Horror is littered with female bodies. Final Girls get to survive their movies to fight another day, but every non-Final Girl is just one more corpse to be gutted, sliced up, hung from a meat hook, or decapitated. Plenty of men die in horror movies, too, but the quintessential horror victim is a woman: fleeing in terror, half-dressed, tripping in her own heels. The classic scream of terror is a woman’s scream. And the most time-honored weapon for horror movie villains? The knife — a phallic-shaped instrument that penetrates its victim. With Jennifer’s Body, writer Diablo Cody both honors and subverts this tradition. High schooler Jennifer Check (Megan Fox, in the role that made me go, “Oh, maybe Megan Fox is actually talented”) is sacrificed by the eyeliner-wearing members of an indie band looking to make a pact with Satan for musical success. But it turns out that when a Satanic ritual calls for a virgin and you offer up someone who’s “not even a backdoor virgin anymore” (Jennifer confides to her BFF, Needy, played by Amanda Seyfried), you do achieve fame, but you also accidentally create a succubus. Oops.
“I mean, they did go all Benihana on my ass with that knife, and it should’ve killed me, but for some reason…it didn’t,” Jennifer explains to Needy after she’s been sacrificed. Her body, in a sense, is no longer her own; Jennifer, now possessed by a demon and transformed into a succubus, devours boys to keep herself beautiful and full of life. She’s one more female victim in a long line of dead ladies who lose control of their own bodies.
Except she’s not. Jennifer might be effectively dead, but she retains her snarky personality, her confidence (sexual and otherwise), and superior attitude. By simultaneously killing Jennifer off and making her the film’s antagonist, Cody gets to have her cake and bleed all over it, too.
“Horror has always had kind of a feminist angle to it in a weird way and, at the same time, it’s kind of delightfully exploitative,” Cody said in an interview with MoviesOnline. “[Director Karyn Kusama and I] wanted to subvert the classic horror model of women being terrorized.” The writer and the director succeeded: It’s the men who are terrorized by Jennifer — the men who are exploited, or protected, or objectified before being consumed by a ravenous girl with a hinged jaw.
Jennifer is just a body, but she’s also in control of her body, but she’s also at the mercy of her body — just like every teenage girl. Puberty hits, emotions ride high, menstrual tides roll in, and suddenly the pre-pubescent girl who was perfectly pleasant becomes a monster, as far as most people around her are concerned. Like Jennifer, most girls have to negotiate that period of their lives when they are simultaneously unable to control their own bodies, and struggling to figure out how to use those bodies, and at the mercy of how others perceive them on the basis of those bodies.
“No,” Needy has to correct her. “Your heart.” But for Jennifer, it’s all about her body; that’s what she’s been struggling to maintain control over. In the end, she becomes one more victim, but not of a crazed (male) serial killer. It takes another teenage girl to kill Jennifer.
And like any rite of passage, killing Jennifer has left its mark on Needy. Literally. Needy reveals a bite mark on her shoulder and informs the audience that sometimes, when you survive a demon-inflicted injury, you get a little of the demon inside you. And then she levitates to freedom from the facility she’s been living in since Jennifer’s death. As the credits roll, we see how Needy spends her first day back on the outside: Murdering the members of the band who sacrificed Jennifer’s body.
- I didn't mention it above, but this movie is also really funny. Shouldn't be shocking with a Diablo Cody script; she gets flack for being too quirky with dialog, but you can't deny she's funny. I mean, c'mon: "She can fly?!" "She's just hovering. It's not that impressive!"
- Also, this cast. J.K. Simmons. Kyle Gallner. Amy Sedaris! CHRIS FREAKING PRATT!
- There's also a lot out there about the portrayal of female friendship, particularly among teen girls, in this movie, but it's 7:45 p.m. and I need to watch another horror movie for my next post so, you know...Google some shit, if you're interested.