If you’re reading this, you might already be rolling your eyes.
You may be thinking: “Erika, are you really about to defend a movie with Diablo Cody’s signature overly-quirky try-hard slangy dialogue and an exploitative faux-lesbian kiss?”
Yes I am – and I’m also here to argue that the kiss in question isn’t just some lazy attempt to pander to the weird straight-male fascination with Sapphic action. Hold my beer.
Alright, let’s hear it. Defend this movie that bombed.
At its core, Jennifer’s Body is about the dissolution of a life-long friendship. It’s about the complexities of teen girls’ friendships, and how they are further complicated by closeted romantic feelings for a friend in the casually homophobic 2000’s.
Our main characters are Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried,) two long-time best friends who don’t seem to fit together, but are friends anyway.
Sitting in the bleachers during a pep rally, Needy narrates, “People found it hard to believe that a babe like Jennifer would associate with a dork like me. Sandbox love never dies.” Jennifer and Needy wave excitedly across the gym to each other in what is actually a really sweet moment.
It’s at this point we are met with the first accusation of Needy and Jennifer’s relationship being anything other than platonic best friends.
“You are totally lesbi-gay.” A classmate mutters to Needy as she gazes at Jennifer cheerleading.
Needy brushes her off, but this is a question that arises multiple times in this film.
Here’s the thing with this friendship – it is clear that Needy loves Jennifer deeply, and Jennifer seems to love Needy too, despite being a little domineering and vain. But we’re starting to see the cracks in the foundation of their friendship. Jennifer guilts Needy into breaking plans with her boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons,) and coming out with her to a local bar to see a band from the city, called Low Shoulder. We learn Jennifer has rules for what Needy can wear while they’re out together.
Needy tells us, “‘Wear something cute’ is very specific in Jennifer-speak. It meant I couldn’t look like a total zero, but I couldn’t upstage her either. I could expose my stomach, but never my cleavage. Tits were her trademark.”
Which leads to this:
“It’s a rock show. This is my rock look.”
Needy announces Jennifer has arrived moments before we hear her come through the door downstairs. She has some kind of psychic connection to her that is never fully explained.
The girls go to the show and Jennifer starts flirting with the lead singer of the band, Nikolai (Adam Brody.) As we see Jennifer trying her best to impress this older man, we see her for what she is – still a kid. She’s just a teenage girl trying too hard to look cool for a guy in a band who frankly has no business talking to a teenager. Jennifer is not an evil character. Sure, she’s selfish, a little rude, and sex-obsessed, but she’s clearly just a girl who grew up too fast.
As the girls watch the band, Jennifer grasps Needy’s hand excitedly. Smiling, Needy looks at Jennifer with what can only be described as love, and seeing Jennifer is focused on Nikolai, her smile fades and she breaks their grip.
Things. Go. Majorly. Wrong.
It’s at this point the bar bursts into flames and several people die. Needy grabs Jennifer and the two girls escape the inferno, but most people do not make it out of the bar. Nikolai and his band mates, however, make it out unscathed and unbothered, and convince Jennifer to get in their van. In shock from the fire, Jennifer goes with them and leaves Needy alone.
Later that evening, Jennifer arrives at Needy’s house covered in blood, the down in her winter coat spilling out through the shredded fabric. Jennifer shoves a rotisserie chicken into her mouth, vomits black spiky gunk all over Needy’s kitchen floor, and then proceeds to attack her. Jennifer nearly bites Needy’s neck, but stops herself and leaves. Typical school night for a teen girl, right?
At school, everyone grieves the many lives lost in the fire at the bar, but Jennifer is unmoved. She rolls her eyes, chuckles, and makes sarcastic quips about the incident.
In the meantime, Low Shoulder has blown up overnight. They were featured on talk radio lying about how they helped save people from the fire, helping popularize them amongst Needy and Jennifer’s peers. They announce they’re donating 3 per cent of the proceeds from their hit single “Through the Trees” to families who have been “affected by loss.”
Over the next several weeks, Jennifer kills Jonas, a football player mourning the loss of his best friend in the fire, and Colin, a creative-writing, sensitive goth kid. She lures both boys to secluded areas with the promise of sex, and then disembowels and eats them.
So… What happened?
Appearing in Needy’s room later that night, Jennifer confides in Needy what happened the night of the fire after she got in Low Shoulder’s van. Turns out, the band had sacrificed Jennifer to Satan in exchange for commercial success. Convincing his bassist to follow through, Nikolai says, “Do you wanna be a big loser? Or do you wanna be rich and awesome like that guy from Maroon Five?”
The hitch in their plan, however, comes from the fact that in order for the ritual to work correctly, the sacrifice must be a virgin. Being far from a virgin, Jennifer is resurrected as a succubus and has to live on human flesh to satiate the demon living inside her. Jennifer is still inside herself as well, which is why she was unable to bring herself to kill her best friend earlier.
The conflict between the girls is brought to a head when Jennifer lures Chip to a building with an indoor pool that is inexplicably overgrown with fauna to the point it looks like the abandoned facilities in Jurassic Park: The Lost World.
Uh? Why Chip?
Jennifer’s half-hearted interest in Chip comes from her jealousy over his relationship with Needy. It’s intimate and their closeness taken Needy’s focus away from Jennifer. The sooner that Chip is gone and out of Needy’s life, the sooner that Jennifer and Needy can get back to where they used to be.
Jennifer kisses Chip, and when he rejects her, she throws him into the pool and starts thrashing him around. Needy can feel Jennifer and Chip’s kiss and rushes to Chip’s rescue.
Jennifer is feeding on Chip’s neck by the time that Needy arrives. She leaps onto Jennifer’s back and pepper sprays her with Chip’s mace. Jennifer projectile vomits black sludge onto them both, and begins levitating above the pool, prompting what is my favourite exchange in the movie:
This nasty but banal and typically adolescent argument is hilarious, but it also hits the nail on the head for Jennifer. The accusation that she is insecure cuts to the core of the issue – she is insecure, and for many reasons. Not just about her weight or her social relevance, but about the changing dynamic between her and Needy. When Needy starts outright mocking Jennifer and her laxative use, the insults are too much and Jennifer resolves to kill her in the moment.
As Jennifer advances on Needy, Chip impales her with a pool skimmer. Jennifer runs off and Chip dies.
Heartbroken and enraged, Needy kills Jennifer, is sent to an insane asylum, and escapes to kill Low Shoulder.
As the credits roll, we see Low Shoulder partying while on tour, followed by the crime scene photos after Needy finds them.
So, what then? What’s your point?
Jennifer and Needy’s relationship is complicated. Even after Jennifer murders her boyfriend, and Needy kills Jennifer in retaliation, Needy still seeks out Low Shoulder to avenge her best friend. Throughout the movie we are given hints that there have been lesbian or at least homoromantic interactions between them growing up, and that’s partly what’s made it so hard for them to shake each other. How do you break up with someone who’s not only your best friend, but you also have this weird pseudo-sexual past with that’s tied to your coming of age?
And especially, how do you do that in a time where its still so stigmatized amongst your friends and classmates to be queer? This movie came out in 2009, before Blue Is The Warmest Color, Killing Eve, and Orange Is The New Black amongst others brought a semi-honest, not exclusively exploitative lesbian portrayal to the public sphere. (For context, in 2009 at my own high school, I knew of exactly one somewhat out lesbian, and I was in DRAMA CLUB.)
This movie is about breaking up with a friend you love in more ways than one. It’s about trying to navigate the end of a friendship that has become unhealthy. Jennifer and Needy would have grown apart or had a blowout at some point – the end of their friendship was inevitable. Jennifer’s transformation into a succubus is just gas on the fire.
I can’t and won’t argue that Jennifer’s Body is a perfect movie. It definitely has its issues with rampant ableist language and homophobia that have aged really poorly. And I still can’t fully defend Diablo Cody’s dialogue to her critics. (But I still kinda like it, okay?!?)
But I will argue that it’s deeper than just being an excuse to ogle at Megan Fox for an hour and a half. It’s not just a stupid movie that glorifies the fake lesbian kiss to lure straight men to theatres. I mean, you’ve seen what happens to men that are easily lured, right?