Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday Reboot: Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps was released in 2000 and stars,  Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle and Kris Lemche.  Two angsty White teenage sisters named Bridgette and Ginger Fitzgerald live in an urban setting. They exist as misfits filled with what is meant to be ironic teenage angst.  As with every high school, you have the hot guy and the mean popular girl. Bridgette follows her older sister Ginger's lead. They have a pact that they will die by 16 together.  A werewolf is killing all the animals in the neighbourhood but no one seems overly concerned.

In an attention grabbing stunt the girls work on a death project where they take images of Bridgette posing like a corpse. This is clearly meant to disturb, which the teacher sees right away though the class applauds.  Their parents have an uncomfortable relationship with the girls.  Their father is extremely detached while their mother is concerned with being their friend and talking to them about their development.  When Bridgette's back begins to hurt, her mother is excited that this may well mean that she is starting her period and is super excited about this because apparently though she has breasts, Bridgette is late menstruating. 

That night they go out to take more photos when Ginger notices blood on her leg.  Yes, that's right, she got her period.  Ginger is disgusted and  makes Bridgette promise not to tell. Ginger is attacked by a werewolf but Bridgette manages to helps her to run.  They cross the street and the werewolf is killed by local drug dealer and stoner, Sam. Upon investigating the body, he quickly realises that he killed a lycanthrope.

As Ginger begins to morph into a werewolf, her behaviour changes. The title Ginger Snaps, is literally a descriptor for Ginger's metamorphosis into a werewolf.  She becomes more sexual, actually infecting Sam through unprotected sex.  She becomes violent killing animals and people.  She grows thick hair over her body and a tail.  With each change Bridgette knows that she has to find a way to help her sister.  Even when Ginger commits murder, her sister is determined to find a way to save her.  When her mother realizes that one of her girls has killed another, her solution is to blow the house up and run away.  What a messed up family.

I realise that werewolf in this case is a metaphor for puberty but the angst level was extreme.  I was particularly upset with Ginger's response to getting her period.  This movie is clearly aimed at a young audience and since young women already internalize such negative things from the media regarding their bodies and especially menstruation, I felt that this was anti-woman.  I will however give kudos to Mrs. Fitzgerald for responding to Gingers complaints about being fat nonsense and stating that the images of women in magazines were far from healthy.  

There is a healthy dose of slut shaming and even shaming for being a virgin in Ginger Snaps. Pamela is upset when Sam chooses to talk to Bridgette, though she has invested a great deal of time flirting with her.  Se begins her attack by calling her a slut before attacking her on the lacrosse field.  Later when Pamela runs into Bridgette, she tells her that Sam is a cherry chaser and only likes virgins.  She begs her not to let Sam get away with it.  The "it" however, is something that has not been explained.  When Ginger initially spurns Jason's attentions he accuses her of being scared because she is a virgin.

Girl is also used pejoratively in this movie quite a bit. Much of the teenage horde seems to spend its time performing for the boys.  The only agency we see comes from Bridgette's determination to save her sister and cover up her sister's murders.  It is not until near the end of the film that Bridgette begins to face the fact that her sister is a monster.  She screams at a fully changed Ginger, "I'm not dying in this room with you. I'm not dying," before stabbing her sister. She is finally free to be herself, she has slain the monster.  

To be honest, I considered turning this movie off after watching about 30 minutes of it.  Even Twilight has less angst than Ginger Snaps. I appreciated seeing a werewolf movie that involved more than a woman being the love interest of a tortured werewolf however, the whole bitch in heat thing was sexist as hell -- considering that male werewolves are typically portrayed as feeling love. The story seemed to drag on and on with no relief.  The violence did at times feel gratuitous but Ginger's final transformation into a werewolf was great.  On the whole, this is a movie that was essentially a massive waste of my time. I feel as though I deserve an award for surviving it.