Jennifer’s Body is not a movie about teenage sexual politics. It’s not about boys getting their just deserts for wanting girls for nothing more than their bodies. It’s not about some virginal ability to survive demonic attack that pretty much leaves the only character standing at the end of every horror movie the only one who has yet to “give it up.” Oddly enough, as a horror movie, Jennifer’s Body isn’t really even about the battle between good and evil. In the end, what it offers is quite possibly even scarier: a battle where evil is pretty much all that is left.
In a nutshell, Jennifer’s Body is the story of a young woman named Jennifer (Megan Fox) whose demon possession has her roaming her small town of Devil’s Kettle and gruesomely depleting the teenage male population. Along for the ride is her best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) who realizes what’s going on and finds herself pretty much the only one with any idea how to ensure that her town keeps at least a few of its Y chromosomes. Written by Diablo Cody, the teen-talking Academy-Award-winning screenwriter of Juno, Jennifer’s Body is predictably filled with pop culture, teen drama, and enough comedy to turn most of its horror into laughable, if a bit gruesome, cheesiness. But, in more ways than one, Jennifer’s Body is also a very different movie than Juno.
Beyond the obvious genre and story differences, the first diversion that Jennifer’s Body takes from Juno is that it truly is written, cast, and shot for my 16-year-old male neighbor, and as such, will not be grabbing a demographically diverse audience with wisdom beyond its main characters’ years. The second, and perhaps both equally intriguing and disengaging detour that Jennifer’s Body takes from Juno’s crowd-pleasing recipe is that where Juno took some of the more difficult aspects of reality and found the rays of hope inside them, Jennifer’s Body goes to pretty much the darkest of realities and tells us that hope was gone long ago… or as Needy puts it, “We believed that things could always get better. We had faith. We were stupid.”
Like I said, Jennifer’s Body isn’t a tale of sexual revenge or symbolic castration. Really, it’s pretty much a fairly straightforward story of how dabbling in the dark arts leads to demon possession leads to some pretty gruesome stuff. But what is interesting is that Jennifer’s possession isn’t just the unfortunate occurrence of innocently breaking out the Ouija board at a slumber party. As the movie shows us in one of several of its explain-every-detail-so-we-don’t-have-to-figure-anything-out-for-ourselves sequences, while Jennifer’s transformation into a flesh-eating monster wasn’t exactly the plan, the actions that brought it about were definitely intentional, most certainly aware of their evil connotations, and directly addressed to Satan himself. You could call the scene in question The Fall. In some ways, it is a bit reminiscent of the Israelites and their unfaithful turn to the Golden Calf. But beginning before Jennifer and spiraling even further down into a sea of evil after, the picture Jennifer’s Body paints from start to finish is that of a world after The Fall and without anyone there to redeem it.
In Jennifer, we see one portrait of that hopelessness in the creature she is transformed into and the life to which it drives her. In constant need of new flesh to keep herself strong and beautiful, the only satisfaction she can find is merely temporary. Yes, she is the story’s monster, but in Jennifer’s out-of-touch-with-reality highs and uncharacteristic-of-the-siren-that-is-Megan-Fox lows, we see the suffering that is living with a thirst that can never be quenched. And as Jennifer seeks to fulfill her hunger and renew her strength/beauty through feedings mainly disguised as sexual rendezvous, so are the more realistic pursuits of value in beauty and fulfillment in casual sex put on the table for exactly the empty trophies and tokens that they are.
But like I said, Jennifer’s Body isn’t all about Jennifer. And for those of us who usually remember that sex and beauty aren’t the yellow brick road to fulfillment, with still plenty of lessons to be learned. For another group of characters, the tie with Satan is created because they simply want success. “Do you know how hard it is to make it as a… these days? Satan is our only hope!” one of the characters proclaims. Sure, I know, you’ve probably never said those exact words. But I ask, if we put anything else in place of Satan besides God, are we not just opening up the same door? If we look to anything but God as our only hope, are we not just embracing a reality in which our hunger will never be satisfied and our hope never fulfilled? And as we see in Jennifer’s Body, if our “only” veers so far away from God that the only strength and success we know depends on pacts with the devil and the sacrifices of others, at best, we will find ourselves empty, alone, and continually grasping for more; at worst, destroyed by the same disrespect and disregard with which we knowingly destroyed others.
And perhaps the scariest aspect of the hopelessness that Jennifer’s Body portrays is just that—the circular, inevitable, continuous nature of the evil that is there even before the movie begins and continues on even after it is over. Despite its title, in Jennifer’s Body, evil is not a force contained in one body; rather it is one that becomes a part of each person it touches. And in Needy, we see that very clearly. Throughout the movie, she is our heroine. In the world the film creates, she is everyone’s only hope. But as we witness, after two months of dealing with Jennifer, she is no angel either. As Needy tells us herself, “I don’t know who Needy is anymore… I’m a different person.”
And so is often the same story of the effect of evil on our world and everyone in it. That is unless there steps in someone stronger than us to stop it. Someone who can heal our brokenness and take our inner need for vengeance upon himself. Someone who actually is the perfect sacrifice. Someone who willingly gave himself not for our beauty or success but for our freedom. I know, when you’ve just been through what Needy went through and someone writes to you that “everything will be okay if you just let Jesus into your heart,” it almost sounds crazier than your best friend turning into a demon. But if crazy stuff like that can go down due to the mere selfishness of the human heart, how could even crazier stuff not go down due to the unimaginable love of God?