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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Jennifer’s Body’ is not as feminist as you think

The cult classic movie with good intentions, but it missed the mark
‘Jennifer’s Body’ is not as feminist as you think
Image courtesy of IMDb

Content Warning: This article mentions sexual assault. This article also includes spoilers for the film “Jennifer’s Body.”

“Jennifer’s Body” is a 2009 cult-classic comedy horror about a popular high school girl who turns into a man-eating succubus due to a band’s sacrifice gone wrong. The main plot follows the protagonist, Jennifer’s childhood best friend Anita, or Needy, through her attempts to put an end to the horrors Jennifer has committed.

Despite its initial negative reception, the movie has recently been reexamined and hailed as a feminist sapphic horror film. The movie is a thoroughly entertaining one — there’s no doubt about that — but after a closer look, it did not appear to be as feminist as I had expected. As much as I like this movie, I don’t think all of the hype about its feminist qualities is fitting.

One of the main reasons “Jennifer’s Body” has received praise was for the character’s reclamation of her sexuality while not sexualizing the character herself. I think that the film had the best intentions for this, but it fell short.

To begin, Jennifer was sexualized as a character through only through the oddly placed close-up and panning shots across her body, but also through her character using her body to lure in innocent victims for the slaughter. I believe that this film should have taken a more similar route as movies “Teeth (2007)” or “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)” where the female killers take on more of a vigilante role, acting in revenge, rather than killing innocent people. There is no inherent problem with Jennifer’s victims not having done anything specifically wrong — that’s how a lot of horror films go, after all — but it does not contribute to its feminist label.

Perhaps, if Jennifer were the main character of the movie, or she’d been shown in a more sympathetic view, the killings may have represented her reclaiming her sexuality, but she wasn’t. I don’t see how that idea became so widely accepted, as the protagonist of the film was Needy, who ended up killing Jennifer due to her murders.

On top of that, Jennifer became a succubus in the first place because a band tried to sacrifice her to gain fame. They needed a virgin for the sacrifice, incorrectly assumed she was one, and murdered her. How does this show any sign of sex-positivity or count as the reclamation of her sexuality?

Jennifer was quite literally portrayed as a monster. Even before she became a literal monster, she was never shown to be kind to any of the characters. The promotional posters even read, “She’s evil… and not just high school evil.”

The only time she was shown in a position of empathy was during the sacrifice scene, which was only shown an hour into the movie, far after cementing Jennifer as the antagonist. The scene itself is a clear allusion to sexual assault, and I appreciate that they were able to convey this without the inclusion of explicit sexual assault. The way in which the band killed her was terrible; Megan Fox’s acting in that scene was incredible and truly expressed the unease and fear needed to make anyone feel for Jennifer. It showed that beneath everything, she was scared, just like every girl. She wasn’t a monster, she was a product of her environment who learned to use objectification to her advantage. But the movie didn’t show this at the beginning, which would have led to sympathy for the character. Instead, the film still made her out to be a monster, a waste of what could have been a meaningful storyline.

After the sacrifice, Jennifer started killing random men. This could be considered commentary on how the patriarchy is bad and keeps letting men get away with their crimes, but it was not quite framed in that light. If Jennifer had just killed the band members, it would have made more sense, but she didn’t. Needy was actually the one to kill them, and it was only during the end credits: A literal afterthought. That also furthers ‘the final girl’ trope, where the more promiscuous female characters get killed off, and the final girl is usually a virgin. This was true in “Jennifer’s Body” and only reiterates the idea that female sexuality is a bad thing that should be suppressed.

The movie was made with the best of intentions, and based on cast and crew interviews, they truly thought they were successful in making a feminist film. They claimed that it was a commentary piece, but the film was not framed like that whatsoever. If it was a true commentary piece, it would not have echoed sentiments of misogynistic media and ideas. It feels that in an attempt to subvert stereotypes, they ended up indirectly reinforcing them instead and still falling back on them as a crutch.

Despite its shortcomings, I still adore this movie. I think that it deserves a lot more attention for its exploration of toxic friendships and girlhood as a whole. Director Karyn Kusama spoke on this to Buzzfeed News, stating, “On a larger scale, it’s about how these alliances between girls get distorted and corrupted by the patriarchy.” This could have been the main focus of praise for the film, which would have been much more fitting. I feel that all of the attention on the somewhat flimsy demonstrations of feminism throughout undermines the actual story beneath.

Naomi Bloom can be reached at [email protected].

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    LaurenNov 9, 2023 at 7:02 pm

    Amazing! You make so many great points and i totally agree