Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Warriors Above, Damsels Below: The Conan Pose Recycled

Share this:

 

conan pose

What image could be more ubiquitous in science fiction and fantasy art than the mighty well-armed He-Man with damsel at his feet?  I call it the “Conan Pose” after the most well-known and biggest repeat offender of the trope.

The device is as simple as this: (1) the man is a rugged warrior who is generally armed and (2) the woman is positioned beneath him and is generally defenseless.   Like the Women Running from Houses theme, which you see again and again in gothic romance, the “Conan Pose” is repeated ad nauseum in the science fiction and fantasy world and beyond.  Let’s have a look at a sampling…

 

conan pose

Textbook Conan Poses: Helpless babes with very little clothing positioned below armed badasses

star wars pose 4

Scantily clad unarmed damsel positioned below mighty warrior with ample weaponry – check.

 

star wars pose (2)

The poster art for Star Wars featured perhaps the most recognizable example of this trope: Granted, Leia is hardly helpless.  Yet, she is positioned below him, and there can be no denying who’s the knight and who’s the maiden.

You might say the Star Wars Pose is an “upgrade” from the oft unarmed, defenseless maidens from paperback art from decades past.

 

Nationallampoonsvacation4

My favorite example is the National Lampoon’s Vacation movie poster, where the Conan Pose is spoofed.

 

conan pose 9

Some of you may not be happy with the term “Conan Pose” and prefer to call it the “Star Wars Pose” or the “Frazetta Pose”… call it what you will.  Whatever the label, this artful conception was copied and recopied to a startling degree.

 

conan pose 1

Often, the damsel beneath the “Conan” is endowed with generous attributes

 

star wars pose 5

As you can see from the stupid Steve Guttenberg  VHS cover, the pose isn’t limited to science fiction and fantasy.  Indeed, anytime there’s a need to show a masculine alpha male, the trope is employed.

 

star wars pose 6

Once you recognize the theme, you’ll start noticing the Conan Pose everywhere – whether it’s a muscle magazine or a gay 70s periodical….. it was omnipresent in decades past.

 

star wars pose 8

The Alien Trace cover demonstrates that he need not have a weapon – just an obvious possession of immense power.  And as the Thongor cover demonstrates, the lowly placed female need not have any clothing at all.

 

star wars pose 9 These two covers illustrate that the woman can even be standing completely upright;  yet, the man must still tower over her.

 

star wars pose 10

A couple album covers with the Conan Pose.  No weaponry to be found on the Bruce Bond LP, but he’s no less in control.

 

conan pose 2

Naturally, when you have such a Xeroxed theme, you’re bound to wind up with illustrations that are strikingly similar.

 

conan pose 4

We could easily provide you with a thousand more examples, the trope is so plentiful.   Alas, we are confined by the medium – you’ll have to wait for the coffee table book for a comprehensive supply.

 

conan pose 3

Whether it’s a masked hero or G.I. Joe, chances are he’ll be brandishing a weapon with a groovy chick attached to his leg.

 

conan pose 6

Like Princess Leia, both these ladies are armed… and like Leia, they are strategically positioned beneath the male hero.

 

conan pose 5

If the male hero is going to be shirtless, then, by God, so is the female.  The Conan Pose was all about equality.

 

conan pose 11

 

You would think the Conan Pose would be everywhere in old pulp magazines, a medium rich with brave heros and helpless damsels.  However, you don’t start seeing it with any regularity until Frazetta started putting it on paperbacks…. then, it was only a matter of time before it landed on Donald Sutherland VHS covers.

 

conan pose 10

As far as the damsel is concerned, she need not even be conscious.  As long as she’s helplessly positioned below the hero, we’re okay.    Of course, now we’ve strayed a bit from the Conan Pose proper.  The “damsel-so-damn-helpless-she’s-unconscious motif” is perhaps a trope we’ll cover another day.

 

conan pose 12

1980s VHS to 1970s western paperback… the Conan Pose is reliably in full effect.

conan pose 13

conan pose 8

As some of these images illustrate, the Conan Pose knew no geographic boundaries.

 

conan pose 7

From Burt Reynolds movies to fantasy paperbacks, the “song remains the same”.  It’s truly astounding when you stop and think about it.  What does this say about male-female roles in popular media?…. actually, it’s probably best not to answer that.

 

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    I miss those old book covers. Most of what we have in Fantasy covers today is sexless and dull.

  • Aaron M

    Straight from a feminism 101 freshman seminar. Newsflash, Jack. Strength and power are 1) masculine and 2) heroic traits. The primary consumers of these sorts of products with this sort of art are young men who want to be that hero and women who want that hero inside them. It is not intended for you or any other wilting flower threatened by masculine power.

  • OldToby

    This image has a much older source. Try images of Cupid and Psyche.

  • Mike B

    Ross Coe’s Warrior of Vengeance stole the breastplate from George Clooney’s Batsuit.

  • Pipino Burner

    don’t forget Butch and Peaches….classic!

  • Suburbanbanshee

    So when will you point out the women artists who were happy to use this trope? I noticed at least one Rowena (aka The SF/F Artist Who Was Stalked by Saddam). Please feel free to change your mind and add the word “subversive.” You should also note that people got tired of the trope somewhere in the mid-80’s.