Is Jennifer’s Body the Bisexual Horror Film We Never Knew We Needed?
Disclaimer: I was not a horror fan until about ten months ago, which is, not at all coincidentally, when I started dating my current boyfriend. The fear of what disgusting, gory, or disturbing imagery I might see kept me away, admittedly. Plus, I already had too many frightening images peeking through my imagination to justify watching horror. But, once I was able to surmount that fear (with the help of my man), I grew to realize that horror is a genre in which I can actively write, view, discuss, and even enjoy. Wild, right?
Another disclaimer: even though I have caught up on some horror must-sees (mostly in the Halloween realm), I am no expert in the slightest, and I primarily rely on my boyfriend for horror film recommendations (and hoodies to hide in when I am scared shitless).
That being said, one horror movie that I watched avidly before I became any type of horror fan was Jennifer’s Body .
Jennifer’s Body, released in 2009 and directed by Karyn Kusama, presents me with an image of myself that I have never before seen represented on screen. It follows the story of a small town, Devil’s Kettle, which faces a grim list of tragedies: a fire at the town bar, several grizzly murders of local high school boys, and the transformation of its title character, Jennifer Check (Megan Fox), into a succubus.
What on earth could possibly cause this litany of atrocities? I am glad you asked. An adorably narcissistic indie band, Low Shoulder, arrives in Devil’s Kettle for a one-night show at Melody Lane (the aforementioned burning bar). Its members are sick of the Sisyphean struggle towards fame and hope to sacrifice a virgin as an easy shortcut to their dreams of being on Letterman. Their unlikely victim is Jennifer Check.
I say unlikely because Jennifer is “not even a backdoor virgin anymore.” Her lack of virginity upsets the entire project, and she arises from beneath the knife blade a full-fledged succubus. Her objective for the rest of the film is simple: she must prey on cute high school boys to maintain her youthful glow and beauty.
What strikes me as most interesting about this film is the fact that Jennifer’s victims are all men, but she also feels an urge to kill her best friend, Needy (Amanda Seyfried), who is decidedly not a man. In that first vital scene when Needy discovers that Jennifer is something altogether inhuman, Jennifer tries to suck out Needy’s blood, but she stops herself. This moment is not only hot and steamy and incredibly sexual, it also demonstrates something vital.
Now, I can sympathize with any argument that the sexual tension between the two in this scene and others (i.e., that steamy makeout scene) could be exaggerated for (male?) audiences. I understand. Though, from my completely biased queer perspective, I am more than happy to see sexual tension between Jennifer and both men and women. You know why? It is because I am a bisexual woman, and watching two women flirt on screen is hot.
I think that this film in general depicts Jennifer as being attracted to both men and women, and that aspect becomes vital to the movie’s plot. No one ever explicitly uses the word “bisexual” (when do they ever, really?), but certain moments point to the fact that Jennifer and Needy could be more than friends, and that Jennifer could be resisting the urge to eat the living hell out of her. Besides the iconic line in the climactic scene of the film in which Jennifer says, “I go both ways,” Jennifer and Needy used to play “boyfriend/girlfriend” as children. Also, in the opening scene, Chastity (Valerie Tian) accuses Needy of being “lesbigay” for Jennifer. Crass early 2000’s comments aside, it is these moments which make Jennifer’s Body, for me, a piece of valuable queer horror. Bisexual horror at that.
I came out as bisexual at 19, and to be honest, a film like this could have made it much easier for me to come out sooner. The clues about my identity, of course, had surfaced many years before in the form of sexually promiscuous dreams and celebrity crushes, one of my earliest being, you guessed it, Megan Fox. However, my little pre-teen self had only seen Megan sexed up in true heterosexual fashion in Transformers , so I guess we’ll never know what would have happened if I had seen Jennifer’s Body before last year.
I see myself in the character of Jennifer in a way that I have never experienced before. The dark hair, the sexuality, and all the dark witchy goodness that makes her a badass force of nature. It does not matter that she dies brutally at the end at the hands of her best (more than?) friend; she transfers her powers to Needy so that Needy too can become badass and fearless. Needy then mercs her friend and avenges her, mercilessly slashing the members of Low Shoulder into a thousand pieces.
That is the definition of queer perfection in my book, thank you very much.
Jossalyn Holbert was born in Strafford, New Hampshire, but grew up in Phoenix, Arizona from age 7 to 18. They just received a Bachelor's Degree in English from Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Their undergraduate thesis focuses on female relationships in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion. Besides writing, Jossalyn enjoys knitting, reading classic literature, and watching films.