As the decades keep ratifying the truism, “High school is hell,” filmmakers too continue to find adolescence a rich playground for the supernatural. The cinematic landscape of the new millennium is positively rotting with juvenile gore and romanticized horrors. But perhaps one can extract a modicum of truth out of such teenage populist delights this Halloween. John Fawcett's 2000 film Ginger Snaps, for one, makes a bloody lycanthropic mess out of feminism. The film is equal parts teen comedy and camp horror, exploiting the werewolf metamorphosis as a metaphor for puberty.
Meet Ginger and Brigitte, sisters on the precipice of adulthood. Hobbies include making suicide pacts and slideshows of their gruesomely staged deaths in their dungeon of a bedroom – clearly humor tempered by a thousand paper cuts. Late bloomers, the two dread the thought of menstruation for it would mean yielding to conformity and venerated womanhood. Menstruation disgusts and embarrasses them but also threatens their sense of identity as misanthropic outcasts, which they gladly play up as students. When Ginger finally gets her first period, a werewolf attacks her the same night to make the transformations run parallel. Ginger begins to take on masculine qualities, becoming sexually aggressive and physically abrasive, sprouting a tail in the process. She learns how to wield her newfound sexual confidence to disrupt the the social hierarchy at school and racks up a body count along the way. Consequently Ginger comes to resemble the archetype of the monstrous femme fatale, which in turn is the manifestation of the historically male fear of being overtaken by a woman; she might as well have sprung fifty feet.
The title of the movie itself is a pun of a binary opposition between femininity and masculinity, wherein the domesticity evoked by baked goods is contrasted with the machismo Ginger develops once she “snaps.” Qualities of feminine power – being nurturing, tender and positively aggressive – are seemingly rejected in this story by Ginger's dubious transformation, but subtly reaffirmed by her mother and younger sister. It is, after all, the gleefully ignorant mother who takes to investigating the girls' behavior and actually discovers the truth. Brigitte, the more introverted sister, also demonstrates power through her unwavering devotion to Ginger. Overcoming her social inertia, she even enlists the help of others to save her sister. Indeed, it is through her triumph that those growing pains of youth finds the most cathartic articulation.
1 See 1958 cult classic, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
Image courtesy of the author.