Jennifer's Body openly embraces the anger that women are usually forced to suppress.
Megan Fox in Jennifer's Body | Twitter
Last Updated: 02.36 PM, Oct 01, 2021
I remember scouring through the horror section of Planet M as a child and coming across the racy DVD cover of Jennifer’s Body. It seemed like the perfect adult-rated film that my parents would disapprove of, and that was the only reason why I had to spend my meagre pocket money on it. I didn’t read too much into what the writer-director duo Diablo Cody and Karyn Kusama have portrayed — an amplified version of female anger — back then. In my defense, I was only 11 or 12.
In recent years, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the film has regained new meaning. There have been countless essays and op-eds commending the Megan Fox-starrer, which was once presented as a soft porn flick that pandered to the male fantasy. Back in the day it was a flop — critics and audience just could not go beyond objectifying Fox, and conveniently panned the unconventional plot that tries to subvert the damsel-in-distress trope common in horror films. All feminist subtext that Cody and Kusama intended — it seemed improbable for a film led by Fox and backed by a major studio could ever have such depth — was simply never acknowledged.
Cody and Kusama had created Jennifer’s Body for young women, and for them to embrace the slow-burning rage that is usually suppressed or kicked to the curb. It centres around a small town high school girl Jennifer, who turns into a man-eating succubus after a satanic ritual goes wrong. Then there’s the seemingly homoerotic, codependent friendship between her and Needy (Amanda Seyfried).
It’s not an exaggeration to say that had Jennifer’s Body released now, it would have fared much better. The world is different, it’s far more “woke” and increasingly unforgiving of a man’s transgressions. Jennifer is kidnapped and sacrificed by Adam Brody and his pretentious indie band members, after they assume she’s a virgin: they heedlessly violate her agency. The film does not show any sexual assault, but the grotesque imagery is evocative of just that.
It’s uncomfortable to watch her beg and plead while they nonchalantly search for an empty spot to carry out their ritual. Jennifer does make it out alive, but only with supernatural powers and an appetite for hu(man) flesh. She goes on a rampage attacking high school boys, random men even, something that didn’t go down well with the 2009 mindset. But it’s cathartic to watch her do that now. It really is. When I watched the film again this year, I rooted for her.
I’m not saying that if this film had never been made, others depicting the female revenge fantasy and anger like Gone Girl and Promising Young Woman (just the two titles I could think of off the top of my head) would have never been made. But it did, in a way, ease the path.
Anyway, horror is probably one of the best tools for social commentary, creating an alternative scary world where anything is possible. Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us is one of the examples of deconstructing racism by shoving a mirror in the faces of those who believe they are living in a post-racial America. Similarly, Jennifer’s Body brings to fore socially relevant issues — ideas that were probably too radical 12 years ago. It’s more than just a horror film.