Jennifer’s Body is a film that I hold near and dear to my heart. So, yes, this is your warning that this review is going to be insanely biased. You’ve been warned. I don’t want to hear any complaints.
As far as I can remember Jennifer’s Body was one of the films that showed me horror could be something more than just a fun sleepover activity. A lot of the horror films I had seen up until that point were just fun, not the best piece of cinematography or writing, just very fun. Before Jennifer’s Body I’m not sure if I really liked the horror movies themselves so much as I just really liked the nervous laughter that comes from being scared and spending time with my friends. Not that it really matters because we both know I ended up loving the genre. I’m just trying to put into perspective how influential this movie was to me, that I would go so far as to say it shaped my perspective of an entire genre.
I first saw Jennifer’s Body in theatres in 2009. I wish I remembered more about how it made me feel or initial thoughts my thirteen year old brain felt but I’m left with just a vague memory of being there with my friends and enjoying everything about it. The film was rated 14A which was a result of language, sexuality and gore. I would rate the gore a 3/10 on the gross scale. There isn’t any nudity and sex is mostly implied. There is one more obvious sex scene, but again there’s not really any nudity. Mostly there’s a couple fun make out sessions, and a little bit of blood: FUN! There is also no dog. I want to include this in reviews because I hate when bad things happen to animals in horror movies, especially when I’m unprepared for it. Nothing like this happens. If horror isn’t your jam, I think you’d still enjoy yourself, 9.5/10 would recommend to everyone!
Below contains spoilers: (if you think that analyzing details of a movie that came out ten years ago could be considered spoiling it.)
The most interesting part of Jennifer’s Body is how it challenges cinematic sexist tropes through the two main characters. The horror genre is not alone in its use of the male gaze, but I think it’s an interesting dichotomy when hyper sexualization is used for fear. I mean, sexism is terrifying. Whether or not other films use sex to sell tickets or to make the audience more uncomfortable, to me the choice to include sex in horror is always interesting. Is the director and the films writers all just men sitting around not thinking twice about showing a girl scream in fear (topless of course), or is sex, nudity, gender used to further the story?
Jennifer and Needy present themselves as clichés. Jennifer is the hot popular high school girl who radiates sex appeal and confidence. Whereas Needy (I mean, with a nickname like that I think their friendship dynamic is pretty self explanatory) is more of a sideline cheerleader to Jennifer. Which is shown very overtly in our introduction of Jennifer where Needy is literally cheering Jennifer on from the sidelines.
Diablo Cody – a visionary, the love of my life, feminist film genius – wrote and executive produced Jennifer’s Body. In my opinion, Cody blended horror / film / societal tropes and made a piece of art that both reflected and challenged those ideas in one of the most enjoyable horror movies of the decade. The way the film handles sex, nudity and gender is strategic. Everything is purposeful.
When the audience expects to see an overtly sexual Jennifer, we’re given Needy exploring and embracing her sexuality. Needy – the prude – is the only character we see actually having sex. Any time Jennifer is given the opportunity to be sexual – she ends up killing and eating her partner. A real boner-killer am I right fellas? It’s absolutely brilliant.
Now, if you have seen the film or have been within ten feet of anyone talking about the film you are probably aware of the scandalous make-out between Jennifer and Needy. You may also be thinking, how on earth can you spin that into being feminist when it’s just pandering to the male audience it was marketed for?
Here me out… maybe… perhaps it’s… queer. MAYBE, it’s not for cis-straight dudes. MAYBE, it’s actually a scene for the gays. I don’t know. Maybe just a theory. It’s possible this is where my own personal bias is at play. You’re probably right, there is no way we would have seen this kind of bi-representation in 2009, it’s all too good to be true.
Although I love and full-heartedly believe that Jennifer is bi. She is all the representation I will ever need. There is an argument, one backed up by Cody, that the scene was actually meant to draw on female relationships. You know the ones that are so intense and lovely they border on being romantic, and then 10 years later those same friends come out as bi/pan/queer/gay and we’re back to my first theory, but REGARDLESS. Female friendship plays a key role in giving this film the feminist backbone it has.
Would you say Jennifer’s Body is as feminist or as incredible of a film as I believe it is?