People tell jokes about violence against women all the time, either because they don’t realize violence against women is a cultural norm, or because they think laughing at said cultural norm will somehow make it less horrible. This is the only way that I rationalize the astronomical rise of the tumblr “Exploding Actresses” and the lack of any adequate critique of it as a form of Internet art.
As the title of the viral tumblr suggests, actresses explode. Not any random actress in any random movie either, these are actresses in movies very much beloved by women. There are GIFS, YouTube videos and stills.
“Have you ever imagined your favorite actresses and Disney princesses without heads?” opened one gleeful blog post about the subject. Huffington Post labeled their “hilarious” post about it “satire” but was unclear as to what was actually being culturally commented on: that women iconography was being destroyed rather violently, or that a male was behind it?
Them exploding is no big deal, it’s a joke, it’s supposed to be funny, all the write-ups imply. This is problematic for a variety of reasons but Lindy West can explain those best somewhere else.
Perhaps the tumblr creator Simone Rovellini — who lives in a country the UN flagged for having particularly bad domestic abuse problem — didn’t mean to be sexist with his movie choices or in picking the “greatest actresses in film history,” and merely chose the movies he did because the depictions of love in those movies make men’s heads explode. Or maybe he was implying that while watching these movies might make women happy, it will really leave them braindead. Oh wait. Both of those reasons are still sexist.
It’s interesting to note that as Rovellini’s mini-art project picked up press all over the world, he began exploding men’s heads in his work. Still only in movies beloved by women though. Hmm.