Monday, December 21, 2009

Sex is Death -- Reflections on "Jennifer's Body"

Teen sex is the stuff horror movies are made of. Hell, sex and horror are long time friends. After all, horror stories feast on vulnerability and the fear of the unknown. When you're a teen, sex represents both of these things. Virginity is often made fun of, yet when the clothes are off, virginity sometimes seems like a good option.

As I often tell my son, sex equals death. Especially in horror movies.

Diablo Cody, the writer of Juno, seems to understand this. She spent a good part of her life, if legend is true, as a stripper. She understands the power of sexuality. And she injected that know-how into her script for the camp horror film Jennifer's Body.

Jennifer's Body is an good little film. At first I didn't like it much, but about the half way point it grew on me a bit. The writing got a little stronger. The first half of the film incorporates a bit too much of the Juno-esque dialogue that made Cody famous in the first place. The second half of the film, though, began exploring the relationships of the characters a bit more, and heaped on the camp in a way reminiscent of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (albeit a ton more graphic).

To summarize: Jennifer (Megan Fox, in her first starring role) is a hot cheerleader chick living in Devil's Kettle. Her best friend, Needy (Amanda Seyfried) is a geeky type with a slight lesbian crush on her. One night they go to a local bar to watch an indie rock band, Low Shoulder, because Jennifer thinks the lead singer is "salty." After the place burns down due to an electrical short (or is it), Jennifer is whisked away by the band for some post-show-post-fire fun and games. When she comes back, she's not the same.

She's a maneater. Literally. Soon, high school boys start turning up with their insides devoured. Needy realizes it's Jennifer and knows she has to stop her. Best friends become dire can probably figure out the rest.

As a man who struggled to get girls in high school (as if anything's actually changed), female sexuality is powerful. When you're a teen, girl's hold all the cards. They have us by the balls, so to speak, and with a whiff of perfume, a sly twinge of a smile, or a wink of an eye they can make us their slaves. As the pop singer Joe Jackson put it, "I say it's not fair, but what do they care?/ When you've got power then you use it for awhile."

Jennifer's power helps feed a deeper, more demonic, hunger inside of her. Sex is like a hunger for teens -- hormones are controlling, and often teens feel subject to them. Every guy who got an unwanted hard-on knows exactly what I'm talking about. Horror films capitalize on this, and Jennifer's Body does an excellent job of this.

Megan Fox was a great choice to play the lead role. The woman exudes sex from her pores. She may be the nicest person on the face of the planet for all I know -- and maybe even a traditionalist in the sack -- but in the movies she's sex-on-a-stick. How could any teen boy resist her, even knowing that she might eat you alive.

The best thing about this film is that it plays its cards right. Diablo Cody recognizes that when it comes to sex, women have all the power. This film should scare the shit out of most teen boys. It tells them what most of them have suspected all along -- women will be the death of us, and we wouldn't want to have it any other way.

Postscript: for you guys out there, the film has a pretty intense lesbian scene between Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. Why it's in the film I don't know (at least in relation to where it's placed in the narrative), but it's a welcome interruption.