BRIGITTE. Ging, what’s going on? Something’s wrong, like more than you being just female. Can you say something please?
GINGER. I can’t have a hairy chest, B, that’s fucked.
BRIGITTE. Bitten on a full moon, now you’re hairy.
GINGER. Well, thank you for taking my total fucking nightmare so seriously. Oh shit, what if I’m dying or something?
— Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)
“Since the 1970s, many horror films have focused on the body as the site of violent transformation. Comments on such films as Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968), Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the entire subgenre of the slasher movie make clear the connections between violent invasions of the body and the role of the body in society.”
— Ernest Mathijs, “AIDS References in the Critical Reception of David Cronenberg,” 29
By (re)-articulating and modifying horror conventions, Ginger Snaps depicts the experiences of young women coming to terms with their sexuality. In many respects Ginger Snaps contributes to dominant discourses of reproduction, however the film also demands feminist scrutiny. Ginger Snaps merits a reading through psychoanalytic theories – specifically through Barbara Creed’s analysis of transgressive femininity in the horror genre. Creed’s The Monstrous Feminine considers how representations of body horror are connected to Kristeva’s theory of abjection. Kristeva’s psychoanalytic account of feminine sexuality in turn lends force to a reading of Ginger Snaps that incorporates feminist critiques of reproduction narratives. Emily Martin, for instance, contends that scientific accounts of reproduction reinscribe normative femininities by associating passivity with menstruation and activity with spermatogenesis. Ginger Snaps incorporates both the discursive frameworks of menstruation in medical texts and the pervasive ideologies of normative “femininity” that are in operation in contemporary society.
Ginger Snaps also centres its story on a kind of feminist solidarity experienced by two teenaged girls and, contrastingly, the rivalry that exists in sisterly bonds. As Ginger Snaps progresses, the close relationship between the sisters, Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins), is increasingly characterized by conflict and jealousy. At the start of the film, neither of the sisters has begun menstruating. Perhaps due to the late arrival of what they call their “curses,” Ginger and Brigitte are considered outsiders at their suburban high school. However, when the elder of the sisters, Ginger, begins menstruating, she attracts the attention of her male classmates. The interest that Ginger arouses in her male classmates disgusts her younger sister Brigitte because it represents her entry into a sexualized world that they had vowed to avoid in a pact to never be “average.”
Once Ginger begins menstruating a parallel process is triggered in her body, a process that transforms her into a werewolf. This “event” is a revision of early hormonal teen-horrors – such as I Was a Teenage Werewolf (Gene Fowler, 1957) – which depict teenagers’ sexual experiences as resembling a metamorphosis into a monster. Ginger Snaps asserts itself as a twenty-first century interpretation of the “body” sub-genre in its references to other canonical horror texts, such as Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942), Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968), The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) and The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986). Mark Jancovich associates “body horror” with a “supposedly postmodern collapse of distinctions and boundaries” (6). In “body horror” films “the monstrous threat is not simply external but erupts from within the human body, and so challenges the distinction between self and other, inside and outside” (Jancovich 6).