Why Are Headless Women Featured On So Many Movie Posters?

Quick, what do Hot Tub Time Machine, Minions, and American Beauty have in common? Their movie posters all feature headless women. The phenomenon of movie posters featuring women with their faces turned away or their heads completely missing from the frame is bizarrely ubiquitous across different genres. This is the troubling pattern explored by the Tumblr The Headless Women of Hollywood.


The blog, which features posters of headless women alongside entertaining, completely frustrated commentary, was started by stand-up comic Marcia Belsky. Belsky explains on the blog why she believes examining and questioning the headless woman trope is so important.

"The head is first and foremost the thinking part of the human body, where our motivations and feelings are located," she writes. "So, these images we are bombarded with on a daily basis tell us persistently that women’s thoughts, feelings, and personal agency either don’t exist or are of no interest. Further, facial features are the way we recognize other people. It’s the face that makes us individuals. That too is taken away, and we are taught that all women, especially ones that match the ideal, are the same and interchangeable."


Scrolling through the images, which also include headless women on album covers, TV promos, and other ads, it's plain to see how common they are, and more importantly, how easy it is to start seeing them as normal. When women are pictured without heads, their objectification seems almost like a given. Hollywood has a long way to go in achieving gender parity, but featuring women who seem like entire people, rather than a collection of body parts, could be one place to start. As Belsky puts it simply, "Damnit Hollywood! We want heads!"
Advertisement