Women in Film: The Headless Women of Hollywood

Written by YogurtTop

So, we need to talk about ‘The Headless Women of Hollywood’.

This is something that’s been bothering me for some time. Back in 2016, stand-up comedian Marcia Belsky hit ‘publish’ on her Tumblr blog, entitled, ‘The Headless Women of Hollywood’ and I haven’t been able to look at a movie poster, or watch a film the same way since.

‘The Headless Women of Hollywood’ has gone viral several times, and for very good reason. Belsky has been tirelessly documenting each and every movie, television, and advertising poster that features a woman’s headless body as the main art. She launched the site with the hopes of bringing attention to “the still standard practice of fragmenting, fetishizing, and dehumanizing the images of women we see in film, TV, book covers, and advertisements.”

And, trust me. The more you look into it, the more shocking it gets.

You sort of expect this type of things from films in the 1980’s, but some of the examples of ‘The Headless Women of Hollywood’ come from recent productions.

Take Netflix’s Fyre Festival documentary – which, in case you missed it, tells the turbulent tale of how Billy McFarland, CEO of Fyre Media and rapper Ja Rule strived to plan the world’s biggest party. Alas, the plans fell through and ended with a complete disaster, leaving it with the slogan, ‘the greatest party that never happened’.

Fyre Festival (2019)
Fyre Festival (2019)


“It’s truly an amazing time to be a headless female body part in Hollywood” – Marcia Belsky

Here are a few examples:

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)


The Tudors (2010)
The Tudors (2010)


Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman (2017)


Barely Legal (2003)
Barely Legal (2003)


Hall Pass (2011)
Hall Pass (2011)


Super Troopers (2001)
Super Troopers (2001)


Click (2006)
Click (2006)


In her about page, Marcia Belsky says, “These images, used as an advertisement trope for years, teach our minds to be signified that a woman’s separated and sexualised parts are one and the same thing as the woman herself.”

“The head is first and foremost the thinking part of the human body, where our motivations and feelings are located. 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.”

Moving on to another slightly worrying women in film phenomenon 

Who’s heard of the Bechdel test?

(Honestly, once you hear this you’ll never watch a film the same again)

It’s a pretty simple concept: to pass the test, a film needs to simply meet the following three criteria:

  1. It has to have a least two women in it
  2. The two women talk to each other
  3. They need to talk about something other than a man

The number of films that fail is just too high. If you spend some time searching online for films that fail, you won’t struggle to start racking up the numbers. And no, they’re not all from the 1980’s, some of them are as recent as 2018.

Films that fail the Bechdel test:

  • Toy Story 1 and 2 (1995, 1999)
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
  • Finding Nemo (2003)
  • Ratatouille (2007)
  • Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
  • Avatar (2009)
  • The Social Network (2010)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two (2011)
  • 21 Jump Street (2012)
  • The Avengers (2013)
  • The Imitation Game (2014)
  • Whiplash (2014)
  • Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
  • Moonlight (2016)
  • La La Land (2016)
  • A Quite Place (2018)
  • A Private War (2018)
  • Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
  • Deadpool 2 (2018)
  • Christopher Robin (2018)
  • Green Book (2018)
  • The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)
  • Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

Seriously, the list goes on and on. See for yourself here.

The issues don’t disappear post credits

According to the BFI, UK films are still a long way from gender parity. The BFI filmography of over 10,000 UK movies reveals that women in film still struggle to be seen or heard – onscreen and off.

Not only that, but when women do get casted in an upcoming production, it’s not exactly glass-ceiling shattering. The jobs women have on screen almost always confirm to stereotypes, according to the BFI study.

Read more below.

BFI Women in Film Infographic
BFI Women in Film Infographic


Let’s keep the conversation about women in film open.

If you see any ‘headless women’ in a film, on TV or on a poster – send them to Marcia Belkey here.

I will leave you with just one more thought, the next time you sit down to watch a film, why not take note of whether the film passes the Bechdel test – let me know if they don’t, so I can add them to my list!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Lots of love,

Chloe x





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