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Jennifer's Body: Is it Feminist? YOU MAKE THE CALL!

The trailer for the newest Diablo Cody film, Jennifer's Body is out, and this thing is begging for a bit o' feminist critique. Watch, and discuss (NSFW, workaholics):

Hmmm... Does this film appear to be fiercely feminist, or just a sexist wolf masquerading in Runaways-theme-song-female-empowerment-clothing? YOU MAKE THE CALL!

Though on the surface this trailer may appear to be a typical high school horror flick, a closer look reveals much much more. (Especially for feminists! Hooray!) In the interest of simplicity, here is a point/counterpoint list of things that might be of interest:

POINT: IT'S FEMINIST!

- Directed by a woman (Karyn Kusama)
- Written by a woman (the aforementioned Cody, whose name is heavily featured in the trailer in a way few women writers typically are)
- Main character (the demon-possessed cheerleader played by Megan Fox) appears to be using her evil powers to seek revenge against jerk-y guys
- Name of film comes from a Hole song ("Jennifer's Body")
- Trailer features grrrltastic songs by The Runaways and The Waitresses
- Looks like there are some pretty funny parts, and feminists like funny stuff (and Amy Sedaris! And Adam Brody! [Okay Brody might not be a feminist favorite, but he was pretty good on the O.C.])

COUNTERPOINT: NO WAY IS IT FEMINIST!

- Appears to be a vehicle to allow Megan Fox to flash her bod and be ogled by horndogs
- Makes women look like either femme fatale crazy killers (Fox) or uber-nerds (sorry Amanda Seyfried, you are really great but the beanie and glasses indicate that your character is supposed to be a dork)
- According to the plot synopsis, looks like this might be another attempt by Hollywood to punish women for liking sex by turning them into demons, putting them in insane asylums, and murdering them
- Makes light of bisexuality and promotes faux-lesbianism in order to up the sex appeal (She goes both ways? Puh-leez.)

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Comments

30 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I think it's women centered,

I think it's women centered, but I personally don't feel that feminism should be about revenge.
Scare tactics are what I find people who aren't feminists use against me.
I want equality for everyone, including people who don't agree with me. I don't want them to kill me so I won't kill them. Would we be saying that a film like this is empowering for men if there were a male main-character getting back at women who took advantage of the role society puts them in? Don't think so.

I'm skeptical, but I'll probably rent it.

Megan Fox?

I saw an interview with Megan Fox recently that I found particularly disturbing. She was asked how she felt about being called a "sex symbol" and she replied with "It's great, I mean, I didn't become an actress because I wanted to be admired for my chess-playing skills." I wanted to say back to her, "Just because you're an actress doesn't mean that you should be degraded to your appearance! Actresses should be admired for their TALENTS not just for their bodies!!!" Definitely won't be seeing anything with her in it, esp. Transformers.

Okay, so Megan Fox is terrible

Yes, Megan Fox is terrible. But she is the VILLIAN in this movie. Amanda Seyfried (who I've adored in Mean Girls and Big Love) is the protagonist. This particular trailer which has been circulating around the internet is definitely trying to play up Megan Fox's role in this film. I agree that she's an awful actress, but this is supposed to be campy, bad-horror movie fun and she is supposed to be playing the stereotypical high school sex symbol. I don't think you anyone should judge a film based on one actor or actress's appearance in it.

1. On Feminist point #3: I

1. On Feminist point #3: I am not sure how violence against men is feminist?
2. On Feminist point #6: Adam Brody...huh? And Amy Sedaris, beside being irrelevant to the subject, is kiiiiind of racist.
3. On Not-Feminist point #2: I don't know how you're creating that binary from the trailer. And glasses are not necessarily nerdy?

However, a movie written, directed by, and starring TWO female leads is really excessively rare. I'm going to support it.

Counterpoints

Thanks for your comments!

On point #3: Main character (the demon-possessed cheerleader played by Megan Fox) appears to be using her evil powers to seek revenge against jerk-y guys Emphasis on the "jerk-y" not on the "guys." Certainly violence against men is not feminist, but violence against assholes within the context of a campy horror movie might be. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

On point #6: I was using Amy Sedaris and Adam Brody (comedic actors) as evidence that the movie might be funny, and therefore feminists might enjoy it. I myself was trying to be (somewhat) funny with that point, but it looks like perhaps I failed.

On counterpoint #2: The plot synopses I've read for the film call the Seyfried character a "plain Jane," a "dork," and a "nerd." When comparing the way Seyfried is portrayed in the trailer (smart, serious, a tad frumpy) to the way Fox is portrayed in the trailer (super sexy), I did perceive a binary. It could be that I am the one who created it, though. Oh, and I wear glasses and I don't think they are nerdy, but in teen movies glasses usually do connote nerdiness.

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I don't think it's feminist

I don't think it's feminist or anti-feminist. It's a horror movie about a girl posessed by a demon, which happened to be written and directed by women and starring a woman. I'm definitely going to see it, I love campy horror movies.

Megan Fox seems perfect for

Megan Fox seems perfect for that role. I understand that she's hypersexualized in her movies, but she seems to be pretty aware of that, especially in this film.

I didn't understand why Juno

I didn't understand why Juno garnished so much praise (I thought it was a cute movie, but that's it). I do think, however, that Diablo Cody is perfect for writing horror movies, because of her penchant for quirkiness. The campier and quirkier the horror flick, the better.
This looks fun. I'll see it. I'm not sure if it's feminist horror specifically---I'll have to watch it first. Your points about why it might be feminist horror are kind of weak, too, especially the trailer songs. Aren't Cherry Bomb and I Know What Boys Like pretty much the standard songs used in movies about " sexy bad girls"? I've seen it a dozen times before. The soundtrack, which was graphically displayed at the end of the trailer, didn't mention the Waitresses or The Runaways, but rather bands like Panic at the Disco and Dashboard Confessional.......yuck.

Jury is still out

So the hot girl is really a demon? Why haven't you mentioned the virgin/whore binary? I see what you're saying for possible feminist themes but I think the movie can also go very very wrong. As a Feminist I try to stay away from stereotypes that I hate/will kill men.

Definitely looks like it is worth seeing though!

Well, horror films are

Well, horror films are inherently misogynistic. It's one of the first things we learned in film school, and then had about 20 horror films shoved down our throats to prove the point. That's pretty much the sole reason they have been made, to objectify the women & play out all of society's sick issues with them.

I think a feminist horror film would be pretty awesome, as they'd have to challenge all of the genre's norms so it would be *quite* the sight to see.

However, from that list it doesn't sound very feminist & seems like the same old same old. Being made by women, sadly, doesn't mean a thing. We can internalize some of the most horrible bits of sexism & perpetuate it without even realizing it, so it really says little about the content of the film.

Also, Diablo Cody is my most hated person in Hollywood. I was in physical pain during Juno & I couldn't even finish it. I have no idea why everyone is always tripping over themselves to work with her. But that's not the only reason for my opinions on this film, I promise,

I'm so sad that i'm going to miss an Amanda Seyfried movie! :( I adore her.

film school

i think you are misusing the term 'inherently'. either that or your concept of 'horror film' is skewed. i agree with some stuff you're saying, but there is nothing inherently misogynistic about scary movies. of course there will be lots of misogyny -in- scary movies, but that is only because our society has so much misogyny. there is the same amount of misogyny in romantic comedies and tragic dramas.

I think what she means is

I think what she means is that women are usually used as props in horror movies, there's always female nudity and an unnecessary sex scene, and a woman or two investigating strange noises in their underwear. It's unnecessary sexuality.

Ginger Snaps

Have you seen Ginger Snaps? I think it's feminist, or at least is trying to engage feminism. The only horror movie I can think of like that, but worth checking out if you haven't.

I loved Ginger Snaps. Have

I loved Ginger Snaps. Have you seen Teeth? That's the only other feminist horror movie I can think of.

not inherently . . .

Don't know what film school you went to, but horror films are no more inherently misogynistic than are mainstream hollywood films. If any film is misogynistic, it is because it was produced by a patriarchal culture and someone who didn't care to examine or challenge patriarchy. There actually are many horror films that do challenge misogyny--Teeth, Ginger Snaps, The Descent, and perhaps even Halloween. I agree that most horror films, and most movies in general are pretty darn sexist, but inherently anything, no. By the way, I really hated Juno, too. Just because it was written by a woman and has a female protag does not make it good or feminist.

i'd go see it

mmmkay, judging from its trailer, i'd have to favor towards the "'jennifer's body' is feminist" camp. but first, i'd like to say i quite enjoyed the part in the trailer where it says "from the mind of diablo cody".

now to react to the posted counterpoints that don't make "jennifer's body" feminist, after having looked at the trailer:

- appears to be a vehicle for megan fox to be flash her bod and oggled by corndogs.

by corndogs of both sexes, perhaps. and before we forget, oggling is not bad. in fact, i myself find this activity enjoyable. i'm a woman, and i find megan fox hot.

- makes women look like femme fatale killers or uber-nerds...

ok, am actually surprised that you would actually apologize for calling someone an uber-nerd, like, um, it's a bad thing. obvy, amanda seifried's character is supposed to be the awesome cool character here. and don't we love dorks?

as for megan fox's "femme fatale killers" - my feminist response to that would be - why not. certainly in contemporary society ordinary women like myself often feel that women who look as unreal as megan fox would be and could be capable of being predatory. in the trailer, amanda r's character says - "she's not highschool evil. she's evil evil." - gotta say that the line made me laugh. it's certainly an exaggerated, horror-tastic view of how psycho demo bitchy some females can be in real life. and hey, i can relate to reacting to that.

- according to synopsis, this may be...an attempt by hollywood to punish women for liking sex by...putting them into insane asylums...turning them into demons...

i find this way of thinking very backward. i don't feel, in this day and age that media still "punishes" women for liking sex. and also, given that there might still be some media that can be as backward as to "punish women for liking sex", i seriously doubt that a female writer and a female director would "punish women for liking sex" and that that would become the main reading of this movie by its audience. give your female viewers the credit to think critically for themselves.

- makes light of bisexuality/promotes faux lesbianism

it's a HORROR film. EVERYTHING is taken light of. i don't think there is anything wrong with making light of something if it isn't done disrespectfully.

here's another "knee-jerky feminist" counterpoint i thought of, and will end up negating:

- pits a girl against girl, therefore where is the sisterhood?

i think it's awesome that a girl can take down another girl. that makes women worthy adversaries of each other. if it had been a male who'd taken down the jennifer character or the amanda character for that matter, it would still depend on what kind of male. if it had been a stereotype of a jerk or dumbass/douchebag then duh, of course it would be a prob.

====

bottom line - i'd go see "jennifer's body" and try to process my knee-jerk "feminist" reactions before ranting about the movie not being fit for feminists to enjoy.

Our Bodies, Ourselves, right?

Interesting to note how the title makes Jennifer very separate from her own body.

I imagine Diablo Cody sitting in a room creating an idea about a character with a "killer body" but then, possibly by Hollywood design, complicates the story into something much less than the straightforward feminist salute it could've been (see 2007's "Teeth"). She throws in a little girl on girl action and turns feminist might into societal fright, symbolically playing out a feared trajectory of the feminist movement.

We'll see what kind of transformation our bespectacled protagonist experiences by the end. Diablo Cody has a knack for creating quirky and strong female characters and indeed Adam Brody IS a feminist favorite so I'll have to check it out before I make the call.

Bechdel test?

Excellent point about the title!

Interesting premise for a horror movie, but is it feminist? We might apply the Bechdel test:

1. There must be more than one female character
2. They must talk to each other
3. About something other than men

It looks as if it may pass 1 and 2, but perhaps not 3. I think it's interesting that a movie that has a woman killing men automatically must have feminist leanings, playing into the idea that feminism is about man-hating.

- makes women look like

- makes women look like femme fatale killers or uber-nerds...

ok, am actually surprised that you would actually apologize for calling someone an uber-nerd, like, um, it's a bad thing. obvy, amanda seifried's character is supposed to be the awesome cool character here. and don't we love dorks?

I think the problem here is that it's either one way or the other, either you're sexual or not. Sexual identities for both stereotypes are completely opposite. Why can't uber-nerds ever be portrayed as sexy without having to change them?

At first I didn't want to go see it, but maybe I'll get a couple of my feminist friends to go watch it and probably get a few laughs. On the other hand, I did hate the cheesy faux-lesbianism. Karyn Kusama is not Micheal Bay and hopefully the cheesy sexy trailer is just marketing and not the entire movie. Kudos for the songs in the trailer.

That is awesome of you to notice.

I for one am trying the "Ira Glass" method of being sexy. It works for him. Gads but it works for him. I don't know anybody that doesn't want to have a naked party with him. if they don't, they at least find him completely adorable.

scream?

i don't want to stay home and watch scream, or heathers. i do want to stay home and watch ginger snaps.

that's what i'm talkin bout

Ginger Snaps is a great horror movie. It's got its flaws, but it is funny and smart and engages with feminism. I think Jennifer's Body could have the potential to be another Ginger Snaps, but I doubt very much that it will go as far or be anywhere near as good. (PS: I also like Heathers, but not Scream so much.)

As others have indicated,

As others have indicated, this looks an awful lot like Ginger Snaps, which I personally adore. I'm also intrigued since I enjoyed Juno, but while Miss Seyfried has had my attention since the sublime Veronica Mars, Megan "99% Plastic" Fox is no Katherine Isabelle.

As for Teeth being the "perfect feminist horror movie," I personally found it hard to watch. The supposed girl-power fantasy begins with a graphic rape scene, and Dawn cannot hurt any of the sleazy men letching after her body unless she first begins to have sex with them. The film had its merits, but I found its philosophy way too similar to the "If a rapist gets raped in jail, that makes everything all right" idea.

Teeth is stupid.

A friend of mine tried to get me to watch "Teeth," but I don't want to waste my time on it. I know I'll hate it.

Vagina denata is a male paranoid fantasy. Please. Only a man (written and directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein!) would think of cunts that way. Women, I'd prefer to believe, are more likely to view their pussies as their genitals, their sexual pleasure, and as a place of strength and satisfaction - not an orifice for cock consumption.

Jennifer's Body falls into the realm of male paranoid fantasy for me - watch out, that hot girl is going to eat you alive!

Also, and I'm aware this conflicts with what I've already said, the presence of women doesn't not a feminist movie make. Diablo Cody may be wrapped up in her own brand, but I loved all of her female characters in Juno. She made them independent and self-actualized, from Ellen Page to Alison Janney to Jennifer Garner. The dad was also a feminist dad.

However, based on the trailer, I'm with the above commenter who said that women are capable of internalizing misogyny and perpetuating it. I don't think we'll see the same types of characters from Cody that we saw in Juno.

We may have a situation like Hard Candy, where you end up sympathizing with the male characters, even if they are shitty human beings, because of how they're tortured, maimed and killed. Sympathizing with shitty men instead of challenging the status quo or offering a feminist message makes "Jennifer's Body" potentially a very anti-feminist movie.

Agreed, except -

I didn't sympathize with the man in Hard Candy at ALL. I felt he deserved everything he got, especially since Haley didn't seriously injure him herself. I didn't feel sorry for the rapists and letches in Teeth either; instead I have problems with the notion of justice. I take joy in them getting their comeuppance, but too often the films act like that alone will heal their victims.

Thank god there are some out

Thank god there are some out there who disagree with Teeth being a movie about feminine empowerment! I was horrified at the multiple reviews' offhand references to her boyfriend 'going too far' and her gynecologist 'taking advantage of her', all in the course of making her a female superhero - it was definitely rape and sexual assault, a fact that was all too lightly skipped over in the movie as well. Chewed-off penises don't make up for it. And at the end of the movie, the notion that she was grinning with self-satisfied glee at what she could do to that lecherous old man who had given her a ride, while I gagged at the thought of how she'd have to straddle him to get her revenge - give me a break. This is not a movie about feminine empowerment AT ALL. Nauseating.

I am going to watch it

I am going to watch it because I think that a successful female written and female directed film might influence hollywood to hire more women in those two areas WAY WAY more than it will influence them to make unfeminist horror movies...something that they seem are going to do anyway.

Plus, based on a preview alone I can't really decide whether a film is feminist or not! These are scenes taken out of context. If I am going to criticize something, I better not be talking out of my ass.

NOT feminist

i will watch it to support the female roles such as actresses playing main roles and director, writer and because i love cheesy teeny horror films. however, i dont think its feminist ..i dont feel anything very.. empowering towards women at all. i also bet that a GRANNND amount of people that will watch it is based on megan fox's body. i think this is another "sex sells" movie.

Almost all of the "it could

Almost all of the "it could be feminist points" are "it has brands/uses artists who either are feminist or have at least called themselves feminists in public" (I'm still not sure about you Diablo Cody, although I did absolutely adore The United States of Tara and I recommend it to anyone who will listen).

It seems to me like this will be your standard teen horror misogy-fest of a corpse wrapped up in a sheet of feminist light branding before it gets dumped into the river of popular culture. I hope I'm wrong but I suspect I'm right.

Apologies for the lame attempt at a horror metaphor.

I'm not trying to rag on

I'm not trying to rag on this movie--I haven't seen it and I actually really want to--but why is a lesbian kiss being played for laughs a good thing?
I get that we're all glad it's not a super-sexualized, for-the-male-gaze-only moment and that it fits into the context of the film, but isn't this still potentially marginalizing an already marginalized group of people?
Again, not making a judgment call, I'm actually curious as to how it comes off in the film. Anyone who's seen it care to comment?