How did a horror-comedy featuring Megan Fox as a killer cheerleader fail so badly? The simple answer: male-focused advertising.
Back in 2009, the now cult classic Jennifer’s Body premiered. The story revolves around Jennifer Check, played by Megan Fox, who was used in a sacrifice that went wrong. She gets possessed and is forced to eat people in order to stay strong and beautiful. Needy Lesnicky, her best friend, soon catches on and tries to put an end to the terror.
Intention vs. outcome
Diablo Cody, the writer of Jennifer’s Body, had her first major success was after she wrote Juno. This is what gave her the freedom to write whatever she wanted.
Cody went in with the purpose of writing a crazy female-focused horror movie that crossed genre boundaries. She had no intention of writing a successful movie because her main goal was to make something she enjoyed. By doing that, she knew she risked it failing.
The killer: advertising
When it came time for test screenings and promotional material, the men in charge felt it was best to focus the movie away from Cody’s target female audience.
Test screenings were terrible as young men and fans of Juno, a lighthearted comedy, filled the seats. Juno fans came out of the screening horrified because they didn’t expect a horror-comedy.
Later, when the comment cards were reviewed for the screening with men, one person argued that it needed more boobs. This and others like it were actually taken seriously by the marketers of the movie.
However, Cody knew what the marketers were doing and fought for them to stop. She recalled an experience where she sent a detailed email defending the film and questioning the marketing style. The marketing person responded back, “Megan Fox hot,” essentially letting her know that the marketing team was basing the value of this movie on the fact that Megan Fox is hot rather than the movie itself.
That perspective was seen throughout all the promotional material as Megan Fox poses in ways that show off her legs, breasts, and midriff. Even the trailer opens up on a clip of Fox swimming naked in a lake despite the clip being a minor moment in the movie. It seems that any sexy moment, no matter how minor, was used in the trailer.
The main problem with this way of advertising is that it presents a false view of the movie, causing young men to be disappointed with the lack of sex and young women to have no interest in seeing it.
The aftermath of Jennifer’s Body
In an interview Cody did with Fox, Cody states “There was a time when it was painful for me to talk about Jennifer’s Body because, you know, that movie was a commercial failure. And like I was savaged personally it wasn’t just having a professional failure…now 10 years later I genuinely love talking about it.”
Cody received harsh backlash from people in the industry after her movie premiered. She used to search her name on Twitter and would see writers and directors making fun of her and her movie.
Even Fox herself feels the harsh attention given to the movie when it first came out was unwarranted. She goes on to say the critiques were biased when viewing the movie, causing them to put out unfair reviews.
One reason Cody feels Jennifer’s Body has found its fan base is because of the #MeToo movement. The movie deals with themes of consent, assault, and male abuse of power. However, others feel the movie is more than that.
The #MeToo movement
Not everyone will agree that Jennifer’s Body is a feminist movie. It doesn’t tackle any hard-hitting ideas of what it means to be a woman in modern society, nor does it cover what it means to be a woman of color. However, some feel new meaning has been brought to the movie ever since the Me Too Movement.
Constance Grady, a writer for Vox, claims that some people find their assault story similar to Jennifer’s: men of power taking advantage of a person in a vulnerable position and laughing while they’re doing it.
Grady goes on to state that it’s a revenge fantasy. Jennifer is the one to be feared, and the rest of the men are left to be background players in her story.
Some may be surprised to hear that most of Megan Fox’s fan base is young girls. However, it’s not shocking when you look into Fox’s experiences in Hollywood.
Megan Fox states that she was speaking out about sexual assault before the Me Too movement gained popularity. She was talking about her experiences and saying it’s not okay, and yet people blamed her for what happened to her.
Constantly throughout her career, she was criticized and judged for every action she made. She described a point around the time Jennifer’s Body came out that she had a psychological breakdown because of all the negativity that surrounded it. She didn’t even want to be seen because she was afraid she was going to get harassed.
The judgment she faced was so severe that while she identifies as a feminist, she questions whether other feminists will accept her.
One of the primary focuses of the movie is the relationship between Needy and Jennifer. From the beginning, the audience picks up on how Needy is willing to give up everything for her friend. This dynamic is explored throughout the movie as multiple scenes reveal that their friendship goes beyond average platonic love.
In one scene, Needy is startled to find Jennifer in her bed after Needy accidentally hit her with a car. Needy demands that Jennifer leaves as she’s beginning to suspect that something is wrong with her friend. However, Jennifer refuses to leave and instead starts making out with Needy. She hints this isn’t the first time they have done this as she states, “We can play boyfriend-girlfriend like we used to.”
One thing I find unique about how sexuality is discussed in this movie is that it isn’t a big deal. After making out, Needy is more concerned that Jennifer is fine after the accident than she is with the fact that they just kissed. There is no shame or fear; it’s simply a norm for them.
Upon watching this movie for the millionth time, I find myself falling in love again with the one-liners. The mixture of the line itself and the beautiful delivery never fails to make me laugh.
Megan Fox even stated that people would come up to her and quote the movie. Most frequently, she gets, “It smells like Thai food in here. Have you guys been fucking?” A line that still makes me chuckle.
So for those of you who are looking for a good movie to watch during the month of October, settle down and grab some popcorn because you need to look no further than Jennifer’s Body.