Sunday, 18 April 2010

Movie Review -- Ginger Snaps (or American Werewolf In the Red Tent)

Finally, I've seen this movie!!! (and yes, I know it's Canadian, but Canadian Werewolf In the Red Tent just didn't have quite the same ring, you know? ;-) When I heard that it was a metaphor for a women's induction into puberty, the feminist in my really wanted to see it, and I have to say, it didn't disappoint. Not in the very least. Loved the symbolism, the commentary on relationships between women, women and men, and how society views women's roles. And there was good use of werewolf lore too. A win-win all around!

The Fitzgerald sisters, Brigitte and Ginger are outcasts in high school. They dress in dark, baggy clothes, they smoke during gym class, and they couldn't care less what the popular boys and girls think of them because they hate life and are preoccupied with death, even going so far as to make a death pact that they will die by the time they're 16 (Ginger is nearly 16 and Brigitte is nearly 15, though both are in the same grade in school as Brigitte skipped ahead a year, thus making her The Smart One, which means she's even more of an outcast).

Despite their ages, niether sister has had their first menstrual cycle yet, though it appears that Ginger may be on the cusp, as she's been having back pain and Mom (expertly played by Mimi Rogers) diagnosis this as the precurser to cramps.

So one day at school, the popular girl takes a swing at Brigitte, knocking her over and into a shredded dog carcass on the hockey field. UGH! The Beast of Badon Hills has struck again, killing and mutilating another family pet, and Brigitte now has the dead dog's blood on her face. As revenge for this act, the sisters want to make it seem as though Popular Girl's own dog has become a victim of the Beast, so they set out one night (in direct defiance of their mom's orders to stay home) to plant some fake blood and guts in Popular Girl's yard. On their way, they come across another dead dog corpse, this one is still warm. Ginger encourages Brigitte to take a leg from the corpse to make their own set-up even more real, when Brigitte notices that Ginger got some of the dead dog's blood on her -- specifically, on the inside of her leg, just above her knee.

Yepper, you know it, and so does Ginger. She examines the blood and then wails, "Oh no, I'm cursed!" and just as she does so, a huge beast swoops in and drags her out of the frame. Double, double toil and trouble -- two curses on one night, the night of a full moon, no less: Ginger's got her first period AND she's been bitten by a werewolf.

It's so interesting to see how the werewolf infection 'changes' Ginger; she was very, very close to Brigitte, and much is made of the two of them being sisters, united in sisterhood, against the world. Though after Ginger is bitten, she becomes more confident, especially where the opposite sex is concerned. Gone are the baggy clothes in favor of more form-fitting garb to show off her developing figure (which also develops a tail!), and she leaves Brigitte during gym class to go flirt and make out with the popular boy.

Whereas The Red Tent by Anita Diamante had Dennar relishing in joining her sisters in the Red Tent, united in womanhood, through the monthly cycle and the toils of childbirth, Ginger Snaps shows us another, (in my opinion, unfortunate) observation of puberty -- girls leave their girlfriends, their sisters, behind and discover boys. Especially noticeable is how Ginger treats her mother, the woman who can probably understand and offer her the most advice during this time; though puberty is the classic time when teens pull away from their parents. The parents in this movie have a very interesting dynamic: the mother does all the talking, guiding, and advising, whereas the father just sits there, inert, immobile, with no input or any kind of guidance. Ginger and Brigitte's mother is a June Cleaver type, serving dessert at dinner every night, and even making Ginger's favorite dessert when she discovers Ginger is finally menstruating. Mom means well, but she's so very disconnected and clueless when it comes to her daughters.

Another interesting commentary in the movie is Ginger's increased sexuality. She and her new boyfriend are in a car, and Ginger's newfound 'infection' is really making her sexually agressive. Her BF at one point tells her to slow down, asking, "Who's the guy here?" Because women are not supposed to be sexually agressive, and if they are, well then, that's just plain wrong. During Victorian times women were counselled that during the act of intercourse, she should just 'stare at the ceiling and think of England', well -- a sexually agressive female is quite a monster now, isn't she!

Pigeonholing women into certain roles is even remarked upon by Ginger. Towards the end of the movie, there's an accident and a teenage girl ends up dead. Ginger and Brigitte cover up the crime, with Ginger telling Brigitte how no one will suspect them, because "we're women. We can be sluts, bitches, teases, but we're not killers."

I loved this movie (as if you couldn't tell by now) because I love delving into the mythology of 'monsters' and how they become so through ideas such as sex is linked with beasts and not something intellecutal man should enjoy, the exploration of feminism and how women should bond and band together at certain, pivotal times in their lives, but too often they don't, and even point the finger at their fellow sisters, blaming them for fates which befall them.

As for the lycanthrope aspect of the film: the film presents it as an infection, thus the sisters try using various folk-remedy antibiotics such as silver and monk's hood in order to 'cure' the disease. The werewolf is scary, and there is a good bit of suspense and gore in the film.

Considering the popularity of teenagers in today's paranormal realm, I have to say that this film is the complete opposite of Twilight. It's centered on women, with no men to blame or save them; the girls receive help along the way but in the end, they are on their own. The monsters are truly frightening and not there to help repel anything that sparkles in the daytime (as a matter of fact, I have a feeling that Ginger and Brigitte are the kind of girls who would snicker at and deride teens who love sparkly vampires. Just sayin' ;-)

If you want to see a good werewolf film, one that includes lots of social commentary on women and their roles in society, then Ginger Snaps is for you. If you get squeamish talking or even thinking about that time of the month, then you may want to skip this one!

1 comment:

  1. Great post Nicole!

    (I've been meaning to leave my comments since a couple days now)...

    Anyhoo, I remember the 1st time I finally saw Ginger Snaps about 3 yrs ago or so and it felt like I was having a flash back to High School and "1st events" LoL!

    But yes, Ginger Snaps was defintely a "it's all in the message / more than horror story". It really drew such interesting parrallels!

    Unfortunately, the follow ups (prequel and sequel) left much to be desired!

    ~ S

    ReplyDelete