Monday, October 31, 2011

A wee rant for Halloween: I see dead people.

Can I just say?

I'm really tired of seeing books covers with dead-looking girls on them. It's kind of misogynistic, honestly. I mean, are there any covers out there with dead guys on them? If so, please point some out to me, because none come to mind. But I can immediately think of several books with dead girls on the cover. They're everywhere. The message is: guys are strong and healthy and alive; girls are fragile and vulnerable and apparently dead.

Hmm.


By no means do I intend to criticize the books with these covers, or their authors. These are some great reads! I know authors don't typically have input on their book covers, and to be fair, most of these books actually do feature females who have died, so it's not like their covers are totally off the mark. But just-- isn't there anything else that could accurately represent plot elements from these books besides some poor girl's lifeless eyes staring out into space or limp, pale body flailing in an awkward position? It's, like, the opposite of empowering.

12 comments:

  1. I remember when there was a similar trend in fashion advertising. Maybe it all springs from Edgar Allen Poe's famous dictum that the most poetical subject is the death of a beautiful woman. Feminists have been making hay with that one for decades. Or perhaps death is just a thinly veiled metaphor for sex?

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  2. For a historical view of this trope (and other distressing trends) try Bram Dijkstra's book Idols of Perversity, which has a chapter on the beautiful dead woman in fin-de-siecle painting and culture.

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  3. I read the words before I saw the images.

    Yikes.

    These covers are haunting. One of them by itself would not be problematic to me, but six all lined up together?

    Yikes.

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  4. I guess the question is: why are so many authors writing books about the death of pretty girls and why are so many kids reading them?

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  5. I am so with you, and just posted a super long rant on the same subject: http://trac-changes.blogspot.com/2011/10/cover-trends-in-ya-fiction-why.html

    My theory is that there's some misogyny in the production of these covers, but more importantly there's a lot of internalized misogyny at work in creating the demand for them. What disturbs me most is that the market for these books is teenage girls, and the fact that they succeed implies that teen girls like this trend. And that tells me some scary things about what the media is doing for girls' perception of beauty.

    Also, I hadn't seen the cover for The Splendor Falls before. How creepy ::shudder::

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  6. There's also the trend of making Hades the studmuffin du jour.

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  7. Thank you all for your very insightful comments on this topic! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who's put off by this trend. It's so creepy. And as a couple of you pointed out, why is the image of a dead girl apparently attractive to the target audience?? Yikes...

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  8. The other night I spent about 2 hours in our local B&N looking at YA covers because my Editor wanted my input to the cover meeting they're having next week. I took a whole bunch of pictures of different covers and then went home and sent them on to him with my thoughts. What was truly ironic is that next to practically every cover was my note along the lines of 'Of course my cover would need to be a living boy…but I like the color or the mood or something' so much so that it kind of became a running joke until finally, halfway through my list I was so excited that my note was finally 'Hey, it's a living boy!'

    I hadn't realized it was a trend but it definitely is.

    I promise you…my book due out next September is about a boy and will NOT have a dead girl on the cover...it will however (another promise) have a sort of dead boy on it…

    Does 'sort of dead boy' count?

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  9. "It's, like, the opposite of empowering."

    This.

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  10. Peter, a dead boy is actually sort of a refreshing change! It balances things out a bit. My main grump with these dead-girl covers is not so much that an image of a dead person is depressing, it's that they're all girls. Even out the playing field, have a dead guy on a cover for once! ;)

    Sarah, thanks for agreeing! I wish I had been a little more in-depth about this, but I appreciate you reading. :)

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  11. I popped over after reading Rachel Stark's post. Thank you both for talking about this. I have 2 teen boys, so I've not noticed this cover trend. It really is pretty disturbing. Son1 reads voraciously, but he reads either adult or younger kids (mid-grade) SF/F and tends to skip teen stuff.

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  12. Thanks for visiting, Teresa! Rachel's post was excellent, wasn't it? It's so interesting that you mention not having noticed this trend because your kids are boys-- it just goes to show that boys are just not depicted this way, like girls are! I think it's the inequality of it that really burns me up.

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