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Sandbox Love Never Dies: Exploring LGBTQ+ Themes in Jennifer’s Body

When it comes to LGBTQ+ horror, the first film that comes to mind is Jennifer’s Body (2009). When Jennifer’s Body was released in 2009, it was a flop. However, when I first watched the film, I was immediately hooked.

This year, for Pride Month, I wanted—actually needed to—write some articles on LGBTQ+ horror. I suppose I should say I fall under the B in LGBTQ+. I also grew up in a time when people only talked about anyone falling under the LGBTQ+ spectrum in hushed tones, accompanied by homophobic comments. Unfortunately, these attitudes are not a thing of the past. 

Written by a feminist, Diablo Cody, and directed by Karyn Kusama, Jennifer’s Body has strong bisexual undertones with the romantic attraction between the two main female characters, Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) and Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried). Two young women in a crowd talk.

Jennifer’s Body turns the traditional horror film on its head. The predatory killer is female, and the victims are all male. However, what I want to talk about in this article is its portrayal of female sexuality and bisexual undertones. 

Jennifer’s Body follows the story of two longtime friends, Popular “hot chick” Jennifer and nerdy girl Needy have been friends since elementary school. The two are growing up in a small American town called Devil’s Kettle. Needy has a boyfriend named Chip (Johnny Simmons), and Jennifer is always dating or messing around with different boys.

One night, they head over to a local dive bar called Melody Lane, where Jennifer’s latest obsession, an indie-rock band called Low Shoulder, is playing. However, Low Shoulder is not just any rock band. As Jennifer describes them, they are actually “agents of Satan with really awesome haircuts.” They are willing to make a pact with the devil to achieve fame and fortune. The band, led by Nikolai Wolf (Adam Brody), is looking to find a virgin to sacrifice to seal the deal and they chose Jennifer. However, the boys in the band don’t realize that Jennifer isn’t even, as she puts it, a “back door virgin” anymore. The guys succeed in killing Jennifer. But, due to the fact that she wasn’t a virgin, she comes back to life as a vampiric entity who craves flesh and blood. Her prey of choice—boys. Jennifer uses her looks to lure her prey to their death. She coldly rips them open and eats their guts, which keeps her nourished. 

Even before her transformation, Jennifer is not a wallflower, waiting around for the captain of the football team to ask her out. She’s determined to seduce the singer of Low Shoulder. Jennifer goes for what she wants and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it.

Both Jennifer and Needy act more like girls with crushes. Needy lights up when Jennifer walks into a room. At the beginning of the movie, Needy is sitting in the audience at a pep rally. She’s front and center, her eyes adoringly on Jennifer as she performs with the color guard. Needy gives an excited wave to Jennifer, and Jennifer smiles and waves back. A classmate gives Needy a look of disgust as she says mockingly, “You’re so lesbigay.” Needy gets defensive.Two young women strand in a crowd looking at each other.

This continues throughout the movie. Some may see Needy as enjoying vicariously living through Jennifer’s adventurous activities and getting to hang out with the popular girl. However, Needy would rather spend time with Jennifer at a rock concert than hang out with Chip. It also seems as if Chip is frustrated at being pushed aside in favor of Jennifer. When he points out Needy’s behavior to her, she becomes defensive and insists that she and Jennifer have a lot in common. From the moment the characters are introduced, we get the immediate impression that the two girls are opposites.

Jennifer is self-absorbed, shallow, insensitive, and style-over-substance. Needy is deep, thoughtful, intellectual, and far from stylish. The only time Needy does care about her appearance is when Jennifer is around. Needy fusses over her appearance as she puts on a Jennifer-approved outfit for the concert—an outfit that Chip doesn’t like. Unfortunately, many people are guilty of making themselves look according to a significant other’s specifications. It’s clear that Needy is dressing for Jennifer. As Needy follows Jennifer out of the house, Chip calls after them in frustration, telling Jennifer to stop kidnapping his girlfriend.

During the concert, as Low Shoulder plays, Jennifer and Needy’s attention isn’t on the band. Jennifer told Needy that she wanted to meet Low Shoulder’s lead singer, who she deems “extra salty” (beautiful in Jennifer-speak). However, as the band starts to play, Jennifer and Needy gaze at each other. There’s a memorable close-up of the two holding hands during the show.

It’s clear that Needy’s affection for Jennifer is not unrequited. Jennifer flirtatiously waves back to her in the beginning and seems to really care about what Needy thinks. When Colin Gray (Kyle Gallner) asks Jennifer out on a date, she says no at first. When Needy asks her about it, Jennifer says that “he wears nail polish, listens to maggot rock, my d**k is bigger than his.” Needy says that she thinks Colin is pretty cool. Then, suddenly, Jennifer is interested. In her own way, Jennifer looks for Needy’s approval—and perhaps hopes to make Needy jealous. Jennifer is also a toxic person who enjoys toying with Needy’s obvious affections. Maybe this is shallow and popular Jennifer’s way of coping with her romantic feelings for nerdy Needy.A dark shot of two young women crouched on the floor in front of an open refrigerator. One is covered in blood.

Sometimes, they say, bullying and aggressive behavior can be a sign of a crush. Perhaps, it could also be interpreted as someone acting out since they feel they can’t express their true feelings. Jennifer exhibits bullying behavior toward Needy as she snaps at her for talking to herself in class. When Needy asks Jennifer what’s wrong, Jennifer snaps back. “What’s wrong with you besides the obvious surface flaws.” We learn later on that Jennifer enjoyed pulling pranks on Needy since childhood, such as pouring lemonade in her bed when they were growing up. Jennifer is also clearly jealous of Chip. In the beginning, Jennifer is hostile and dismissive toward Chip in the beginning as she picks up Needy to go to the concert. Jennifer accuses Chip of being jealous. 

Then, of course, there’s Jennifer and Needy’s kissing scene in Needy’s room. Jennifer is being very seductive and romantic. She tells Needy about what happened after she went off in Low Shoulder’s van. She woke covered in blood and craving flesh. She found a victim, then “I found my way back to you.” In her blood-soaked fog, Jennifer, half-conscious, didn’t go home—she went to Needy’s house. As hungry for flesh as she was, she didn’t kill Needy.

During this scene, Jennifer also tells Needy, in a flirtatious tone, “We can play boyfriend-girlfriend like we used to.” So, apparently, there is a history there. The characters probably had a crush on each other for a while. Needy does point out that “sandbox love never dies.” The two have been friends since elementary school. In a flashback, we see a young Jennifer and Needy playing in a sandbox. Jennifer’s hand is pierced by a tack, and she makes Needy promise not to tell her mother or she’ll have to get a shot. Young Needy responds, saying that she would never tell on Jennifer. Playground admiration for Jennifer somehow deepened into an adolescent crush.Two young women engage in a passionate kiss.

I’m hesitant to talk about my own experiences but I need to even if people roll their eyes. Let them. Some things need to be said.

So, here goes…Unfortunately, as one gets older, there’s the inevitable pressure to have a partner of the opposite gender. The pressure is there as soon as it can be applied. You’re told that you must like the opposite gender, and the attitude is that anything else is unthinkable, laughable, or just horrible in so many unspeakable ways. I remember how girls in my class announced a different crush on a different boy every week. I remember the negativity directed at me because I wasn’t raving about some boy. I was looked down on with disdain and…I wasn’t even “out.” No one was then. I would spend a long time wavering in and out of denial and self-loathing.

Again, when I was growing up, homosexuality was reluctantly acknowledged. When bisexuality was mentioned, it was with even more disdain than homosexuality. The terms pansexual and asexual weren’t mentioned at all. Don’t get me started on how people who would now be identified as transgender and non-binary were treated. Looking back at my childhood, and especially adolescence, it had an adverse effect on me. Information needs to be out there for people identifying within the LGBTQ+ spectrum and yes, representation is needed in books, film, and TV.

A lack of information causes confusion, frustration, anger, and self-loathing.  Anger can cause someone to become defensive. In Jennifer’s Body, this is shown through both Needy and Jennifer’s behavior. Confusion and denial come into play also. Needy may like Chip. Jennifer may think that the lead singer of Low Shoulder is extra salty. Sure, they like men; however, their strongest attraction is to each other. 

Jennifer’s Body’s theme of demonic transformation can be seen as a metaphor for confusion and anger. Jennifer just wants to destroy and tear everything to shreds in a world where she’s objectified as the “hot chick” by the boys and men around her. As a predatory supernatural being, she uses this very attribute to lure her prey and devour them. However, her attachment to Needy never dies as she sets her sights on Needy’s boyfriend as her next target. Why else would she target Chip? Needy even asks her this question. Jennifer answers by saying that Chip is looking pretty good. Jennifer says this in a taunting way. However, it’s mostly likely because Jennifer is jealous of Chip because he’s with Needy. He gets to openly be with Needy, express his affection for her, and is deemed by society to be an appropriate partner for Needy. However, in Jennifer’s mind, Needy is hers. So, she needs to do something about Chip. When Jennifer wants someone, she gets them—male or female.

Jennifer’s demonic nature can also represent society’s vision of girls who don’t behave the way they should. As Jennifer says to Needy, “I go both ways.” While Needy is in denial, Jennifer fully embraces her sexuality. She kisses Needy full on the lips and then laughs when Needy uncharacteristically drops an f-bomb in response. According to the lore presented in the film, Jennifer, having lost her virginity, causes her to become a demonic, flesh-eating entity. She also makes it clear that she needs her prey to be frightened as she feeds on them. Is this perhaps the writer’s way of pointing out how society fears women who openly express their sexuality—especially when the woman isn’t straight.A young woman holds a lit cigarette lighter to her tongue.

However, Needy and Jennifer grew up in a world where their romantic attraction to each other is deemed “lesbigay” with a look of disgust and disapproval. In turn, this causes them to deny their attraction, which in turn makes them defensive and angry. Once Needy realizes what Jennifer has become, she sets out to stop her and save Chip from Jennifer’s clutches. 

Jennifer’s Body is now considered a cult classic, and it was ahead of its time. There are those who say if it was released now, the film would be a hit. Perhaps audiences in 2009 were still not ready to embrace its LGBTQ+ themes and its commentary on gender roles and the treatment of women in society. These themes are more openly discussed now than ever. While many still roll their eyes, some will say it’s about time. 

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Written by MD Bastek

Just a person who loves horror and writes about unusual things

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