Recently Jennifer’s body has been making a resurgence amongst young people but at the time of its 2009 release it was a commercial and critical failure.
I’ve only seen the film post-resurgence, which makes me wonder why it was ever so badly received. When it was in cinemas I was too young to have seen it (I was 8) but at 19-year-old me and many other girls my age love it, so why was it ever deemed a failure?
Watching the film for the first time earlier this year I instantly loved the dynamic between Jennifer (played by Megan Fox) and Needy (played by Amanda Seyfried). It was clear that this film was an in-depth exploration of female friendship, it was meant for young women to watch and see parts of their friendships reflected.
In a ten-year reunion conversation Fox and writer Diablo Cody discuss the film in which Cody says “I want it to be female focused…about female friendship… I know what I want”.
Hearing this and watching the film it’s so obvious but the marketing team seem to be deaf. As at the time Cody asked the studio and marketing team what was their thinking behind their “unshakeable belief that the film needed to be marketed to young men”. The reply she got is almost dripping with misogyny, they told her “Megan Fox hot”.
Although this contributes massively to the films failure so does the marketing, because the marketing team only saw “Megan Fox hot” and not Megan Fox a multi-faceted person who can carry a well written film. Meaning, Cody’s intentions were completely ignored. The test audiences were full of frat boys when Cody clearly stated that this film was “female focused” e.g. boys are not the target audience!
One boy in the test screening even gave the feedback “needs more boobs”. Showing, that the over-sexualised mis-marketing had worked. This meant that boys were disappointed with the film not being Megan Fox being sexy for one hour and forty-seven minutes straight. This is not to say that boys can’t enjoy this film this is just to say that the film was heavily mis marketed contributing to the critical and commercial failure.
2009 ‘Hollywood culture’ was one filled with misogyny, the lead actress (Megan Fox) had starred in 2007’s Transformers and 2003’s Bad Boys II. What do these have in common? Director Michael Bay. Here is where the widespread mistreatment of Meghan Fox starts:
2003: Fox is an extra in Bay’s Bad Boys II at age 15 and made to dance in a bikini under a waterfall
2007: Stars in Michael Bay’s Transformers which catapults her to a sex symbol status
2009: Fox stars in Diablo Cody’s Jenifer’s Body and also speaks out about working with Bay.
Bay then releases a statement slating Fox and she is fired from Transformers 3 and her career is tarnished
2019/2020: Jenifer’s Body starts seeing a resurgence and the treatment of Fox is evaluated
It was as simple as that, Bay’s scathing statement about Fox calling her an “unfriendly bitch” and saying that “being a porn star in the future might be a good career option” solidified the public’s view of her that she was only a pretty face that couldn’t act.
Fox was vilified in the public’s eyes and Fox herself says that “objectified… doesn’t capture what was happening (at the time)”. Fox was vilified for speaking out against the mistreatment of her by a man. In a post #MeToo era I would like to think that if this happened today that Fox would be listened to however her mistreatment paints a bleak picture of how women speaking out against men were treated.
The film now has evolved to be a feminist cult classic which is tremendous as this shows that people today can see through the bad marketing and misogynistic treatment of Fox however it does raise questions about how sexist is Hollywood still? How many female writers are ignored in favour of attaining a male audience?
There is hope as writers like Greta Gerwig (Ladybird), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag and Killing Eve) and Michaele Coel ( Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You) break through and not only have both commercial and critical success but also win awards based on their talents. But still, how many Cody’s are there?
Yes Jennifer’s Body is loved now but why did it take 10 years to see through the misogyny?