Jennifer’s Body: A Case in How Bad Marketing Kills

On Twitter recently a tweet went viral featuring a clip from a 2009 Jimmy Kimmel interview with Megan Fox telling a gross story of working as an extra on Bad Boys 2. Michael Bay (her soon to be Transformers director) directed her to stand under a waterfall in bikini at age 15. The first of many times he would sexualize her in their series of collaborations together. The story may have come as a surprise to some, but for many like myself that have heard stories about how Megan Fox was treated by Hollywood weren’t all that surprised. Megan Fox was sexualized by Hollywood at a very young age just because of her looks. And because of this, she was never taken seriously as an actress. She was only ever seen as eye candy and that was the box she was only ever placed in. That was the only role people wanted her to play. The resurfaced clip made me want to revisit Megan Fox’s 2009 movie Jennifer’s Body and discuss how her portrayal in the media caused her one real star vehicle film to be critically bombed by critics and fans alike. And why it shouldn’t have.

The Killing of Jennifer’s Body

Jennifer’s Body was written, directed, and starred by women. And who was the movie marketed to? You (probably) guessed it! Not women. Jennifer’s Body was marketed to men. I’m not saying that men can’t enjoy a movie that was written by or directed by or starring a woman but in this case, Jennifer’s Body was made to be seen by women (more on that in a minute). Instead, though, the marketing of the film alienated what was supposed to be the film’s core fan base to promote it to men. You may be asking yourself well why? Why did the studio promote the film to men when it was created to be seen by women? Four words. Megan Fox is hot. 20 Century Fox wanted to piggyback off Megan Fox becoming a sex symbol after starring in the Transformers films (where she was grossly sexualized). To 20 Century Fox, the whole value of the film was simply that Megan Fox is hot and that alone will get men to buy tickets. They were wrong.

Jennifer’s Body was a commercial failure. Women did not see the movie because they didn’t know the film was for them. Men who saw the movie were confused by it and therefore thought it was a bad movie. Men who had come to watch it wanted to see Megan Fox topless and less of the movie’s feminist themes. You see Jennifer’s Body is a lot more than your normal horror movie. Jennifer’s Body tackles themes of female empowerment, complex female friendships, sexual assault to women, the exploration of female sexuality, and more. Once again I’m not saying that men couldn’t have enjoyed Jennifer’s Body (plenty of men in fact do), but the men who went to go see Jennifer’s Body when it premiered weren’t watching it to see the complexity of female friendships and the blurring of the lines between friendship and attraction. They just wanted to watch Megan Fox make out with Amanda Seyfried.

In the Buzzfeed article “You Probably Owe ‘Jennifer’s Body’ An Apology“, writer Diablo Cody bluntly declares “I wrote it for girls,” Cody said, bluntly. “I think the fact that we were a female creative team gave us permission to make observations about some of the more toxic aspects of female friendship.” Diablo Cody wanted the film to be seen by women, she wanted them to relate to the film and to see themselves in its characters. But, the studio failed her and failed the audience Diablo wrote the film for, heck they even failed the audience who just wanted to see Megan Fox nude because that wasn’t the film Jennifer’s Body was. In the same article, Diablo is also quoted saying, “You’re disappointing your audience. That’s an issue,” Cody said. “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.” They sure did and that’s what killed the movie before it even premiered, the negative reviews by (male) critics and moviegoers is what buried it.

The Resurrection of Jennifer’s Body

I am proud to say that the real-life horror story of Jennifer’s Body has a happy ending. In the years since Jennifer’s Body has been released, its following has grown. The negativity surrounding the film has shifted to be more positive than ever before. It’s finally found its core audience propelling it into cult classic territory. With each passing year, more and more people have watched it, and more importantly women who were excluded by the film’s marketing originally now watch Jennifer’s Body and connect with Diablo Cody’s story about what it’s like being a teenage girl. And girls like me that have grown up and watched Jennifer’s Body and wonder how so many critics could have gotten Jennifer’s Body so wrong. To say Jennifer’s Body was ahead of its time is an understatement. A feminist horror-comedy? There’s a definite market for that today. Today if the movie were promoted right, it would be a huge hit. It would have pushed Megan Fox into megastardom. Where she and the film alike would have been treated with respect by mainstream audiences. But alas that wasn’t meant to be, so instead Megan Fox will have to continue to be appreciated by fans who know her value, and Jennifer’s Body will have to enjoy its newfound cult classic status. And somehow I think that’s better than any box office success could’ve offered.

If you haven’t seen Jennifer’s Body, as you can see I recommend it. If you want to learn more about Jennifer’s Body. I highly recommend the two videos linked below. One is a really insightful video essay on Jennifer’s Body and its horrific marketing that I really enjoyed watching. And the second video is a candid discussion between Megan Fox and Diablo Cody about Hollywood’s treatment of them both. It’s a fascinating watch.

My book Living Rent Free In My Head: Essays On Pop Culture comes out on August 2, 2022. Pre-order it now for only $3.15 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other vendors.


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