Thrillers are not meant for feminist tales

Lara-StrayerApparently, hell is a teenage girl.

Actually, hell is going to the movies, expecting to see a scary movie and having so-called female empowerment shoved down your throat.

If I had gone to see Jennifer’s Body having been oblivious to the feminist edge the film was supposed to carry, I might have thought it was decent movie.

But two weeks ago, The Temple News ran “Horror film reverses gender roles,” an article that reported screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Karyn Kusama “created a horror movie to fit the new audience of these films, young women.”

After hearing so much hype that Jennifer’s Body was supposed to be some sort of new feminist classic, I searched for meaning as I watched the film. I tried to understand how girls fighting over and making out with boys – two things I could find at a party or club in Philadelphia – was supposed to be empowering. I dissected the dialogue and the plot until eventually, I hated feminism even more than before I stepped foot into the movie theater.

Then I reminded myself: I was just watching a movie – and a scary movie nonetheless.
I don’t want to feel some phony feminist empowerment when I see a scary movie. I just want to see a scary movie.

Horror movies, like most film genres, allow their viewers an escape, and sometimes, I’d like to escape from a world that constantly reminds me how my gender is supposed to act.

I’ve been told that as a girl, I need to demonstrate my strength and independence all the time, to make up for the gender’s history of repression by men or society.

If anything, the movie just reinforced stereotypes – from both sides.

Yes, the villain is a woman – a rarity in horror films – who terrorizes society by seducing and eating men, but here’s the disclaimer Cody and Kusama failed to supply: Not all feminists hate men. As a determined, self-sufficient woman, I have nothing against men. In fact, I kind of like them. They make me smile sometimes.

Some might argue Jennifer was not really seeking revenge on men but rather her female best friend. This might be why the movie was compared to a “Lifetime ‘made for television’ movie” in The Temple News article that ran Sept. 22.

“Nothing [in Jennifer’s Body] seemed in any way subversive of the traditional horror gender conventions, right down to the hyper sexualized ‘bad girl’ and the ‘de-feminized,’ conventionally attractive but presented in a style presumably intended as unflattering and, by implication, virginal, heroine,” Whitney Strub, an assistant gender studies professor, said in e-mail.

And, considering Jennifer’s Body has not fared well at the box office – in two weeks, it has grossed only $12,470,373 in the United States and Canada – it would seem women are more interested in seeing one-size-fits-all scary movies in the first place, instead of those marketed specifically toward them.

To me, having the choice to wear a dress or throw on jeans is empowering, not watching an hour and 42 minutes of sexy Megan Fox terrorizing high school boys.

Lara Strayer can be reached at lara.strayer@temple.edu.

3 Comments

  1. Just one comment: In the end of paragraph four, Lara wrote “…I hated feminism even more than before I stepped foot into the movie theater.”

    How is this a relevant statement? What did she hate about feminism BEFORE the movie? Why did she hate feminism after the movie? It’s not the fault of FEMINISM if Jennifer’s Body is not in any way feminist.

    As a feminist, I am disappointed that this statement made it to publication.

  2. I don’t know why I’m commenting but it’s probably because I should be doing something other than writing this, I really liked your piece, and I have to disagree with almost all of it. I think Jennifer’s Body, is GOLD, one of the most subversively interesting, films I’ve seen this year. I think you should take a second look at the film and past the overt sexuality, more specifically the cliché girl on girl lip lock. In my opinion Jennifer is not taking revenge, she just been turned into something, like in some ways how society has turned women into caricatures like Jennifer. You’re either the dumb pretty one or the smart dopy one. I think in some ways we are punished for being what men have always been, ultra-sexual, loudmouthed and narcissistic, but on the flip side the entertainment industry makes a bundle off this caricature, think Kim Kardashian or any women on the Real World with big Boobs, and a loud mouth. But for men in some ways this is an asset Think Donald Trump, who’s the female version of him? If there was how would women respond to her? What if Hillary Clinton got it on with an intern while Bill was in office, would she be where she is? I’m not talking double standards, that too simple, it’s the hypocrisy that gets me. Purity is a virtue for women but vice far more attractive. The films not about how women hat men or how women are supposed to act or even female empowerment whatever that is, it’s about how society seems to hate women. In the end Jennifer’s done in by her best friend, how often do we women judge each other in ways that at times cofound me, which in the end leads to our own ruin. All in all classic film and good piece Hun made me think.

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