Jennifer’s Body: The Perfect Storm

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You're Gross

It smells like Thai food in here.
Have you guys been fucking ?

Such is the "joke" with which Jennifer greets Chip and Needy before the girls go out to the local bar to hear Low Shoulder play. In light of what we’ve already learned about Jennifer, it’s obviously more than just an off-color joke. It’s also designed to provoke. And Needy takes the bait, setting up a weird shoving match between the pair that can only leave Chip bemused yet terribly confused, unsure what to make of the thinly veiled hostility he sees in front of him.

You’re gross!
...No, you’re gross.
You’re so gross! 
...Fuck you. Let’s go to the club.

It’s telling, not merely because the language echoes the childhood origins of their friendship but because of the sense of revulsion around which that exchange takes place. For Needy, it would seem that it’s Jennifer’s obscenity that’s being protested: the crude reference to her relationship to Chip, the odor she associates with sex, or the mere suggestion they may have already consummated their relationship. (That’s so gross!) And while we might see Jennifer’s participation in this "game" as an automatic reflex, mirroring the language of her mousy friend, it’s clearly also an accusation. After all, she’s managed to wrangle Needy away from the evening she had planned with Chip, suggesting that her time would be better spent checking out the "morsels" they’re likely to meet at the club. So, from Jennifer’s point of view, perhaps what’s obscene is the idea that Needy might actually prefer Chip, instead. And at some level, at least, it would seem that Needy agrees.

It’s precisely this contrast between different incarnations of the masculine that shapes the heart of Jennifer’s Body. For at the very beginning of its story, our attention is drawn to the contrast between Needy’s boyfriend, Chip Dove, and the lead singer they’re preparing to see, Nicolai Wolf. Their names already suggesting that, in the battle for dominance, much less the contest to win a girl’s heart, the outcome may have already been decided.

Chip: Stop kidnapping my girlfriend.
Jennifer: You wish!

In many ways, the struggle that ensues can be seen as a fight for (or against) that very conclusion, with Needy and Jennifer as its main combatants. Two sides of a girl still uncertain about what it is she wants.

Explaining Jennifer

While Needy was choosing her outfit for the night, it was precisely this contrast that was the topic of conversation. So, when Chip asked about who Jennifer had set her heart upon seeing at the club, Needy provides him with a sense of the kind of criteria used to judge the worthiness of one type of boy against another.

Who’s the one that Jennifer’s stalking?
...The lead singer. Girls like her don’t go out with drummers.
Thanks a lot.
...No offense. I mean, she’d probably make an exception
...if you were a drummer who’s also a lead singer.
Like Phil Collins.
...Who’s Phil Collins?
Forget it. He seminal, but whatever …

While Chip takes the blanket statement about drummers personally, we quickly discover that it’s much more personal than he might have at first suspected. For in speaking as Jennifer’s interpreter, speaking for her mirror image that has yet to enter the room, Needy will implicate Chip directly. For she suggest that his chances would be elevated significantly if only he were a drummer and a singer. And while this gives Chip momentary cause for excitement and hope, he quickly discovers that she is oblivious to the fact that such a person may already exist.

In fact, she also appears to be oblivious – or indifferent – to what Chip sees and wants in her. Throughout the film, even as she takes quiet satisfaction from his expressions of jealousy and awkward attempts to impress, she will not actually hear or respond to his words. Like the ones he uses as she’s changing clothes, expressing what only appears to be his disapproval about showing too much skin.

This is my "rock" look!
...Well, I can see, like, your womb …

For behind the words uses to identify himself, or the kind of drummer he would like to be, or what it is he sees in her look for the night, are pointers to a future that has yet to be, a type of becoming that has yet to make itself known. – A seminal drummer. Her womb. – But the words seem to either be unrecognized or unwanted, blinded instead by the prospect of what she and Jennifer have already planned to see later that night. A lead singer, the image of whom promises nothing short of the kind of excitement that can only take your breath away. How can a mere boy compete with that?

So, just as the two of them lean in for a kiss, Jennifer will make her entrance, one that will be detected by Needy alone. And with this display of a sense beyond perception, we will be provided with our first look at the kind of "intuition" that binds one girl to another and which, for Chip, is nothing short of creepy. For with Jennifer’s arrival comes a message: if there’s to be any kind of consummation that night, the relation between the two girls dictates that the object-sublime will come from somewhere else.

Enter the Wolf

Low Shoulder

Had the conditions been slightly different – if she had not been looking for Him that night – perhaps the warning signs would have been recognized. After all, in a different context, "low shoulder" identifies the danger that lies ahead, warning against getting too close to the side of the road since to do so would threaten one’s vehicle if not one’s life. It is the danger of being thrown off one’s track, careening into a ditch, and spinning out of control.

Even as the girl begins to find herself drawn to the one who sings, the lyrics of his song also seem to be broadcasting a warning that she should stay away. For while the words appear to speak of a certain kind of yearning and loss, much more ominous is the other message that’s conveyed: how his "best friend" disappeared and the ways in which he was implicated, himself.

All alone in an empty room
Nothing left of the memories
Of when I hurt my best friend
I don’t know how we ended up here
I don’t know, but it’s never been so clear
We made a mistake, dear
And I see the broken glass in front of me
I see your shadow hanging over me

Perhaps it’s the passion with which the words are sung that she finds so attractive, the soulfulness with which they are conveyed, or perhaps it’s his sense of regret. (Or perhaps it might it be guilt, instead?) Or perhaps it’s his feelings about a love that’s been lost that she’s drawn to, feelings that – if she allows herself to believe – might magically be be transferred onto her instead?

I’m still here breathing now
Until I’m set free
Go quiet through the trees
Cuz you’re not coming back

And yet, as we continue to listen, it’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that he finds himself trapped, perhaps in ways not so different from Jennifer herself. Stuck in the aftermath of a death he can’t help but mourn. Caught in the clutches of another than has passed and who’ll never return. A melancholy so deep that he can only see himself as the unlucky survivor, even as he emits eerie clues about how that other came to be "gone" in the first place.

Shitty Areas

As if this weren’t enough, another warning – like a neon light – is the singer’s answer to Needy’s question. Why would the band would come all the way from the City just to play at their seedy club?  His response, an improvisation that’s unable to hide his true feelings, will leave her both puzzled and not without a hint of disgust. But Jennifer, her other half, is already caught up in his spell. And so, despite Needy’s growing sense that no good could come of this boy, her other will react quite differently, a measure of a (shared) aversion to Devil’s Kettle, but also her desire, born of desperation, to escape the hell that she’s been forced to live with, alone.

I think it’s really important sometimes to try and connect with our fans
in the … (uh) … shitty areas, too.
...That’s amazing!

And so, at the film’s beginning, we see all the pieces set in place for the "perfect storm," a term used by meteorologists and others to describe how the confluence of factors gives rise to a devastation so great that it has the potential to annihilate all life that may lie in its path, targeting those places most vulnerable to the power of its destruction. Not only is it the fact that Needy and Jennifer find themselves at odds about the kind of boy they’d rather be with. Neither is it the fact that Needy still believes herself to be Jennifer’s protector, even though she will have already failed at that task, choosing to remain in the lion’s den, despite what she overhears about the band’s intentions for the one they plan to sacrifice.

The crucial tipping point that first finds expression that night, buttressed by the sandbox agreement established in childhood, is the desperation that has finally identified her vehicle for escape, unable to see or recognize that there was another agenda at play besides her own. And so, as Jennifer’s flirtation gives way to something else – settling into her bones and infecting her heart – as tongues of fire begin to burn, gradually engulfing everyone and everything in its blaze.

Death Unseen Time 2gain

Since it’s Needy who has always acted as the Head, she is the one who will lead the pair safely out of the conflagration. But as we discover, this is just a temporary solution, one that can only delay the path that’s already been set. The fact that their escape takes them through the "sticker toilet" – an emblem of their condemnation and a sign of what’s yet to come – is not only a measure of the filmmakers’ grim sense of humor, it also identifies the signs of hope that accompany the forthcoming descent. For not only do these signs speak of the death that remains unseen or the anguish of time that has no end, they also identify the possibility of escape. And the fact that one need not be resigned to one’s fate.

For not only has Jennifer’s knees buckled when confronted with the one who sings of another’s passing, she has fallen into a daze, as if overwhelmed by a power that has put her into a sleep so deep that it will require a disaster to awaken her from its slumber. But rather than take this as evidence of her inherent weakness, much better to see it as a necessary step in a girl’s evolution. For even the Mother of God is celebrated for her Dormition – also known as The Death of the Virgin – which leads to her Assumption into heaven. And it is precisely this sequence of events that we see traced out in the remainder of the story that’s being told. And it will be Needy who provides the crucial faculties for accomplishing that task.

Putting the Pieces Together

While the truth of the Church’s orthodoxy far too often remains shrouded in secrecy, leading believers to misunderstand the nature of Mary’s blessedness, there are stories from other traditions that provide us with a very different portrait, one in which the central figure is actively involved in her redemption, struggling against the forces that would keep her trapped in the elements below. (For what else is Jennifer if not one beholden to forces apparently beyond her control?)

One such parable speaks of Psyche and the series of tasks she must complete in order to find release. Some are mundane and seemingly pointless, others are more treacherous, threatening her very life. But each requires that she learn to work with forces previously unseen, seeking the cooperation of other forms of life that have had yet to be recognized. In other words, it’s less the tasks themselves than what she is able to accomplish while learning how to complete them that sets the stage for her liberation. The powers already at her disposal but not yet harnessed. Acquiring a certain kind of wisdom.

Research

This "work" is evident in Needy’s turn to resources outside her body and her mind, to the secret knowledge housed among shelves of books. It is she who, out of her own sense of desperation, seeks out the wisdom of the ages, learning how to decipher their hidden meanings, delving beneath the words to divine the treasures contained within.

And so, while she submerges herself in writings of the occult that speak of sacrifices made to the Devil and the kind of transference that results, she will also pay special attention to how the inherited demon can be slain, noting that it’s weakest when hungry and that this is the time when it must be stabbed in the heart. Obviously, this is no mere "book learning." Instead, it’s a practical knowledge that provides the kind of guidance necessary for doing battle against what few are able to recognize, much less defeat.

That's Just Crass

Should it come as surprise that, after overcoming the shock of the fire and the deaths that soon came in its aftermath, Needy also finds the strength to speak out against the mindless deification of Low Shoulder, responding to those that would treat the band as if they were royalty, as if it were an honor to be associated with the group that brought tragedy to their town. For in doing so, an ugly and dangerous truth is allowed to fall by the wayside: that the band’s success had come at their own expense – its rise in popularity in direct proportion to Jennifer’s descent – their fame and fortune a consequence of their less-than-noble actions that terrible night.

So, while others are drawn into a hypnotic trance, repeating the words of a song designed to commemorate the dead – quite perversely, adapting it as their "anthem of unity and healing" – Needy will protest on Jennifer’s behalf. As her teachers and classmates celebrate the "generosity" of a band that donates 3% of its profits to the families affected by the loss, Needy will raise questions about matters no one else wants to hear.

What about the other ninety-seven percent?
I mean, that’s just crass, right?
Crass. It means greedy, exploitative, scummy.

And when a classmate begins to protest, claiming that Low Shoulder should be considered American heroes, Needy can only respond by sharing the truth she already knows. For even if much of that night still remains shrouded in mystery, there’s one thing she about which there is no doubt, the "salty singer" is anything but a saint.

I was there, Chastity!
They didn’t help anybody escape the fire.

Retelling the Story

It’s also Needy who will re-narrate for us what she learned from Jennifer during their last meeting as friends, when her other was strong enough to finally describe what had happened to her on that horrendous night.

So, you remember the night of the fire?
I got really messed up.
And those guys from Low Shoulder?
Totally evil.
They’re basically, like, agents of Satan with really awesome haircuts.

As Jennifer continues to speak, what we are provided with is less a matter of the gruesome details of what was done to her than a portrait of her abusers, their complete disregard for the one they had captured and completely unashamed about their motives for kidnapping her in the first place. We are also witness to a terrifying disconnect between Jennifer and her abductors, a measure of the disorientation brought on by the fire as well as their utter indifference about her fate as a girl, much less as a human being.

Where are we going?
...You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to.
Are you guys rapists?
...Oh God. I hate girls …

It might be tempting to take the waxing moon that hangs in the sky as an omen of the satanic events that were to follow, but it’s worth remembering that this phase of the moon is most commonly taken as a period of growth and attainment. In other words, however horrid the experience may have been – and however painful its memory remains – it was but a prelude to a phase that’s yet to come. When what was planted that night, after a painful period of incubation, reaches fruition, giving birth to something other than what the Devil himself had intended.

Feel My Pain

Precisely because it falls to Needy to rewrite the story begun that night, it’s incumbent upon her to recall what those intentions were. For intentions are important, whether they were already set at the beginning or only fell into place along the way. And from the events that came to follow, as well as what was to come, Jennifer’s tale makes quite clear what was intended with her body that night.

Do you know how hard it is to make it as an indie band these days?
There’s so many of us: we’re all so cute and it’s like,
if you don’t get onto Letterman or some retarded soundtrack,
you’re screwed, okay?
Satan is our only hope. We’re in league with the Beast now.

Yes, we’ll need to dig beneath the "comedic" distortion to get at the truth of what’s spoken about here. But whatever else we may come to believe, it’s clear that their career and social honor were foremost in their minds and that, somehow, they came to the conclusion that Jennifer provided the path to success, no matter the noble clothing with which they would later come to adorn themselves. That her body provided the crucial – yet missing – element necessary for their achievement.

And as if to underscore precisely this point, just before the blade makes its descent into her flesh, the boys break out into song. An "homage" to the girl about to be sacrificed. Citing one of the most obnoxious tunes written about a woman and the man who calls upon her for his personal enjoyment.

Jenny, you’re the girl for me.
You don’t know me, but you make me so happy.
I got your number on the wall,
"For a good time, for a good time call … "
Jenny, don’t change your number, 8 – 6 – 7 – 5 – 3 – 0 – 9.

A Secret Love

Why is it necessary to delve into the gory underbelly of the "salty" one? One answer to that question is (almost) hidden from us (but not quite). For during one of Jennifer’s weakest moments, when the hunger had begun to sap her energy and her glow, we are witness to the secret that kept her bound to her abuser and her killer, flashed across the screen. Clear as the light of day.

The fact that she hasn’t got his name quite right – pointing instead to the man behind the mask – may just as much be a measure of her confusion or her belief that there was another more honorable being sequestered behind the nastiness. And it is this attachment as much as anything else that accounts for her imprisonment. For although she already recognizes his alliance with Evil, she still remains bound to him. Possessed by the one at whose hands she was murdered. Which also explains why Needy is compelled to attack when the demon is at its weakest.

And why she must target her heart.

Overcoming the Split

It’s a little known fact that demons are rarely as grotesque in appearance as they typically appear in the movies, and the same holds for the one that came to infect Jennifer’s heart. Only in fairy tales are we alerted to the varied disguises that they are likely to take and the measures that must be taken in order to avoid a fate that’s worse than death. So, in the absence of glaring signs that one is being courted by Evil, it falls upon the shoulders of the uninitiated to discern the less obvious signs that this is so. But since Jennifer had already fallen into his trap, that task now falls upon Needy who, in replaying the story for herself, slowly and painfully puts the pieces together.

Feeding

And not only about the one who killed Jennifer but the effect of that killing, as well, learning to recognize the signs of demonic transference. And since this process of re-narrating the events of the past is played out for us as well, we are also put in the position of learning from Needy’s achievement. After all, it soon becomes clear that Jennifer’s feeding is no different from what was done to her in the first place. The reasons may differ, but the effect is the same: consumed by a hunger that will not go away, her emptiness never completely filled, always needing more once the initial effects of her latest conquest has begun to wear off. In other words, it’s the demon’s behavior that’s being repeated, transferred into the body of Jennifer. Acting out an anger of what was done to her, the savage disembowelment, and the desperate void it has left in its aftermath, in his absence.

Which also accounts for the drastic measures to which Needy must go to undo the Evil that has descended upon her other and their community. For there are at least three deaths that will mark the path toward redemption. The first – the death of her boyfriend, Chip – is incidental, a consequence of the battle that rages between the pair. The second, and more significant, is the death of her childhood playmate, the one with whom she formed a secret pact so long ago. For it requires severing the ties that have kept them bound together and turning her back on the one to whom she had pledged her friendship forever.

Once this "killing" has been completed, the maelstrom that had hounded Jennifer descends on Needy, sending her to a fiery prison of her own and giving way to a frightful transformation, as the demon comes to inhabit herself rather than her friend. No longer protected by Jennifer. No longer cordoned off from the traumas the other was forced to bear, alone.

The Tower - Tarot of the New Vision      The Tower - The Love Tarot 2      The Tower 2e Carta Mundi

The Kicker that emerges is the new hybrid born of this "killing," where the split between Needy and Jennifer has been closed and the two are finally forced to live in a single body, no longer free to act as if one had nothing to do with the other. So, even though the split may have served its functions – allowing Needy a semblance of safety and protection while providing Jennifer the means by which more dangerous appetites were allowed free reign – it had its obvious shortcomings, as well. For Needy found herself forever on the sidelines, the "geek" who could only taste life’s excitement through her friend, while Jennifer could only experience the normalcy of living through the one protected from the seedy side of life.

The fire that now passes through her body is nothing short of the violence of this transformation, precisely that which is represented in The Tower. In this sense, the tower can be taken not only as a symbol of her imprisonment (as is so often found in fairy tales), it is also the site of a destruction that ultimately leads to renewal. An opportunity to learn from one’s experience and the chance for a new beginning, however painful that path may be.

Given the centrality given to the two figures falling from above, some suggest that The Tower be taken as a representation of Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden. Which would make sense, particularly if what is being overturned is an over-idealized portrait of the way things are supposed to be. Others suggest that the card represents nothing other than Tower of Babel itself, more specifically, the punishment visited upon those that would arrogate to themselves the power of God, aspiring to the heavens without the blessings of the Divine. That earthly ambitions and claims to "royalty" will ultimately reach their limit and come to naught.

But what does this have to do with Needy and Jennifer, we might ask?
Or Kicker, the one who’s taken their place?

The Tower - Cosmic Tarot      The Tower - Renaissance Tarot      The Tower - Eclectic Tarot

The answer is nothing short of the Phallus, the other structure which The Tower can be taken to represent. For there is more than one version of the deck that stamps this card with the emblem of masculinity, suggesting that the tower symbolizes precisely those traits associated with virility: strength, authority, ambition, and power. Not that there’s anything wrong with these qualities. But when pursued relentlessly – particularly in the absence of a complement that balances its excess -this masculine drive invariably meets up against its limit.

And this applies equally to women as to men. For the phallus is not the province of one sex alone. After all, Jennifer had one – one that was bigger than Colin Grey’s, as she would claim – while "Needy" did not. And it was precisely this imbalance that gave rise to Jennifer’s murderous rampage. For what was fueling her pursuit of lonely and grieving boys was the quest for power and control, feeding off the helplessness of those that trembled in the face of her wrath, luxuriating in the carnal pleasures that could be extracted from their flesh, just as had already been done to her. And if there was a hint of anger about what lay beyond her reach, that found expression here, too, quietly celebrating her apparent immortality, finding a replenishing nourishment in the death of others. Is it any coincidence, then, that after one of her feedings, Needy would hear her declare, "I am a God" ? For in finding such (temporary) renewal, she was able to convince herself that she lay beyond the laws of the universe, able to dictate the terms of her own existence, no matter the cost to others, just as had already been done to her.

It is quite appropriate, then, that the closing frames of this story give evidence of another kind of killing, one that marks a final severance with all that came before. It is as much a "death" for the girl as those who bear the brunt of the attack, for it is an act that seeks to put to death the "gods" that would seek to claim what was not theirs to take. And rather than stab the offending one in the heart, we find the knife has pierced his gut, instead. The very place that, in a previous incarnation, was the site for feeding. Putting an end to an earlier mode of existence and its dependence upon blood and flesh.

So, rather than identifying The Tower’s fiery destruction as some random act of fate or the result of a vast and hidden conspiracy, it’s appropriate to recognize it as coming from the place that some versions of the card depict as the Eye of God. That the bolts of lightening come not from without but from an entirely different place, one that, in these portrayals at least, exists in the heavens. Which is why it is only after Jennifer’s unbridled aspirations have been "killed" that Needy is transformed into Kicker, forced to live with those passions without the means by which her other had come to satisfy them, in an apparently endless cycle of hunger giving way to violence and death.

The Tower - Osho Zen Tarot

The task, in other words, is to give up one crown for another. And this is precisely the process that Kicker finds the wherewithal to accomplish. Not that she had much of a choice, finding herself in a prison without escape. But rather than continuing to battle the inevitable – rebelling against the pain that would not end or, alternatively, crumbling under its excessiveness – she allows herself to sit through the conflagration, waiting for it to burn itself out.

Yes, she may allow herself certain creature comforts during the journey – what might be considered transitional objects of attachment, like the fuzzy slippers she wears upon her feet – but eventually even these must go, as well. For as the commentary accompanying the Osho Zen version of The Tower (aka "Thunderbolt") describes it:

You might be feeling pretty shaky right now, as if the earth is rocking beneath your feet. Your sense of security is being challenged, and the natural tendency is to try to hold on to whatever you can. But this inner earthquake is both necessary and tremendously important – if you allow it, you will emerge from the wreckage stronger and more available for new experiences.

After the fire, the earth is replenished; after the storm, the air is clear. Try to watch the destruction with detachment, almost as if it were happening to somebody else. Say yes to the process by meeting it halfway.

Or, as Kicker’s tells us, in the final words of her story:

Sometimes change can be good.
For instance, most occult scholars don’t know this,
But if you’re bitten by a demon, and you live …
You just might absorb some of the demon’s abilities.
You just might get lucky for once in your miserable life.

While this doesn’t sound quite the same as the Osho Zen understanding of The Tower, the two are not as different as they might seem. For both speak about the necessity of change, and both speak about the shift from one life to another. Kicker’s take on the process differs only to the extent that she’s become well aware of the hell that preceded the prison in which she finds herself, a consequence of the demon that sunk its teeth into her flesh.

So, even while she may have struggled against annihilation, she has now come to recognize that the power that threatened to consume her can be transmuted into something else. Rather than thrashing on the floor or, as Jennifer had done, seeking escape and release through the consumption of others, she has identified a different kind of power, one less phallic. For the meditative stance is more about harnessing the forces that threaten to overwhelm rather than confronting them as an armored combatant on the battlefield. Making them one’s own, giving them a shape and offering them a future different than the seed from which they came.

In light of this, the words spoken not so long ago now take on a different meaning.
– "I can see, like, your womb." – After the fire of transformation, she’s finally in the position to see what that means. For she has now given birth to another.

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~ by mistified on August 15, 2010.

One Response to “Jennifer’s Body: The Perfect Storm”

  1. i dont no

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