Sunday, September 20, 2009

A metaphor for modern feminism: 'Jennifer's Body' is light on the goose bumps, heavy on the misandry

This is off-topic, but it really isn't. Spoiler alert: if for some reason you are going to see this (and I'd suggest you avoid it like poison), this post gives away the plot.

"Jennifer's Body" is Hollywood's latest teen horror/comedy concoction, but it was made by people with an ideological bent. It's about an empowered feminist named Jennifer Check, a high school hottie who becomes even more empowered after she turns into a demon and starts feeding on boys to maintain her powers. Her transformation is effected by greedy capitalist male band members who, oh, by the way, practice the occult and decide to sacrifice Jennifer because they think she's a virgin -- but she isn't, and because she isn't, she turns into a demon. Got it? Neither does anyone else.

The film is rife with feminist sensibilities and a healthy dose of misandry. It's not a good horror film, but what should we expect from film makers who seem more interested in preaching ideology than good film making? The misandry is pulled off so naturally, and it seems so typical, that most guys, who are usually clueless about matters of gender, won't notice it. (They'll be watching to see if Megan Fox shows some skin, but this being a feminist film, she really doesn't.) When Jennifer takes her best friend, Needy (yeah, that's her name), to a club and prepares to hit on some guys, she utters a line that sums up the film's attitude: "They're just boys. Morsels. We have all the power, don't you know that? These things? [Indicates friend's breasts] These are like smart bombs. You point them in the right direction and shit gets real." A line cut from the trailer had Needy confonting Jennifer: "You're killing people?" Jennifer scoffs: "No, I'm killing boys." Alas, that happy exchange ended up on the cutting room floor.

Don't let that edit fool you, this is heavy-duty feminism. Jennifer tells her friend that "PMS isn't real . . . it was invented by the boy-run media to make us seem crazy." She treats every male she encounters, from her classmates to her teacher, not with hostility so much as complete indifference except to the extent they can help her. Indifference to males is, after all, the essence of the gynocentrism that fuels modern gender feminism. In this film, boys are not human beings, they are objects. They exist only to serve as Jennifer's human dildos, or to obtain alcohol for her. And after Jennifer turns into a demon, they exist only to be Jennifer's dinner. When Jennifer is seducing a male classmate she's about to brutally murder, he's frightened by her sexual aggressiveness and asks her if she even knows his last name. It's obvious she doesn't. At another point, she playfully wonders aloud if an Indian classmate is circumcised. "I always wanted to try sea cucumber," she muses. Ridiculing a goth male classmate, she announces: "My dick is bigger than his." She circles one guy's picture in a yearbook and writes "yum" next it, a crude restaurant critique of a recent boy-meal.

The plot of this film -- perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not -- is a metaphor for modern feminism. Gender relations are a zero sum game for both Jennifer and mainstream feminists. Jennifer becomes empowered only by practicing the worst kind of misandry: killing innocent males. If Jennifer doesn't eat boys alive, she becomes unempowered -- ugly (for her), and listless. Modern feminism isn't into the murder bit, but it buys into the zero sum aspect of the game, and the indifference to males, lock, stock and barrel. Women must strive to best males in every aspect of life, and only the hardships that afflict women more than men are to be discussed. Discussion of hardships that afflict males the most is "whining." It's not enough that women dominate men in virtually every higher educational endeavor, feminists insist on affirmative action to boost them in those few areas where men still dominate. It's not enough that irrational biases favor women as parents, feminists insist that women be afforded artificial advantages in the workplace as well so they can leapfrog over more qualified men who aren't even permitted to be equal parents of their own children. It's not enough that rape is afforded more attention than it's prevalence suggests is appropriate, feminists insist that the victimization of males who are falsely accused of rape be marginalized because they think it somehow detracts from the victimization of female rape victims. On and on it goes. Jennifer holds a mirror up to NOW and the other screeching banshees for whom misandry has become their raison d'etre .

This isn't the sort of ham-handed man-hating that we saw in last year's "Teeth," which portrayed almost every male in the film as a rapist. "Teeth" was directed by a man who obviously believes himself a feminist. "Jennifer's Body," on the other hand, was directed and written by women with a much deeper understanding of feminism. The boys who are brutally murdered by Jennifer seem like downright decent guys; full human beings, not sex-starved monsters. They are vulnerable and experience fears and teenage angst. That's what makes Jennifer's glee when she destroys each one for the sole purpose of empowering herself all the more unsettling. Jennifer simply can't see these creatures as human beings, they are just "boys." Note she doesn't bother to knock them out first, as she could do if her goal was simply to feed on them. No, she must eat them alive, and their terror is part of her fun. It must warm the cockles of extreme feminists' hearts to hear their terrified shrieking. When Jennifer steals her best friend's sweet and loyal boyfriend, who has a big part in the film, and quickly makes a bloody mess of him as she finishes him off, the film reaches a level of tasteless misandry surpassing anything in recent memory.

Are the film's feminist sensibilities intentional? You betcha. The writer of the film, self-proclaimed outspoken feminist Diablo Cody, admits she purposefully infused the film with feminist sensibilities. She just doesn't want the film's teen male audience to realize it, and I'll bet you they don't: "[Director Karyn Kusama] and I talk about the film as a kind of Trojan horse. We wanted to package our beliefs in a way that's appealing to a mainstream audience." See here

Did you get that? A Trojan horse -- that doesn't mean the Trojan condom company, fellas.

Cody's idea of mainstream horror films is most interesting: "(Director) Karyn Kusama and I are both outspoken feminists. We wanted to subvert the classic horror model of women being terrorized."

Um, excuse me? Which universe is Ms. Cody referencing? Because in the one where I live, the monsters in horror films typically kill off as many, and often more, boys as girls. Ah -- but Cody's gynocentric lens only allows her to see female victimization. In almost every one of those films, the last man standing standing is a girl, while all the males end up being brutally murdered.

Welcome to the wacky, topsy-turvy world of feminist screeds on horror films. You see, these films are made for teen males, their theory goes: ". . . film theorist Carol J. Clover in 'Men, Women and Chain Saws' (1992) . . . refers to a lone young woman who either escapes or overthrows a killer as the 'final girl.' More comfortable watching a woman in peril than a man, young, male audiences — initially slasher movies’ core viewers — get the best of both worlds, identifying first with the predator and then with the would-be prey. That women also identify with the scrappy heroine is something of a happy accident." See here

Did you get that? First, does it ring true to anyone outside of Womyn's Studies classes that crass Hollywood producers are more interested in practicing misogyny by appealing solely to young males than in making films that will appeal to a bigger audience? Second, young males identify with the killer -- as he murders young women? The misandry at play in that statement is almost too fantastic to be believed -- but believe it, that's what they think. They must imagine the typical teen boy sitting in the theater getting a hard-on as the monster is killing a defenseless girl. Because at heart, every teen male, every adult male for that matter, is a sexual predator, right?

At the end of "Jennifer's Body," the boys are dead, and the savior of humanity is Jennifer's friend, Needy, who is heading off to kill the all male band members who turned Jennifer into a demon. You see, only a woman can conquer the evils of patriarchy.