Gen Z can’t get enough of “Jennifer’s Body.” The horror-comedy film inspired visuals from Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u” music video as well as an animated Bratz homage of the “I am a God” scene. The pink and red heart-covered sweatshirt that Megan Fox wears for a mere 10 seconds in the film has become highly coveted, with replicas quickly selling out as hundreds scour the internet to recreate the look. In early October, the Criterion Channel even added the film to its streaming service, answering the prayers of many die-hard fans. However, the public’s perception of the movie hasn’t always been so positive.
“Jennifer’s Body” follows Jennifer Check — Fox — who is possessed by a man-eating demon after being sacrificed to Satan by an indie band trying to make it big. (“Satan is our only hope,” they reason.) Jennifer becomes hungry for boys as a result, their flesh fueling her life force much to the concern of her lifelong best friend, Needy, played by Amanda Seyfried. Needy sets out to stop her, tired of the murders and of how terribly Jennifer has begun to treat her, finally realizing how toxic their friendship has become.
When it first hit theaters in 2009, “Jennifer’s Body” was panned by critics. Many of them chose to spend more time critiquing the leading women’s bodies, paying little to no attention to the nuances within the plot. “If you’re in search for a way to ogle Megan Fox’s body, there are a lot better ways to do it than subjecting yourself to this,” read a slimy review that’s still displayed on the Rotten Tomatoes website.
“I always felt like this is a horror movie about toxic friendships between girls. And on a larger scale, it’s about how these alliances between girls get distorted and corrupted by the patriarchy,” director Karyn Kusama told BuzzFeed News. Even 12 years later, it still stings to see critics completely missing the point of “Jennifer’s Body” and upholding the exact worldview that the film set out to critique in the first place.
On top of this, the film was incorrectly described as “‘Twilight’ for boys,” and marketing skewed to capture their attention instead of the young women that the film was actually written and made for. One of the film’s first lines is actually “Hell is a teenage girl,” which makes its actual target audience even more abundantly clear.
Even the studio deeply misunderstood this, screening the film for test audiences packed with males aged 18-24. Diablo Cody, who wrote both “Jennifer’s Body” and the popular coming-of-age film “Juno,” revealed that one of the responses they received just contained two misspelled words — “moar bewbs.” This caveman-like spelling once again demonstrated men’s failure to understand the film’s plot. The studio also barely featured Needy in one of the earliest drafts of the trailer, instead choosing to just highlight Jennifer, which rightfully upset Kusama.
“It was just so strange, because it just took away the entire story,” she said in an interview at Beyond Fest. “So I wrote in a polite email, like, ‘I’m extremely concerned by the absence of our …’ You know, I tried to be diplomatic, and what I got back was essentially, ‘Megan hot. Focus on Megan hot.’”
Adam Brody, who played the “skinny and twisted and evil” lead singer of Low Shoulder, the band that sacrificed Jennifer to Satan, also expressed his frustrations with the way the film was marketed in an interview with AV Club.
“I thought, you know, you have a movie starring two women about misogyny and female friendship and directed by a woman, written by a woman, who won the Oscar for screenwriting that year. And they just buried all of that. Megan Fox is in her most human and sympathetic role to date at that time, and they hid all that,” he said.
Despite everything that stood in its way, “Jennifer’s Body” has attained cult status, championed by those who loved it when it came out as well as those who have discovered it in the following years. Additionally, women-led horror films have become way more accepted and popular, with Toni Collette and Lupita Nyong’o receiving critical acclaim for their performances in “Hereditary” and “Us,” respectively. It’s easy to imagine that if “Jennifer’s Body” was released today, it would have killed at the box office, especially given that projects helmed by women are taken much more seriously now than they were in 2009.
“It’s a nice circle. I didn’t expect it to grow like that. But to see it being appreciated now, obviously makes me feel really good. I’m happy for Diablo and I’m happy for Karyn — all these people put in a lot of hard work into making a really quality project that was panned for reasons that had nothing to do with them,” said Fox in an appearance on “Eli Roth’s History of Horror: Uncut” podcast regarding “Jennifer’s Body” and it’s long road to recognition.
As for Gen Z’s obsession with this movie, there is no end in sight. This past Halloween, it was nearly impossible to scroll through social media without seeing a few Jennifer Check costumes in the mix. While many girls were only in elementary school when the film first came out, it hasn’t stopped them from celebrating “Jennifer’s Body” and the unique way it goes about portraying the experience of a teenage girl.
“I hear more about this movie than any other project I have worked on … if somebody stops me, it’s always some, like, 22-year-old who wants to talk to me about ‘Jennifer’s Body,’” said Cody to Entertainment Tonight. “To me, that is the coolest thing in the world. It’s like, I don’t think you could have legally seen this movie when it came out and you found it.”