“Women remain—even to women—a boundless frontier of unsolved but beguiling mysteries, every one,” Ginger Snaps screenwriter Karen Walton said in an interview with Pajiba.
Walton identifies the very problem with analyzing Ginger Snaps. People place Ginger Snaps in the context of feminist horror – and rightfully so. Ginger Fitzgerald’s transformation into a monster serves as an exaggerated motif for her menarche. However, I argue that the movie is so much more than a story about a girl getting her period and noticing hair that wasn’t there before. Ginger Snaps, without its inevitable sequels, is the very boundless and mysterious frontier that Walton cited.
Ginger Snaps introduces Ginger and Bridgette Fitzgerald as deeply morbid teenagers. They fantasize about their own suicides, and form a blood bond with each other as if to cement their fate. What’s never truly explained is the mental health of the sisters, even though their fascination with ending their own lives clearly extends beyond the walls of their lavender-coloured bedroom. Their ‘Life in Bailey Downs’ photography project is a peer into their calculated suicidal fantasies. From the start of the film, there is a suggestion that the sisters are in need of help; however, there is a need to control the sisters where the desire to help should be.
Most interesting is the way Walton portrays how their photography project is handled. The Fitzgerald sisters are embarrassed in front of their peers by their guidance counselor, who is “deeply sickened” by the photos. This suggests that he is deeply sickened by the state of their mental health, and publicly shames them as if the way that they feel is abnormal. In contrast, their classmates applaud the Fitzgeralds as if death is a cool thing. Here, Walton makes it harder to determine whether their obsession with suicide is a romanticized pact between the sisters, or if it’s a call for help beyond the basement.
From the very beginning, it is obvious that no one seems to know what to do with the Fitzgerald sisters. The fact that there is a mission to do anything with them at all suggests a desire to possess and control them, rather than to understand. The guidance counselor fumbles on his own words when trying to express any sort of discipline around the girls. Their mother, Pam Fitzgerald is obsessed with parenting books and magazines; bookmarking pages she hopes will help raise them.
Therefore, the werewolf motif extends beyond female transformation. People are obsessed with what’s on the surface, like Ginger’s body, so much that they fail to recognize the chaos inside. Not only is she turning into a werewolf, but Ginger is also responsible for countless deaths. Their mother is so distracted by her gardening hobby that she fails to realize a dead body that is literally right beneath her nose. Misunderstood and betrayed by those who they should otherwise trust most, the sisters fall victim to their tragic and secretive pact. Much like the werewolf mythology, Ginger is an emblem of fiction and the ways in which people interpret it.
Ginger Snaps is screening on Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 8:00 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Karen Walton will be in attendance to introduce the film. Check TIFF’s website for details and tickets.
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