The Homoeroticism of Jennifer’s Body by Ashlynn Harman

The following essay was written by Ashlynn Harman, an undergraduate student at the University of North Florida.

Over time, Jennifer’s Body has become a cult classic film in queer spaces with feminist horror and homoerotic themes. Jennifer’s Body follows two friends: a young girl who targets male victims to consume and another who tries to stop her. The film is saturated with homoerotic context and delves into feminist horror, which has led to its significant impact in online queer fandom spaces. For example, the trope of a monstrous woman using her sexuality to lure male victims is seen in the tactics Jennifer uses to scope out her male victims. The film also plays into queer representation tropes of queer women being evil seductresses and villains. This analysis will dive further into the gender and sexuality of Jennifer’s Body and cross-analyze it with how it interacts with online queer fandom spaces and feminist horror to become the cult classic it is today.

There are tropes of LGBTQ+ women being portrayed as monstrous villains in horror films, and Jennifer’s Body is not excluded from that trope. Jennifer is a young woman turned demon who targets men to quench her thirst and strengthen her powers. As a femme fatale, a woman who seduces men into dangerous situations, she uses seductive tactics to lure the men in while her friend Anita watches in horror and then vows to stop her. Throughout the film, despite their differing opinions on morality, Jennifer and Anita are both implied to be queer women and share moments of eroticism. Multiple queer phrases are used throughout the film to imply this such as Jennifer stating that she ”goes both ways,” a common phrase indicating bisexuality, and Anita being described as ”butch” by Jennifer, a common term to describe a specific lesbian archetype. They also share lingering gazes, hold hands, and kiss throughout the film. This representation of queer women being depicted as villainous creatures is also referenced within The Celluloid Closet, with examples from multiple forms of media that show this trope as a negative portrayal of queer women. However, Anita is also an example of not falling into the monstrous woman stereotype and is the hero of the movie due to her actions against Jennifer’s bloodlust. Anita consistently has empathy for the victims and tells Jennifer that her actions are evil. Later in the movie, Anita finds the strength to confront Jennifer and kills her, breaking the mold of villainous queer monsters until the final scene. The final scene of the movie depicts Anita with newfound powers from being bitten by Jennifer, which she then uses to kill the men who started it all: the band who performed the ritual that started Jennifer’s reign of terror. While she ultimately does play back into the trope in final scenes, it is important to note that she originally broke the stereotype in film of queer women being villainous monsters. 

With these representations of queer women through monstrous tropes, it is important to consider how this effects the LGBTQ+ community. Ellis Hanson describes its effects well by saying every person’s perception will be different and stereotypical tropes are not inherently good or bad (Hanson). While some may see Jennifer as a negative portrayal of bisexual women, others may see her as an empowering figure of bisexuality. The Celluloid Closet further implies that representation, good or not, gives visibility to queer communities which is overall a step in the right direction. For example, many posts on social media have referenced that “jennifer’s body was [their] gay awakening” (McCormack). Due to being able to see themselves represented on screen, whether it is in a negative or positive context, many of the people within the queer audience of Jennifer’s Body was able to find their own identity and community.   

Aside from the overall queer representation, Jennifer’s Body is coined as feminist horror, and this can be seen from the overarching themes of the movie. Many comments are made by both Anita and Jennifer that hint at the oppression they go through as young women. One big example is Jennifer stating that “PMSing was made up by the boy-run media to make [women] feel bad.” While it seems like a small and silly comment to make, it hints at the overarching patriarchy that looms over the characters’ heads. Additionally, there seems to be a recurring theme of societal pressure on Anita and Jennifer that forms an underlying desire to be wanted by men. Jennifer is seen watching exercise shows, taking great care into her social relevancy, and referenced to be taking laxatives to stay skinny while Anita is seen constantly pushed aside by men she encounters in favor of Jennifer. These scenes all speak to the patriarchy’s effects on women, and it is shown especially in a horrific context when the victims of both Jennifer and Anita are male. The soundtrack even plays into the anti-patriarchal themes of Jennifer’s Body and can be described as “the horror of toxic masculinity; evil dudes singing about being violent towards women” (Fonseca). The music throughout the film is performed by different punk boy bands referencing different violent acts towards women, which references the power the boy band Low Shoulder had over the women in the film as they were responsible for creating Jennifer’s bloodlust through the violence of killing and sacrificing her in an impure ritual.  

With the homoerotic scenes between Anita and Jennifer and overarching themes of patriarchy and queer representation, it is no wonder that Jennifer’s Body became huge in online queer fandom spaces, but it took long after its original release date to do so. Some of the major reasons it has become so popular in queer spaces could be the rejection of heteronormativity and female gaze. The film itself is “written, directed by and starring women [and] relegates men to background characters and victims” (McCormack). Perhaps the reason the film didn’t do well in its original release is due to the genre seeming more male-centered, but once watched, it is obvious to the audience that this film is written by women in the female gaze and its intended audience is women. Additionally, another reason for the film’s success specifically in queer spaces could be the relatability of Jennifer and Anita’s “friendship” to queer audiences. Jennifer and Anita have a very obsessive relationship with one another to the point that they know when the other is nearby or can sense the other’s actions. While this is dramatized for film, many queer viewers could possibly relate this fictional relationship to the relationships in their youth with their “seemingly straight best friends” (McCormack). This popularity in queer spaces could be a result of scenes in the film relating to shared experiences within the queer community and giving overall visibility to the viewers. 

Another possible reason Jennifer’s Body exploded in popularity within queer online fandom spaces could be the general connection between horror, monstrosity, and the LGBTQ+ community. Oftentimes queer identities are referenced as a sexual deviance, and horror films play into sexual deviance a lot. “Sexual difference is central to the horror genre’s negotiation of the tensions between the human and the monstrous” (Wills and Roberts). Horror films use the idea that bodily difference, through inhuman monsters and villains, are a threat to humanity, and this can be seen in Jennifer’s Body. Jennifer is an impure demon, and while she looks relatively human most of the time, the moments when she reveals her monstrous side provides the most horror to her victims. For example, when Jennifer is seducing Collin Gray, he begins to hesitate and becomes fearful once he sees her eyes change colors and pupil shape, something inhuman. I think this concept in horror can translate to many audiences who have been treated as something less than human since they don’t fit into the mold that society creates. This concept can be related to many different minority groups including the topic of my current discussion: homosexuality and representation. Due to relating to the idea of being ”othered” as a result of a difference in attraction or bodily appearance, many people in the queer community can relate to the overall horror genres and especially the themes within Jennifer’s Body, causing it to become popular in queer online fandom spaces.     

Overall, Jennifer’s Body is a great example of the intersection between feminist horror and queer representation. It provides commentary on a patriarchal society and provides a horror film, a genre typically saturated in masculinity, with the female gaze all while giving visibility and representation to the queer community. While it is not certain whether the portrayals of queer women in Jennifer’s Body through stereotypical tropes directly harm or benefit the queer community, it is clear to so many in online fandom spaces that the film brings visibility to an otherwise underrepresented community in cinema.

Ashlynn Harman is a senior at the University of North Florida studying sociology with minors in gender studies and psychology. She is involved on campus with her sorority, aKDPhi, and as a member of Swoop Squad.

Works Cited 

Fonseca, Sarah. “Too Little, Too Late: The Queer Cult Status of ‘Jennifer’s Body’ Is Bittersweet.” Them., 1 Nov. 2018, https://www.them.us/story/jennifers-body-film-cult-status.

Hanson, Ellis, editor. Introduction: Out Takes. Duke University Press, 1999.

Kusama, Karyn, director. Jennifer’s Body. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2009. 

McCormack, Olivia. “’Jennifer’s Body’ Has Become a Hallmark of Queer Horror. These Fans Explain Why.” Https://Www.thelily.com, The Lily, 30 Oct. 2021, https://www.thelily.com/jennifers-body-has-become-a-hallmark-of-queer-horror-these-fans-explain-why/. 

The Celluloid Closet. Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 1996. 

Wills, Deborah, and Toni Roberts. “Desiring Monsters: Femininity, Radical Incontinence, and Monstrous Appetite in Ginger Snaps, Jennifers Body, and Deadgirl.” Reconstruction (Bowling Green, Ohio), vol. 17, no. 2, Reconstruction, 2017.

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