trope this alarming could exist so long without comment. Until we see the end of the faceless female, it’s time those in denial about objectification faced facts.