The Final Girls Club posts on the 1st, 3rd and 4th Monday of the month. It aims to take an analytical and retrospective look at female-led horror cinema and how these films hold up in the context of current issues surrounding gender, sexuality and politics.
A glaring similarity between the more well-known werewolf media portrayals in An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, The Wolfman, and Twilight are the lycanthropes themselves: they’re all men. The lore behind them may differ, their appearances can range from realistic wolf to a bastardised wolf-man hybrid, but most werewolf stories boil down to a man gaining the ability to release their inhibitions and return to their primal urges. Then there’s the Ginger Snaps trilogy —a rarity in the monster movie subgenre. A trilogy of films focusing on female werewolves, and an overt diversion from the stereotypical relegation of non-male shapeshifters to less feral animals. The non-male werewolf, as exemplified with Ginger Fitzgerald in Ginger Snaps and expanded upon with her sister Brigitte in Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, is such a foreign concept because allowing women to embrace sexuality and power in a manner outside of the male gaze is still considered taboo.
When non-men are given the role of “monster”, they’re still something less overtly powerful than their male counterparts. For example, in Cat People, Irena shifts into a panther and in Lair of the White Worm and From Dusk till Dawn Lady Sylvia and Santanico (respectively) shift into snake-like creatures. It’s way less of a power dynamic or a return to primal urges and more of an extension of how these characters are viewed by the male characters: they’re seen as sex objects before their transformations and dangerous, yet alluring after. They never become something grotesque and their transformations are never extensive nor border on a version of body horror. Even Marsha, the female werewolf in The Howling, is somehow less wolf-like than her male counterparts despite being in the same colony. In contrast, male monsters are something powerful, something primal; when male werewolves are turned- —after the obligatory internal morality battle— they release their inhibitions and let their id guide them. There’s also a heavy focus on their transformation scenes, especially the drawn-out masterpiece of special effects that is An American Werewolf in London, to emphasise just how extensively nasty these men become.
Ginger Snaps completely ignores the precedent for shapeshifting female characters. In lieu of making Ginger (and eventually Brigitte in the sequel) slowly transform into some delicate creature, the trilogy goes full force into making them just as grotesque and animalistic as her male counterparts. The final form of Ginger and Bridgette is just as sinewy, wolf-like, and mildly horrific as that of David in American Werewolf or Eddie and Bill in The Howling. Neither girl is intended to be an object of desire, rather a “…goddamn force of nature” as Ginger so eloquently puts it. Instead of using their new situation like traditional female shapeshifters— a seductive means to a possibly gristly end— the two end up accidentally or overtly causing the deaths of men that dare covet them. While Ginger and Brigitte both have a phase of apprehension about their lycanthropy, eventually they both adapt and occasionally revel in the newfound power and liberation they’ve acquired. Both eventually give in to the same base instincts: sex, violence, and tearing flesh from limb, to satisfy their own needs instead of being another character’s source of pleasure.
Films like the Ginger Snaps trilogy come few and far between because of its choice to completely disregard societal views around sexuality and bodily autonomy for non-men. As Ginger begins menstruation, she’s supposed to embrace the beauty of becoming a woman. It’s supposed to be a symbolic, graceful transition from one phase of life to another in accordance with every cheesy informational video shown in a sex education class. However, there is no nuance to these videos. No mention of anything outside of the woman’s body fulfilling its “biological duties”. Unlike men, non-men aren’t expected nor encouraged to have the upper hand in their own transition from child to adult instead taking a more passive role in the development of their own bodies. Ginger and Brigitte reject this passive engagement with her own body first by spurning the notion of menstruating all together and then— more so by Ginger in the first film than B in the second— by actively fulfilling their own appetites in whatever manner.
Nothing about the Ginger Snaps trilogy even hints at the Fitzgerald sisters being oversexualised like other non-male shapeshifters. They embody the raw physicality and animal instincts of any other werewolf combined in a manner that emphasises the hell that is puberty for a non-male. Their accidental lycanthropy works as a vessel for engaging in basic instinct without the guilt imposed on those perceived as women. It’s why non-male werewolves disproportionately presented and why Ginger Snaps is such a special entry in the arsenal of werewolf films.
Red (they/them) is an English literature student based out of the swamp that is Florida. Their bread and butter is horror movies — the cheesier the better — but if someone puts on a Wes Anderson or Hayao Miyazaki movie they won’t complain. Their favourite movies are The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Dogtooth, Sorry to Bother You, and The Muppet Movie.
Categories: The Final Girls Club