How Jennifer's Body Became A True Cult Classic

It's been over a decade since the planets aligned and Karyn Kusama, Diablo Cody, Megan Fox, and Amanda Seyfried joined forces to make the monstrous femme sensation, "Jennifer's Body." Kusama was looking for a new project to revitalize her reputation after "Æon Flux" flopped, and a new script from the recent Academy Award-winning Cody seemed like the perfect fit. Fox was on a hot streak after the "Transformers" films and Seyfriend, determined to shed her "Mean Girls" and "Mama Mia" reputation, was looking for something with a little more bite. In recent years, the film has been hailed as one of the greatest horror movies ever directed by a woman, is currently studied in university film theory classes, and is often cited as a cinematic feminist masterpiece. So why did "Jennifer's Body" bomb at the box office and earn terrible reviews from critics and audiences alike?

To put it simply, everything that "Jennifer's Body" had going for it was also actively working toward the film's demise. 2009 became the year where it was socially encouraged to hate Megan Fox for existing, to harshly criticize Cody's style of teenage dialogue, and where anti-femme bias was at an all-time high. The film was incorrectly marketed by clueless studio executives, and therefore, woefully misunderstood by people expecting one type of movie, and being given something completely different. "Jennifer's Body" was written off as a failure, but die-hard defenders were screaming from the wings that "Jennifer's Body" is good, actually. It took almost 10 years for "Jennifer's Body" to join the ranks of other unfairly maligned horror greats like "Halloween III: Season of the Witch," but it's official — "Jennifer's Body" is and has always been, an absolute masterpiece.

Society really, really hated women in 2009

The response to "Jennifer's Body" was tremendously impacted by the cultural climate of its debut. In the wake of the #FreeBritney movement, there's been a reassessment of the aughts, but many have forgotten just how atrocious of a time it was for women. Edgelord humor ran rampant due to the false sense of anonymity granted by social media, and combined with the welcomed mockery of girl-focused franchises like "Twilight," people were extremely comfortable openly hating women. Paparazzi-driven rags and sites like thrived in this era where gossiping about celebrities and mocking their appearances was treated like its own form of currency, and few celebrities were hit with scorn quite like Megan Fox.

The treatment of Fox was so abhorrent that in 2017 The Mary Sue published a piece titled "So...When Are We All Going to Apologize to Megan Fox for What We Let Hollywood Do to Her?" dissecting the way the media warped the narrative around Fox, and made her out to be something she never was. Hollywood painted Fox as a talentless, bratty, hack coasting through on her looks, as if somehow she has any control over the way the public received her. In reality, Fox is and has always been an underappreciated talent, because people struggle to accept that someone with such conventional beauty could have skill outside of physical appeal. It's also important to note that the hatred received by Fox was not exclusive to men, as women hated her just as much, if not more. With the rise of socialite celebrities like Paris Hilton and the early days of Kim Kardashian came a backlash of anti-femme hate, where any woman who dabbled in glamour or high-femme aesthetic were seen as lesser-than, and therefore fair game to ridicule. It was a dark time, and it's no surprise that millennials boast record high numbers of low self-esteem.

Marketing executives failed Jennifer's Body

Due to the popularity Megan Fox had with the all-powerful male 18-24 demographic, the studio felt the need to market the film with these viewers in mind, despite the fact "Jennifer's Body" is very much a movie about teen girl friendship and the way women are taken advantage of by men seeking positions of power. Diablo Cody predicted the movie would fail, because it was apparent from the very beginning that it was being mismarketed:

"This movie was extensively focus-grouped which is hell. People hated it. I still have one of the cards. I'll keep it forever. They screened this movie for young men, of course, and the question was 'what would you improve about this movie?' and the guy wrote 'needs moar bewbs' [sic]. That's what we were up against. It makes me sad in retrospect."

Karyn Kusama echoed Cody's sentiments, saying she was concerned that the marketing didn't even include Amanda Seyfried, and when she reached out to remedy the situation, it was not well received. "You know, I tried to be diplomatic, and what I got back was essentially, "Megan hot. Focus on Megan hot," she said. "It, it was just such a strange — it was a dark time." The boys who came out to see "Jennifer's Body" left disappointed that the film was not in line with what the marketing had promised, and the women who would have surely loved the film felt alienated by the marketing, and had no idea what sort of film "Jennifer's Body" actually was. The audience that would have felt seen by this story were left in the dark, and so, "Jennifer's Body" flopped.

Hell is a teenage girl

The conversation around "Jennifer's Body" started to change as micro-communities began to develop online, when suddenly, seemingly lone fans of the film from different parts of the world could find like minded individuals through Twitter and Tumblr, and there was an awakening. The Mary Sue article specifically about Fox started motivating other pop culture analysts to reconsider "Jennifer's Body," and together, a community collectively put the pieces together to figure out what happened with this film, and how to reclaim it. Film writer Jordan Crucchiola interviewed both Kusama and Fox to a sold out crowd at Beyond Fest in order to celebrate the film's 10-year anniversary, the movie fan apparel company Super Yaki released a "Justice for 'Jennifer's Body'" collection, and generations too young to remember the narrative of the aughts found the film organically, loving it without any of the social influence that plagued 2009.

The reclamation of "Jennifer's Body" came with a vengeance, as the queer and women-led movement began a revolution. In 2021, the Criterion Channel tweeted about "Jennifer's Body" calling the film a "sleeper cult classic" eliciting many requests for the film to be considered as part of the coveted Criterion Collection. Of course, there are still those that falsely believe "Jennifer's Body" to be a garbage movie, but as Jennifer Check so wisely stated, "Nice comeback, Hannah Montana. Got any more harsh digs?"