The year is 2009. Full of teenage angst (because nobody really understands you, right?), you’re scrolling through MySpace when a message from your friend pops up, asking if you want to go see Jennifer’s Body. With nothing better to do, you head on over to the theater, never suspecting that over 10 years later, a movie everyone considered OK at the time would grow a cult following and make its resurgence as one of the best horror-comedy hybrids and LGBTQ+ staples of all time. I mean, I know I didn’t realize how impactful Jennifer’s Body was in 2009—but then again, I didn’t even understand what the word “bisexual” meant back then, either.
As a kid, I never really watched Jennifer’s Body in full, but I did see clips of the movie here and there and knew that there was that (somewhat problematic) kissing scene between Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried). Now, in 2021, after seeing what seems like an endless supply of TikToks centering around feminist theories and Jennifer’s Body as well as that famous, weirdly mesmerizing clip of Fox lighting her tongue on fire, I figured it was time to take the plunge and rewatch the scenes I remembered from my childhood while actually taking in the full-length movie for the first time.
Though the movie focuses on a popular girl-turned-demon-possessed killer hunting boys whilst her best friend tries to put a stop to the murders (which, to be honest, sounds like a great action-packed premise for any movie), what seems like a surface-level horror premise is a clever way to comment on a patriarchal society and the boxes Hollywood has tried to fit women into. Of course, we have writer Diablo Cody—who also worked on another classic, Juno—to thank for this commentary and, perhaps most importantly, giving us a film with a killer 2000s soundtrack. And so, without further ado, let’s sink our teeth (pun fully intended) into how Jennifer’s Body holds up as I rewatch as an adult—only this time, I actually understand what “bisexual” means.
Was the LGBTQ+ Representation Really Representative?
Back in the day, I remember thinking the relationship between Jennifer and Needy was purely platonic, except for the scene in which they kissed. Finding that confusing to the rest of the plot, I thought that the inclusion of a less-than-five-minute sequence of the two locking lips was a way to show that Jennifer was just going after anyone (oh, how young and naive I was). The two never really acknowledged that they had feelings for each other, and with Needy dating the (less than impressive, IMO) Chip (Johnny Simmons) and Jennifer having a certain type of relation with who I now recognize as an extremely young Chris Pratt, I figured that they were just into men and that was all there was to it.
Boy, was I wrong. Rewatching the movie, not only do I now understand that Cody was trying to show how women feel the need to be attracted to men, but I also recognize my own bisexual self in the relationship between Needy and Jennifer. During the pep rally scene, Needy wasn’t even looking at Chip—she couldn’t take her eyes off Jennifer. As someone who has some experience in the dating scene, which my 2009 self couldn’t say, it’s clear to see that Needy doesn’t have any real attraction to Chip. Yeah, she likes him, but the fact that almost every conversation they have revolves around Jennifer? Not too sure she’s into you, Chip. Jennifer and Needy later kissing was the expression of passion they couldn’t show anywhere else in their little town. And the fact that neither girl discussed their feelings or the kiss after it happened? This clearly hints at the difficulty of coming out, especially in a place like Devil’s Kettle.
Yet, despite all the commentary on what it means to be a queer woman, watching the movie now, I wish that we got even more insight into Jennifer and Needy’s romantic relationship. The kissing scene was a way for Needy and Jennifer to show their true feelings, but unfortunately, it’s also what made up most of the trailer for the movie—to me, it seems a little male gaze-y. Though the movie broke boundaries years ago, I still wish we had more scenes of Needy and Jennifer actually bonding that could make us root for them right from the beginning—instead of just Jennifer’s monumental “I go both ways” declaration at the end of the movie.
Guys Really, Really Don’t Matter
With a title centering on Jennifer, you might think that, of course, the main focuses of this movie are the female leads entirely, right? At least that’s what I thought when Jennifer’s Body came on my radar. Looking at it now though, a title like Jennifer’s Body seems to allude to the fact that Jennifer, as soon as we meet her, is sexualized to the extreme. Cody wanted us to recognize this trope in Jennifer’s character, and wow, did we get to watch as she broke nearly every stereotype associated with a sex symbol—especially when it came to men.
Yes, it’s clear that as an adult, I wanted more LGBTQ+ representation in this film, but what we do actually get from the relationship between Jennifer and Needy is their ways of coping with compulsory heterosexuality. Comphet, the theory that women act or believe they are attracted to men because of a patriarchal society, is what motivates Jennifer to get close to the lead singer of Low Shoulder in the first place. In the bar, she clearly wants to hold Needy’s hand, but as soon as that punk-pop tune starts to play, she drops Needy’s hand, remembering the reason she came in the first place: to try and win a guy over. Oh, poor Needy.
Watching the movie today, I noticed that the men in the film are used as a symbol of Jennifer’s rebellion against a patriarchal society. Though they’re instrumental as figures in a narrative, it’s Needy who puts a stop to the killings, establishing herself as the hero and the men as the damsels in distress. And can we talk about how unhelpful Chip was? Not only could he not tell Needy’s pleasure from horror (ahem, that beyond awkward sex scene), but he also falls for Jennifer’s lies and is cast under her spell with almost zero convincing at all at the spring formal. Though Needy might say it’s Jennifer who isn’t relevant anymore, when it comes to who I could’ve seen less on screen, it’s always Chip. The bottom line: We live in a patriarchal, heteronormative society, but when it comes down to saving the day or trying to maintain some kind of relationship with your best friend/crush, a guy is not going to be your answer.
Friendship Breakups Hit Hard
Though Jennifer and Needy may have been a little more than friends (regardless of the lack of truly romantic scenes that were given to us), the foundations of their friendship were definitely solid. Jennifer and Needy met as sandbox playmates and stayed friends to their high school years. While Jennifer makes some poor decisions—like getting into a van with a strange group of men wearing a little too much eyeliner—Needy stays by her side to tell her when she has a bad idea, showing that even though she lets Jennifer make her own choices, she tries to balance out Jennifer’s impulsive nature with reason.
Similarly, Jennifer adds the excitement Needy needs in her life. And I’m not just talking about the fact that Jennifer became an undead killer here; Jennifer always complemented Needy’s tendency to overthink with her carefree attitude. So while Chip might say the two have nothing in common (he just doesn’t get it), it totally makes sense that the two even stayed friends in the first place. And while they were *kind of* lovers, the core of Jennifer and Needy’s relationship was their friendship. Sandboxes, high school classes, a burning bar—the two made it so far together, forming what could have been an unbreakable bond. And friendship breakups hit hard.
Though they are fighting each other as Needy tries to put a stop to Jennifer’s murders, we don’t see the severity of their dying friendship until Needy breaks off Jennifer’s BFF necklace. Killing people Needy cared about and giving way to demon tendencies was far enough, but the breaking point was the finality of their trashed friendship. While I’ve never had anyone share a BFF necklace with me, I’ve definitely had a few friendship breakups where it feels like something has been ripped away from me—not a necklace, so, maybe, security? Either way, breaking off a friendship with someone can be even harder than a romantic breakup, and Needy and Jennifer’s bond perfectly showcases the unique pain and loss of this relationship.
The Commentary on Rape Culture Was Ahead of Its Time
Jennifer’s Body was ahead of its time in the way it addressed a world in which men typically have control. Though it seems that Jennifer is initially a stereotypical popular girl, she breaks away from this persona by becoming a killer. I mean, the scene where Jennifer ransacks Needy’s fridge (while somewhat relatable) definitely left me uneasy back in 2009. And while I knew that her character was meant to break away from such a stereotype the first time I saw Jennifer’s Body, as an adult, I finally took notice of what each of her victims had in common: They were all boys (and were all easy to seduce at that).
Jennifer isn’t just picking the victims she sees as most vulnerable; she’s actually going after those that you wouldn’t expect to fall into the grasps of a murderer. First, she goes after Jonas, Devil Kettle’s star quarterback, and then looks toward Colin, who adorns his outfits with enough hardware to rival Home Depot. Seemingly innocent and flirty, Jennifer promises the boys a good time before she uses them for what she needs—glowy skin, shiny hair, and getting “full”—before she leaves their bodies, not even bothering to hide the carnage.
Looking at it now and after having some insight into what Cody may have been trying to get across, I think that in a pre-#MeToo era, I was watching some of the first cinematic commentary on modern rape culture. Jennifer isn’t just killing the boys out of malice, she’s actually using the boys for her own personal gain. Though it seems like a horrific price of being part-demon, Jennifer receives uncalled-for comments about her looks before she’s even turned—even Needy’s off-handed remark, “No offense, but you look really tired,” was enough to shake Jennifer. And the fact that Low Shoulder was seeking out a virgin—a category Jennifer did not fall into—to sacrifice in the first place? To me, there are just too many role reversals and coincidences to believe that Jennifer isn’t meant to expose how sex and objectification are intertwined in our culture.
After finally watching the movie beginning to end for the first time, I realize I had no context for the clips I’d seen around the time that Jennifer’s Body came out. But even if I did see the full-length film back in 2009, I’m not sure I would have ever understood the meaning and symbolism behind Jennifer and Needy. Though entertaining for tweens and teens, I’d say that Jennifer’s Body is definitely geared toward adults—especially women.
Being a girl who completely geeks out over any feminist or LGBTQ+ theory, Jennifer’s Body, to me at least, should be an essential when it comes to revisiting movies from your childhood. Not only do we get to see the early talents of Fox and Seyfried at the beginning of their careers, but we’re also basically watching a cinematic time capsule of what it was like to be a woman back in 2009. With a little bit of mystery, LGBTQ+ undertones, and boys that you’ll probably love to hate—seriously, I just can’t root for Chip—Jennifer’s Body stands strong as a horror-comedy. So, blare some Fall Out Boy, break out the Juicy Couture, and get ready to revisit 2009—I’ll make sure to bring the popcorn.