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Female corpses becoming a fashion trend
Over the years female corpses, especially beautiful female corpses, have become a staple of fashion shoots, advertising campaigns and TV shows – with sexual and fatal violence against women a favorite of TV programs looking to boost a waning audience or build a new one.Last year Vice magazine decided to illustrate their Women in Fiction issue with a fashion shoot depicting a range of well-known writers in the throes of killing themselves, or trying to: Sylvia Plath kneeling in front of an oven; Virginia Woolf standing in a stream, clutching a large stone; Dorothy Parker bleeding heavily into a sink. The fashion credits were included in full, down to the pair of tights used as a noose.
A 2006 Jimmy Choo ad showed a woman apparently passed out in a car boot, a man in dark glasses sitting beside her, brandishing a spade. In 2007 W magazine ran a fashion story featuring model Doutzen Kroes that ticked every box of objectification – multiple images of her seemingly passed out, semi-naked; one in which her lifeless hand held a teddy bear.
In a new advertising campaign for Marc Jacobs, Miley Cyrus and two female models pose on a moonlit beach, Miley sitting up, staring moodily into the middle distance, a woman standing behind her, while another lies on the sand. This model isn't reclining happily, or curled up asleep; she is flat on her back, hair partially covering her face, with the stiff, sightless demeanour of a body in the morgue. A beautifully dressed one, of course.This ad campaign was released a day after the latest cover of US magazine Entertainment Weekly, which shows the two stars of upcoming film Gone Girl lying on a gurney. Ben Affleck is fully dressed and alert, curled awkwardly around Rosamund Pike, who is in a bra and slip, pale, wide-eyed with surprise, very much dead. A tag is tied carefully around her toe.
This obsession with death isn't so surprising, when you consider it as the obvious and ultimate end point of a spectrum in which women's passivity and silence is sexualised, stylised and highly saleable. Over the past few years, there have been a number of brilliant projects that have shown the eye-popping strangeness of how women are posed for the camera, contorted into positions which make them look simultaneously ridiculous, weak, sexually available and highly vulnerable.
Do people actually want these images? Do they want violence against women to be sexualised? There are some strong signs that they don't, from all the women who speak out against these images, to the news item, published last week, which showed that films that pass the Bechdel test – which offer at least two female characters, who have a conversation, about something other than a man –outperform their counterparts at the box office. Last year, of the 50 highest-grossing films in the US, those that passed the Bechdel test earned $176m at the box office, while those that didn't averaged $116m.
Still, there's a reason these images proliferate. If the sexualised stereotype of a woman in our culture is passive and vulnerable, the advertising industry has worked out that, taken to its logical conclusion, there is nothing more alluring than a dead girl.
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