As a genre, teen horror is generally fairly critic-proof. Which makes the astonishing critical backlash and subsequent commercial failure of Jennifer’s Body all the more curious. Released in 2009, the deluge of discourse surrounding the movie centred on two principal players – the writer Diablo Cody and the star Megan Fox.
Cody had enjoyed a meteoric rise thanks to her earlier script for the film Juno, which netted her an Oscar for Best Screenplay. A semi-autobiographical comedy-drama with unabashedly millennial dialogue, the movie was warmly received, but also inspired some very loud detractors. In 2007, the concept of ‘film Twitter’ wasn’t really a thing, but movie fans were becoming increasingly vocal and tribalised in various online forums and social media spaces. To a certain kind of moviegoer, the sparky and occasionally self-consciously youthful dialogue Cody wrote was simply intolerable, a viewpoint only intensified after Cody won her Oscar.
As for Megan Fox, at this point she was best known as the star of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise. She was also a tabloid and lads mag favourite, routinely dubbed the sexiest woman alive. At the peak of her celebrity, she was arguably one of the most talked-about women in the Western world, but more often for her relationships and her appearance than her film roles. Like many female celebrities before and since, a backlash was virtually inevitable.
When Jennifer’s Body came out, it was promoted as a sort of pseudo-lesbian softcore horror, with much of the marketing focusing on a brief same-sex kiss shared by Fox and her co-star Amanda Seyfried (who is actually the lead in the movie but found herself totally overshadowed in the subsequent shitstorm). In actuality, the film is a pitch-dark, complicated satire of toxic female friendships and good old fashioned misogyny. For a lot of people, this was not what they ordered, and the response was broadly negative.
Professional critics also widely panned the movie, and it nosedived at the box office, significantly harming the careers of Fox and Cody for a couple of years. Seyfried emerged more or less unscathed, possibly thanks to the lack of attention she was given for the project, and due to her involvement in mega-hits like Mamma Mia and Les Miserables.
However, as time wore on, much like the title character, Jennifer’s Body refused to stay dead. Through rentals and streaming services, the film quietly got through to its intended audience, and built a fanbase that grew incrementally louder, until ‘in defence of…‘ articles started to filter through to the mainstream media. Post Me Too, the movie became a prime example of how female creatives are used up and spat out by the industry, compounded by the worst instincts of the Hollywood insiders who colluded to mis-market and ultimately bury the film.
On this week’s podcast, we take a deep dive into the history of Jennifer’s Body and discuss our own reactions to the film. We discuss some favourite moments, including Amanda Seyfried’s unconvincing make-under, JK Simmons’ truly alarming hairpiece and Adam Brody’s pitch-perfect spoof of awful mid-00s pop-rock acts.
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Next week, we’re taking a hard shift to an 80s classic that nobody wants to put in the corner. Until then, happy listening and remember – hell hath no fury like a teenage girl!