Academic journal article Western Folklore

"The Hair That Wasn't There Before": Demystifying Monstrosity and Menstruation in Ginger Snaps and Ginger Snaps Unleashed

Academic journal article Western Folklore

"The Hair That Wasn't There Before": Demystifying Monstrosity and Menstruation in Ginger Snaps and Ginger Snaps Unleashed

Article excerpt

Given that they inherit many distinguishing features from oral narratives-the use of archetypal characters, recurring themes, reconstructions, prequels, and sequels-one could argue that the "art" of the werewolf film is, for the most part, the art of adaptation. To produce a film about werewolves is to produce something instinctual, derivative, or even formulaic. Indeed, werewolf films often avoid originality, preferring to construct variations on the known. And yet, the Ginger Snaps trilogy1, a cycle of werewolf films that emerged out of Canada between 2000 and 2004, insists on both its tradition in werewolf folklore and its very modern, nontraditional representation of female sexuality. As Linda Ruth Williams explains, "Try to imagine what Buffy the Vampire Slayer would look like if it had been written by Angela Carter and you might get close to the heady cocktail of high-school pubescence and feminist folklore that is Ginger Snaps" (2001:36). Like many horror movies before them, Ginger Snaps (2001) and Ginger Snaps: Unleashed (2004) contribute to the repressive discourses of sexuality that shackle women to reproduction, depicting female adolescences as the origin of a two-fold "curse"; menstruation and monstrosity. And yet, Ginger Snaps and Unleashed use the werewolf as a metaphor not just for the horrors of puberty but also for the limits placed on female sexual subjectivity. They also construct a radical model for menstruation education, uncovering the powers and horrors of menarche by combining the folk and scientific models for understanding menstruation. These films, in effect, demystify both werewolf mythology and menstruation biology by constructing composite notions of lycanthropy and menstruation that allow for radical forms of female sexual consciousness. Rejecting the limited subject positions available to adolescent girls, though not afraid to use those expectations to their advantage, the Fitzgerald sisters present two subversive forms of female subjectivity: Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) learns to derive pleasure from her monstrous identity and the power and sexual satisfaction it affords, while Brigitte (Emily Perkins) constantly struggles against her developing monstrosity and the bloodlust it produces, withdrawing from the system of sexual exchange that destroys the feminocentric kinship she values.

WEREWOLVES: HISTORIES, CONVENTIONS, AND DEVIATIONS

Werewolves have a long history in folklore and the Ginger Snaps films both substantiate and subvert many of the characteristics and conventions of this intricate past. The werewolf's lineage is a complex one that transcends cultural and historical contexts. Charlotte F. Otten traces the figure from the ancient myths of Homer and Ovid, through Middle English narratives such as Le Morte D'arthur, to biblical scriptures that reference humans' use of wolfish disguise, such as Christ's Sermon on the Mount and Paul's address to the Ephesians (1986:5). However, throughout this protracted narrative of maturation, the figure's symbolic significance refuses to remain static. In Greek and Roman myth, werewolves provide a symbolic assessment of human morality, in scriptural contexts they warn of Satan's ability to prey upon spiritual weakness, and in Middle English narratives, they are the pitiful victims of domestic plotting and crimes, such as poisoning and adultery (Otten 1986:7-8). Although some recent narratives also position werewolves as intransigently abject creatures who exhibit a complete disregard for dominant codes of moral and physical conduct, most modern werewolf narratives present them as pitiable monsters tormented by their beastly behavior and immoral impulses. As Chantal Bourgault du Coudray explains, "the prototype of the anguished and tragic Wolf Man torn between his human and lupine urges dominated representations of the werewolf in the twentieth century" (2003:58). Perhaps because the werewolf's narrative history is full of such complex representational contradictions, it manages to evade any simple signification as either the source of fear or fascination, abhorrence or adoration. …

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