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Rarely has a film so astutely reflected the adolescent female coming-of-age experience as the feminist cult horror classic “Ginger Snaps”.

Ginger Snaps

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Ginger Snaps is a movie I discovered long after my own puberty as a fully grown woman, but I recognized why it’s such a cult classic immediately. Besides the fact that I adore early-aughts horror (aside from how it was normalized to hurl homophobic insults), Ginger Snaps gives us a werewolf tale that mirrors the coming-of-age experience of puberty, specifically for women.

In this iconic feminist horror film, the wolf is a metaphor for feminine rage that begins for many quite young as we are objectified, ostracized, and restrained by society, beginning in smaller societies like high school. The wolf is within all of us, but for many, it is not released.

If we look at Ginger’s lycanthropy from this lens, we can see that, in a very real way, Ginger’s curse frees her. However, she’s also very dangerous, making her too great of a threat to thrive in society.  

SPOILER ALERT
Note: There are significant plot spoilers in the analysis below. If you have not yet watched Ginger Snaps, I encourage you to view the film before finishing this article. It’s currently available on most streaming platforms, including Shudder, Peacock, and Tubi.

Movie Summary (Spoilers!)

The Fitzgerald sisters are disillusioned with life and have an extremely close bond. They vow to stand together forever, in this life or the next. A beast of some kind stalks Bailey Downs, eating dogs and leaving them torn and bloody.

Both girls, Ginger and Brigitte, are outcasts and seek revenge on a bully. This leads to a chance encounter with the beast, who scratches Ginger. Soon after, changes begin: her period becomes unbearable, her wound grows fur, and she has hungry urges she needs to satisfy; drugs and sex do nothing to satiate her.

Tearing living things apart consumes her as she delves deeper into her own bloodlust. Brigitte tries to help Ginger with the help of the local drug dealer, Sam, but it becomes clear Ginger cannot be saved, though she tries valiantly.

In the end, Brigitte must kill Ginger to stop her rampage.

Puberty

Everything in this movie is pushed forward by the women; men are backdrops since puberty, for them, is quite a different ballgame.

It’s just one of the ways it sucks to have a uterus. Everyone wants puberty to come, with their bodies filling out and awkwardness disappearing, but without the side effects. The werewolf contamination has given Ginger something she lacked: confidence.

She loves the new attention to her body but also realizes the double standard: she’s also being objectified and classified by men as the “slut/bitch/tease or virgin next door.”

The struggle is very real. The scene where Brigitte stands, daunted by all the feminine products that exist for women, is such a universal moment. If you’re not close to your mom or if she’s not around, you’re thrown to the wolves and have to figure out everything out on your own.

Things get very weird, very hormonal, and then boom: casual objectification, even at inappropriately young ages, by grown men. It’s a lot to deal with.

The one thing the girls in Ginger Snaps had was a solid support system around them at all times, especially in their mom. The adults may have been cartoonishly corny and cringy, but adults often are when it comes to teenagers. It isn’t like that for everyone. Sadly, the girls chose to reject their support system instead of asking for help.

I’m not sure how much help adults would have been for a werewolf situation, but their mom was ride-or-die for them and would have done whatever needed to be done.

The Wolf Within

“Somethings going on-like, more than you just being female.”- Brigitte

Brigitte and Sam, the guy who accidentally killed the beastly thing, trace it back and realize what’s happening. A full moon + bitten = werewolf.

Now, Ginger’s puberty appears to be accelerated by her wolfing out. She is ruled by instinct alone and a threat to everyone around her. The wolf brings out several things in Ginger that women aren’t supposed to be: aggressive, selfish, lustful, angry, and terrifying. Ginger is the nightmare incarnation that any patriarchy should fear — and she’ll tear you to “fucking pieces.”

There is a big difference between the puberty/objectifi­cation of men and women, but a werewolf doesn’t have to play by any rules but her own.

We see Ginger get physically violent, not just verbally, the way women are taught to channel their aggression. It’s no longer “boys will be boys”; it’s more like boys will be chew toys.

Outwardly, the men see the ‘sexy’ side of being a werewolf in her shape, in Ginger’s embrace of her animal carnality. The audience sees the truth. We see the crazy, weird, ugly side of the puberty-as-werewolf allegory.

Though awesome, Ginger’s transformation is not without its casualties (figuratively and literally).

Her deep mistrust of men makes her lash out and hurt men who are kind to her sister, like the janitor. There was no pedophilic grooming happening, but she killed him for perceived inappropriate behavior anyway. Kindness, to Ginger, is merely a tactic to get one’s defenses down. The same fate befalls Sam, who tries to help Brigitte and, by extension, Ginger.

In Her Shadow

Arguably, Brigitte lives in Ginger’s shadow.

Ginger is considered prettier by boys, while Brigitte is ignored and is able to stand up for herself. Ginger binds Brigitte to herself via a blood pact, but truly, Brigitte has never had a life outside of her sister.

By choosing life over the “ultimate ‘fuck you”’ of death (that the sisters consider suicide to be), Brigitte chooses herself and leaves Ginger’s shadow. And why not, really? Ginger definitely chose herself. I didn’t see Ginger’s death coming, but Brigitte did not want to join her this time.

Ginger Snaps gives us a metaphor that fits how it feels to mature as a woman in today’s world. It’s as fitting today as it was in 2000.

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