On this episode, we discuss two films about close female friendships between teenage girls — that may tip into sapphic love — and how they are affected when the girls are possessed by the patriarchy: Céline Sciamma’s Water Lilies (2007) and Karyn Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body (2009).
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The episode features Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney. Executive Editor Orla Smith, Editor-at-Large Mary Angela Rowe, and special guest Lena Wilson.
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On this episode
- What it was like watching Water Lilies in 2007 vs today, how the world has changed, and how our relationship to the film has changed
- “Every lesbian on earth found out about who Celine Sciamma was last year” (-Lena)…but Lena and Alex were fans a decade ago!
- How Water Lilies deals with girls and their relationship to their bodies
- Why it’s a “rite of passage to be sexually harassed” as a young woman in our culture and how that’s depicted in the film
- How Water Lilies depicts heteronormativity and the “rite of passage of losing your virginity” but privileges lesbian sex acts
- Links between Water Lilies and Never Rarely Sometimes Always
- How the film uses the images of synchronized swimming as a metaphor for performative femininity and what it is to be part of a group of girls
- How the girls have internalised misogyny and participate in their own objectification
- Why it matters that the actresses are very close in age to the girls and therefore look like children — especially in a film that is so much about their relationship to their bodies and how they are treated by others because of their bodies
- What it was like getting in on the ground floor as Jennifer’s Body fans for Lena and Mary Angela
- How Jennifer’s Body is a cultural artefact of its time, which makes it distinctly dated in certain ways
- How Jennifer’s Body depicts a toxic codependent female friendship
- Why the world wasn’t ready for Jennifer’s Body in 2009, and why there’s been a renaissance since
- Why Adam Brody’s agent deserves a raise
- How both films address sexual assault
- How Jennifer’s Body deconstructs ‘the hot girl’
- The blurry line between female friendship and desire and how cultural expectations of closeness as being sexual affect this
- How both films depict confusing sexuality for the characters
- How both films explore compulsory heterosexuality and how that confuses and hurts the girls
Water Lilies (Céline Sciamma, 2007)
Water Lilies follows Marie (Pauline Acquart), a shy teen who becomes infatuated by Floriane (Adèle Haenel), an incredibly cool and beautiful girl who is captain of the local synchronised swimming team. The film chronicles Marie’s attraction to Floriane, which may or may not be reciprocated, Floriane’s constant performance for the male gaze, and Marie’s relationship with her best friend Anne (Louise Blachère), who is going through her own sexual awakening.
Water Lilies is only available on out-of-print DVD so check eBay or your local library!
Jennifer’s Body (Karyn Kusama, 2009)
The setup of this film is, what would you do if your sort-of horrible best friend turned into a man-eating monster? Jennifer’s Body is about a lot of things, but mostly it’s about a kind of female friendship that many of us will find familiar — so close you almost want to climb into each other’s skins, but also haunted by a mutually-destructive and shifting imbalance of power. In the small town of Devil’s Kettle, dorky Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and beautiful Jennifer (Megan Fox) are unlikely best friends since the sandbox days. One day, an Indie rock band from New York visits their shitty small town, and the bar goes up in flames. Needy and Jennifer escape, but Jennifer goes off with the band’s lead singer, and when she comes back she’s… different. Needy discovers that her best friend Jennifer has become a literal maneater. It turns out that our band of indie rockers, thinking Jennifer is a virgin, sacrificed her to Satan in a ritual to gain fame and fortune. But Jennifer, who in her own words “isn’t even a back-door virgin anymore”, comes back as a succubus. As Needy says in a deleted scene, “You’re killing people!” and Jennifer responds, “No, I’m killing boys.”
Jennifer’s Body is streaming on Disney Plus in Canada and the UK and on Hulu in the US.
- Purchase our book Portraits of resistance: The cinema of Céline Sciamma
- Purchase our book Beyond empowertainment: Feminist horror and the struggle for female agency
- Read Lena’s New York Times article on Jennifer’s Body, What Megan Fox Taught Me About the Power of Subversive Girls
- Ep. 92: Commodifying Women: Sugar Daddy and An Easy Girl
- Ep. 86: Depictions of childhood sexual assault: Una & Slalom
- Ep. 73: Explorations of Rape Culture in Promising Young Woman and The Assistant
- Ep. 36: Abortion on screen and Never Rarely Sometimes Always
- Ep. 35: The Invisible Man and Unsane
- Ep. 30: Portrait of a Lady on Fire
- Ep. 21: Feminist Horror
Episodes 35 and 36, along with most episodes older than six months, are only available to Seventh Row members as part of the Premium Podcast feed. Membership is cheap and comes with a ton of benefits. Click here to find out more.