Jennifer’s Body and Megan’s Mouth

16 July 2009 at 17:56 (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Since I first heard about the Karyn Kusama directed and Diablo Cody-scripted Jennifer’s Body, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the trailer. For those with short memories, Cody wrote the screenplay for the ridiculously successful Juno. Contrasting Juno somewhat, Cody’s follow-up script takes a humorous approach to the horror genre. Like Juno, the film focuses on the transformation of the adolescent female body, but rather than pregnancy as the cause, demonic possession is the culprit. Here’s the trailer for a taste:

My good friend Alyx over at Feminist Music Geek made some pointed observations about the trailer, noting the soundtrack, dialog, and representations of gender and sexuality. I agree with Alyx that the trailer’s hints at Jennifer’s bisexuality raise interesting possibilities AND concerns about using bisexuality strictly for titilation. These elements of the film will be interesting to dissect upon its release.

What I find especially fascinating is the way in which the film draws upon actress Megan Fox’s burgeoning star persona in its depiction of her character Jennifer’s monstrosity. Again, I draw from an entry by a friend of mine named Annie at her blog Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style. Among other elements of Fox’s celebrity image, Annie discusses the ways in which Fox has been photographed for various magazines. Many of these photos emphasize Fox’s mouth by showing it partially open or by portraying her in the act of eating. Here’s an example:

Fox icing her lip.

Fox icing her lip.

Interestingly, the trailer above similarly emphasizes Fox’s mouth as an orifice with the potential to enact pleasure, but also suggests it to be a horrific weapon. In other words, Jennifer’s mouth both seduces and destroys. One of the movie’s poster’s perfectly combines these seemingly paradoxical uses perfectly:

Foxs sexy, monsterous mouth.  Image taken from teamsugar.com.

Fox's sexy, monsterous mouth. Image taken from teamsugar.com.

(Side note: this poster seems like a big rip-off of the True Blood promotional posters–see previous post for example.)

It should be no surprise that the filmmakers use the mouth in this way, given the long history of horror literature and films with similar iconography. Vampire stories, for instance, draw upon the lethal and sexual possibilities of the mouth. My academic hero Barbara Creed connects such imagery to the myth of the vagina dentata (translation: toothed vagina) common to cultures around the world. These myths illustrate male fears of castration and anxieties about women’s sexuality. While modern societies may have seemingly dispensed with the notion, the anxieties surrounding women’s sexuality remain and thus filmmakers continue to use images that echo the vagina dentata to horrific effect.

I find it fascinating, though, that a young celebrity who has already established herself as a sex object through such orally fixated images will soon be associated with the more violent side of the mouth. For me, this demonstrates just how multivalent this orifice can be. Horror films will continue to use it to inflict pain, while the GQ crowd will continue to allude to it’s possibilities for pleasure.

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3 Comments

  1. Annie Petersen said,

    First off, the poster is a HUGE rip-off. Second, you’re spot on as to how important this film will prove to Megan Fox’s image — apart from *Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen,* this will be her first non-Transformers role…and extremely influential in how her star is shaped/continued to be perceived.

  2. Alyx Vesey said,

    First off, thanks for the blog shout-out, Caitlin!

    I kind of wonder, too, what the camp potential is in packaging Megan Fox’s (lipsticked, lacquered, blood-red, bloodied) mouth in this fashion. The other text the poster recalls to me (apart from “True Blood,” obviously) is “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The poster and the opening credits make use of blood-red lips, the latter using a tight close-up of it singing “Science Fiction/Double Feature” with an ambiguously male voice (Note: The movie’s Wikipedia entry says that the credit sequence was inspired by Dadaist Man Ray’s “Lips”). Importantly, indeed a major theme to RHPS, is transvestism and drag, often played to campy effect for (nervous, titillated, and/or uproarious) laughs.

    I feel like this is interesting to read alongside Fox’s persona too, as she has repeatedly joked that she’s really a man in drag. Her playing Jennifer, a heightened, campy exaggeration of the sexy/evil popular girl that is possessed by a demon seems a welcome invitation to align the excessively feminine with drag, queering it in the process. That the movie is also a (dark) comedy (another issue I brought up in my post) could also make this campy vagina-mouth funny and queer — perhaps making it all the more dangerous! 😉

  3. The Young Ladies of Toronto « Dark Room said,

    […] most obviously gynocentric project, Jennifer’s Body, has already been discussed at length on this blog; a lesser-known film with many of JB’s players will also be screening at Toronto. The film, […]

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