I don’t actually know if there is/is going to be a softcover of this book.
Jennifer’s Body, first-off, was a horror movie out last year. Written by Diablo Cody, starring Megan Fox (jennifer) and Amanda Seyfried (Needy); about a pair of teenaged, highschool friends who give up pretending that they don’t feel like enemies once Megan’s character, titular Jennifer (and no, I’m not taking that pun out – it was accidental and I don’t feel like redacting it to avoid rubbish jokes), becomes some sort of demon. I hated it when I saw the posters, I resented it when I saw Megan Fox being used for sexyface yet again, I rolled my eyes and sneered at it when I heard the “HELL IS A TEENAGE GIRL!” tagline. But when I read the coverage it got on Jezebel – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (‘6 reasons to love Jennifer’s Body’)) I started to think it might actually be really fantastic.
I still haven’t watched it, though. I’m a rubbish cinema-goer (I still haven’t seen Where the Wild Things Are, for goodness’ sake!).
I was and am super-keen on the idea of a horror movie about teenage friendships full of resentment and stangancy (not a real word?), about how objectification and patriarchy turn people against themselves and each other, and a deeper examination of high school/teenage problems than “my parents don’t understand or listen to me” or gender-divided court hierarchy. Not that those things aren’t interesting and true and painful, but that isn’t all that sucks so hard about growing up. I was-am also super-keen on examination (& debunking) of sexism within horror movies. And how that comes from, reflects and focusses sexism and gender-based assumptions in ‘real life’.
But like I said, I haven’t seen the movie yet! So I should shut up about it, and talk about the comic which I HAVE read!
They were still shooting when I was writing so I haven’t seen the film but I got to read the screenplay. It was kinda crazy writing characters that were being changed on set and in the editing process. – Rick Spears, author of the compilation, to Atomic Comics
I mentioned that I bought my copy in a regular book shop rather than a specialist comic shop – this meant that I got the Cho-drawn cover:
Now, I twitter’d this before, but the fact that this comic came wrapped in cellophane makes me go HAH and then EWW.
When I started writing this today I decided I should check good ole wikipedia to see if it had any interesting facts I had missed. it didn’t, but it did provide me with this paragraph synopsis of the book:
The novel features less of Jennifer than the film, but does capture her “going in for the kill” several times. It focuses heavily on following her soon-to-be victims and provides information on their personalities not elaborated on in the film so that readers can better conclude whether the boys deserved to be murdered. The novel consists of four chapters, with a prologue and an epilogue, with art provided for each by different artists. Each one follows a different boy and what is happening in his life just before Jennifer kills him.
I’ll just day that “conclude whether the boys deserved to be murdered” is not what I did when I was reading. Why? Oh! That’s right! Teenage boys DON’T deserve to be murdered! You nutter, anonymous wiki editor.
I don’t actually think that that was what the author intended me to do either though – I got much more of an impression that this was a book written out of a funny sort of sensitivity. Boys don’t deserve to be murdered, but horror movies need victims.. but victims mean nothing if they weren’t people first. I leave the room when Luke’s rebel friends are being burst like fireworks as they’re all assaulting the Deathstar, because it’s sad. Phelous often mention that the films he reviews miss the mark because the characters who get skewered (or whatever) are so irritating or vapid that the viewer doesn’t care or is glad when they pop their clogs – the more a victim matters, the more of a reaction will be gleaned from their demise. Or from any trouble they meet, really.
Just like in Nation X there are four stories, and just like in Nation X the first one is the best.
Chapter One: JONAS follows a jock who vaguely wants to bone Jennifer despite his girlfriend’s presence, and who’s feeling the strain of staying the sports hero he’s always naturally been whilst living the life of sofa-riding and snack-scoffing that he’s also inclined towards. It’s drawn by Jim Mahfood, who is great.
Second-page in and Jonas is getting a Strickland-esque dressing down from the headteacher – Jonas is never going to go anywhere, his life’s peaked already, he’ll end up hating his whole life and his whole life caving in on him. Jonas shrugs it off, but he can’t.. quite.. ignore it..
He gives it a good try though.
Spears keeps adding little extra bits of pending doom onto Jonas – ones that are unrelated to Jennifer.
Then he figures out his girl isn’t quite all his, then classmates are lost to a mysterious fire, then Jonas can’t keep it all in any more when the school’s grief councillor schedules a visit.. Jonas knows his life’s not what he wants. He knows his story is supposed to be better than this. And then, beautiful powerful popular Jennifer appears, and Jonas knows she can make the right things happen.
Jennifer’s not so into making out or hooking up any more though, so she whacks his head off.
Jonas’s story is over, and Jennifer was really only the end of it.
Chapter two: COLIN is about a kid who wears a shirt with an anarchy symbol on it, who has been “in love” with Jennifer since childhood, and who cannot bring himself to buy music from a mainstream record shop in a mall.
He can’t even speak in front of Jennifer, even after they become lab partners (is this really such a romantic appointment as the movies suggest?). Until..
So he can talk to her, but when he decides to overcome the dismissals of his sub-culture peers and ask Jennifer out, DISASTER STRIKES.
Don’t worry! Jennifer isn’t going to let him get away so easily. Romance may blossom after all! In an building site. Nice, Jennifer. But Colin’s not so impressed.
Jennifer looks like she’s hoping for some naked time, and Colin’s thinking of backing out because he’s a kid with emotions, you know? I’m not making fun Colin, I think that’s nice.
Sorry, Colin. Jennifer wants your body.
Chapter three: Ahmet from India made me ask “What the fuck is this?”. Is this dialogue straight-up racist, or is it just me?
What’s up with the sentence construction?
Also, is circumcision that common? Really? Uncommon enough that a team of baseball players will taunt their new expert bowler off the team based upon his present foreskin?
I don’t know if there was a Bollywood scene in the movie, but either way its inclusion here makes me feel uncomfortable. Ahmet is at the club everyone goes to, a band plays, the music is SUPER AWESOME and Ahmet gets Bollywood vision, rainbows and bare-chest-waistcoat and all. Dance routine time.
I liked the character that came through from Ahmet. He seemed like a decent kid. It’s interesting to get a view of a character whose international schooling year goes terribly, what culture shock feels like, and it’s true that food from ‘back home’ can be immensely comforting to someone in a place that feels hostile. For example, I started eating courgettes having hated them previously because I was glum in my uni town, and our crop at home had just ripened. It’s good to be reminded how extremely unkindness can effect people – you really never know how much other stuff someone’s dealing with as well. I am just completely baffled by the way that this section is written. The art’s pretty good – it’s just not used entirely for good, I think!
I considered that the odd dialogue might have been an author’s technique to bring home how culturally out of place Ahmet is or seems to the other kids at school. But if it is it is SO badly applied.
This last couple of panels was smart though, I think; Ahmet starts his story by talking about grasping his own American Dream, and ends (doubly) by quoting an American film classic.. about his ‘foreign’ home.
The last story is Chip’s. Chip is the boyfriend in the movie, Needy’s boyfriend. He wants to have sex with her, a lot, she’s intimidated by her body (Chip’s words) and doesn’t want to do it much. He fantasises about Needy, and sometimes about Jennifer too. Eventually Jennifer kills him and it is sad. I thought this was the most straightforward of all the shorts, which is why I didn’t include any pictures.
The four short stories are bookended by Jennifer, at (I assume) the beginning of her rampage and at the end of the film. The caption boxes show her inner monologue.
And they say it all, really – there’s zero insight into Jennifer in this book. No more than I got from the trailers, anyway, or the exchange between her and Needy:
Needy: You’re killing people!
Jennifer: No, I’m killing boys.
She knows boys want her, and partly because of that she disdains boys. She knows she’s hot, and partly because of that she disdains her body. This book was about the boys, and it causes me slight to middling pause that they went ahead and called it “Jennifer’s Body” on the cover.
Jennifer’s body wasn’t what killed them, and the stories show that. What killed them was Jennifer’s actions. What led up to Jennifer’s actions were the pressures upon her, and upon the boys. and their reactions to these pressures. Oh, and of course, what caused Jennifer to start “killing boys” was the demonic entity which possessed her, after she was murdered in a misogynist ‘sacrifice to Satan”. Thanks wikipedia.
It’s true that each of the boys in these stories are sexually attracted to Jennifer and her body, but in no story does the kid in question simply want to fuck her. They think she’s ‘hot’, but they also want what she (with personality, standing, artifice) represents. Jonas wants the comfort and potential of a partnership with her. Colin wants to spend time with her doing things he likes that it turns out she might enjoy too. Ahmet wants someone to be his friend – a bond, maybe even someone he can share love with. Chip is the only one interested in Jennifer’s body, and even he rejects her because he doesn’t want her body. He just responds with boners to the sexual interaction that she flaunts as a possibility. Maybe all this is why they kept the title, I don’t know.
It’s all over pretty fast, anyway. I was left with that feeling oh “oh.. huh” that I also got from the Buffy season six/seven tie-in comics I read years ago. It does feel like a tie-in, I think is the problem, and I think the psychology of the various attractions to Jennifer (and her reactions to them) are set out a bit simplistically. Or maybe I mean straightforwardly? In Colin’s story, particularly, I felt like I was reading the bad sort of soap opera webcomic, where relationship dramas are settled by enormous speech bubbles of self-help book join-the-dots. This was a really bad comparison to draw, because I can;t link to a comic that I think does this sort of thing because that would be terribly rude. I think what I’m saying is that I felt that some of this book were too neatly drawn. And when I say ‘drawn’, I mean ‘written’.
Apart from the baffling aspects of Ahmet’s chapter, I think I recommend this book. It is, at the very least, an interesting artifact: the “but what about us?” response to a feminist slam of internalised misogyny’s effect on teenage sexuality. What about you, boys? You matter too, of course! And that’s why you should be on our side.
Oh, pee ess, the reason that I actually did turn out to write a review with no mention of the character design or wardrobe choices? Because it was apparently no-one’s priority here at all, and I barely noticed what anyone was wearing ever. Bah.
Sorry this got so long.
Ugh ugh ugh, sorry for the multiple edits! >_<