In 2009, the comedy/horror movie Jennifer’s Body was unleashed upon the world. Written by self-proclaimed feminist Diablo Cody (writer for Juno) and directed by Karyn Kusama (Aeon Flux), Jennifer’s Body tells the story of Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and bestie Jennifer (Megan Fox) who becomes a man-eating demon. I had been meaning to watch it for the longest time just to see how “feminist” this movie claimed to be—and finally! It happened!
And ZOMG YOU GUYS! I LOVED IT! Witty dialogue, two female leads, with a feministy theme?! YEAH! I spoke to a few of my Moonie friends on twitter about my new-found love, but unfortunately they didn’t share my enthusiasm–the movie just wasn’t their cup of their tea. I can see how one might feel that way–the movie is kinda one big “cat fight.” It also might be a bit boring if you aren’t busy looking for feminist elements like I was. But what really excites me about this movie is that you can read it in many different ways. Underlying the plots of horror movies and literature are social anxieties we don’t want to talk about. However, before I dive into that, Jennifer’s Body did make me think of Sailor Moon.
Toward the end of Jennifer’s Body, the characters attend a dance. Jennifer sports a lovely black and white dress, which, with her long black hair, made me think of another boyfriend-stealing villain–Nehelenia! They could be sisters, really. Check out that moon!
Not only that, but Needy dons a frilly pink dress and must crawl through vines and grime that have engulfed the school’s indoor pool to save her boyfriend, Chip. It’s very much an inversion of the “damsel-in-distress” trope.
Likewise, Usagi, in her feminine school uniform, must fight through vines and thornes to reach Mamoru who’s being held captive in Nelehenia’s castle.
Anywho, but back to what I was saying about reading this movie in multiple ways.
1. The Main Text, or Fighting Over Boys
While Jennifer kills several young men in the movie, she eventually sets her eyes on Needy’s boyfriend, Chip. Up until this point, Needy and Jennifer are still friends and Needy does everything in her power to protect Jennifer and those around her. However, once Jennifer goes after Chip, the fissure opens and Jennifer and Needy lay bare their true feelings towards each other. At one point, Needy tears off Jennifer’s BFF necklace and it skids across the floor; their friendship is broken.
Someone people might think that this pretty hooky, but hey, this stuff happens. I remember being in high school and realizing (with a bit of horror!) that in this game of love and boys, my BFF wasn’t looking out for me, but looking out for herself. Talk about growing up!
2. The Lesbian Subtext (or, Main Text?)
When Jennifer’s Body first released, there was much chatter about the lesbian kiss that Jennifer and Needy share. Was it meant to titillate hetero dude movie goers or was there something subversive about it? While I bet they hoped to get more tickets sold, the lesbian kiss doesn’t come out of thin air either. The main text tells us that Needy and Jennifer are heterosexual and just best buds, but there’s a subtle thread throughout the film that questions this. In one of the first scenes of the movie, as Needy watches Jennifer perform a flag routine, their classmate Chastity accuses Needy of being “totally lesbi-gay.” Needy responds with a face of confusion, but this won’t be the first time Needy’s sexuality is questioned. Later, Jennifer tells Needy that they can’t look like “gaylords.” In other words, being a lesbian in this town or school is will make you an outcast. Needy isn’t cool or beautiful, but she does come across as typical–she’s confident, smart and has a nice boyfriend. Our young ingenue is a “good girl.” So, what if the social anxiety of the movie is the good girl realizing that she rather fuck her best friend instead?
I definitely think this subtext succeeds in complicating a movie that the audience might expect to be completely heteronormative.
And speaking about heteronormative….
3. The Kinky Needy Subtext
OK, so far, Jennifer is still Jennifer is this analysis, but what if Jennifer is actually an extension of Needy? An “alternative, subconscious, kinky” Needy if you will. The movie itself establishes that Jennifer and Needy have some sort of cosmic connection. Nowhere is this most apparent in the scene where Needy and Chip have sex while Jennifer “eats” Colin. Needy has safe, missionary sex with Chip in his bedroom, and in contrast, Jennifer orchstrates a random hook up with Colin in an abandon house—and makes sure Colin is on his back before she does the “deed.” Later, when Jennifer corners Chip, she tells him that Needy has been cheating on him and doing “varsity moves” with another dude. The social anxiety isn’t about having girls having sex, it’s about what kind of sex they’re having and their desire for it.
I could expound more on how much I love this movie–how Jennifer and Needy’s friendship is played just right or Needy’s badass Buffy the Vampire Slayer moment at the end of movie. But I’ll restrain myself for now! And with that, I shall leave you with a lyric video of the song Jennifer’s Body by Hole from which the movie takes its name.