I had no intention of revisiting my rant/review of Jennifer’s Body and its criticisms, mostly because I believe that if you can’t successfully convey your intent/arguments in one article then you shouldn’t bother with a follow-up.
This is not a follow-up.
In the days since my post went up, I’ve been linked to on a variety of sites prompting a secondary argument to arise: whether or not Jennifer’s Body is a feminist film. In my original post, I stated that it was a feminist film because it’s one of the few movies that features female protagonists whose entire existences are not dependent upon the presence of males in their lives. (Yet, despite this, the movie is respectful of its male characters, allowing them to be fully realized individuals in their own right, and does not resort to the pitfalls of misandry.)
The film also satisfies the Bechdel Test’s expectations for a movie, a sort of feminist litmus test, as first outlined in the comic strip series Dykes to Watch Out For. These are:
1. It has to have at least two women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man.
At the time, my mentioning of Jennifer’s Body‘s feminist nature was meant to explain why I believed certain male critics didn’t understand key parts — or perhaps, more specifically, the way certain scenes may resonate more with the female audience. However, a few people have taken my sentence about the film being feminist and placed it against arguments that the film is not feminist because Jennifer, as portrayed by sexpot Megan Fox, is not feminist.
That’s a problem.
Just as a movie can take a hard stance against racism while integrating a character who is an unabashed racist (in most cases to prove a point), so can a film be feminist despite one of the female leads perhaps not being feminist in the slightest.
An additional problem is that there is no one definition of feminism. As I learned in my first year at college, feminists can be anything from man-hating to man-embracing, and even differ on their view of sex. While some feminists find pornography demeaning to women, for example, others think that it’s a positive thing so long as the women in porn have agency. Some feminists may refer to a woman as “resorting to her sexuality in a shameful display of submission to the patriarchy” and others might say that a woman is “embracing her sexuality on her own terms.” Of course, I represent only two extremes across a wide spectrum of beliefs here, but it’s important to realize that no two feminists have the same definition of feminism.
Consider the following fact about Jennifer’s Body and how it can be bent for either argument: Jennifer eats boys to stay young and pretty.
Feminist A might say, “Jennifer has to rely on men for her continued well-being and becomes ugly when she doesn’t. How can a woman relying upon a man be construed as feminist?”
Feminist B might say, “Jennifer eats boys to remain the woman she wants to be. It’s about time a woman uses a man for her purposes. How can that not be feminist?”
The same arguments can, in fact, be made for a variety of plot points and details in Jennifer’s Body, but I think it’s important to realize that this is mostly splitting hairs as they are always going to be the subject of multiple interpretations. However, I don’t think that they should take away from the film as a feminist statement. Though I am of the camp that believes Jennifer isn’t exactly the pinnacle of feminism — her only sense of self-worth seems to come from her view of herself as a sexual object — her character is used within the context of a larger film that, in its execution, is feminist in nature.
And that’s the problem with arguing feminism in Jennifer’s Body.