Terrors of Girlhood - Digital Commons @ RIC

Terrors of Girlhood - Digital Commons @ RIC

Rhode Island College Digital Commons @ RIC Master's Theses, Dissertations, Graduate Research and Major Papers Overview Master's Theses, Dissertation...

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Digital Commons @ RIC Master's Theses, Dissertations, Graduate Research and Major Papers Overview

Master's Theses, Dissertations, Graduate Research and Major Papers

2013

Terrors of Girlhood Julie Casali Rhode Island College, [email protected]

Follow this and additional works at: http://digitalcommons.ric.edu/etd Part of the Film and Media Studies Commons, and the Gender and Sexuality Commons Recommended Citation Casali, Julie, "Terrors of Girlhood" (2013). Master's Theses, Dissertations, Graduate Research and Major Papers Overview. Paper 86.

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TERRORS  OF  GIRLHOOD:  IDEOLOGICAL  REPRESENTATIONS  OF  THE   ADOLESCENT  FEMALE  IN  JENNIFER’S  BODY   by  Julie  Casali         A  Thesis  Submitted  in  Partial  Fulfillment   of  the  Requirements  for  the  Master  of  Arts     in  Art  with  Concentration  in  Media  Studies           Department  of  Art   The  School  of  Arts  and  Sciences   Rhode  Island  College   2013    

Casali  i  

 

ABSTRACT     Since  the  birth  of  the  genre,  American  horror  filmmakers  have  posed  female   characters  as  prey  and  objects  of  sexual  desire.  Adolescent  women  in  particular  act   as  both  the  victim  and  as  eye  candy  for  viewers.  From  the  damsel  in  distress  to  the   rape  victim  seeking  revenge,  women  in  horror  films  exist  to  be  antagonized,  and  so   often,  their  exhibition  of  femininity  and  sexuality  determines  the  severity  of  their   suffering.  Moreover,  though  the  popular  horror  film  narrative  tends  to  explore  the   fringes  of  human  nature,  few  horror  films  openly  deal  with  the  fears  and  concerns   of  women  outside  of  threats  to  their  physical  being.   In  the  past  decade,  the  horror  genre  has  produced  a  new  crop  of  young   female  characters  who  challenge  the  tropes  of  traditional  horror  films  by  trading  in   their  role  of  damsel  in  distress  for  the  role  of  the  antagonist  and  anti-­‐hero.  What’s   more,  these  films  deal  with  themes  relevant  to  young  women,  such  as  body  image   issues,  tumultuous  relationships,  and  sexual  repression.  In  this  thesis,  I  analyze  the   popular  American  horror  film  Jennifer’s  Body  (2009),  which  features  two  violent   female  protagonists  and  explores  the  horrors  of  adolescent  female  friendships.  In   my  analysis,  I  examine  whether  or  not  the  re-­‐imagined  female  characters  in  this   film  are  a  progressive  reconstruction  of  gender,  and  identify  ideological   conventions  of  the  horror  genre  that  continue  to  denigrate  femininity  and  female   sexuality.  

Casali  ii  

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS     Thank  you,  firstly,  to  my  advisor  Dr.  Bonnie  MacDonald,  whose  experience,   understanding,  and  instruction  were  invaluable  to  this  thesis  project,  and  whose   insightfulness  kept  me  motivated  and  inspired  throughout  the  writing  process.  I   would  like  to  thank  Dr.  Russell  Potter,  Nancy  Bockbrader,  and  Dr.  Joan  Dagle  for   the  assistance  they  provided  at  all  levels  of  this  research  project.  A  very  special   thanks  goes  out  to  Dr.  Vincent  Bohlinger,  for  it  was  in  his  classroom  that  I   developed  my  love  and  aptitude  for  film  theory  and  film  criticism.   I  would  like  to  thank  my  friends  and  family  for  the  extra  support  they  have   given  me  since  I  began  this  project  so  many  months  ago.  I  owe  a  debt  of  gratitude   to  my  friend  Amanda  Casiano.  Our  philosophical  discussions  and  exchanges  of   ideas  helped  elevate  this  project  to  a  level  of  perceptiveness  I  could  not  have   achieved  on  my  own.  I  also  could  not  have  completed  this  project  without  the   encouragement  and  weekly  pep  talks  provided  by  my  friend  and  colleague,  Lelia   Leite.  Finally,  I  must  thank  my  partner,  Thomas  DiGrazia,  whose  love  and  patience   were  repeatedly  tested  during  this  process,  and  whose  capacity  for  such  is   seemingly  endless.    

 

Casali  iii  

TABLE  OF  CONTENTS       Introduction.  Girl  Meets  Gore:  A  Volatile  Love  Story                                                                    1     Chapter  1.  The  Nature  of  the  Beast:  Reading  Gender  in  the  Horror  Genre                    8     Chapter  2.  From  Scared  to  Scary:  The  Evolution  of  the  Leading  Lady  in   Contemporary  Popular  American  Horror  Films                                                12     Chapter  3.  Eating  Boys  and  Terrorizing  Girls:  Analysis  of  Jennifer’s  Body                25     Chapter  4.  Conclusions:  The  Reaping                          54     Bibliography                                                        58     Filmography                                  62  

Casali  1  

 

INTRODUCTION   Girl  Meets  Gore:    A  Volatile  Love  Story     Dancing  through  the  minefield  of  the  contemporary  horror  film,  with  its   bloody  display  of  the  all-­‐too-­‐often  female  body  in  bits  and  pieces,  is  fraught   with  danger  for  women.  But  pleasure  shares  the  field  with  danger.   -­‐  Isabel  Cristina  Pinedo,  Recreational  Terror,  p.69     Unlike  many  critics  and  theorists  who  write  about  horror  film,  my  first  few   horror  movie  experiences  did  not  incite  an  enduring  love  of  all  things  scary  and   spooky.  In  fact,  my  initial  exposure  nearly  turned  me  off  of  horror  movies  for  good.   My  father  was  always  a  fan  of  the  genre,  having  grown  up  with  Hammer  Film   Productions  and  Roger  Corman  B-­‐movies.  His  Saturday  afternoons  were  typically   spent  on  the  couch  watching  marathons  of  his  favorite  campy  horror  flicks.  One  of   these  Saturday  afternoons,  when  I  was  six,  he  let  me  sit  with  him  while  he  watched   the  1979  low-­‐budget  classic  Phantasm  (Don  Coscarelli).  By  today’s  standards,  the   movie  is  about  as  fear-­‐provoking  as  an  unexpected  breeze,  but  back  then  it  scared   the  bejeebers  out  of  me.  I  would  lie  awake  at  night  imagining  The  Tall  Man   standing  at  the  foot  of  my  bed  waiting  to  zombify  my  brain  for  one  of  his  sentinel   spheres.  I  wouldn’t  go  into  my  own  backyard  alone  for  fear  of  being  abducted  by   an  alien  undertaker  and  his  hoard  of  evil  mutant  dwarves.  

Casali  2  

 

A  few  years  after  my  first  horror-­‐movie-­‐freakout,  my  Dad  rented  The   Exorcist  (William  Friedkin,  1973)  for  my  sister’s  thirteenth  birthday  party.  Being   only  nine  and  still  pretty  much  afraid  of  my  own  shadow,  I  was  not  allowed  to   watch  the  movie,  but  without  anyone  knowing  I  snuck  into  the  hallway  leading  to   our  living  room  to  catch  a  glimpse  of  the  forbidden  film.  I  poked  my  head  around   the  corner  just  as  Regan  spun  her  head  backwards  and  puked  green  bile  all  over  a   priest.  After  a  few  minutes  of  watching,  I  ran  out  the  front  door  of  my  house  to   escape  the  horrible  sights  and  sounds  that  were  coming  out  of  our  family  TV.  I  sat   on  the  front  porch  for  over  an  hour  waiting  for  the  movie  to  end,  never  telling  my   parents  that  I  had  seen  the  unseeable.  Something  happened  to  me  psychically   when  watching  The  Exorcist  beyond  the  normal  heebie-­‐jeebies;  it  was  the  first  time   I  had  ever  identified  with  a  character  in  a  horror  film.  Regan  was  not  so  dissimilar   from  myself  at  the  time.  She  is  a  seemingly  happy  and  healthy  pre-­‐teen  living  in  a   single-­‐parent  household.  But  after  she  is  possessed  by  the  ultimate  evil,  her  body  is   desecrated  and  defiled  from  the  inside  out.  I  couldn’t  help  but  think  that  the  same   thing  could  happen  to  me,  and  as  I  lay  in  bed  that  night  trying  to  fall  asleep,  the   stomach-­‐turning  images  of  Regan’s  mutilated  and  contorted  body  repeated  in  my   mind  like  a  demented  slide  show.  I  was  so  anxious  that  I  upchucked  all  over  my   Muppets  bed  sheets  and  told  my  parents  that  I  had  just  eaten  too  much  birthday   cake.  I  didn’t  sleep  well  for  months,  and  after  the  traumatic  experience  of  watching   The  Exorcist,  I  swore  I  would  never  watch  another  scary  movie  again.  

Casali  3  

 

By  age  sixteen,  I  was  starting  to  feel  ashamed  of  my  fear  of  horror  movies   (and  of  my  own  basement,  for  that  matter).  On  Friday  nights,  my  friends  would  go   to  the  movie  theaters  to  see  the  latest  horror  flicks,  and  you  can  only  claim  to  be   babysitting  so  many  times  before  people  become  suspicious.  So  I  decided  I  would   actively  break  myself  of  my  irrational  fears.  Along  with  forcing  myself  to  walk   around  in  the  basement  without  the  lights  on,  I  began  renting  horror  movies  on   my  own.  I  re-­‐introduced  myself  to  the  genre  by  watching  “safe”  movies  that   blended  horror  with  humor,  like  the  1981  low-­‐budget  masterpiece  The  Evil  Dead   (Sam  Raimi).  Over  time,  however,  I  had  to  watch  even  the  most  gruesome  horror   movies  in  the  dark  with  the  front  door  unlocked  to  get  any  sort  of  scare  out  of   them.  I  noticed  early  on  in  my  ventures  in  popular  horror  film  that  the  female   characters  were  kind  of  predictable.  They  were  usually  clumsy  and  inept,  often   tripping  over  themselves,  sobbing,  and  cowering  in  corners.  And  they  only  stood   up  against  their  attackers  after  being  continuously  and  relentlessly  tormented.  I   found  myself  asking,  “Why  do  girls  never  fight  back  in  these  movies?”  When  I   should  have  been  asking,  “Why  do  horror  film  writers  never  write  girls  that  fight   back?”  Or  write  female  antagonists,  for  that  matter.   My  relationship  to  horror  films  changed  again  when  I  began  studying  film   in  college  and  developed  an  interest  in  feminist  theory.  The  more  I  scrutinized  the   gender  politics  in  the  horror  genre,  the  more  frustrated  I  became  with  the   implication  of  my  once  favorite  horror  films,  particularly  the  timeless  correlation  

Casali  4  

 

between  adolescent  female  characters’  sexual  activities  and  the  severity  of  their   suffering.  I  went  on  a  quest  to  find  horror  films  that  featured  complex  and  adept   female  characters  whose  expressions  of  sexuality  weren’t  merely  fuel  for   antagonists.  A  friend  suggested  Ginger  Snaps  (John  Fawcett,  2000),  a  Canadian  film   about  a  teenage  girl  struggling  with  her  transition  into  becoming  a  werewolf.  The   subtext  of  Ginger  Snaps  is  transparent,  using  lycanthropy  as  a  metaphor  for  female   puberty,  but  more  significantly,  it  deals  with  tumultuous  adolescent  relationships   and  the  general  malaise  of  being  a  teenage  girl.  It  was  the  first  time  I  had  ever  seen   a  mainstream  horror  movie  featuring  storylines  that  were  representational  of   young  women’s  true-­‐life  fears  and  experiences.  To  my  delight,  Hollywood  was  on  a   bender,  producing  a  number  of  horror  films  within  the  decade  that  centered  on   gutsy,  multi-­‐dimensional,  adolescent  female  characters.  Films  like  Ginger  Snaps,   May  (Lucky  McGee,  2002),  Hard  Candy  (David  Slade,  2005),  Teeth  (Mitchell   Lichtenstein,  2007),  and  Jennifer’s  Body  (Karen  Kusama,  2009)  deal  with  the   politics  of  being  female,  and  feature  young  female  characters  who  are  repulsive,   creepy,  bestial,  and  destructive,  the  complete  antitheses  of  the  traditional  damsel   in  distress.   The  first  time  I  watched  Jennifer’s  Body,  I  was  disappointed.  A  friend  and  I   who  were  fans  of  the  writer’s  first  movie,  Juno  (Jason  Reitman,  2007),  went  to  see  it   while  it  was  still  in  theaters.  We  were  expecting  to  watch  a  creepy  horror  film  with   a  female  monster,  but  the  tone  was  more  black-­‐comedy  than  horror.  Jennifer’s  

Casali  5  

 

Body  is  comparable  to  the  1988  high  school  satire  Heathers  (Lehmann),  only  with   the  popular  girl  disemboweling  her  classmates  instead  of  just  bullying  them.  I  had   forgotten  about  the  film  until  I  came  across  it  while  channel  surfing  a  few  years   later  and  decided  to  give  it  a  second  try.  This  time  around,  I  was  able  to  see  past   my  expectations  and  find  value  in  the  story  and  its  nuances.  While  not  without  its   failures,  Jennifer’s  Body  is  the  filmmakers’  attempt  to  address  some  of  the  less   flattering  characteristics  of  adolescent  women  in  the  horror  movies  of  the  last   three  decades.  Moreover,  the  film  features  two  female  lead  characters  who  have   purpose  beyond  monster  bait,  and  deals  candidly  with  female  sexuality,  female   violence,  and  toxic  relationships.   The  writers  of  these  new  horror  films  imagine  women  in  roles  beyond  the   antagonized,  and  use  the  violent  and  horrific  themes  to  confront  viewers  with  the   frightening  reality  that  the  average  teen  girl  faces  during  the  difficult  years  of   adolescence.  Adolescence  for  a  young  woman  is  a  period  often  fraught  with   bullying,  pressure  to  conform,  social  rejection,  negative  body  images,  eating   disorders,  sexual  discovery,  and  a  multitude  of  other  fearsome  insecurities  and   anxieties  that  lend  themselves  to  horror  storytelling.  As  delighted  as  I  was  to   discover  these  re-­‐imagined  female  characters,  I  couldn’t  help  but  notice  that  the   filmmakers  relied  on  several  horror  movie  clichés  in  their  depiction  of  adolescent   female  sexuality.  In  the  1970s  and  1980s,  horror  filmmakers  exhausted  the  use  of   sexuality  as  a  cautionary  and  exploitative  plot  device.  For  females  during  this  

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period  of  the  genre,  engaging  in  sexual  acts  invariably  lead  to  a  painful  and   horrible  death.  3o  years  later  I  still  find  myself  yelling  at  the  movie  screen,  “No,  no,   no!  You  are  so  going  to  die  now!”  after  a  female  character  has  sex  in  a  horror   movie.   The  recurring  theme  of  punishment  for  sexual  behavior  and  the  increase  in   female  monsters  in  the  horror  genre  led  me  on  a  search  for  an  analysis  of  the  type   of  roles  allotted  for  young  women  in  contemporary  popular  horror  film.  Finding  a   lack  of  critical  discourse  on  women  in  horror  beyond  Carol  Clover’s  pivotal,  but   dated,  Men,  Women,  and  Chain  Saws:  Gender  in  the  Modern  Horror  Film  (1992),  I   decided  to  perform  my  own  examination.  For  the  foundation  of  my  research,  I   used  the  works  of  film  theorists  dealing  with  gender  in  the  horror  genre.  I  chose  to   look  specifically  at  commercial  American  horror  films,  as  it  permitted  me  to  focus   on  the  ethos  that  emerges  from  the  popular  films  of  the  U.S.,  and  how  it  reflects   the  American  ideological  treatment  of  gender.  Initially  I  planned  to  perform  an   analysis  of  all  the  aforementioned  female-­‐centered  horror  films,  as  they  each  offer   atypical  and  multifaceted  depictions  of  teenage  girls;  however,  to  keep  this  thesis  a   readable  length,  I  have  given  an  overview  of  the  popular  American  horror  films   that  inspired  the  new  crop  of  horror  heroines,  primarily  the  exploitation  and   slasher  films  of  the  1970s  and  1980s,  and  then  performed  and  an  in-­‐depth  analysis   of  Jennifer’s  Body,  gauging  it  against  the  tropes  I  identified  in  the  films  of  the   previous  decades.  

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In  the  first  chapter  of  this  thesis,  The  Nature  of  the  Beast:  Reading  Gender  in   the  Horror  Genre,  I  map  out  the  framework  for  my  analysis,  explaining  the  value  of   reading  the  rhetoric  of  a  film.  I  discuss  the  importance  of  analyzing  the  horror   genre  for  the  unique  insight  it  provides  into  our  treatment  of  gendered  violence   and  sexuality.  In  Chapter  2,  From  Scared  to  Scary:  The  Evolution  of  the  Leading   Lady  in  Contemporary  Popular  American  Horror  Films,  I  outline  the  female   characters  in  the  exploitation  and  slasher  films  of  the  1970s  and  the  1980s.  I   illustrate  the  systematic  operation  of  gender  stereotypes  in  the  genre,  and  point  at   repeated  themes  that  have  damned  female  characters  as  prey  for  vicious  killers  and   as  victims  of  their  own  biology.  In  Chapter  3,  Eating  Boys  and  Terrorizing  Girls:   Analysis  of  Jennifer’s  Body,  I  use  the  framework  established  in  the  first  chapter  and   the  tropes  identified  in  Chapter  2  to  decode  and  analyze  Jennifer’s  Body.  I  discuss   the  codes  and  behaviors  used  in  the  depiction  of  the  characters  that  reinforce  an   ideological  perception  of  female  violence  and  female  sexuality.  I  explain  the  ways   in  which  the  female  characters  have  successfully  challenged  the  shortcomings  of   their  predecessors,  and  the  ways  they  continue  to  restrict  and  vilify  the   empowered  female.  Finally,  in  Chapter  4,  Conclusions:  The  Reaping,  I  summarize   my  findings  and  assess  the  new  trends  in  the  depictions  of  the  adolescent  female   in  the  horror  genre.      

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1.  THE  NATURE  OF  THE  BEAST   Reading  Gender  in  the  Horror  Genre     “Horror  movies  are  a  good  case  in  which  the  devil  is  most  literally  in  the   details.”     -­‐  Cynthia  Freeland,  The  Naked  and  the  Undead,  p.  10     For  centuries,  we  have  been  fascinated  with  the  telling  of  horror  stories  and   titillated  by  bizarre  and  horrific  imagery.  At  the  heart  of  these  stories  is  typically  a   monster,  a  being  that  deviates  from  normality  and  embodies  our  fear  of  the   unknown.  There  are  many  theories  as  to  why  we  take  so  much  pleasure  in  scaring   ourselves  with  monsters,  such  as  the  adrenaline  rush  we  get  from  looking  at  and   hearing  things  we  know  are  socially  unacceptable,  or  a  natural  curiosity  driving  us   to  seek  out  the  ugliest  side  of  our  humanity.  Regardless  of  our  motivation,  the   monsters  that  appear  in  fiction  are  an  insight  into  our  cultural  zeitgeist,  or  our   collective  fears  and  anxieties.  In  his  article,  “The  American  Nightmare:  Horror  in   the  1970s,”  Robin  Wood  explores  the  idea  of  the  monster,  or  “the  Other”  as  he   describes  it.  He  outlines  the  basic  formula  for  the  Hollywood  horror  narrative,   stating:   The  formula  provides  three  variables:  normality,  the  monster,  and  crucially,   the  relationship  between  the  two.  The  definition  of  normality  in  horror  

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films  is  in  general  boringly  constant:  the  heterosexual  monogamous  couple,   the  family,  and  the  social  institutions  (police,  church,  armed  forces)  that   support  and  defend  them.  The  monster  is,  of  course,  much  more  protean,   changing  from  period  to  period  as  society’s  basic  fears  clothe  themselves  in   fashionable  or  immediately  accessible  garments.  1   Because  horror  stories  tap  into  our  innate  fears,  the  horror  film  genre  is  a   significant  area  of  research  for  cultural  theorists.  Analyzing  the  rhetoric  of  the   popular  horror  film  narrative  can  tell  us  just  as  much  about  the  social  classification   of  gender  during  a  certain  period  as  the  headlines  of  popular  newspapers.  In  her   book,  The  Violent  Woman:  Femininity,  Narrative,  and  Violence  in  Contemporary   American  Cinema,  Hillary  Neroni  argues,  “Outbreaks  of  violent  women  in  film  –   such  as  the  femme  fatale  in  film  noir  –  occur  at  moments  in  history  when  a  clear   difference  between  genders  ceases  to  be  operative.”  2  When  the  United  States   joined  efforts  in  World  War  II  and  men  began  leaving  their  roles  as  family   providers  to  fight  in  the  war,  women  had  to  take  jobs  in  order  to  support   themselves  and  their  families.  Once  the  war  ended,  women  were  reluctant  to  give   up  their  newly  found  pride  and  independence  to  return  to  their  traditional  roles  as   mothers  and  homemakers.  During  this  time,  a  trend  emerged  in  the  depiction  of                                                                                                                   1  Robin  Wood.  “The  American  Nightmare:  Horror  in  the  1970s.”  Hollywood  from  Vietnam  to  Reagan.  (New  York:   Columbia  UP,  1986)  31.   2  Hilary  Neroni,  The  Violent  Woman:  Femininity,  Narrative,  and  Violence  in  Contemporary  American  Cinema.  (Albany:   State  University  of  New  York,  2005),  20.  

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women  in  the  film  noir  genre;  female  characters  became  the  primary  antagonist  of   the  male  lead.  These  female  characters  are  ruthlessly  ambitious,  sexually   manipulative,  and  markedly  independent,  often  without  a  husband  or  children.   Since  monsters  oppose  our  sense  of  normality,  examining  the  female   monster  in  fiction  offers  a  comprehensive  insight  into  the  collective  fears   pertaining  to  the  female  and  femininity.  Female  monsters  are  a  particular  curiosity   both  in  their  rarity,  since  men  are  typically  associated  with  violent  behavior,  and  in   the  manner  in  which  they  exhibit  their  monstrousness.  Neroni  points  out  that  in   American  culture,  violent  behavior  is  viewed  as  inherently  masculine,  and  though   the  performance  of  violence  is  not  exclusive  to  men,  female  characters  that  act  out   violently  are  invariably  coded  as  having  stereotypically  masculine  traits.  Neroni   continues  to  explain,  “The  intertwined  nature  of  violence  and  masculinity  is  one  of   the  reasons  the  violent  woman  is  so  threatening:  she  breaks  up  this  symbolic   relationship  between  violence  and  masculinity.”  3  The  violent  female  jeopardizes   the  illusion  of  feminine  purity  and  the  monopolized  power  of  masculinity.  This   tension  exists  because  we  reduce  gender  to  a  rigid  binary  system,  where  biological   women  and  men  adhere  to  specific  behavioral  scripts.  For  this  reason,  female   monsters  are  implicit  representations  of  androgynous  figures  demonstrating  the   fluidity  of  gender  and  sexual  identity.  Though  the  majority  of  the  films  mentioned   in  this  thesis  feature  characters  whose  sexual  identities  are  explicitly  placed  within                                                                                                                   3  Ibid,  45.  

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this  binary  system,  their  actions  and  behaviors  are  implicitly  coded  as  something   more  ambiguous.   Rigid  perceptions  of  gender  are  entrenched  in  language  and  symbolism,   thus  we  easily  take  for  granted  and  overlook  the  codification  of  gender  ideology  in   cultural  texts.  By  examining  the  construction  of  gender  shaped  by  the  coding  and   behavior  of  the  characters  through  story  and  visual  elements,  we  can  decipher  the   explicit,  implicit,  and  unintended  ideological  meaning  put  forth  by  the  filmmaker.   In  the  upcoming  chapters,  I  read  and  interpret  the  characterization,  story  lines,   mise-­‐en-­‐scene,  and  symbolic  representations  of  gender  in  popular  American   horror  film  and  pose  salient  questions  designed  to  uncover  the  systematic   treatment  of  adolescent  women  in  the  horror  film  genre.  Since  horror  films  play   off  our  collective  fears,  I  analyze  the  repeated  horrific  elements  of  the  films  and   examine  what  they  tell  us  about  our  anxieties  related  to  adolescence,  female   violence,  and  female  sexuality.    

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2.    FROM  SCARED  TO  SCARY   The  Evolution  of  the  Leading  Lady  in  Popular  American  Horror  Films     “No  one  ever  thinks  chicks  do  shit  like  this.  Trust  me.  A  girl  can  only  be  a   slut,  a  bitch,  a  tease,  or  the  virgin  next  door.”     -­‐  Ginger  Fitzgerald,  Ginger  Snaps     There  is  a  long  tradition  of  women  screaming  in  fright  in  American  horror   film.  Even  before  the  introduction  of  sound  in  film,  a  woman’s  role  in  horror  has   been  to  be  scared  and  vulnerable.  From  Mary  Philbin’s  horrified  gasps  in  The   Phantom  of  the  Opera  (Julian,  1925)  to  Janet  Leigh’s  infamous  cries  of  terror  in   Psycho  (Hitchcock,  1960),  the  torture,  rape,  and  murder  of  female  characters  is  the   nitty-­‐gritty  of  the  American  horror  film  narrative.  Film  historian  Gregory  Mank   points  out  in  his  book  Women  in  Horror  Films,  1930s,  “There  was,  perhaps,   something  oddly  askew  in  an  era  where  a  movie  actress  couldn’t  sound  the   slightest  sigh  of  sexual  pleasure,  yet  did  unleash  a  wild,  orgasmic  scream  whenever   a  monster  crossed  her  path.”  4  For  decades,  audiences  have  contentedly  watched   women  terrorized  on  the  movie  screen,  but  if  a  female  character  in  a  horror  film   willingly  partakes  in  sexual  intercourse,  her  unfortunate  and  violent  fate  is  sealed.   The  oldest  rule  of  the  American  horror  film  narrative  is  that  for  female  characters                                                                                                                   4  Gregory  W.  Mank,  Women  in  Horror  Films,  1930s  (Jefferson,  NC:  McFarland,  1999),  1.  

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to  survive  until  the  end  of  the  film,  consensual  sex  is  not  an  option.  However,  non-­‐ consensual  sex,  or  the  threat  of  rape,  is  a  common  plot  device  used  in  horror  film,   and  was  hugely  popular  in  the  rape-­‐revenge  subgenre  that  emerged  in  the  late   1970s.   The  female  leads  in  horror  films  prior  to  the  1970s  were  traditionally  the   eye-­‐catching  damsels  in  distress.  They  were  terrorized  by  werewolves,  mummies,   zombies,  vampires,  ghosts,  aliens,  psycho  killers,  and  sexual  predators,  and  all   while  maintaining  a  perfectly  chaste  and  gorgeous  appearance.  If  the  female   characters  in  the  horror  films  of  the  mid-­‐century  survived  to  see  their  antagonists   defeated,  it  was  due  to  the  aid  of  the  male  protagonist.  A  significant  change  in   these  depictions  came  in  the  early  1970s  with  the  termination  of  the  Motion   Picture  Production  Code  in  1968  and  implementation  of  the  Motion  Picture   Association  of  America  (MPAA)  ratings  system.  The  MPAA  ratings  system  resulted   in  an  increase  in  explicit  content  in  mainstream  horror  films.  Leonard  Leff  explains   in  Dame  in  the  Kimono:  Hollywood  Censorship,  and  the  Production  Code,  “By  1970,   despite  protests  from  conservatives,  nude  scenes  had  become  common,  and  actors   peppered  motion  picture  soundtracks  with  the  words  ‘bitch,’  ‘goddamn,’  and   ‘shit.’”  5  Mainstream  horror  filmmakers  suddenly  had  the  freedom  to  challenge  the  

                                                                                                                5    Leonard  J.  Leff  and  Jerold  L.  Simmons,  Dame  in  the  Kimono:  Hollywood  Censorship,  and  the  Production  Code  (The   University  Press  of  Kentucky,  2001),  276.  

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puritanical  standards  of  female  behavior  and  to  employ  sexual  and  violent  themes   once  prohibited  by  the  production  code,  albeit  with  a  restricted  “R”  rating.   The  Exorcist  (William  Friedkin,  1973),  one  of  the  top  grossing  and   graphically  explicit  films  of  the  1970s,  centers  on  12  year-­‐old  Regan  who  becomes   possessed  by  a  demon  just  as  she  begins  to  show  signs  of  puberty.  The  demon   completely  takes  over  her  body  and  performs  vile  acts  of  self-­‐mutilation  as  well  as   physical  and  emotional  abuse  upon  those  around  her.  This  correlation  made   between  female  puberty  and  the  occult  turned  up  again  in  the  seventies  in  the   hugely  popular  adaptation  of  Stephen  King’s  Carrie  (Brian  De  Palma,  1976).  The   eponymous  character  demonstrates  telekinetic  abilities  as  she  begins  her  first   period.  After  months  of  being  tormented  by  her  classmates  for  her  odd  behavior,   she  finally  enacts  revenge,  using  her  powers  to  set  fire  to  the  school’s  gymnasium   during  the  senior  prom.     Critics  and  theorists  often  interpret  Regan’s  possession  and  Carrie’s  sorcery   as  metaphors  for  the  supposed  monstrousness  of  a  young  woman’s  hormonal   transformation.  Regan’s  body  is  disfigured  by  the  demon  destroying  from  the   inside  out  and  Carrie’s  true  monstrous  potential  is  unleashed  when  her  antagonists   drop  a  bucket  of  pig’s  blood  on  her  head.  Horror  film  theorist  William  Paul   explains  that,  “Menstruation  is  specifically  tied  to  monstrosity  in  that  we  are  made   to  feel  the  grossness  of  the  flow  of  blood.  The  pretty  has  been  made  ugly,  the  

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attractive  made  repulsive.”  6  By  aligning  the  involuntary  changes  of  the  female   body  during  adolescence  with  demonic  possession  and  witchcraft,  these   filmmakers  suggest  that  the  natural  female  body  is  a  site  of  terror  and  revulsion.   The  female  protagonists  in  these  horror  films  are  vilified  for  the  biology  of  their   gender.  They  lack  agency,  as  they  have  no  control  over  their  sexual  maturation  or   their  violent  behavior.   A  disturbing  new  trend  emerged  in  the  seventies,  with  a  number  of  horror   films  centering  entirely  upon  the  rape  of  young  women  and  their  eventual  revenge   against  those  who  victimized  them.  The  popularity  of  the  rape-­‐revenge  subgenre   began  with  Wes  Craven’s  first  feature  film,  The  Last  House  on  the  Left  (1972),  and   continued  into  the  decade  with  Straw  Dogs  (Sam  Peckinpah,  1971),  Lipstick   (Lamont  Johnson,  1976)  and  I  Spit  on  Your  Grave  (Zarchi,  1978).  Due  to  the  female   characters’  eventual  violent  retribution,  viewers  hailed  rape-­‐revenge  films  as   feminist  narratives.  But  for  many  critics,  the  films  marked  a  period  of  regression  in   the  representation  of  women  in  horror.  The  films  were  notorious  for  showing  the   actual  rape  of  the  female  victims  in  realistic  detail,  leaning  toward  the  explicitness   of  pornographic  snuff  films.  Regardless  of  the  female  characters’  so-­‐called  justice,   they  suffer  physically  and  emotionally  for  virtually  the  entire  film.  Neroni  explains,   “The  1970s  horror  films  depict  the  woman’s  violence  as  something  she  must  resort   to  as  the  victim  of  horrible  things  that  men  do  to  women.  Female  violence                                                                                                                   6  William  Paul,  Laughing,  Screaming:  Modern  Hollywood  Horror  and  Comedy  (New  York:  Columbia  UP,  1994),  358  

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remains,  in  the  1970s,  a  response  to  victimization,  and  in  this  sense,  it  continues  to   fit  with  a  traditional  image  of  femininity.”  7   In  the  1970s  through  the  1980s,  slasher  films  were  the  most  popular   subgenre  of  horror.  Notable  slasher  films  of  this  period  include  The  Texas   Chainsaw  Massacre  (Tobe  Hooper,  1974),  Halloween  (John  Carpenter,  1978),  Friday   the  13th  (Sean  Cunningham,  1980)  and  A  Nightmare  on  Elm  Street  (Wes  Craven,   1984),  each  of  which  stars  a  young  woman  as  the  protagonist.  The  films  brought   about  a  positive  shift  in  the  depiction  of  women  in  the  genre  in  that  the  female   characters  went  from  being  the  helpless  victims  to  the  last  girl  standing,  defending   themselves  against  monsters  and  murderers  with  little  help  from  a  male  hero.  In   Men,  Women,  and  Chainsaws:  Gender  in  the  Modern  Horror  Film,  Carol  Clover   dubs  this  character  the  “Final  Girl”  and  denotes  her  self-­‐reliance  as  an   improvement  in  the  characterization  of  young  women  in  the  horror  film  genre.  8   Clover  defines  her  as  the  protagonist,  in  her  teens,  who  is  innocent,  responsible,   intelligent,  aware  of  her  surroundings,  and  who  ultimately  outsmarts  her   victimizer.  She  further  describes  the  Final  Girl  as:   .  .  .  boyish,  in  a  word.  Just  as  the  killer  is  not  fully  masculine,  she  is  not  fully   feminine  –  not,  in  any  case,  feminine  in  the  ways  of  her  friends.  Her   smartness,  gravity,  competence  in  mechanical  and  other  practical  matters,                                                                                                                   7  Neroni,  33.   8  Carol  Clover,  Men,  Women  and  Chainsaws:  Gender  in  the  Modern  Horror  Film  (Princeton  UP,    Princeton  New  York,   1993),  35.  

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and  sexual  reluctance  set  her  apart  from  the  other  girls  and  ally  her,   ironically,  with  the  very  boys  she  fears  or  rejects,  not  to  speak  of  the  killer   himself.  Lest  we  miss  the  point,  it  is  spelled  out  in  her  name:  Stevie,  Marti,   Terry,  Laurie,  Stretch,  Will,  Joey,  Max.  9   Clover’s  description  of  the  Final  Girl  illustrates  how  the  character  fails  to   fully  overcome  the  shortcomings  of  her  subjugated  predecessor.  Not  only  is  she   still  victimized  by  stab-­‐happy  men,  but  she  is  denied  any  semblance  of  a  sexual   identity.  Cynthia  Freeland  states  that  “despite  the  fact  that  they  present  intriguing   heroines,  slasher  films  uphold  gender  ideology  by  upholding  traditional  ‘male’   virtues  and  derogating  or  punishing  ‘female’  traits.’”  10  The  Final  Girl’s  gender  is   incidental  other  than  making  her  a  likelier  target  for  male  antagonists,  and  her   sexuality  only  becomes  relevant  if  she  makes  the  mistake  of  engaging  in  sexual   acts,  increasing  her  chances  of  being  murdered.  In  a  2009  study  published  in  the   Journal  of  Criminal  Justice  and  Popular  Culture,  the  analysis  of  fifty  U.S.  slasher   films  released  between  1960  and  2009  showed  that  “when  sexual  and  violent   images  are  concomitantly  present,  the  film’s  antagonist  is  significantly  more  likely   to  attack  a  woman.”  11  Through  the  repetition  of  this  correlation  between  sexual   activities  and  the  likelihood  of  being  murdered,  the  audience  is  meant  to  applaud                                                                                                                   9  Ibid,  40.   10  Freeland,  15.   11  Andrew  Welsh,  “Sex  and  Violence  in  the  Slasher  Horror  Film:  A  Content  Analysis  of  Gender  Differences  in  the   Depiction  of  Violence,”  Journal  of  Criminal  Justice  and  Popular  Culture  16  (2009):  18.  

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the  thrifty  virginal  female  characters  who  actively  avoid  sexual  encounters   ensuring  their  own  survival.   In  the  early  1990s,  slasher  film  sequels  thrived  in  the  box  office.  The  Final   Girl  character  prevailed  as  the  antagonized  protagonist,  but  horror  filmmakers   began  to  write  self-­‐reflexive  narratives,  drawing  attention  to  clichés  of  popular   horror  films  from  the  previous  decade.  Wes  Craven’s  New  Nightmare  (1994),  the   seventh  film  in  the  Freddy  franchise,  revitalized  the  series  by  suggesting  Freddy   Krueger  enters  the  real  world  to  terrorize  the  lead  actress  from  the  first  movie.   Wes  Craven  also  produced  Scream  (1996),  the  film  that  kicked  off  the  most   popular  horror  franchise  of  the  1990s.  Sydney  Prescott,  the  female  lead  in  the   movie,  is  stalked  and  tormented  by  her  deranged  boyfriend  and  his  equally   disturbed  sidekick.  The  film  pokes  fun  at  the  slasher  formula,  but  does  little  to   defy  it.  Sydney  engages  in  a  sexual  act  and  survives  the  film,  but  the  final  scenes   reveal  that  her  boyfriend  seeks  revenge,  believing  that  her  mother’s  sexual  affair   with  his  father  caused  the  dismantling  of  his  family.  Though  Sydney  is  not   murdered  for  her  sexual  choices,  she  suffers  for  her  mother’s  alleged  adultery,  and   at  the  hands  of  the  man  who  has  “deflowered  her”.  Her  mother’s  affair  is  the   motivation  for  the  killers’  violent  acts,  perpetuating  the  traditional  horror  trope   that  female  sexuality  is  a  driving  force  behind  sadistic  male  behavior  and  that   female  sexuality  as  inherently  dangerous.  

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The  1990s  yielded  the  character  intended  to  be  the  riposte  to  the  Final  Girl   and  the  overall  lack  of  feminist  figures  in  the  horror  genre.  12  Buffy,  from  the   television  phenomenon  “Buffy:  The  Vampire  Slayer”  (1997-­‐2003),  has  been  praised   by  critics  and  fans  as  one  of  the  first  truly  feminist  figures  in  the  horror  genre.  13   Show  creator  Joss  Whedon  explains,  "I  intended  to  invert  the  Hollywood  formula   of  the  little  blonde  girl  who  goes  into  a  dark  alley  and  gets  killed  in  every  horror   movie.  I  wanted  to  subvert  that  idea  and  create  someone  who  was  a  hero."  14  In  her   book,  Misfit  Sisters:  Screen  Horror  as  Female  Rites  of  Passage,  Sue  Short  explains   the  importance  of  Buffy  in  the  horror  genre.  “It  reprises  Carrie’s  theme  of  misfit   outsiders,  utilizing  prom  and  graduation  as  key  rites  of  passage  in  its  heroine’s   progression  towards  adulthood.  It  also  updates  the  Final  Girl’s  negotiation  of   sexuality  in  the  slasher,  as  well  as  the  maternal  role  such  figures  have  undertaken.”   15

 Buffy  is  powerful,  intelligent,  and  rebellious,  and  unlike  the  Final  Girl,  she  

engages  in  sexual  acts  and  survives  to  tell  her  friends  about  it.  The  series  also   frequently  deals  with  anxieties  often  plaguing  adolescent  girls,  including   burgeoning  sexuality  and  parental  expectations.  

                                                                                                                12  Mary  Celeste  Kearney,  "Girlfriends  and  Girl  Power:  Female  Adolescence  in  Contemporary  U.S.  Cinema."  Sugar,   Spice,  and  Everything  Nice:  Cinemas  of  Girlhood.  By  Frances  K.  Gateward  and  Murray  Pomerance  (Detroit:  Wayne  State  UP,   2002),  132.   13  “Buffy  the  Vampire  Slayer”.  Dir.  Joss  Whedon.  1997-­‐2003.   14  Joss  Whedon  as  quoted  in  Anne  Billson’s  Buffy  the  Vampire  Slayer  (London:  BFI,  2005),  25.   15  Sue  Short,  Misfit  Sisters:  Screen  Horror  as  Female  Rites  of  Passage  (New  York,  Palgrave  Macmillon,  2006),  111.  

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Despite  the  positive  triumphs  made  by  “Buffy:  the  Vampire  Slayer”  in  the   depictions  of  women  in  the  horror  genre,  the  main  female  character  remains   within  the  paradigm  of  the  young  woman  threatened  by  primarily  male   antagonists.  Neroni  points  out  that  “[Slasher  films]  can  only  imagine  a  woman  as   capable  of  violence  if  she  is  entirely  enraged,  and  this  anger  can  only  occur  when   she  is  tortured,  violated,  and  pushed  into  a  state  of  total  fright.”  16  Buffy  falls  prey   to  the  standard  female  model  of  the  sacrificial  victim  in  the  horror  genre,  and  she   repeatedly  forgoes  her  own  happiness  and  physical  health  for  the  sake  of  saving   humankind.  Though  the  female  characters  of  the  1990s  were  more  empowered  by   their  ability  to  fight  back,  they  were  limited  by  the  idea  that  women  are  only   violent  when  violence  is  first  enacted  upon  them.  Their  sexuality  also  remained  a   driving  force  behind  male-­‐initiated  violence.  Buffy’s  first  sexual  encounter  is  with   the  male  lead  on  the  show,  a  vampire  named  Angel  whose  soul  has  been  restored   by  a  gypsy  curse.  After  their  first  sexual  experience  together,  the  curse  is  lifted,  and   Angel  literally  turns  into  a  soulless  demon  who  gets  his  jollies  from  tormenting  her   and  her  loved  ones.  Before  the  21st  century,  popular  horror  film  writers  had  rarely   imagined  women  outside  of  the  role  of  the  tormented,  while  easily  imagining  men   as  monsters,  sociopaths,  and  anti-­‐heroes.   In  the  2000s,  while  rape-­‐revenge  films  were  making  a  comeback  in  the  form   of  Hollywood  remakes,  imported  Japanese  horror  films  (or  J-­‐Horror)  also  grew  in                                                                                                                   16  Neroni,  32.  

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popularity  in  the  U.S.,  and  films  such  as  Battle  Royale  (Kinji  Fukasaku,  2000)  and   Audition  (Takashi  Miike,  1999)  became  instant  cult  hits.  J-­‐Horror  films  draw  from   the  hyper-­‐violent  and  surreal  exploitation  horror  films  of  the  sixties  and  seventies,   and  center  on  vicious  and  murderous  young  women.  These  leading  ladies  do  not   merely  defend  themselves  against  would-­‐be  evildoers;  they  kill  because  they  are   sadistic,  demented,  and  demonic.  Hollywood  took  notice,  and  began  to  remake   films  such  as  Ringu  (Hideo  Nakata,  1998)  and  Ju-­‐on  (Takashi  Shimizu,  2004)  for   U.S.  audiences.  The  Ring  (Gore  Verbinski,  2002),  American  remake  of  Ringu,   centers  on  a  journalist  and  single  mother  who  investigates  the  link  between  a   series  of  gruesome  deaths  and  a  videotape  that  is  possessed  by  the  tortured  spirit   of  a  little  girl.  The  American  remake  of  Ju-­‐on,  titled  The  Grudge  (Shimizu,  2004),   follows  a  similar  storyline.  A  family  moves  into  a  new  home  with  their  live-­‐in  nurse   and  discovers  that  it  is  haunted  by  the  ghosts  of  the  previous  tenants  who  seek  to   pass  on  their  curse  of  agonizing  death.  The  nurse  sets  out  to  uncover  the  mystery   behind  their  deaths  and  put  an  end  to  their  curse.   Whether  J-­‐Horror  films  tested  the  waters  for  American  horror  filmmakers   by  proving  that  audiences  would  dole  out  their  entertainment  dollar  to  see   monstrous  girls  on  the  movie  screen,  or  changing  gender  roles  in  the  U.S.  began  to   shift  the  cultural  attitude  toward  the  adolescent  female,  the  trend  did  not  end  with   Japanese  horror  imports.  While  J-­‐Horror  films  and  their  remakes  were  gaining   popularity,  original  horror  films  were  popping  up  in  the  U.S.  with  similarly  violent  

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female  protagonists.  The  2002  horror  film  May  (Lucky  McKee)  features  a  female   lead  more  closely  akin  to  the  anti-­‐hero  Travis  Bickle  from  Taxi  Driver  (Martin   Scorsese,  1976)  than  the  female  protagonists  of  past  horror  films.  May  is  an   eccentric  and  an  introvert.  She  yearns  to  be  social  and  connect  with  others,  but  her   bizarre  behavior  and  lack  of  social  skills  alienate  her  from  the  outside  world.  Not   able  to  sustain  relationships  with  ordinary  people,  she  decides  to  build  a  friend   from  the  parts  of  those  who  have  rejected  her.  May  engages  in  sex  but  her  sexuality   is  not  sensationalized  for  the  audience’s  pleasure,  nor  does  she  suffer  for  her  sexual   activities.  Furthermore,  May’s  violent  behavior  is  not  in  response  to  external   violent  threats;  her  derangement  stems  from  years  of  loneliness  and  detachment.   Her  gender  informs  her  story,  but  is  not  the  cause  of  her  suffering.   As  with  many  horror  films  released  since  the  dawn  of  the  digital  age,  May   reached  its  popularity  only  after  its  release  on  DVD.  Similarly,  the  gross-­‐out  movie   Teeth  (Mitchell  Lichtenstein,  2007)  earned  its  notoriety  long  after  it  premiered  in   theaters.  The  film  is  a  play  on  the  myth  of  vagina  dentata,  which  alleges  the   existence  of  women  who  have  ferocious  teeth  in  their  vagina.  Dawn,  a  high-­‐school-­‐ aged,  sexually  abstinent  girl,  suspects  there  is  something  wrong  with  her  anatomy   as  she  begins  to  experience  lust  for  the  first  time.  She  discovers  most  gruesomely   that  she  has  a  toothed  vagina,  and  through  several  violent  sexual  encounters  with   men,  learns  that  she  has  control  over  the  teeth.  A  treasure  trove  of  cultural   symbolism,  Teeth  deals  with  teen  sexuality,  female  body  issues,  and  the  dangers  of  

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sexual  repression.  Despite  the  filmmaker’s  intention  to  empower  women  with  the   story  of  a  monstrous  vagina,  the  concept  is  highly  problematic.  Not  only  does  the   film  exploit  the  exoticism  of  the  vagina  as  well  as  both  men  and  women’s  anxieties   caused  by  the  female  genitalia,  but  Dawn  can  only  employ  her  “ability”  by  having   sex  with  those  men  she  despises  and  who  have  caused  her  pain.   Jennifer’s  Body  (Diablo  Cody,  2009)  has  the  distinction  of  being  the  only   popular  horror  film  in  the  last  decade  that  was  both  written  and  directed  by   women,  and  both  women  have  a  history  of  creating  empowering  stories  for   teenage  girls.  Director  Karyn  Kusama  is  responsible  for  the  award-­‐winning  film   Girlfight  (2000),  a  drama  about  a  troubled  young  woman  who  transforms  her   unbridled  aggression  into  a  successful  boxing  career.  Writer  Diablo  Cody  received   critical  acclaim  for  Juno  (2007),  which  centers  on  a  teenage  girl  who  discovers  she   is  pregnant  and  decides  to  give  her  unborn  baby  up  for  adoption.  The  female   protagonists  in  these  two  films  are  confident,  independent,  sexually  aware,  and   intelligent,  standing  out  in  a  genre  inundated  with  characters  based  on  the  mean   girl,  the  popular  airhead,  or  the  sexually-­‐hopeless-­‐nerd-­‐in-­‐need-­‐of-­‐a-­‐makeover.   Immediately  after  completing  Juno,  Cody  resolved  to  create  a  horror  film  pastiche   of  the  films  from  the  1970s  and  1980s  that  challenged  the  demeaning   characteristics  of  young  females  in  the  genre.  Cody  explained  in  an  interview,  “In   terms  of  content,  obviously  Karyn  and  I  both  love  Carrie.  But  in  a  lot  of  ways,   rather  than  being  an  homage,  Jennifer's  Body  is  more  reactionary.  We  saw  

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something  we  didn’t  like  and  said,  ‘Let’s  not  do  that.’”  17  In  Jennifer’s  Body,  Cody   addresses  some  of  the  less  desirable  stereotypes  of  horror  film  leading  ladies,  but   the  movie  sustains  ideological  judgments  of  female  sexuality  and  violence  through   the  repetition  of  standard  horror  movie  codes  and  behaviors,  and  through  the  way   in  which  it  juxtaposes  the  two  morally  opposing  female  leads.     In  the  next  chapter,  I  analyze  in  depth  the  movie  Jennifer’s  Body  using  the   framework  established  in  Chapter  1  and  the  horror  tropes  illustrated  in  Chapter  2.     I  consider  the  following  questions:  How  do  the  textual  and  visual  elements  of  the   film  work  together  to  create  ideological  meaning  in  its  representation  of  gender?   Are  femininity  and  female  sexuality  demonized  in  this  film,  and  in  what  ways  are   they  coded  as  such?  Does  the  film  address  themes  relevant  to  adolescent  women?   And  finally,  how  do  the  characterizations  of  the  leading  ladies  defy  the  clichés  of   the  typical  horror  film  narrative,  and  how  do  they  perpetuate  them?  

                                                                                                                17  "MIDNITES  FOR  MANIACS:  Diablo  Cody  On  Jennifer's  Body."  Interview  by  Michael  Guillen.  Twitch:  IndieClick  Film   Network.  10  June  2012.  Web.  .  

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3.  EATING  BOYS  AND  TERRORIZING  GIRLS   Analysis  of  Jennifer’s  Body     “Hell  is  a  teenage  girl”     -­‐  Needy  Lesnicky,  Jennifer’s  Body     Jennifer’s  Body  centers  on  the  smart,  naïve,  and  nerdy  Anita  “Needy”   Lesnicky  (Amanda  Seyfried)  and  her  tumultuous  relationship  with  her  best  friend,   the  sexy  and  popular  Jennifer  Check  (Megan  Fox).  Jennifer  is  a  typical  high  school   bully  who  feeds  her  ego  by  manipulating  and  belittling  her  eager-­‐to-­‐please  friend.   After  indie  rock  band  Low  Shoulder  mistakes  Jennifer  for  a  virgin  and  uses  her  in  a   botched  ritual  sacrifice  performed  in  exchange  for  fame  and  success,  Jennifer   becomes  possessed  by  a  demon  and  develops  a  craving  for  eating  teenage  boys  and   an  appetite  for  terrorizing  Needy.  Needy  discovers  her  friend’s  propensity  for   consuming  her  male  classmates,  and  after  Jennifer  eats  Needy’s  boyfriend  Chip,   Needy  realizes  that  she  must  destroy  her  best  friend.  In  a  final  conflict,  Needy  kills   Jennifer,  but  not  before  absorbing  some  of  the  demon’s  powers.   Jennifer  is  the  eponymous  character,  but  not  the  protagonist  of  Jennifer’s   Body.  Needy  is  our  narrator  and  ultimately  the  heroine  of  the  film,  however,  she   was  not  featured  in  the  movie  trailers  or  promotional  posters.  The  film  was   marketed  as  a  vehicle  for  Hollywood  bombshell  Megan  Fox,  and  both  Cody  and  

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Kusama  confessed  that  the  movie  was  a  cinematic  Trojan  horse  meant  to  entice  15-­‐ year-­‐old  boys  into  the  audience  of  a  “feminist”  horror  film.  Kusama  explained  in  an   interview  with  The  New  York  Times,  “It  may  be  one  of  the  best  ways  for  a  young   male  audience  to  experience  a  female  story  without  feeling  like  they  have  been   limited  by  a  female  perspective.”  18  Jennifer’s  Body  broke  even  at  the  box  office   domestically,  and  Cody  admitted  that  the  film  initially  failed  to  reach  a  broad   audience  because  of  their  poor  marketing  strategy.  Despite  its  box  office  failure,   the  film  has  gained  considerable  attention  since  its  DVD  release  in  December  of   2009,  grossing  over  6.1  million  in  DVD  sales  alone.  19     “Good”  Girl  v.  “Mean”  Girl:  The  Binary  Behavior  of  Female  Adolescence   Jennifer’s  Body  begins  at  the  end,  with  Needy  in  a  prison  cell  as  she  narrates   her  experience  from  behind  bars.  The  camera  lingers  on  her  naked  body  as  she   changes  her  uniform,  revealing  scars  on  her  back.  The  scars  hint  at  the  violent   conflict  that  led  to  her  imprisonment.  She  sarcastically  describes  the  prison  as  “the   mental  Olympics,”  explaining  that  the  recreational  activities  that  the  imprisoned   women  are  forced  to  participate  in  keep  them  submissive.  As  Needy  narrates,  we   see  the  other  female  inmates  playing  badminton  and  tetherball;  both  games  played                                                                                                                   18  "Taking  Back  the  Knife:  Girls  Gone  Gory."  Interview  by  Michelle  Orange.  The  New  York  Times.  3  Sept.  2009.  Web.   .   19  "Jennifer's  Body."  The  Numbers.  Nash  Information  Services,  LLC.  Web.  12  Apr.  2012.  .  

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by  girls  in  high  school  gym  class  while  boys  play  aggressive  sports  like  football  and   hockey.  Needy  walks  through  a  packed  cafeteria,  and  it  becomes  evident  that  the   prison  is  analogous  to  a  typical  high  school.  Needy  describes  herself  as  a  “kicker”   and  demonstrates  her  violent  behavior  when  she  kicks  a  non-­‐threatening  orderly   across  the  cafeteria  for  giving  her  advice  on  healthy  nutrition.  They  lock  Needy  in   solitary  confinement  for  her  outburst  and  she  states,  “I  never  used  to  be  this   cracked.  I  used  to  be  normal.  Well,  as  normal  as  any  girl  under  the  influence  of   teenage  hormones.  But  after  the  killings  began  I  started  to  feel,  I  don’t  know.   Loose  around  the  edges  or  something.”   Needy’s  imprisonment  and  subsequent  rage  parallel  the  pressure   experienced  by  teenage  girls  in  high  school.  Filled  with  hormonal  frustration  and   no  means  for  venting  (not  even  in  gym  class),  they  contend  with  increasing   restrictions  on  their  behavior  and  their  bodies  as  they  transition  from  girlhood  to   adolescence.  In  Elline  Lipkin’s  Girls’  Studies,  she  examines  the  various  texts  written   on  the  history,  development,  and  treatment  of  girls  in  American  culture.  Lipkin   explains  that  as  girls  enter  adolescence  and  begin  to  feel  pressure  to  conform  to   gender  expectations,  they  lose  the  carefree  attitude  of  childhood.  She  writes,  “In   adopting  the  traits  of  traditional  femininity,  girls  realize  they  must  mute  certain   behaviors,  and  their  understanding  that  they  must  take  on  these  new  traits  often   leaves  girls  feeling  confused  as  they  realize  they  might  have  to  leave  parts  of  their  

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previous  identity  behind  as  they  adapt  to  new  roles.”  20  Needy  experiences  these   restraints  in  her  literal  imprisonment,  her  adherence  to  the  prototypical  “good   girl”  model  of  behavior,  and  in  the  limitations  of  the  childhood  relationships  that   she  has  outgrown.   In  their  first  on-­‐screen  interaction,  Jennifer  pressures  Needy  to  attend  a   rock  concert  at  a  local  dive  bar.  Needy  caves  to  Jennifer’s  nagging,  and  agrees  to   “dress  cute”  for  the  show.  The  scene  cuts  to  Needy  getting  ready  for  the  concert,   and  through  voice-­‐over  narration,  she  happily  describes  Jennifer’s  strict  dress  code,   explaining,  “Wearing  something  cute  meant  something  very  specific  in  Jennifer   speak.  It  meant  that  I  couldn’t  look  like  a  total  zero,  but  that  I  couldn’t  upstage  her   either.  I  could  expose  my  stomach,  but  never  my  cleavage.  Tits  were  her   trademark.”  Jennifer  has  a  tight  hold  on  Needy,  and  the  sequence  exhibits  a   common  dynamic  amongst  groups  of  teenage  girls.  Popular  girls  like  Jennifer  are   the  barometer  for  acceptable  female  adolescent  appearance  and  behavior  in  high   school  culture.  Psychologist  and  educator  Lyn  Mikel  Brown  writes  in  her  book   Girlfighting:   Girls  can  be  excruciatingly  tough  on  other  girls.  They  can  talk  behind  each   others’  backs,  tease  and  torture  one  another,  police  each  other’s  clothing   and  body  size  .  .  .  and  can  promote  a  strict  conformity  to  the  norms  and                                                                                                                   20      Elline  Lipkin,  Girls'  Studies  (Berkeley,  CA:  Seal,  2009),  23.    

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rules  of  idealized  femininity,  threaten  rejection  and  exclusion,  and  reinforce   gender  and  racial  stereotypes.  21   The  sequence  continues  with  Needy  in  her  bedroom,  trying  on  different  outfits  in   front  of  the  mirror  while  her  boyfriend  Chip  watches  with  reservation.    He  tells   her,  “Those  jeans  are  hella  low.  I  can  almost  see  your  front  butt.”  The  exchange   between  Chip  and  Needy  not  only  provides  another  example  of  the  constant   scrutiny  Needy  puts  up  with,  but  also  establishes  her  monogamous  and   heteronormative  relationship,  which  differs  from  Jennifer’s  active  pursuit  of   various  sexual  encounters.   The  film  codes  Jennifer  and  Needy’s  contrasting  personalities  through  their   physical  appearance.  The  first  time  we  see  pre-­‐jailbird  Needy,  she  appears  to  be  a   dork,  wearing  Harry  Potter  glasses  and  a  button  down  shirt  with  a  frumpy  granny   sweater  over  it  (both  of  which  are  two  sizes  too  big  for  her  figure).  At  one  point  in   the  film,  she  wears  a  t-­‐shirt  with  bunny  rabbits  on  it,  and  her  dress  for  the  school   dance  is  a  puffy  pink  nightmare  that  we  might  expect  to  see  on  a  1980s  Midge  doll.   Her  frizzy  blonde  hair  is  always  pulled  back  in  a  ponytail,  and  though  she  is  an   attractive  young  woman,  she  is  not  conventionally  sexy.  We  read  these  visual  cues   as  signs  of  her  infantilized  emotionality.  Her  appearance  also  situates  her  as  the   more  endearing  character,  making  it  easier  for  viewers  to  accept  her  as  the   protagonist  and  heroine.                                                                                                                   21  Lyn  Mikel  Brown,  Girlfighting:  Betrayal  and  Rejection  among  Girls  (New  York:  New  York  UP,  2005),  5.  

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Wearing  makeup  or  dressing  in  form  fitting  clothing  should  not  denote  that   a  girl  is  mean,  insecure,  vapid,  or  seeking  attention,  but  these  visual  codes  are   frequently  used  in  films  to  identify  the  sexually  promiscuous,  and  by  proxy,  “bad   girl”  character.  Jennifer  is  no  exception  to  this  trope.  She  dresses  in  revealing  and   fashionable  clothing,  her  physique,  hair,  and  makeup  are  flawless,  and  the  film   moves  in  slow  motion  to  emphasize  her  stunning  beauty  as  she  walks  down  the   school  hallway  to  meet  Needy  at  her  locker.  Jennifer’s  characterization  echoes  that   of  the  Femme  Fatale  described  by  Hilary  Neroni  as  having  a  “self-­‐centered  nature,   an  overt  sexuality,  and  an  ability  to  seduce  and  control  almost  any  man  who   crosses  her  path.  She  is  almost  always  glamorous  and  beautiful  and  wears  highly   stylized  clothes.”  22  The  actress  cast  to  play  Jennifer,  Megan  Fox,  is  notorious  for   being  one  of  the  most  gawked  at  female  celebrities  on  the  Internet.  In  2009,  the   year  Jennifer’s  Body  premiered,  Fox  was  number  four  on  Yahoo’s  most-­‐searched  for   terms  list.  23  Fox  was  cast  in  the  role  because  of  her  sex  appeal,  but  also  because   her  real-­‐life  popularity  parallels  that  of  the  character.  Needy  sees  Jennifer  as  the   epitome  of  style  and  sexual  confidence  just  as  the  actress  herself  represented  the   ideal  of  femininity  and  female  sexuality  in  American  culture  at  the  time  the  movie   was  made.  Needy’s  relationship  to  Jennifer  mirrors  the  relationship  adolescent                                                                                                                   22  Neroni,  22.   23  "Michael  Jackson,  Twilight,  WWE,  Megan  Fox  Top  Yahoo's  Most-­‐searched  Terms  on  Internet  in  2009."  New  York   Daily  News.  The  Associated  Press,  1  Dec.  2009.  Web.  .  

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girls  have  to  idealized  women  like  Megan.  I  will  explore  this  reflexive  dynamic   more  in  depth  later  in  this  chapter.   Jennifer  is  classified  as  a  dumb,  rich  kid,  while  Needy  is  depicted  as  the   savvy  working-­‐class  hero.  Needy,  much  like  Carol  Clover’s  Final  Girl,  is  sensible   and  intelligent.  When  a  fire  breaks  out  at  the  bar,  Needy  adeptly  chooses  to  escape   out  the  window  instead  of  the  front  door  where  she  would  likely  be  trampled.  She   instinctively  distrusts  Low  Shoulder,  while  Jennifer  is  easily  duped  by  the  band’s   charm.  Jennifer  plays  dumb  to  appear  more  attractive  to  men,  telling  the  lead   singer,  “You  play  your  instruments  super  good.”  Needy  also  repeatedly  corrects   Jennifer’s  vacuous  remarks,  such  as  “I’m  having  the  best  day  since,  like,  Jesus   invented  the  calendar.”  She  also  foolishly  tells  a  classmate  that  she’s  “not  into   boxing  movies”  when  he  invites  her  to  a  showing  of  The  Rocky  Horror  Picture  Show   (Jim  Sharman,  1975).     To  accentuate  their  emotional  dissimilarity,  Needy  has  an  extrasensory   perception  that  allows  her  to  see  and  feel  things  from  Jennifer’s  perspective,  but   Jennifer  does  not  exhibit  this  same  power.  In  the  midst  of  locking  lips  with  Chip   while  in  her  bedroom  before  the  concert,  Needy  stops  to  say  that  Jennifer  has   arrived  at  her  house  just  seconds  before  her  friend  makes  her  presence  known.     Chip  responds,  “That’s  fucking  weird.”  Needy’s  psychic  ability  is  a  convenient  plot   device  that  allows  the  character  to  sense  when  Jennifer  is  up  to  no  good,  but  also   demonstrates  that  Needy  is  sensitive  in  ways  that  Jennifer  is  not.  Furthermore,  

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Needy’s  nickname  is  a  nod  to  her  emotional  personality  and  over-­‐dependence   upon  Jennifer,  while  Jennifer’s  last  name,  Check,  is  a  synonym  for  control.     Jennifer’s  Body  presents  us  with  a  typical  good  girl  versus  bad  girl   dichotomy.  Needy  displays  personality  traits  indicative  of  the  acceptable  female   adolescent  (e.g.  empathetic,  accommodating,  and  modest)  while  Jennifer  exhibits   a  deviant  personality  (e.g.  insensitive,  self-­‐centered,  dominating,  and  overtly   sexual).  “The  line  between  good  girls  and  bad,  nice  and  mean,  popular  and   unpopular  is  not  a  line  girls  created,”  Brown  explains,  “but  one  they’ve  absorbed   from  the  wider  culture  in  which  they  live  and  one  they’re  expected  to  maintain  and   anticipate  wherever  they  go.”  24  The  characters  Jennifer  and  Needy  can  be  read  as   two  halves  of  a  whole  adolescent  teen,  since  even  so-­‐called  good  girls  occasionally   act  dumb  and  get  into  trouble.  Wood  discusses  this  idea  as  the  double  or  the   doppelganger,  “where  normality  and  monster  are  two  aspects  of  the  same  person.”   25

 Splitting  the  adolescent  teen  into  these  extremes  and  juxtaposing  their  

personalities  sends  an  unmistakable  ideological  message  about  female  violence   and  female  sexuality.  By  differentiating  the  monster,  Jennifer,  and  the  heroine,   Needy,  with  these  behavioral  codes,  the  film  upholds  the  good  girl  model  of   identification  as  superior  and  admirable,  further  demonstrated  by  the  two   character’s  disparate  sexual  prowess.                                                                                                                     24  Brown,  95.   25  Wood,  31.  

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   “Good”  Sex  v.  “Bad”  Sex:  The  Binary  Sexuality  of  Female  Adolescence   In  the  21st  century  horror  film,  the  heroine  is  finally  able  to  have  a  sex  life   without  repercussions,  albeit  safely  and  within  the  confines  of  a  heteronormative   and  monogamous  relationship.  The  filmmakers  subtly  hint  at  Needy  and  Chip’s   active  sex  life  leading  up  to  their  on-­‐screen  sex  scene.  Moments  before  Jennifer’s   arrival  interrupts  Chip  and  Needy’s  make  out  session,  Chip  reaches  down  and   begins  unbuckling  his  belt.  Needy  does  not  react  with  surprise,  signifying  that  the   two  have  been  sexually  intimate  beyond  smooching.  Just  before  a  date,  Chip  also   happily  informs  Needy,  “I  went  to  Super  Target  and  picked  up  more  condoms.”  But   despite  these  cues  to  Needy’s  active  sex  life,  she  is  still  coded  with  characteristics   of  the  archetypical  adolescent  virgin.   Catherine  Driscoll  argues,  “Girls  are  read  for  the  truth  of  their  sex  and  in   order  to  verify  the  integrity  of  various  patriarchal  structures.”  She  explains,   “Representations  of  girl  sexuality  are  inseparable  from  girl  sexuality  as  lived   experience  or  as  an  object  of  analysis.  Figures  of  virginity  epitomize  the  way  in   which  girl  sexuality  has  formed  images  claiming  to  represent  the  (as  yet)   unfinished  process  of  feminine  adolescence.”  26  The  notion  of  virginity  has  less  to   do  with  sexual  activity,  and  more  to  do  with  the  representation  of  sexuality.  While                                                                                                                   26  Catherine  Driscoll,  Girls:  Feminine  Adolescence  in  Popular  Culture  (New  York,  Columbia  University  Press,  2002),   144.  

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Jennifer  talks  explicitly  about  her  sexual  encounters  with  men,  Needy  never   initiates  sex  or  talks  about  it  openly.  Chip  reaches  for  his  own  belt  during  the   kissing  scene,  and  he  is  primarily  responsible  for  their  birth  control.  Needy’s   passive  sexuality,  lack  of  sexual  agenda,  modest  behavior  and  appearance  (all   relative  to  Jennifer),  code  her  as  virginal  despite  her  sexual  activities.  Virginal   codification  remains,  in  American  culture,  a  sign  of  purity,  and  thus,  “goodness.”   Furthermore,  the  way  in  which  the  characters’  sex  lives  are  intentionally   contrasted  sends  an  unmistakable  moralistic  message  about  “good”  and  “bad”   female  sexuality.   Jennifer  exhibits  her  impure  or  “bad”  sexuality  through  her  coded   appearance  as  described  earlier,  but  also  in  her  treatment  of  sex  before  and  after   her  demonic  possession.  The  first  example  of  her  deviant  sexuality  comes  when   she  and  Needy  arrive  at  the  sleazy  bar  where  the  band  is  scheduled  to  perform.   Jennifer  is  immediately  the  center  of  attention.  She  ignores  a  classmate  who  tells   her  she  looks  pretty,  stating,  “He  thinks  he’s  cute  enough  for  me,  and  that’s  why   he’s  in  retard  math.”  A  twenty-­‐something  looking  man  approaches  Jennifer  and   they  engage  in  antagonistic  banter.  Jennifer  forcefully  grabs  his  genitals,  and  he   responds,  “Don’t  do  that,  okay.  Not  here.”  We  learn  through  their  interaction  that   he  is  a  cadet  in  the  police  academy  and  that  the  two  of  them  have  engaged  in  a   sexual  relationship.  As  the  band  arrives  onstage,  Needy  shows  reservations  about   approaching  them  before  their  set.  Jennifer  replies,  “Don’t  be  so  J.V.,  Needy!  

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They’re  just  boys.  Morsels.  We  have  all  of  the  power.  Don’t  you  know  that?”   Jennifer  then  grabs  Needy’s  breasts.  “These.  These  things.  They’re  like  smart   bombs,  point  them  in  the  right  direction  and  shit  gets  real.”  Much  like  the  Femme   Fatale  character,  Jennifer  views  her  sexuality  as  a  tool,  which  she  uses  to   manipulate  others.  When  Needy  asks  Jennifer  how  she  plans  on  getting  alcohol   from  the  bar,  she  answers,  “I’ll  just  play  hello-­‐titty  with  the  bartender.”   Just  before  the  band  begins  to  play,  Needy  overhears  them  debating   whether  Jennifer  is  a  virgin  or  not.  She  comes  to  her  friend’s  defense  stating  that   Jennifer  is  a  virgin  and  that  it  “beats  sleeping  with  creeps  like  you.”  When  Jennifer   returns  from  scoring  a  drink,  Needy  informs  her  of  the  bands’  suspicious   conversation.  Jennifer  amusedly  replies,  “I’m  not  even  a  backdoor  virgin  anymore   thanks  to  Roman,”  a  reference  to  the  man  who  she  conversed  with  earlier.  As  the   band  begins  to  play,  Jennifer  runs  to  the  stage,  ignoring  Needy’s  warning.  Jennifer   locks  eyes  with  the  lead  singer  who  seemingly  puts  her  under  a  mystical  spell.   Suddenly,  a  fire  breaks  out  in  the  bar,  and  Needy  and  Jennifer  flee  out  of  the   bathroom  window.  Jennifer,  still  in  a  bewitched  haze,  leaves  Needy  behind  and   jumps  into  a  van  with  the  dubious  band.  During  a  flashback  sequence  later  in  the   film,  we  learn  that  the  band  took  Jennifer  out  into  a  field,  tied  her  up,  butchered   her,  and  left  her  for  dead  as  an  offering  to  Satan.  However,  because  Jennifer  was   not  actually  a  virgin,  she  survived  the  attack  and  woke  up  possessed  and  starving   for  human  flesh.  

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This  sequence  of  events  insinuates  that  Jennifer  was  vulnerable  to  the   band’s  malicious  intent  because  she  made  herself  more  available  sexually,  or  in   other  words,  she  was  “asking  for  it.”  In  fact,  the  sacrifice  scene  plays  out  like  a  rape,   with  Jennifer  bound  and  gagged  as  the  lead  singer  repeatedly  penetrates  her  with  a   Bowie  knife.  In  Leora  Tanenbaum’s  book,  Slut!  Growing  Up  Female  with  a  Bad   Reputation,  she  states,  “Unlike  the  victims  of  other  crimes,  girls  and  women  who   have  been  raped  are  automatically  assumed  to  have  initiated  the  act  in  some  way:   wearing  tight  clothes,  entering  a  date’s  apartment,  having  a  drink,  smoking   marijuana.  Simply  being  physically  attractive  can  be  used  against  them.”  27  Jennifer   was  dressed  provocatively,  drinking  alcohol,  and  approached  the  band  assertively.   When  Jennifer  recounts  the  incident  to  Needy,  she  explains  that  she  began  to   sense  that  something  was  wrong  when  she  overheard  one  of  the  band  members   questioning  if  she  was  actually  a  virgin.  Believing  that  a  lack  of  sexual  experience   might  save  her  from  the  pending  danger,  Jennifer  worriedly  assures  the  boys  that   she  is  a  virgin,  stating,  “Yes!  Yes,  I’m  a  virgin.  I’ve  never  even  done  sex.  I  don’t   know  how.  So  you  guys  should  find  somebody  who  does.”  By  adopting  the   convention  that  sexuality  and  the  supernatural  are  somehow  tied,  a  myth  imbued   with  scorn  for  the  overtly  sexual  female,  the  filmmakers  uphold  a  harmful   puritanical  reading  of  female  sexuality.  The  ideological  message,  that  even  Jennifer  

                                                                                                                27  Leora  Tanenbaum,  Slut!  Growing  Up  Female  with  a  Bad  Reputation  (New  York,  New  York,  Perennial,  2000),  117.  

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seems  to  comply  with,  is  that  her  sexuality  is  not  “safe,”  and  she  ultimately  pays  for   her  behavior  with  her  soul.   To  further  demonstrate  the  differences  between  Jennifer  and  Needy’s   sexuality,  the  filmmakers  juxtapose  a  sexual  interaction  between  Needy  and  Chip,   and  Jennifer  and  one  of  her  victims.  A  romantic  melody  plays  in  the  background  as   Chip  and  Needy  prepare  to  have  sex.  Chip’s  bedroom  is  tidy,  brightly  lit,  colorful,   and  homey.  His  bedding  is  white,  clean,  and  made-­‐up  perfectly.  Needy  expresses   how  nice  the  ambiance  is  after  Chip  turns  on  a  glowing  lavender  air  freshener.   There  is  no  apprehension  as  they  touch  lovingly  and  begin  to  kiss  and  undress   each  other.  Chip  breaks  out  a  condom  labeled  Slippery  Swirl,  explaining  that  it  is   “supposed  to  make  it  feel  good  for  the  girl,”  to  which  Needy  replies,  “cool.”  Chip   puts  on  the  condom  as  Needy  watches  in  childish  excitement,  eagerly  asking  him   to  “put  it  in.”  Chip  climbs  on  top  of  Needy  and  they  have  intercourse  in  the   missionary  position  with  Chip’s  feet  hanging  out  from  under  the  bed  sheet.  Their   coitus  is  interrupted  when  Needy  begins  to  have  strange,  demonic  visions;  she  sees   blood  drip  from  the  ceiling  tiles  above  her,  and  the  ghost  of  one  of  Jennifer’s   causalities  sitting  on  a  chair  across  the  room.  Needy’s  horrified  reactions  are   intercut  with  shots  of  Jennifer  as  she  tears  apart  their  classmate  across  town.   While  Needy  and  Chip  meet  up  for  their  date,  Jennifer  meets  up  with  Colin,   a  goth  boy  from  their  school.  He  arrives  at  the  location  Jennifer  chose  for  their   rendezvous,  and  is  surprised  to  pull  up  to  a  dilapidated  house  in  an  abandoned  

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neighborhood.  He  hesitantly  breaks  in  through  a  boarded-­‐up  window  and  eerie   sound  effects  play  in  the  background  as  he  climbs  creaking  stairs  and  calls  out  for   Jennifer.  The  house  contrasts  Chip’s  cozy  bedroom;  there  is  no  furniture,  it  is  dirty   and  dark,  and  there  are  rats  running  across  the  floor.  Colin,  clearly  apprehensive,   finds  Jennifer  waiting  for  him  on  the  top  floor  with  candles  and  sexy  music  setting   the  mood  for  her  seduction.  With  little  introduction,  Jennifer  begins  to  undress   herself.  They  kiss,  and  Jennifer  unzips  his  pants  and  drops  them  to  the  floor.  Colin   notices  Jennifer’s  eyes  change  color  and  dilate  like  a  snake,  and  as  he  backs  away   from  her,  she  breaks  his  hand  and  says,  “I  need  you  frightened.  I  need  you   hopeless.”  In  the  shadows  cast  on  the  wall,  we  see  Jennifer  biting  into  her  date  and   tearing  at  his  stomach.  She  transforms  into  a  snarling  demon  with  giant  teeth   while  retaining  her  own  body.  The  film  cuts  away  to  Needy  as  she  reacts  to  the   gruesome  images  she  witnesses  in  her  mind,  and  then  back  to  Jennifer  crouching   over  Colin’s  butchered  remains  as  she  scoops  up  his  blood  and  drinks  it  from  her   cupped  hands.   The  sexually  aggressive  female  monster,  one  of  the  oldest  tropes  of  women’s   sexuality,  is  exemplified  in  medieval  legend  in  the  form  of  the  Succubus.  As  we  see   later  in  the  film,  Needy  researches  the  occult  in  order  to  determine  why  Jennifer  is   eating  boys  and  comes  across  a  text  that  presents  the  concept  of  “demonic   transference.”  The  text  suggests  that  if  a  sacrifice  offered  to  Satan  is  “impure”  that   the  sacrifice  is  susceptible  to  demonic  possession.  In  her  search,  she  also  comes  

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across  information  on  the  Succubus,  a  female  creature  that  seduces  men  in  their   sleep  in  order  to  take  their  souls.  Needy  learns  from  her  research  that  the  only  way   to  release  the  demon  is  to  stab  the  possessed  “beast”  in  the  heart.  Psychologist   Sharon  Lamb  describes  our  tendency  to  demonize  aggressively  sexual  women   through  these  imagined  characters,  “When  a  girl  is  sexual,  men  become  afraid.   Societies  become  afraid.  It’s  as  if  the  girl  is  usurping  some  essential  form  of  male   power.  The  sexual  woman  is  seen  as  sucking  out  the  vitality  of  the  man,  his   prowess,  his  dignity.  That’s  why  history  has  called  sexual  women  temptresses  and   witches.”  28  Once  Jennifer  gains  the  powers  of  the  demon,  she  demonstrates   increased  physical  prowess  as  well  as  the  ability  to  fly  and  move  around  stealthily.   But  despite  her  newly  found  strength  and  agility,  Jennifer  still  relies  on  her  sexual   appeal  to  lure  her  victims.     Demonic  Transference,  Performing  Gender,  or  Just  PMS?   In  popular  U.S.  horror  films  featuring  demonic  possession,  the  possessed   female  is  helplessly  entrapped  by  the  demon  taking  over  her  body,  and  has  no   control  over  the  violence  that  she  performs.  Jennifer’s  Body  is  different  from  other   possession  films  in  that  Jennifer  retains  her  own  personality  and  free  will.  She  does   not  physically  embody  the  demon,  but  gains  its  strength  and  appetite  for  human   flesh.  Because  of  this,  neither  Needy  nor  the  film  viewer  can  be  sure  which  acts  of                                                                                                                   28  Sharon  Lamb,  The  Secret  Lives  of  Girls  (New  York,  The  Free  Press,  2001),  108.  

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violence  Jennifer  performs  to  curb  the  cravings  of  the  demon  possessing  her,  or   out  of  her  own  cruel  predisposition.  In  keeping  with  the  tradition  of  possession   films,  however,  Jennifer  develops  masculine  characteristics  once  she  is  possessed.   In  Recreational  Terror:  Women  and  the  Pleasure  of  Horror  Film  Viewing,  Isabel   Christina  Pinedo  explains  that  the  masulinization  of  female  characters  in  horror   films,  “signifies  the  horror  genre’s  inscription  within  a  male-­‐dominated  discourse   where  power  is  coded  as  masculine,  even  when  embodied  in  biological  females.”  29     The  codification  of  Jennifer  with  masculine  behavior  is  not  exclusive  to  her   violence.  She  exhibits  these  traits  in  her  particular  use  of  language.  Just  before   Jennifer  agrees  to  go  on  a  date  with  Colin,  she  tells  Needy,  “He’s  into  maggot  rock,   he  wears  nail  polish;  my  dick  is  bigger  than  his.”  Colin  is  aligned  with  the  typical   horror  film  female  character  who  walks  into  dark  alleys  or  enters  spooky  houses   alone  at  night.  This  role  reversal  is  most  apparent  in  Jennifer’s  sexual  encounter   with  Colin.  Comparable  to  Chip  turning  on  the  air  freshener  to  comfort  Needy,   Jennifer  sets  up  candles  to  create  ambiance  for  Colin’s  seduction.  Jennifer’s   performance  in  this  scene  also  parallels  the  male  sexual  aggressor  in  the  R&B  song   that  plays  in  the  background.  The  lyrics  recount  a  sexual  liaison  between  the  male   singer  and  a  girl  he  zeroes  in  on  at  a  club.  When  Jennifer  pounces  on  Colin,  he  asks   her,  “Do  you  even  know  my  last  name?”  Jennifer  changes  the  subject  by  lying  to                                                                                                                   29  Isabel  Christine  Pinedo,  Recreational  Terror:  Women  and  the  Pleasures  of  Horror  Film  Viewing  (State  University  of   New  York,  1997)  81-­‐82.  

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Colin  and  suggesting  that  she  has  been  sending  him  signals  all  school  year.  She   tells  him  “You  give  me  such  a  wetty,”  adapting  a  typical  male  expression  of  arousal   to  fit  her  own  anatomy.   Though  the  intent  of  this  role  reversal  in  Jennifer’s  Body  is  to  appropriate   and  invert  the  gender  bias  in  the  popular  American  horror  genre,  it  is  paradoxical   to  plug  female  characters  into  roles  once  written  for  men  and  then  label  them   empowered.  In  Female  Chauvinist  Pig:  Women  and  the  Rise  of  Raunch  Culture,   journalist  Ariel  Levy  describes  the  problem  with  this  approach  to  creating  gender   equality,  “Even  if  you  are  a  woman  who  achieves  the  ultimate  and  becomes  ‘like  a   man,’  you  will  still  always  be  like  a  woman.  And  as  long  as  womanhood  is  thought   of  as  something  to  escape  from,  something  less  than  manhood,  you  will  be  thought   less  of,  too.”  30  She  argues  that  “authentic”  empowerment  cannot  come  from   imitation  of  pre-­‐set  cultural  norms,  but  from  individual  exploration.  Jennifer  does   retain  some  female  qualities,  demonstrating  that  she  is  not  merely  a  facsimile  of   male  antagonists,  but  those  qualities  prove  to  be  an  altogether  different   complication.   Aviva  Briefel  notes  in  her  article  “Monster  Pains:  Masochism,  Menstruation,   and  Identification  in  the  Horror  Film,”  “Violence  in  the  horror  film  is  often   initiated  by  the  female  monster  getting  her  period,  an  event  that  is  either  

                                                                                                                30    Ariel  Levy,  Female  Chauvinist  Pigs:  Women  and  the  Rise  of  Raunch  Culture  (New  York:  Free  Press,  2005),  112.  

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suggested  or  overtly  displayed.”  31  Jennifer’s  need  for  eating  human  flesh  seemingly   coincides  with  a  typical  menstrual  cycle.  Thirty  days  after  her  first  kill,  Jennifer   begins  to  show  signs  of  deterioration;  she  is  pale,  fatigued,  and  irritable,  coding  her   as  having  her  period.  She  tells  Needy,  “My  skin  is  breaking  out,  and  my  hair  is  dull   and  lifeless.  God,  it’s  like  I’m  one  of  the  normal  girls.”  Needy  asks  if  she’s  PMSing,   and  Jennifer  replies,  “PMS  isn’t  real,  Needy.  It  was  invented  by  the  boy-­‐run  media   to  make  us  seem  crazy,”  denying  a  biological  inevitable  that  makes  her  innately   female.  Associating  Jennifer’s  menstrual  cycle  with  her  devouring  of  men   insinuates  that  every  thirty  days  women  turn  into  crazy,  man-­‐eating  monsters.   Slut  shaming,  or  vilifying  women  who  enjoy  sex  with  more  than  one   partner,  is  a  central  theme  in  Jennifer’s  Body.  Because  Jennifer’s  acts  of   monstrousness  are  linked  to  her  sexuality  and  we  are  meant  to  understand  that   Jennifer  needs  to  commit  these  murderous  acts  in  order  to  maintain  her  health,  as   illustrated  in  her  encounter  with  Colin  and  her  declining  health  30  days  after,  the   film  text  proposes  that  Jennifer’s  power  and  confidence  are  derived  from  her   numerous  sexual  encounters.  When  Jennifer  reveals  to  Needy  that  she  woke  up   after  her  attack  starving  for  human  souls,  she  describes  finding  her  first  male   victim  in  a  wandering  foreign  exchange  student  who  also  escaped  into  the  woods   after  the  fire.  She  explains,  “Ever  since  then  I’ve  known  what  I  have  to  do  to  be                                                                                                                   31  Aviva  Briefel,  “Monster  Pains:  Masochism,  Menstruation,  and  Identification  in  the  Horror  Film.”  Film  Quarterly,   2005.  Vol.  58,  p21.  JSTOR.  Web.  11  April.  2012.  

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strong.  And  when  I’m  full,  like  am  right  now,  I’m,  like,  unkillable.”  A  long-­‐standing   misconception  of  female  sexuality  is  that  sexually  curious  young  girls  are  somehow   lacking  in  confidence,  and  seek  numerous  sexual  encounters  to  mask  their  low   self-­‐esteem.  While  young  men  in  our  culture  are  encouraged  to  experiment  with   various  sexual  partners,  young  women  are  demonized  for  being  sexually  curious.   Emily  White  sheds  light  on  the  impulse  behind  this  tendency  in  her  study  on   adolescent  female  sexuality:   Slut  rumors  hinge  on  the  fear  of  female  sexuality  and  its  mystery;  they   evoke  fear  of  the  woman  with  a  hole  at  the  center  of  her  body  that  is   infinite,  the  black  hole  of  feminine  space  into  which  a  man  could  disappear.   By  turning  one  girl  into  the  slut  among  them,  the  kids  try  to  reassure   themselves  that  they  are  on  the  right  side  of  fate:  They  are  good  while  she  is   evil.  They  are  safe  while  she  is  unsafe.  They  have  the  right  kind  of  desire   while  she  is  the  wrong  kind.  32   Not  to  be  overlooked  is  Jennifer’s  specific  targeting  of  straight  young  men   who  attend  her  high  school.  At  the  end  of  the  film  when  Jennifer  threatens  to  eat   Needy,  we  learn  that  the  demon  inside  of  her  does  not  have  a  particular  taste  for   either  male  or  female  flesh.  Needy  asks  her  friend,  “I  thought  you  only  ate  boys,”  to   which  Jennifer  responds,  “I  go  both  ways.”  The  line  hints  at  Jennifer’s  unprejudiced   sexuality,  but  also  raises  questions  about  why  she  chooses  to  only  eat  teenage  boys.                                                                                                                   32  Emily  White,  Fast  Girls:  Teenage  Tribes  and  the  Myth  of  the  Slut,  (Scribner,  New  York,  2002),  59.  

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Jennifer’s  victims  were  never  a  threat  to  her.  In  fact,  all  of  the  boys  she  targets  are   docile  and  defenseless.  Jennifer  never  considers  hunting  down  the  sadistic  boys  in   Low  Shoulder  who  violated  her,  choosing  instead  to  target  the  same  straight,   young  men  that  the  filmmakers  intended  to  lure  into  the  audience  with  Megan   Fox’s  sex  appeal.     Cody  and  Kusama  disengage  the  male  viewers  by  attempting  to  subvert   their  “gaze”,  forcing  them  to  watch  themselves  be  violated  and  vulnerable  in  a   horror  movie  for  a  change.  The  concept  of  the  male  gaze  was  made  popular  in   Laura  Mulvey’s  essay,  “Visual  Pleasure  and  Narrative  Cinema.”  Mulvey  suggests   that,  “In  a  world  ordered  by  sexual  imbalance,  pleasure  in  looking  is  split  between   active/male  and  passive/female.  The  determining  male  gaze  projects  its  phantasy   on  to  the  female  figure  which  is  styled  accordingly.”  33    In  their  attempt  to   challenge  the  male  gaze,  the  filmmaker’s  employ  the  same  problematic  projections   of  the  female  figure  that  has  debased  female  characters  in  the  genre  for  decades.   Jennifer’s  actual  body  is  de-­‐humanized  in  its  use  as  the  object  of  the  film’s  allure.   Even  as  the  monster,  Jennifer  is  sexualized.  When  Jennifer  feeds  on  her  victims,   she  only  transforms  from  the  neck  up.  Her  face  becomes  the  site  of  repulsion,   while  body  remains  the  site  of  feminine  appeal.                                                                                                                     33  Laura  Mulvey.  "Visual  Pleasure  and  Narrative  Cinema."  Screen  16.3  (1975),  19.    

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Megan’s  Body:  Homoeroticism  and  Female  Identification   After  the  opening  scenes  of  Jennifer’s  Body  that  introduce  Needy  while  she   is  in  prison,  the  film  cuts  to  a  flashback  of  Needy  watching  Jennifer  cheer  at  a  pep   rally.  Needy  explains  that  people  have  a  hard  time  believing  a  dork  like  her  and  a   popular   girl   like   Jennifer   would   be   friends,   but   that   “sandbox   love   never   dies.”   A   classmate   behind   Needy   taps   her   on   her   shoulder   and   accuses   her   of   having   a   crush  on  Jennifer  as  the  singer  of  the  background  song  proclaims,  “You  are  the  girl   I’ve  been  dreaming  of  ever  since  I  was  a  little  girl.”   34  Diablo  Cody  describes  how   friendships  with  other  girls  tend  to  be  more  intimate  and  personal  than  any  other   relationship  in  a  teenage  girl’s  life:   I  know  when  I  was  a  teenaged  girl,  the  friendships  that  I  had  with  other   girls  were  almost  romantic,  they  were  so  intense.  I  wanted  to  sleep  at  my   friend’s  house  every  night,  I  wanted  to  wear  her  clothes,  we  would  talk  on   the  phone  until  our  ears  ached.  I  wanted  to  capture  that  heightened  feeling   you  get  as  an  adolescent  that  you  don’t  really  feel  as  a  grownup.  You  like   your  friends  when  you’re  a  grownup  but  you  don’t  need  to  sleep  in  the  same   bed  with  them  and  talk  to  them  on  the  phone  until  5  A.M.  every  night.  35  

                                                                                                                34  Black  Kids.  I'm  Not  Gonna  Teach  Your  Boyfriend  How  To  Dance  With  You.  Bernard  Butler,  2008.   35  "Exclusive  Q&A:  Diablo  Cody  Talks  Megan  Fox,  Therapy,  and  Doing  “The  View”  With  Courtney  Love."  Interview   by  Jessica  Wakeman.  The  Frisky.  BUZZMEDIA,  8  Sept.  2009.  Web.  .  

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The  bond  that  teenage  girls  have  with  their  friends  has  often  been  a  topic  of   exploration  for  writers  and  filmmakers,  as  it  is  not  only  unique  in  its  strength,  but   the  intimacy  of  these  relationships  provides  fodder  for  salacious  storytelling.  The   relationship  between  Needy  and  Jennifer  explores  the  particular  bond  that  girls   have  with  their  friends  in  adolescence,  but  the  intimacy  of  their  relationship  also   points  to  the  characters’  emergent  bisexuality.   Needy  hurriedly  leaves  Chip’s  place  after  her  vision  of  Jennifer  eating  Colin,   and  drives  to  the  safety  of  her  own  home.  On  the  way,  she  encounters  a  bloody   and  maniacal  Jennifer  walking  alone  in  the  middle  of  the  road.  Jennifer  jumps  onto   Needy’s  car,  breaks  her  windshield,  and  then  takes  off  into  the  dark.  Once  Needy   makes  it  home,  she  runs  in  the  door  yelling  for  her  “Mommy,”  who  we  know  from   a  prior  scene  is  working  a  night  shift.  Needy  cries  herself  asleep  on  her  couch  and   dreams  about  her  demonic  friend.  She  awakens  to  the  empty  house,  wondering  if   the  horrid  events  were  merely  a  nightmare.  Clearly  less  shaken  than  before  falling   asleep,  she  runs  up  the  stairs  to  her  bedroom  and  collapses  on  her  bed.  There,  she   finds  Jennifer  waiting  for  her  in  the  dark.  Startled,  Needy  screams  and  demands   that  Jennifer  leave  her  house,  to  which  Jennifer  replies,  “But  we  always  used  to   share  your  bed  at  slumber  parties,”  and  then  seductively  removes  Needy’s  glasses   and  strokes  her  hair.  Jennifer  leans  in  to  kiss  Needy,  and  Needy  timidly  accepts  her   advance.  The  two  engage  in  a  long,  passionate  kiss  before  Needy  comes  to  her   senses  and  shouts,  “What  the  fuck  is  happening?”  Needy  again  asks  her  to  leave,  

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but  before  taking  off,  Jennifer  pleads,  “Come  on  Needy!  Let  me  stay  the  night.  We   can  play  boyfriend  girlfriend  like  we  used  to.”   Critics  have  complained  that  Needy  and  Jennifer’s  kiss  was  a  marketing  ploy   to  get  straight  men  into  the  movie  theater,  which  is  a  fair  assumption  given  the   filmmakers  admitted  agenda  and  the  fact  that  the  kiss  was  featured  in  the  majority   of  the  promotional  trailers  for  the  film.  Amanda  Seyfried  has  spoken  out  about  the   kissing  scene  in  interviews,  saying,  “We  knew  that  it  was  going  to  play  a  really  big   role  in  publicizing  the  movie.  We  kind  of  rolled  our  eyes  at  the  idea  of  having  to   make  out."  36  Given  the  nature  of  the  girls’  relationship,  however,  the  scene  has  a   purpose  beyond  the  obvious  sensationalism.  In  their  study  Research  Perspective  on   Bisexual  Women’s  Friendships,  Elizabeth  M.  Morgan  and  Elisabeth  Morgan   Thompson  write,  ”Exploring  and  constructing  one’s  sexual  identity  is  a   fundamental  developmental  task  throughout  adolescence  and  young  adulthood   that  informs  later  management  of  physical  and  emotional  intimacy  in  relationships   with  others.”  37  Engaging  in  sexual  acts  with  their  friends  gives  young  girls  the   opportunity  to  explore  their  sexual  orientation.  For  Jennifer,  their  sexual   encounter  is  no  different  than  her  relationship  with  men,  as  she  uses  her  sexuality  

                                                                                                                36  Jen  Sabella,“Amanda  Seyfreid  Rolls  Her  Eyes  about  Having  to  Kiss  Megan  Fox,”  AfterEllen,  Aug.  18,  2009,   http://www.afterellen.com/blog/jensabella/amanda-­‐seyfried-­‐rolls-­‐her-­‐eyes-­‐about-­‐kissing-­‐megan-­‐fox.   37  Elizabeth  M.  Morgan  &  Elisabeth  Morgan  Thompson,  “Research  Perspectives  on  Bisexual  Women’s  Friendships,”   Journal  of  Bisexuality,  Vol.  6,  Issue  3,  (2006):  9.  

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to  manipulate  her  friend.  Needy,  on  the  other  hand,  has  no  apparent  agenda,  other   than  her  own  sexual  curiosity.   In  addition  to  the  sexual  tension  present  in  this  female  friendship,  there  is  a   reflexive  relationship  between  Needy’s  idolization  of  the  character  Jennifer  and  the   actress  Megan  Fox’s  real-­‐life  popularity.  In  her  article  “Fashion  and  the   Homospectoral  Look,”  Diana  Fuss  argues,  “The  entire  fashion  industry  operates  as   one  of  the  few  institutionalized  spaces  where  women  can  look  at  each  other  with   cultural  impunity.  It  provides  a  socially  sanctioned  structure  in  which  women  are   encouraged  to  consume,  in  voyeuristic  if  not  vampiristic  fashion,  the  images  of   other  women.”  38  Just  as  young  girls  fanatically  consume  images  of  pop  stars  and   celebutantes,  Needy’s  preoccupation  with  her  best  friend  verges  on  obsessive.   Media  and  product  marketers  inundate  our  visual  landscape  with  images  of  these   “ideal  women.”  Megan  Fox,  not  so  coincidentally,  is  one  of  those  perfectly   airbrushed  women  in  magazines  and  advertisements.  A  teenage  girl’s  over-­‐ consumption  of  these  popular  females  can  lead  to  poor  self-­‐image,  as  they   compare  themselves  to  an  unachievable  convention  of  beauty.  Even  Jennifer  self-­‐ destructs  in  her  effort  to  maintain  her  own  attractiveness.  Before  their  school   dance,  Jennifer  sits  in  front  of  a  mirror  desperately  trying  to  cover  up  her  pale,   sickly  skin  with  makeup.  She  cries  and  violently  smears  makeup  on  her  face  as  we   see  a  photo  in  the  background  of  Jennifer  before  she  became  possessed,  looking                                                                                                                   38  Diana  Fuss,  “Fashion  and  the  Homospectorial  Look,”  Critical  Inquiry  Vol.  18  No.  4  (1992),  713.  

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like  a  picture-­‐perfect  model  in  a  magazine.  Briefel  states,  “When  the  female   monster  engages  in  masochistic  acts,  she  does  so  either  by  coercion  from  an   outside  force  or  as  a  way  of  terminating  her  monstrosity.”  39  Jennifer’s  perception   of  her  “monstrosity”  is  her  failing  beauty,  deteriorating  from  the  demon  eating   away  at  her  soul.  Not  only  is  her  ugly  physical  appearance  making  her  feel  like  she   will  no  longer  be  attractive  to  boys,  but  she  recognized  that  Needy  does  not  idolize   her  as  she  used  to.     Crossing  Out  Jennifer:  Coming  of  Age  through  Autonomy   Much  like  the  criticisms  of  the  rape  revenge  and  slasher  films,  Needy  does   not  become  fully  empowered  until  the  last  fifteen  minutes  of  Jennifer’s  Body.  In  a   pivotal  scene  that  takes  place  at  the  culmination  of  teenage  angst,  a  school  dance,   Needy  finally  comes  to  blows  with  Jennifer.  While  waiting  for  Jennifer  or  Chip  to   show  up  at  the  dance,  Needy  senses  that  the  two  are  together.  Knowing  that   Jennifer  is  at  the  “time  of  the  month”  when  she  needs  to  feed,  Needy  runs  to  her   boyfriend’s  aid.  She  finds  Jennifer  gnawing  at  a  half-­‐dead  Chip  in  the  school’s   abandoned  indoor  pool.  The  scene  marks  the  first  time  that  Needy  sees  Jennifer  in   her  demonic  form.  Witnessing  Jennifer’s  monstrous  behavior  in  person  confirms   Needy’s  suspicions,  and  this  crucial  revelation  gives  her  the  courage  she  needs  to   finally  confront  her  friend.  Needy  hurls  herself  into  the  pool  and  pulls  Jennifer  off                                                                                                                   39  Briefel,  21.  

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Chip.  During  their  scuffle,  Needy  manages  to  push  Jennifer  under  the  water  long   enough  to  help  Chip  out  of  the  pool.  When  Jennifer  bursts  out  of  the  water  and   levitates  above  them,  Needy  taunts  her  by  telling  Chip,  “She’s  just  hovering.  It’s   not  that  impressive,”  igniting  an  argument  between  the  two  friends.  Jennifer   threatens  to  eat  Needy’s  soul  just  as  Chip  musters  up  enough  strength  to  stab   Jennifer  through  her  stomach  with  a  pool  skimmer.  Jennifer  pulls  the  metal  rod   from  her  abdomen,  and  escapes  out  of  a  window  while  Needy  stays  with  Chip  as  he   dies  on  the  floor  of  the  pool  hall.   Jennifer’s  Body  comes  full  circle  when  the  pool  scene  cuts  to  the  Check   residence  where  we  first  saw  Jennifer  in  the  establishing  shots  of  the  film.  Jennifer   lies  on  her  bed  looking  utterly  bored  and  exhausted  just  as  Needy  crashes  through   the  window  with  a  box  cutter  in  her  hand,  ready  to  eliminate  her  evil  friend  once   and  for  all.  Needy  throws  Jennifer  down  onto  the  bed  and  strangles  her  from  above   as  she  yells,  “Best  friends  forever,  huh?  You  killed  my  fucking  boyfriend  you   goddamn  monster!  You  dumb  bitch!”  seemingly  referring  to  both  the  demon  and   her  friend,  unsure  of  which  monster  was  responsible  for  Chip’s  death.  Jennifer   bites  Needy  on  her  neck  as  they  wrestle  on  her  bed.  Needy  takes  her  blade  and   slashes  an  X  in  Jennifer’s  exposed  stomach,  declaring,  “Cross  out  Jennifer!”  the   same  remark  Jennifer  used  to  belittle  Needy  when  she  initially  refused  to  go  the   concert.  Jennifer  looks  down  at  her  mutilated  abdomen,  horrified  by  her  no  longer   flawless  body.  She  lifts  the  both  of  them  up  above  the  bed  and  the  two  girls  wrestle  

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mid-­‐air.  Needy  notices  Jennifer’s  “BFF”  or  best-­‐friends  forever  necklace  to  which   she  has  the  matching  charm,  and  she  rips  it  from  Jennifer’s  neck.  As  if  Needy  has   seized  the  last  source  of  Jennifer’s  strength,  Jennifer  gives  up,  and  the  two  fall  to   the  bed.  Needy  quickly  stabs  the  blade  into  Jennifer’s  heart,  and  as  Jennifer  drifts   away,  the  color  returns  to  her  face,  denoting  that  the  evil  has  left  her  body.  For  a   moment,  Needy  looks  at  her  friend  unsure  of  what  she  has  done,  but  is  interrupted   by  Jennifer’s  mom  entering  the  room  to  discover  the  bloody  mess.   Keeping  with  Hilary  Neroni’s  summation  that  female  characters  in  horror   films  only  act  out  violently  when  pushed  to  their  absolute  limit,  Needy  confronts   Jennifer  only  after  she  kills  Chip.  But  unlike  slasher  films  that  typically  end  once   The  Final  Girl  has  defeated  her  adversary,  Jennifer’s  Body  continues  after  the  final   conflict  to  explore  Needy’s  transformation.  After  she  kills  Jennifer,  Needy  collapses   onto  her  back,  and  in  voice-­‐over  she  says,  “I  don’t  know  who  Needy  Lesnicky  is   anymore.”  The  film  then  cuts  back  to  her  in  the  prison  after  placed  in  solitary   confinement.  She  explains  that  she  has  changed  since  the  encounter  with  Jennifer,   describing  herself  as  a  “very  bad,  very  damaged  person.”  She  also  reveals  the   supernatural  powers  she  absorbed  from  Jennifer’s  bite,  and  as  the  camera  zooms   out,  we  see  Needy  hovering  above  the  floor.  She  then  uses  her  powers  to  break   through  the  bars  on  the  prison  window,  and  escapes  into  the  night  donning  an   orange  jumpsuit  and  a  pair  of  bunny  slippers.  

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A  teenager’s  identity  resides  in  their  childhood  relationships  with  their   parents,  friends,  and  significant  others,  and  most  young  women  go  through  a  stage   where  they  eradicate  their  relationships  of  proximity,  freeing  themselves  to   develop  relationships  based  on  their  actual  interests  and  burgeoning  personalities.   Needy’s  mother  is  rarely  present,  her  father  is  completely  absent,  her  boyfriend  is   dead,  and  now  she  has  murdered  her  best  friend.  Needy  is  liberated  from  her   adolescent  identity  and  is  free  to  reinvent  herself.  The  film  text  suggests  that  a   young  female  must  act  out  aggressively  against  a  culture  that  has  limited  her   behavior  to  the  submissive  “good  girl,”  and  marred  her  self-­‐image  with  the  concept   of  conventional  beauty.  Sharon  Lamb  argues,  “Until  we  accept  the  darker  side  of   women  and  girls,  including  our  own  aggression,  our  anger,  and  our  urge  to   compete  as  well  as  dominate,  we  will  perpetuate  the  myth  of  the  good  girl  and  the   good  woman  that  has  so  oppressed  women  for  ages.”  40     Needy’s  newly  found  freedom  and  penchant  for  reckless  behavior  is   exemplified  by  her  actions  immediately  after  she  escapes  from  the  prison.  First  and   foremost,  Needy  does  something  that  is  unthinkable  for  any  woman  in  real  life,  let   alone  in  the  traditional  horror  narrative;  she  hitches  a  ride  from  a  strange  man.   The  act  of  hitchhiking  is  a  trope  of  storytelling  that  not  only  marks  the  beginning   of  an  adventure,  but  also  epitomizes  fearlessness  and  reckless  abandon.  Needy  has   the  stranger  take  her  to  the  town  where  Low  Shoulder  is  performing,  and  the  film                                                                                                                   40  Lamb,  179.  

 

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ends  after  Needy  and  her  driver  take  off  down  the  road.  The  credits  are  cut  with   home  videos  and  photos  of  Low  Shoulder  partaking  in  debauchery  in  their  hotel   room.  In  one  video  we  see  a  hooded  Needy  enter  their  room,  followed  by  images  of   the  bands’  mutilated  bodies  after  Needy  enacts  her  revenge.  While  Jennifer  chose   to  stay  in  her  little  town  and  eat  local  boys,  never  even  considering  the  potential  of   her  power,  Needy  uses  her  abilities  to  seek  revenge  and  escape  her  literal  and   figurative  prisons.  

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4.  CONCLUSIONS   The  Reaping     “A  ‘feminist  horror  movie?’  Yeah,  that  was  our  point,  for  sure.  We  were   trying  to  turn  the  genre  on  its  ear.  One  thing  I'm  obsessed  with  is  that  I   don't  think  women  are  allowed  to  be  anti-­‐heroes.  They're  not  allowed  to  be   flawed.”     -­‐  Diablo  Cody,  MIDNITES  FOR  MANIACS:  Diablo  Cody  on  Jennifer’s  Body     Jennifer’s  Body  provides  salient  examples  of  the  progression  of  the  female   character  in  terms  of  their  self-­‐reliance.  First  and  foremost,  the  lack  of  prominent   male  characters  in  the  film  allows  the  writer  to  explore  the  experiences  of  these   young  women  outside  of  their  relationship  to  men.  It  provides  an  opportunity  for   the  female  viewer  to  take  on  a  rare  perspective  in  the  horror  movie  genre,  one   where  she  is  predator  instead  of  prey.  The  film  is  written  from  a  female  point  of   view,  dealing  candidly  with  subject  matter  that  speaks  specifically  to  adolescent   females.  Needy  and  Jennifer’s  toxic  friendship,  their  insecurities,  and  their  loss  of   childhood  relationships  are  designed  not  to  titillate  viewers,  but  to  communicate   the  terrifying  angst  of  girlhood.  And  though  it  comes  late  in  the  film,  Needy’s  final   liberation  conveys  a  truly  feminist  message  of  independence  and  resilience.  The   film  presents  an  aspect  of  young  female  adulthood  that  we  often  overlook,  yet  

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these  stages  of  development  can  be  the  most  horrific  and  vulnerable  for  teenage   girls,  making  it  perfect  fodder  for  the  horror  genre.  And  by  presenting  these  issues   to  viewers  in  a  highly  exploitative  and  sensational  form,  the  filmmaker  inspires  a   much-­‐needed  discourse  on  female  sexuality  and  female  aggression.   The  films  prior  to  the  2000s,  women  acted  out  violently  only  after  being   victimized  by  men,  but  the  trend  we  see  now  are  women  who  take  pleasure  in,  and   even  benefit  from,  masochism  and  destructiveness.  Needy  finds  her  freedom  and   autonomy  by  defeating  Jennifer,  who  inhibited  her  personal  growth,  and  by   destroying  the  patriarchal  ties  that  bind  her  to  the  good  girl  archetype.  Needy   begins  the  story  as  the  meek  character  and  transforms  herself  into  something  truly   terrifying;  a  smart  and  powerful  young  woman  who  fights  back  violently  against   anyone  who  tries  to  control  her.  There  is  a  lesson  to  be  learned  from  this   movement  in  the  horror  genre.  Though  we  certainly  should  not  encourage  young   girls  to  participate  in  violence,  we  should  encourage  them  to  occasionally  get  dirty,   to  be  intimidating  and  forceful,  and  to  get  into  trouble.  Popular  opinion  would   have  us  believe  that  there  is  something  wrong  with  the  youth  of  today  for   exploring  their  sexuality  and  partaking  in  mischief.  Teen  girls  are  especially   criticized  for  developing  aggressive  behaviors.  In  fact,  girls  who  display  aggression   and  traditionally  masculine  traits  are  not  viewed  as  girls,  but  as  an  “other”  gender.   They  are  given  derogatory  nicknames  like  “tomboy,”  “butch,”  and  “dyke.”  But  

 

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Jennifer’s  Body  is  a  story  where  the  “good”  girl  finds  freedom  through  violence,   aggression,  and  ambiguity,  breaking  down  gender  roles  and  social  expectations.   Despite  Cody’s  successes  in  writing  multi-­‐faceted  leading  ladies,  there  is   still  something  troubling  at  play  in  Jennifer’  Body.  Even  though  the  male  characters   do  not  play  a  prominent  role  in  the  film,  the  female  characters  were  created  within   the  confines  of  patriarchal  constrictions.  The  filmmakers  were  not  fully  committed   to  imagining  either  of  these  young  women  in  a  completely  monstrous  way.  Needy   acts  out  violently  only  in  revenge,  thus  her  violence  can  be  justified  making  it  less   threatening  to  the  audience.  Needy  can  be  added  to  the  short  list  of  female   characters  who  have  sex  in  a  horror  film  and  avoid  violent  ramifications,  however   Jennifer  was  punished  for  being  too  sexually  aggressive  and  ultimately  has  to  die   because  she  kills  for  pleasure.  Additionally,  Jennifer’s  violence  is  toned  down   through  her  sexuality.  In  Ginger  Snaps,  the  female  monster  changes  into  a  horrific   beast  from  head  to  toe,  with  no  traces  of  her  humanity  or  her  sexuality.  In   Jennifer’s  Body,  the  monster  remains  unmistakably  female.  Her  face  becomes   demonic,  but  only  when  she  feeds  on  men,  and  she  retains  the  idealized  body  of  a   sexual  female.  Hilary  Neroni  explains  that,  “If  a  woman  is  seen  as  overly  sexy,  so   sexy  that  it  is  a  ‘problem,’  then  her  violence  can  be  seen  as  a  part  of  this  excess.  

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Her  violence  is  then  contained  and  is  far  less  threatening  because  its  ultimate   purpose  is  for  the  pleasure  of  the  viewer.”  41   Whether  or  not  Diablo  Cody  and  Karen  Kusama  successfully  created  a   feminist  horror  film  in  Jennifer’s  Body  is  not  a  question  I  can  answer  definitively.   The  film  provides  an  opportunity  for  a  woman  to  play  the  anti-­‐hero,  but  as  with   most  of  the  horror  films  discussed  in  this  thesis,  the  female  character’s  sexuality  is   at  the  forefront  of  the  story.  It  is  a  fine  line  between  a  complex  female  character   with  a  strong  sexual  identity  and  a  salacious  depiction  of  a  monstrously  sexy   woman  designed  to  sell  more  movie  tickets.  Where  Cody  was  most  successful  was   in  creating  female  characters  with  a  purpose  beyond  being  the  victim,  as  the  plot   of  Jennifer’s  Body  is  a  deliberate  metaphor  for  the  malicious  friendships  that   trouble  teenage  girls.  But  Cody  and  Kusama  rely  on  horror  film  traditions  that   make  unmistakable  ideological  judgments  about  the  female  characters’  behavior   and  sexuality.  The  most  problematic  of  which  arises  through  the  deliberate   juxtaposition  of  the  heroine’s  “safe”  lifestyle  and  the  monster’s  “dangerous”  life   choices.  By  aligning  Needy  and  Jennifer’s  personalities  and  sexualities  with  their   representations  of  good  and  evil,  Jennifer’s  Body  explicitly  demonizes  the  sexually   aggressive  female.  As  Emily  White  so  aptly  asks,  “What  is  so  monstrous  about  a   sex-­‐crazed  girl?”  42                                                                                                                   41  Neroni,  78.   42  White,  59.  

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BIBLIOGRAPHY     “Amanda  Seyfreid  Rolls  Her  Eyes  about  Having  to  Kiss  Megan  Fox,”     Interview  by  Jen  Sabella.  AfterEllen,  18  Aug.  2009.       Berenstein,  Rhona  J.  Attack  of  the  Leading  Ladies:  Gender,  Sexuality,  and     Spectatorship  in  Classic  Horror  Cinema.  New  York:  Columbia  UP,  1996.     Billson,  Anne.  Buffy  the  Vampire  Slayer.  London:  BFI,  2005.     Brabon,  Benjamin  A.  Postfeminist  Gothic:  Critical  Interventions  in  Contemporary     Culture.  Basingstoke  Palgrave  Macmillan,  2007.     Black  Kids.  I'm  Not  Gonna  Teach  Your  Boyfriend  How  To  Dance  With  You.  Bernard     Butler,  2008.     Briefel,  Aviva.  "Monster  Pains:  Masochism,  Menstruation,  and  Identification  in  the     Horror  Film,"  Film  Quarterly  58.3  (2005):  16-­‐27.     Brown,  Lyn  Mikel.  Girlfighting:  Betrayal  and  Rejection  among  Girls.  New  York:  New     York  UP,  2005.     Choi,  Jinhee,  and  Mitsuyo  Wada-­‐Marciano,  eds.  Horror  to  the  Extreme:  Changing     Boundaries  in  Asian  Cinema.  Hong  Kong:  Hong  Kong  UP,  2009.   .     Clover,  Carol  J.  Men,  Women,  and  Chain  Saws:  Gender  in  the  Modern  Horror  Film.     Princeton,  NJ:  Princeton  UP,  1993.     Creed,  Barbara.  The  Monstrous-­‐feminine:  Film,  Feminism,  Psychoanalysis.  London:     Routledge,  1993.     Doane,  Mary  Ann.  Femmes  Fatales:  Feminism,  Film  Theory,  Psychoanalysis.  New     York:  Routledge,  1991.     Driscoll,  Catherine.  Girls:  Feminine  Adolescence  in  Popular  Culture  and  Cultural     Theory.  New  York:  Columbia  UP,  2002.    

 

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"Exclusive  Q&A:  Diablo  Cody  Talks  Megan  Fox,  Therapy,  and  Doing  “The  View”     With  Courtney  Love."  Interview  by  Jessica  Wakeman.  The  Frisky.     BUZZMEDIA,  8  Sept.  2009.     .     Freeland,  Cynthia.  "Feminist  Frameworks  for  Horror  Films."  Post-­‐theory:     Reconstructing  Film  Studies.  David  Bordwell  and  Noël  Carroll.  Madison:     U  of  Wisconsin  P,  1996.  pp.  195-­‐218.     Freeland,  Cynthia.  The  Naked  and  the  Undead:  Evil  and  the  Appeal  of  Horror.     Boulder,  CO:  Westview,  2000.     Fuss,  Diana.  “Fashion  and  the  Homospectorial  Look,”  Critical  Inquiry  18.4     (1992):  713-­‐737.     Grant,  Barry  Keith.  The  Dread  of  Difference:  Gender  and  the  Horror  Film.  Austin:     U  of  Texas  P,  1996.     Green,  Philip.  Cracks  in  the  Pedestal:  Ideology  and  Gender  in  Hollywood.  Amherst:     U  of  Massachusetts  P,  1998.     Halberstam,  Judith.  Skin  Shows:  Gothic  Horror  and  the  Technology  of  Monsters.     Durham:  Duke  UP,  1995.     Hantke,  Steffen.  American  Horror  Film:  the  Genre  at  the  Turn  of  the  Millennium.     Jackson:  U  of  Mississippi  P,  2010.     Haskell,  Molly.  From  Reverence  to  Rape:  the  Treatment  of  Women  in  the  Movies.     Chicago:  U  of  Chicago  P,  1987.     "Jennifer's  Body."  The  Numbers.  Nash  Information  Services,  LLC.  Web.  12  Apr.  2012.     .     Kearney,  Mary  Celeste.  "Girlfriends  and  Girl  Power:  Female  Adolescene  in     Contemporary  U.S.  Cinema."  Sugar,  Spice,  and  Everything  Nice:  Cinemas  of   Girlhood.  By  Frances  K.  Gateward  and  Murray  Pomerance.  Detroit:  Wayne   State  UP,  2002.     Kristeva,  Julia.  Powers  of  Horror:  An  Essay  on  Abjection.  New  York:  Columbia  UP,     1982.    

 

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FILMOGRAPHY       Audition.  Dir.  Takashi  Miike.  Vitagraph  Films,  1999.     Battle  Royale.  Dir.  Kinji  Fukasaku.  Toei  Company,  2001.     “Buffy  the  Vampire  Slayer”.  Dir.  Joss  Whedon.  1997-­‐2003.  Television.     Carrie.  Dir.  Palma  Brian  De.  United  Artists  Corp.,  1976.     The  Devil’s  Rejects.  Dir.  Rob  Zombie.  Lions  Gate  Films,  2005.     The  Evil  Dead.  Dir.  Sam  Raimi.  New  Line  Cinema,  1981.     The  Exorcist.  Dir.  William  Friedkin.  Warner  Bros.  Pictures,  1973.     Friday  the  13th.  Dir.  Sean  S.  Cunningham.  Paramount  Pictures,  1980.     Ginger  Snaps.  Dir.  John  Fawcett.  Copperheart  Entertainment,  2001.     Girlfight.  Karyn  Kusama.  Screen  Gems.  2000.     The  Grudge.  Dir.  Takashi  Shimizu.  Columbia  Pictures,  2004.     Halloween.  Dir.  John  Carpenter.  Compass  International  Pictures,  1978     Hard  Candy.  Dir.  David  Slade.  Lions  Gate  Films,  2005.     Heathers.  Dir.  Michael  Lehmann.  New  World  Pictures,  1988.     High  Tension.  Dir.  Alexandre  Aja.  Lions  Gate  Films,  2005.     House  of  1000  Corpses.  Dir.  Rob  Zombie.  Lions  Gate  Films,  2002.     I  Spit  on  Your  Grave.  Dir.  Meir  Zarchi.  Cinemagic.  1978.     Jennifer’s  Body.  Dir.  Karyn  Kusama.  Twentieth  Century  Fox,  2009.     Juno.  Dir.  Diablo  Cody.  Fox  Searchlight  Pictures.  2007.    

 

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Ju-­‐on.  Dir.  Takashi  Shimizu.  Intercontinental  Film  Distributors  (HK),  2002.     The  Last  House  on  the  Left.  Dir.  Wes  Craven.  Hallmark  Releasing  Corp.  1972.     Let  Me  In.  Dir.  Matt  Reeves.  Perf.  Relativity  Media,  2010.     Let  the  Right  One  In.  Dir.  Tomas  Alfredson.  Magnet  Releasing,  2008.     Lipstick.  Dir.  Lamont  Johnson,  Paramount  Pictures,  1976.     May.  Dir.  Lucky  McKee.  Lions  Gate  Films,  2002.     A  Nightmare  on  Elm  Street.  Dir.  Wes  Craven.  New  Line  Cinema,  1984.     Phantasm.  Dir.  Don  Coscarelli.  New  Breed  Productions  Inc.,  1979.     Phantom  of  the  Opera.  Dir.  Rupert  Julian.  Universal  Studios.  1925.     The  Ring.  Dir.  Gore  Verbinski.  DreamWorks  Distribution,  2002.     Ringu.  Dir.  Hideo  Nakata  .  DreamWorks  Home  Entertainment,  2003.     Rosemary's  Baby.  Dir.  Roman  Polanski.  Paramount  Pictures,  1968.     Scream.  Dir.  Wes  Craven.  Buena  Vista  Pictures  Distribution,  1996.     The  Strangers.  Dir.  Bryan  Bertino.  Rogue  Pictures,  2008.     Straw  Dogs.  Dir.  Sam  Peckinpah,  ABC  Picture,  1971.     A  Tale  of  Two  Sisters.  Dir.  Jee-­‐woon  Kim.  Tartan  Films,  2004.     Taxi  Driver.  Dir.  Martin  Scorsese.  Columbia  Pictures.  1976.     Teeth.  Dir.  Mitchell  Lichtenstein.  Roadside  Attractions,  2007.     The  Texas  Chain  Saw  Massacre.  Dir.  Tobe  Hooper.  Bryanston  Pictures  Release,     1974.     Trick  'r  Treat.  Dir.  Michael  Dougherty.  Warner  Home  Video,  2007.    

 

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The  Uninvited.  Dir.  Charles  and  Thomas  Guard.  Paramount  Pictures,  2009.     Wes  Craven's  New  Nightmare.  Dir.  Wes  Craven.  New  Line  Cinema,  1994.