Thursday, October 14, 2010

The trend of headless women on historical fiction covers

I've been on a cover kick recently, as some of you may know. A few posts back, I mentioned that I am working on a school project where I recreate covers for some of my favorite (or not so) books. Since then, I've been looking at covers with a much more judgmental eye. Since I obviously read a lot of historical fiction, I've noticed that there are a lot of AMAZING ones, but also that a good number have the women missing their head, such as these:

This gets a bit tedious after the 40th book, but I then came along this cover which made me realize exactly why historical fiction women have no heads:

<--That woman is supposed to be Mary I! What?! This is so traumatizing. This here is the real Mary, she doesn't exactly ooze sex appeal now does she? -->


 In short, my theory of headless HF women is this: since we don't know EXACTLY what these women look like, let's just keep it safe and show no heads. Does that make sense? I was once against the headless-ness, and now I am all for it. Here are some HF covers that have been ruined in my opinion by faces:






The Boleyn Wife cover is the most terrible.....Jane Boleyn looks like an elf from The Lord of the Rings.

I'm sorry if this is a spastic, ranting and random post, but this is just something I'd been thinking about recently. It was finally The King's Daughter cover (the main focus of this post) that pushed me over the edge! Who knew that cover art was such a science?

17 comments:

  1. I have noticed this as well. And not just with historical fiction. I have to say I like them without the head because then the characters' looks can be left up to our imagination which is always better than the picture. I don't know, that's my take on it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes! I thought of that too, I just couldn't form it into a thought that made sense.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree with Danielle, it is a phenomenon that is across genres. It does make it easier to picture the character however you'd like. You don't have to deal with some one else's preconceived notion of what they should look like.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This reminds me of when I was reading the Twilight Series and they were going to be coming out with the first movie and I wouldn't look at the ads or posters etc. because I didn't want to picture the actors while I read the book. And I'm so glad I did because my Edward was so much hotter. hehe :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Since I really only read HF, that's all I've noticed it in. I found two lists on goodreads that show how common it is in all genres: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/3573.Dude_Where_s_My_Forehead_

    http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/2987.Headless_Women

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've noticed this too and I'm amazed by it. It kind of reminds me how Romance Novels all have very similar covers. I don't know if I really like that in historical fiction but I guess how many options do they have? Castles or women in fancy dresses.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good point about Mary and all the others...especially Jane B. WTF if she wearing? lol.

    ReplyDelete
  8. When taking portraits for business purposes, there's a saying, "If you work with your head (theoretical physicists, statisticians, etc.), use a head shot. If you work with your head and heart (teachers, therapists, etc.), use a head and torso shot. If you work with your body (builders, athletes, etc.) use a full-body shot. So these women "work" with heart and body only? Just a thought.

    Susan Lynn Peterson
    author of Clare (a novel about 1906 Irish immigration)

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's a marketing dilemma for publishers, I think. Even when the notable women of the past were not unattractive in terms of their own time, they may look unattractive in terms of modern fashions. The hot beauty of an earlier century may have had a tiny little rosebud mouth, ghostly pale skin and a hairline plucked an inch higher than her natural hairline. Putting a portrait of her on the cover of a novel about her might be a turn-off to a lot of modern readers. On the other hand, readers who are particularly drawn to history and historical fiction are not going to be drawn to a historical novel if the cover shows a woman wearing modern make-up! The face-shot covers shown above suggest that the authors didn't do much historical research - which is probably completely untrue!

    ReplyDelete
  10. The same standards of beauty do not apply in today's age, and with what you described Margaret, thank goodness! :) Thank you for your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I completely agree with you! I was also thinking "what's up with the headless stuff" but now I find that I am more irritated when the cover does not compliment the character within the book! The headless ones seem to give a sense of mystery and definitely are more intriguing. Enjoy your weekend :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. After viewing both sides, I'm for headlessness, too. It's impossible/difficult to make modern girls hair/makeup fit the time period...

    Jessi @ The Elliott Review

    ReplyDelete
  13. The King's Daughter was horrible. I looked at it on Goodreads and wouldn't have known it was about Mary I unless I had read the description.

    Movies are bad about it too. Eric Bana and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII. REALLY? The red headed obese king as a dark headed athletic man? I realize he was athletic in his early years, but.....

    ReplyDelete
  14. We've noticed exactly the same! Have a look at our compilation - www.fixabook.com/copycat-covers/headless-women Depressingly, we find new ones to add every week.

    ReplyDelete
  15. JRM grew on me over the years as Henry VIII, but Eric Bana was just awful (as was that whole movie).

    Your link won't open for me Julia! I would love to check it out.

    ReplyDelete
  16. My post is a bit late here, and hopefully this morbid headless trend is over, but it was raised recently as an issue of supporting gender bias by publishing houses.

    Please read: http://mhpbooks.com/51469/gender-bias-in-literary-criticism-solutions/

    I have to say I fully agree with the article that images are never innocent nor neutral, even when they are 'just' meant to appeal to/stir the imagination. Interestingly enough, most of the female population here did not even notice the possible undertones or even damaging effects of such imagery in the public eye.

    In any case, conscious or not, the trend did help to raise a bigger issue in the publishing world, and so does hopefully this belated post.

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails