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Was Jennifer’s Body Ahead of Its Time?

Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead!

Jennifer’s Body has been gaining traction recently despite not faring so well when it originally came out. The film has a 45% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 47% Metacritic rating. So why the sudden increase in interest? Was it ahead of its time? 

The film was originally marketed towards straight teenage boys, but anyone who has actually seen the film can understand why that didn’t go so well. In the original trailer, there are some comments from over 12 years ago from excited men talking about how they’d watch anything to see Megan Fox looking hot. However, fantasizing about being eaten alive by Megan Fox was probably not a part of that “anything.” 

The film also happens to be based on a true story. I know, I was surprised too. I couldn’t believe that people were searching up if a movie about a teenage girl getting possessed by a demon and eating boys was based on a true story. Jennifer’s Body was inspired by the case of Elyse Pahler. (TW: rape and murder)

In 1995, Elyse Pahler had gone into the woods to smoke weed with three boys who held her down and stabbed her to death before they raped her corpse. Pahler begged for her mother as she was killed; a direct parallel can be seen in the film as Jennifer gut-wrenchingly pleads for her life. One of the murderers, Royce Casey, later confessed to their crime and admitted that they were performing a ritual and sacrificing Elyse to Satan so that their band could take off. 

In the movie, Jennifer and her best friend, Needy, go to see this indie band that has come to perform in the only bar in their small town. During their performance, the bar is burnt down but Jennifer, Needy, and the band escape. Jennifer, in shock, follows the main singer of the band into his van while Needy disagrees and goes home. The band takes Jennifer to the woods and ties her down to sacrifice her, a virgin, to Satan. 

The only caveat—Jennifer isn’t a virgin; thus, she is possessed by a soul-eating demon. While Jennifer pleads for her life, the main singer of the band complains about how hard it is for them to make it as an indie band. The band members break out into song and begin to laugh as Jennifer sobs and says she would do anything for them to let her go. 

Unfortunately, they don’t.

Many have brought up that after the #MeToo movement, the movie can be seen through a different lens. Needy points out that the van Jennifer enters has blacked out windows and describes it as a “molester van.” Jennifer also asks the band members if they are rapists and tries to assure them that she is a virgin so they should try to find someone else. This failed attempt is even more upsetting because that is exactly what the band wanted. What ensues after can be seen as a rape revenge story. Jennifer uses sex as a ruse and lures boys to their deaths. Jennifer is seen multiple times pulling herself away from Needy even when she is weak and starving. At the end of the film, Needy avenges Jennifer by killing the band which shows that the revenge plot went beyond just Jennifer. 

This restraint could also be stemming from a different place: Jennifer exhibits multiple signs of repressed sexuality. With quotes like “sandbox love never dies” and “I go both ways,” it’s hard to imagine that Jennifer can be seen as straight. She seems to push herself to fit that role even by putting herself in dangerous situations—I mean, what’s more straight than being a groupie for an indie band? 

Further, right after the ritual, she goes to Needy and even though she’s hungry, she can’t bring herself to hurt Needy. Characters in the film even question their relationship due to their cheerleader and nerd social status and even accuse them of being “lesbogay.” Jennifer also warns Needy of people thinking they may be gay. She even calls Needy “butch” later in the film. It’s so easy to see that Jennifer is in love with Needy. 

She never wanted to hurt Needy. Even towards the end of the film when Needy tries to save her boyfriend, Jennifer runs away instead of retaliating. She also hates Needy’s boyfriend, Chip, but after she is possessed, she talks about how Chip is looking more appealing to her which on the surface level can be seen as teenage girl competition, but! Jennifer wants Needy to herself. She keeps coming back to Needy and even makes out with her. Jennifer also asks Needy if they want to play “boyfriend and girlfriend,” implying that this is something they have done multiple times before. Jennifer isn’t able to be defeated until Needy pulls the BFF necklace from Jennifer’s neck. 

This begs the question: was Jennifer’s Body ahead of its time? The movie flopped when it originally came out but would it fare better now? I honestly think Jennifer’s Body was not meant for commercial success; it has rightfully earned its cult classic title. It has early 2000’s charm and plays into clichés that are not really relevant today. Jennifer’s Body is up there with films like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, films that didn’t do that well at the time but everyone has seen—or should see.

Hi! I'm a second-year biomolecular engineering and bioinformatics major. I love to read and tell stories.
Hi! I'm Alexa, one of the Campus Coordinators for HerCampus UCSC. I love most old lady things (tea, embroidering, reading, etc.) and I dream of the day that I can retire to a green academia, Victorian home surrounded by cats! I am so excited to be bringing back HerCampus to UCSC, I know that we are going to have a great time :)
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