Jennifer's Body is the Feminist Horror Film We Deserve

If there’s one thing to be thankful for this year, it’s the outpour of support and appreciation for Megan Fox and her iconic film Jennifer’s Body (2009). Initially panned by critics and audiences alike, Jennifer’s Body has recently risen from vapid flop to cult film status. So how is it that within a decade, this movie’s public reception has taken a complete 180? Let’s explore how this film initially failed, and why it deserves to be heralded as a feminist horror classic. 

Complex Female Friendship 

The film stars Megan Fox (Jennifer Check) and Amanda Seyfried (Anita ‘Needy’ Lesnicky) as best friends inseparable since childhood. Their bond is loving and supportive on the surface, but once the layers are peeled back it reveals a manipulative, toxic relationship. 

Jennifer is portrayed as the typical popular girl that everyone likes, while Needy is more insecure and soft-spoken. Jennifer controls Needy. She manipulates Needy into giving her what she desires. Their childhood bond clouds Needy’s judgement of their relationship. It is not until the end of the film that Needy takes off her rose-colored glasses and regains control of her life.

Diablo Cody, writer of Jennifer’s Body, explains that the character of Jennifer is a result of the societal pressures women face to be perfect and desired at all times. This theme is played up throughout the film, with Needy at the climax of the film telling Jennifer that she hasn’t been socially relevant for two years. 

Cody was focused on producing a film featuring commentary about female relationships and girl-on-girl conflict. This relationship between Jennifer and Needy is telling of what many girls experience during high school, minus the horror and gore elements.  

Subversive Horror

When Diablo Cody set out to write Jennifer’s Body, she wanted to create a horror movie that could resonate with women of all ages. Her goal was to flip the script of what was normally a genre heavily influenced by the male perspective. 

She told Reuters in an interview, “I want to tell stories from a female perspective. I want to create good parts for actresses where they're not just accessories to men." Cody was inspired to create a horror film that subverted the typical model of women being terrorized. 

In the film, Jennifer gets possessed by a demon that influences her to frighten and murder the boys in her school. She needs to eat boys in order to regain her power. If she doesn’t, her porcelain skin loses its glow and her sleek black hair begins to fall out in clumps. Again, playing with the theme of women’s pressure to remain youthful, and subverting the male-villain archetype found in the horror genre. 

      Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

Marketing Mishap

Now, here is where everything went wrong for Jennifer’s Body. In an unfortunate twist, the film ended up being marketed exclusively toward men. Trailers featured a sexed-up Megan Fox bantering with boys instead of her relationship with Needy. The promotional poster had Fox sitting suggestively atop a school desk in a mini skirt and heels. An outfit that was never shown in the film. 

Because of the trailers and marketing, women felt that the film was not for them. The majority of the audience that saw this film upon release was men, who had a difficult time connecting with the storyline. The movie was criticized so heavily that it almost ruined Megan Fox’s and Diablo Cody’s careers. Fortunately, the film is now being praised for its portrayal of girlhood. 

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Female Sexuality

Lastly, this film does a great job of exploring female sexuality. Especially in relation to Needy and Jennifer. Throughout the film there are subtle hints that both of the main characters have a bond other than friendship. In one scene they are holding hands at a concert, with Needy staring longingly at Jennifer. Needy notices Jennifer is looking the same way at the lead vocalist for the band, and drops her hand while looking off in the distance, visibly upset. When Jennifer gets possessed, she exclusively goes after guys that Needy has relationships with, including her boyfriend Chip. Plus there is a glaringly obvious scene, which I won’t spoil for anyone, that basically cements this relationship between Jennifer and Needy.

Jennifer’s Body is as socially relevant in 2020 as it was in 2009. It deals with themes of sexual assault, and regaining your power. Themes which are commonly found in today's #MeToo movement that are relatable to many women and men. Jennifer’s Body is an inspiring film that places power in the woman’s hands, and I am so glad that it is finally getting the proper treatment it deserves.