On the Road Gets a Girly Makeover

4 Jun

book-coverimage via Cup of Jo

The cover of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road got a girly makeover last month as part of author Maureen Johnson’s challenge Coverflip, which asked people to imagine how the covers of famous books would look if they had been written by people of the opposite gender.

The experiment stems from the growing conversation surrounding how books are gendered. For more on this subject, I’d recommend reading Deboarah Copaken Kogan’s article “My So-Called ‘Post-Feminist’ Life in Arts and Letters” for The Nation, about the title and cover for her memoir Shutterbabe about her years as a war photographer. (See the disconnect? babe. war.)

The feminized cover of On the Road seen above—a fake, done in jest to prove Johnson’s point that covers are gendered—interestingly enough bears a resemblance to the real marketing materials for the recent film adaptation of Kerouac’s novel. Whether it was the film poster or the trailer, Kristen Stewart—who played LuAnne—was front and center. The US edition of the movie tie-in novel went with a collage effect but check out this Italian cover:



Lest you think the Italians are alone for some reason, it’s the same cover used for the Australian edition and the French edition.

What are we to make of the fact the movie-tie in editions look more like the fake Coverflip experiment than more recent printings of On the Road? Are the marketing teams behind these new editions trying to appeal to young women? Are they assuaging misogynistic critiques by giving a female character more attention—or are they actually embracing misogyny by using an image of a woman as a marketing tool?

For more on this subject, you might like:

Judging On the Road by Its Covers


2 Responses to “On the Road Gets a Girly Makeover”

  1. JHaeske June 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Worth thinking about, but in the end I believe she, Kristin Stewart, is mainly used in this way as ‘sex sells’. I just don’t believe, the advertisement industry is capable of thinking a little bit deeper – it’s always young, good-looking people that are being used, whether for toothpaste, cars, beer or even a language course (an example I recently noticed on the subway). As you can tell I’m not a big fan of advertising/marketing.

    • Stephanie Nikolopoulos June 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

      I agree. I think even when marketers try to market to women, they do so through the male gaze. They imagine women thinking of themselves in terms of how they appeal to men. To use your beer example, a pretty woman in an ad campaign not only appeals to men but also shows a woman that if she drinks that brand of beer she too will become beautiful and desirable.

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