Movies

The Story Behind How Jennifer’s Body Went From Being A Box Office Flop To A Megan Fox Classic

Over the last decade plus, Jennifer’s Body has built a major cult following. However, in 2009, it was considered a major flop. It only made a humble 16 million on a 32 million budget, critics had mixed reactions to it, and it became a joke before it was even given a chance. By Hollywood standards, it bombed in every way. This makes its resurgence and new appreciation a sweet treat for the cast and crew. Megan Fox, Diablo Cody, and Karyn Kusama are finally receiving the praise they deserve.

Not every great film finds its audience during its initial release. Sometimes it’s criminally misunderstood by critics and the target audience. Jennifer’s Body isn’t the first cult classic to become popular after its initial release, but the film offers an interesting look at what happens when the studio wants the film to appeal to the wrong audience and doesn’t understand the film’s purpose. Its new cult status is vindication for Cody, Fox, and Kusama.

They tried to create a smart feminist movie for girls, but the studio wouldn’t listen. 

Warning: Jennifer’s Body spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution.

Megan Fox and Kyle Gallner in Jennifer's Body

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Studio Marketed Jennifer’s Body To The Wrong Audience 

Having a big studio behind a film can often propel it to success. The company invests so much time and money into marketing campaigns, so you would assume that they would use those dollars wisely. However, major studios aren’t always a blessing, and this was a curse for Jennifer’s Body. In a Buzzfeed interview, screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Karyn Kusama shared the studio’s horrific marketing campaign. It leaned heavily into Fox’s sex appeal to attract young straight men. This meant sexually suggestive posters and questionable promotional ideas, including the idea to have Fox host an amateur porn site. 

The studio seemingly ignored the script and Cody’s intention of attracting teen girls, ones like main characters Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried). Therefore, sexualizing Fox — the opposite of the film’s message — made zero sense. Sadly, there seemed to be a lack of interest in pushing the film to the right audience.

In a Variety interview, Cody shared that the promotional team used a focus group full of young men for suggestions on improving the movie. This was just one of their many misguided marketing tactics. 

In the Buzzfeed interview, Cody expressed frustration at targeting boys because clearly, this set up Jennifer’s Body for failure. Boys were being ripped to pieces and murdered in the film, after all. Cody said:

You’re disappointing your audience. That’s an issue. And also you’re turning off girls, who might have enjoyed the film. … It’s almost like they had a marketing plan in place before seeing the movie and then just stuck with that.

The marketing team thought the best way to market Jennifer’s Body was to target young men who may have been fantasizing about Fox since her Transformers appearance. These strategies missed the mark and failed to give the horror movie the right publicity for it to succeed.  

Megan Fox in Jennifer's Body

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

There are many problems with the streaming service model, especially when it comes to its negative effects on actors and writers. However, these platforms have made it easier for films and TV shows to find an audience who can appreciate it, even decades after its release. More people have discovered Jennifer’s Body because they can stream it on their favorite platform. 

Gifs of popular scenes, TikTok discussions, viral sound clips, and more build interest that turns into streams and purchases. Such social engagement can resurrect forgotten films. This has partly helped the Jennifer’s Body rebirth.

Megan Fox in Jennifer's Body

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Me Too Movement Allowed People To See Jennifer’s Body’s Purpose 

The title basically states it all: Her body is the centerpiece, but not in the way the marketing may have suggested. Jennifer’s Body is about Jennifer losing autonomy over her body. A demon is forced inside her without her control or consent. The film isn’t even a little subtle in what it’s trying to say. Plus, Jennifer’s death scene echoes the nature and tone of a sexual assault. Her scared look as she enters a van with creepy dudes says a lot without yelling at you to understand. 

Jennifer’s death results in her preying on men. It’s a great revenge movie, but not in the traditional sense. It’s revenge on the idea of men who abuse or devalue women. Though most of Jennifer’s victims have done nothing wrong that we know of, it’s about just feeding on men the way some devour women in the worst ways. Needy, however, by the end, does get some revenge in honor of Jennifer. With the Me Too Movement, a lot of people began to discuss and engage with media that added to the conversations surrounding it. More people started to watch and respect Jennifer’s Body for its feminist lens and purposeful plot. 

The main character’s traumatic murder by a group of men makes a statement on violence against women. The men in this band are ruthless with a lack of remorse. They only value whether Jennifer has or hasn’t engaged in sexual activity. She’s just something to help them gain success. In the same Buzzfeed interview, Fox released a statement to add to the conversation on the film. She believed it came out at a time when the world wasn’t ready for it:

The movie was ahead of its time, and while I think there is an argument to be made that it may not have been marketed appropriately, I genuinely don’t believe people were ready for a movie like that at that time in our society and culture.

Now with the world a bit more feminist and more open to these discussions, the film has been able to find its audience.

Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox in Jennifer's Body

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Queer Lens Of The Story  

2009 was more progressive than the decades before it, but it was nowhere near the level of openness and tolerance of today. Times are still not perfect, and prejudice and close-minded individuals and ideology still exist, but things have progressed a lot since Jennifer’s Body, especially with the support for queerness. More great LGBTQ+ movies and TV shows are being produced than in past decades. People are also more willing to embrace gay and queer content of the past.

Jennifer’s Body has some queer aspects that are key to the story. Needy and Jennifer are attracted to each other. Their exact sexuality isn’t really defined, but it’s definitely not hetero. Jennifer even delivers her famous line about going both ways. Needy seems to, as well, because she appears to be into both Jennifer and Chip (Johnny Simmons). Cody and Kusama expressed frustration on how people misinterpreted the kiss. Some saw it as exploitative. However, Cody envisioned it as communicating the women’s feelings for each other:

At the time I just thought, I want people to really understand how badly Needy wants Jennifer. There is sexual tension between them. It’s not just a friendship.

With the evolution of how people engage with queer context, people can more easily understand that this is the story of a complicated friendship. Some of that complication comes from the unspoken attraction to each other and romantic feelings.  

Chris Pratt, Megan Fox, and Amanda Seyfried in Jennifer's Body

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Post-Film Success Of Amanda Seyfried, Megan Fox, And Other Cast Members 

The fame of the Jennifer’s Body cast may have also helped more people watch the movie. Fox was on the rise at the time. However, she has become even more famous since the movie’s release. Seyfried has become a household name and even received critical acclaim and awards. The cast also includes Chris Pratt and, J.K. Simmons, who are also now two extremely popular and successful actors.

Fans tend to explore movies and TV shows featuring their favorite actors, and as people become more popular, new fans tend to watch their past projects. New fans of these stars may have just discovered the movie.

Discovering films and TV shows of the past and making them popular again is a constant media cycle. New cult classics are born each day. However, Jennifer’s Body is a cautionary tale on how bad marketing can wrong a good movie. 

Stream Jennifer’s Body on Max.

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