In honor of Halloween, it’s time to reflect upon one of the greatest horror films ever made: “Jennifer’s Body.” Originally released in 2009, “Jennifer’s Body” did not fare well at the box office, and was not well-received by audiences or critics at the time. 12 years later, it has garnered a cult following, particularly among queer people. What exactly changed from its initial release to now?
It is important to understand that a big reason “Jennifer’s Body” received such a poor initial reception was its marketing. “Jennifer’s Body” was largely advertised towards straight men, placing a weird emphasis on the kissing scene between Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried), despite the fact that straight men were not the intended audience. Additionally, the advertising focused entirely on Jennifer and her sexiness, even though the film is told from the perspective of Needy (who was largely ignored in the marketing strategies).
Essentially, “Jennifer’s Body” was poorly advertised as a movie about Megan Fox being sexy and eating people. When horny male film critics and audiences watched it, though, they didn’t get what they expected. They got a movie made by women meant for women.
“Jennifer’s Body” was not a dude version of “Twilight;” rather, it was a masterful subversion of the horror genre packaged in a story of toxic female friendship and the blurring of the lines between platonic and sexual feelings. “Jennifer’s Body” was a horror story told from an entirely female perspective, complete with a female villain and a female protagonist.
The major way in which “Jennifer’s Body” subverts the horror genre is through its reversed killer-victim relationship. Typically, horror films center around a male villain who primarily targets women or a specific woman. Yet, in “Jennifer’s Body,” there is a female villain victimizing men. The killer-victim relationship is further overthrown in the way that Jennifer doesn’t have to do much to get her victims; they come to her because she’s hot.
“Jennifer’s Body” also challenges the sexual innocence trope often seen in horror, especially in female characters. Everyone knows that if you have sex in a horror movie, you die. Yet, in “Jennifer’s Body,” Jennifer’s sexual promiscuity is what saves her, albeit by changing her into a man-eating demon. Meanwhile, protagonist Needy is portrayed as the “innocent” counterpart to Jennifer, so one would typically assume that Needy would be the virginal character. On the contrary, Needy is sexually active. “Jennifer’s Body” also only punishes men for wanting to have sex, not women. Every male character in “Jennifer’s Body” who is known to have had sex with Jennifer or Needy — or even got close to having sex with Jennifer — dies.
Furthermore, the film pays special attention to the toxicity that can exist between best friends while simultaneously demonstrating underlying sexual feelings within a friendship. Throughout the film, it can be seen that Jennifer and Needy are close and genuinely care about each other. Yet there are moments of unmistakable tension between the two.
The toxicity between the two is highlighted when Jennifer refuses to go on a date with Colin, a friend of Needy’s, until Needy mentions that she likes him. Jennifer then asks him out and eventually eats him. Near the end of the film, Jennifer kills Chip, Needy’s boyfriend.
Recognizing what “Jennifer’s Body” is really about plays a large role in understanding why it has become so popular in recent years. Among queer women, the film is especially popular because of its queer subtext being adopted by the queer community. Not only this, but “Jennifer’s Body” was one of the only big movies of 2009 to have an on-screen kiss between two women. For a lot of young queer women, “Jennifer’s Body” may have been the first time they ever saw two women kissing in a popular movie.