Thursday, July 2, 2009

Book Covers: fragmented women?

I don't know what this book is about, and I have never read one word written by James Patterson, or the co-author of this book, Maxine Paetro, but having viewed the cover...I dunno--I'm a little, uh, bothered?

The title is Swimsuit, so why not just have a pic of a swimsuit; why does it have to be a woman in it, a woman missing much of her arms and legs, and especially her head? (This is not a criticism of James Patterson, since I have no idea if he was involved with this book cover, but I do know that the book is centered on the death of a model.) Here's a quick synopsis:

Syd, a breathtakingly beautiful supermodel on a photo shoot in Hawaii, disappears. Fearing the worst, her parents travel to Hawaii to investigate for themselves, never expecting the horror that awaits them.
LA Times reporter Ben Hawkins is conducting his own research into the case, hoping to help the victim and get an idea for his next bestseller. With no leads and no closer to uncovering the kidnapper's identity than when he stepped off the plane, Ben gets a shocking visit that pushes him into an impossible-to-resist deal with the devil.

A heart-pounding story of fear and desire, SWIMSUIT transports readers to a chilling new territory where the collision of beauty and murder transforms paradise into a hell of unspeakable horrors.
So...the novel is about the disappearance of a woman (suggestive of violence) and is centered around a male journalist, and the cover depicts a woman missing vital body parts...I'm a little worried about the safety of this character...

Fragmenting the female form creates an object out of what should be a person--her facelessness creates anonymity of the object which is her body. The arch of this object also suggests a sexuality, and again, it's linked to violence with the tag line "It's to die for," which I assume is meant to refer to the swimsuit, but again, we see the fragmented body of a woman--the bikini she's wearing is an afterthought.

Images where the body of a woman is fragmented are problematic because they're suggestive of objectivity, as well as violence (I guess that last is appropriate for this particular novel, but I can still find fault with it seeing as how that intention does not negate that it's sexist).

Update: CC has written a post of her own on this book cover, which takes this post a little further, including how fragmenting female bodies is rampant throughout art history. I strongly recommend that you check it out.


RMJ said...

Yeah....James Patterson....not so much.

Angelia Sparrow said...

Maybe it's the type of books I read and write. I never gave the cover a second glance. I'm used to torsos without heads on my books, male and female.

My next-to-last novel had two men, clearly nicely built, shot only from the chins down. No heads or faces, just a fall of long black hair over one man's arm. (the last time I got a male face on my cover I was...less than pleased with the choice)

Ellora's Cave does the beefcake, often sans head or with faces obscured, to prevent the models' looks from interfering with the readers' fantasies.

Often the body-parts get draped out of the frame or blocked by others.

In all honesty, when I saw the Swimsuit cover all I thought was "Huh, another thriller. Wonder how many will end up getting returned against his advance?"
(as I said, my PoV is not the average readers')

FilthyGrandeur said...

@ Angelia Sparrow-
that's interesting that you mentioned male bodies being fragmented, since as i was writing this post i thought of romance cover novels. i think in the case of both male and female bodies it's problematic, because it's reducing both to just parts.

"Ellora's Cave does the beefcake, often sans head or with faces obscured, to prevent the models' looks from interfering with the readers' fantasies."--While I suppose in effect this "makes sense" to me, i still find it troubling, since those fantasies are rooted to a body in pieces...

lindsay said...

Californication DVD cover:

Same shit, different day.

CC said...

Okay, Angelia, but romance novels and thrillers are two different genres. Why must the female form be made into an object in the case of a thriller?

CC said...

Hi, I love your blog, and this post really got me thinking. I wanted to respond to it, but had more to say than would fit in comments, so I wrote a post in response, if you're interested.

sanda said...

As an artist (for over 40 years), I have been a feminist making protest
noise about women's bodies fragmented in art, during all that time. So thanks. Sanda in NYC.