Jennifer's Body is an underrated feminist and queer horror film. Ghouls are revisiting the cult classic to see what they missed the first time around. Gabe talks queer representation, toxic relationships, and eating boys to feel better. Kat teaches you the history of succubi and even how to summon a succubus.
Sources in this Episode:
The Monstrous Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis - Barbara Creed How “Jennifer's Body" Smashed Its Way Through The Male Gaze And Into Queer, Feminist Cult Status Mythology.net The Lilith Gallery
Media from this week's episode:
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
A newly possessed high school cheerleader turns into a succubus who specializes in killing her male classmates. Can her best friend put an end to the horror?
Directed by: Karyn Kusama
Written by: Diablo Cody
Jennifer's Body: Justice for Jennifer by Gabe Castro
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
The first two films in our Monstrous Femme series are underrated horror classics that deserve a critical-eye second viewing to appreciate. With Jennifer’s Body, I was guilty of not truly appreciating the film. I was wanting more from the film while not actually accepting what it had to offer. I know people love this film, so I wanted to give it a rewatch to see what I have been missing. And I think I’ve found it.
Plot question - When Jennifer goes to Needy’s house after her transformation she is monstrous and gross. It is implied that she learns later that she needs to eat boys to survive but in the end, Jennifer gives us a flashback of that fateful night. She ate the foreign exchange student and so she shouldn’t have looked so gross at that time…she should already be glowing and wonderful?
Hell is a teenage girl
Jennifer’s Body follows the story of two sandbox best friends. Jennifer, the hot, popular, boy-magnet played by Megan Fox and her unlikely regular girl bestie, Needy played by Amanda Seyfried. Needy and Jennifer have an unconventional friendship given that they seemingly operate in separate social circles. I say seemingly because they don’t spend a lot of time at school, this isn’t Mean Girls. Jennifer is a cheerleader and she drags, reluctantly, Needy along with her to social gatherings - including a world-changing concert taking place in their small town’s only bar. Many things happen on this fateful night - there’s lying about virginity, baby Chris Pratt being a douche (no surprise), Adrian Brody as hot as ever frontlining a terrible indie band named Low Shoulder, a fire that takes out the entire bar and most of the patrons, and the death of Jennifer.
You see, this super cool underground band that Jennifer is such a big fan of doesn’t want to be so underground anymore. So Low Shoulder has sought to make a pact with a demon, what is fame really worth? Surely, one lowly, small-town virgin is small change for indie band notoriety? After the abrupt fire, the boys usher Jennifer into a shady white van, which Needy allows her to get into and with, honestly, not much resistance at all. Shock is real but c’mon, that’s your best friend getting into that creepy pedo van! Once in the van, Jennifer picks up pretty quickly how dangerous this ride is, even asking them if they were going to rape her. She doubles down on the virgin theory in hopes that would turn them off.
While all that is happening, Needy is home calling her boyfriend and low grade freaking out about all the deaths that occured in front of her teenage eyes and the willing abduction of her supposed best friend. She quickly encounters the new Jennifer, at first she’s a mess and clearly something terrible has happened. But Jennifer snaps back rather quickly, arriving at school the next day even hotter than before (who knew that was possible). And on top of that, she’s evil now. As Needy says, not high school girl evil but like demon evil. The sacrifice backfired because Jennifer isn’t and hasn’t been a virgin since middle school, thus turning her into a boy-devouring succubus.
What happens next is typical teen slasher movie antics - Needy raiding the small occult section of the school library (did YOUR school have an occult section!?), gruesome gory deaths, teen sex, prom fatalities, and a lot of queer undertones!
Jennifer is an interesting character and I wish we spent more time with her than Needy. Her traumatic response to what happened to her isn’t to get revenge on the band boys who did this to her but rather to attack the ideology that got her into the mess in the first place. Jennifer has only ever been what other people saw her as, hot and available, easy even. It's easy to forget she’s a teenager until certain moments snap you back to reality like when they’re at the bar and she remarks that she can’t wait until they can drink. She is a child and she hasn’t figured out how the world works yet, all she knows is how the world has treated her. She does what she needs to to survive, and so far that has meant being available and exactly what they want from her. When she attacks the boys, it’s not about them but about the patriarchal society they are benefitting from, even unknowingly. I appreciate that in this story, none of the boys she attacks are painted as evil or bad. Cody didn’t make them gross or abusive. Where she could’ve easily made the jock a douche, she instead made him sensitive, crying over the loss of his best friend. In the emo boy, she brought clarity and respect - not the response you expect from a young boy in a horror movie that’s greeted by a seductive Megan Fox. Needy’s boyfriend is offered pepper spray, his mother noting that there’s a crazed killer out there targeting young boys. It’s an unfamiliar concept in horror, boys in peril.
The existence of a hot succubus that preys on young men and played by Megan Fox could have pivoted the story in an entirely different direction. From what we’ll see in Kat’s section, there’s already quite a lot of rhetoric around this stance of the empowered woman. When we first covered Jennifer’s Body, I spent a lot of time covering Barbara Creed’s The Monstrous Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis, where she explores the ways in which horror has been used to portray society’s fear of women, specifically empowered, powerful, and sexual women. It is terribly easy to villainize an oversexualized and strong female character like Jennifer. I mean the film is titled, Jennifer’s Body not “What happened to Jennifer?” or “Jennifer: Empowered Succubus” or “Lost Girl.” Jennifer’s body is an item, an object that this film revolves around. This film is far from subtle.
If I’m being honest, even though I enjoyed the film significantly more in this rewatch, I was still disappointed with the treatment of Jennifer. Jennifer is hurting and has been hurt. Yet, we never really get to spend time with that pain and we never give Jennifer the patience for redemption. Needy is, quite honestly, a terrible friend. She let her get in the van, first of all. But she jumped so quickly to “Jennifer is evil” before ever taking the time to meet her where she is to help. For all the overt queerness in this film, we are missing love. Jennifer is also not a great friend and I am by no means defending her abusive, manipulative, and controlling behavior. But I also don’t see this as really being the time for Needy to realize that and just say, “Well, she’s always been the worst, so fuck her.”
I think at the end of the day, I will always want more from this film but considering when it was made and the poor initial reception - I think it was an amazing start and a truly unique and important film to the horror genre. And sadly, it was underappreciated for far too long so I am happy to see it finally getting the recognition it deserves. The was a film marketed for a male audience, despite protests from Kusama. It reveled in the male gaze, the trailer and other marketing material focused heavily on Fox’s hotness, such as her naked swim in the lake or her hot kiss with Needy, to grab an audience that had no business being there. It was underappreciated because it wasn’t being seen by the people it was about. Which brings me to the second part of my analysis, Jennifer’s Body is hella queer.
I’m kicking my