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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

a quick primer on how to dehumanize and objectify women in movie marketing

My ongoing look at how movie marketing objectifies and dehumanizes women — which began here — continues.

And to get us going again, a quick rundown of some of the common ways women can be rendered as less than people. There’s the removal of her face:


(That’s the Region 1 DVD of Toad Road, just out this week.)

Or even better, just chop her head off entirely:


(That one is the Region 2 DVD of Upstream Color, which will be released on December 30th.)

For maximum depersonalization and objectification, reduce her to her sexual parts:


That’s the Region 2 DVD of Thanatomorphose, released December 9th, and it comes with bonus depersonalized objectification of womankind. For this was the original cover art:


Why was this so offensive that it had to be changed? Why, because everyone knows that a woman’s crotch is not for her own pleasure, but for that of others. The altered version is acceptable because a generic female crotch presented for the pleasure of the viewer is perfectly normal and just as things should be.

  • cinderkeys

    I design book covers, and concealing part of the body is a handy design technique. What the featured person actually looks like isn’t the point. The intent — and hopefully the effect — isn’t to dehumanize.

    That said, I use this technique with male figures as often as female figures. If this only happens with women in movie posters, that’s significant and worth discussing. It wouldn’t surprise me, unfortunately. Back in the 1970s, Erving Goffman noted that “dismemberment” was much more prevalent in print ads featuring women than men.

  • When men on movie posters are depicted in a faceless silhouette, it’s because the silhouette is so iconic that the effect is that he is not unidentifiable, such as with Batman. Or else men are posed with their backs to the viewer in the manner of this classic painting:


    which is iconically heroic.

    Women are almost never depicted in such ways. Instead, women are not representing individual characters but are literally objectified representations of femaleness: ie, “disembodied breasts” = “generic hot woman.”

  • RogerBW

    Just parts is safe. You don’t have to have a conversation with parts. You don’t have to care how parts feel. When you get bored with parts, you can throw them away and get some more.

  • Matt Clayton

    I noticed several upcoming DVD releases on DVD Empire’s recent additions list: “Girls, Gangsters and Zombies”, “Deliverance from Evil”, “The Hospital” and “House Rules for Bad Girls.” All of them fit your criteria for objectifying women… and it’s disturbing.

    Moreover, half of them are on the first page: http://www.dvdempire.com/recent-additions-movie.html?media=2

  • donwondomingo

    ehh, I mean I get what you are saying but there are PLENTY of movies that show a full womans face on the cover.. I have a feeling you are just riding out the feminist movement in any way possible as this is extremely nit picky. Toad road is a great movie, it does not really “objectify” woman at all, I mean its just a cover.. its sorta about a “hallow” girl experimenting with drugs in the woods, the cover is fine yet you see it in a really downgrading to woman type light. I think its just in your head, you know, people see whatever they want to see when they want to pick battles. The real quesion here is, “What is the problem”? Seriously, what is the problem here? Men get objectified all the time but I doubt you see it that way, I have been my entire life and I do not fit the “male” way that I look so its been a constant battle but not big enough for me to write an article and point out movie covers that objectified men (well, they actually don’t its all in the eyes of the beholder). ehh, I just dont get it (if thats not obvious haha).. Go get some PORN covers if you REALLY want to see woman objectified, thats where this real battle is, this is sorta of small talk comparatively.

  • I don’t want to see women objectified. That’s the whole point.

    Tip for the future: Dismissing feminist criticisms as “all in a woman’s head” makes you part of the problem.

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