It’s been around since I was a child: images of dead women in advertisements for women’s products. Echidne of the Snakes has an article about the latest round of these ads:
The less extreme fashion pictures often borrow similar imagery. The models lie on the floor, staring up with empty eyes and swollen lips. Their legs and arms never look comfortable, but like those of a broken doll or of someone who just got driven over by a car. If the models are upright, they often totter about as if ready to fall over any minute, revealing those same empty eyes and swollen lips. Nothing can be written on those faces, nothing. They just are.
Read the whole article. She discusses how we’re always told these images are edgy and artistic, but asks what’s new and ground-breaking about dead women? Indeed. What’s new or edgy about dead, brutalized women, left to rot alongside the road? What’s edgy about something we see several times a week on fiction shows like Criminal Minds and non-fiction shows about serial killers?
Death isn’t edgy. If it was, we’d see dead men in advertisements too. Maybe we’d even see non-modelesque dead women in ads. In fact, it’s not even murder that’s the edgy factor here.
No, it’s specifically the image of the murdered beauty queen that is some kind of cultural icon to – I think specifically – the United States. I don’t quite understand why. Maybe it’s just the perfect realization of the feminine passivity this macho culture feels entitled to expect from us. Maybe it embodies the hopelessness women sometimes feel, the bone weariness that sinks in as we realize all our putting up with privileged male bullshit hasn’t gotten us anywhere and never will. I don’t get it.