Wednesday 18 August 2010

Ginger Snaps

“Our little girl is a young woman now.”
 After I read about Diablo Cody saying that „Jennifer’s Body“ would have inspired her to create if she had seen it as a teenager, I went back to the movie and tried to figure out which aspects of it exactly are supposed to tie in with the essential idea of riot grrrl: and none did. I don’t find it empowering. I don’t find it a particularly apt insight into how complex relationships between teenage girls can be. I think it succeeds on the level of being ironic about the objectification of the titular character, and the actress portraying her, but beyond that I didn’t feel particularly inspired at all.
Then I saw “Ginger Snaps”. I knew that this little Canadian film from 2000 existed, but somehow I had myself convinced that it would be a different movie somehow, one that would hold no interest for me at all. The thing is: “Ginger Snaps” is exactly the kind of movie Diablo Cody describes when she talks about “Jennifer’s Body”. There are two sisters, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger (Katharine Isabell), a year apart (15 and 16) but in the same grade, since Brigitte skipped one. They have a very tight bond – mostly over the fact that both of them abhor the idea of the physical reality of being a woman, while their mother anxiously awaits the onset of their first period. The film presents several reasons for this: they detest the teenage girls in their school who are only interested in boys and make them outsiders (instead of hanging out with their peers, they make movies and photos of fake suicide attempts à la “Harold and Maude”). This bond is the one thing connecting them against a seemingly unwelcoming world of people who don’t understand them at all, especially their parents (“United against life as we know it.”).
Then, two things happen at once: Ginger gets her first period, which drives a wedge between the two sisters, and she gets bitten by a monster. The changes she goes through coalesce – Ginger suddenly understands that getting attention by the boys means power and she enjoys that, and while she struggles to hide the physical evidence of turning into a werewolf (most painfully, a tail and body hair), she also discovers an unfortunate appetite for tearing living things apart (“I get this ache, and I thought it was for sex”, she says at one point, but it’s not). The metaphor works because ultimately, becoming a werewolf is like catching a transmitted disease, and Ginger passes it on through unprotected sex.
The tagline of “Jennifer’s Body”, “Hell is a teenage girl”, is realized here, and “Ginger Snaps” has a more elegant way of drawing parallels between the two. Nobody suspects that the terror that is now haunting the neighbourhood has its roots in the behaviour of a teenage girl, because “A girl can only be a slut, a bitch, a tease, or the virgin next door.” – but not a monster that tears things to pieces.
Brigitte tries saving her sister, but she fails ultimately and becomes exactly the same thing, in a way fulfilling the promise of being together forever.

2000, directed by John Fawcett, starring Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers, Jesse Moss, John Bourgeois, Peter Keleghan.

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