The Underdog Bites Back

“I said I’d die for you!”

“No, you said you’d die with me. Cause you had nothing better to do.”

Leaving a lasting impression on feminist horror – John Fawcett’s Canadian feature, Ginger Snaps (2000) consistently underlies the thematic narrative of the underdog in numerous ways. While simultaneously delving into the horrification of female existence, sisterhood, puberty, alongside social dynamics, Ginger Snaps is placed within a monotonous suburban Ontario context. The film cascades between early teen angst and a cavernous obsession with death and the occult. In a town afflicted by enigmatic canine killings, the two outcast sisters, Ginger and Brigitte are met with a bloody confrontation on the nightfall of Ginger’s first period. Ginger is bitten by a savage creature, merely slipping away from its ferocious claws and howls. Gradually, Ginger begins her lycanthropic transition, leading up to her final form on Halloween night. Following the attack, Ginger undergoes a plethora of physical and internal transitions – including the animalistic growth of a tail and fur, along with an aggressive sexual appetite. Consequently, this dark mystery now becomes the responsibility of the underdog sister, Brigitte, to save Ginger and stop her from “tearing everything to fucking pieces.” Throughout the archival history of werewolf movies, leading female representation is typically few and far between. Ginger Snaps embodies all of the archetypical themes and aesthetics of horror and twists them in a whirlwind of nuanced paradigms. Metaphors that allude to the female experience are dispersed throughout the film. Elaborate measures are carried out to project the progression of morphing into a lycanthrope as an ode to the perils of femineity in the forms of sexuality and youth. Within John Fawcett’s intrinsic attempt to challenge the pre-established aspects of mainstream horror – werewolf cinema to be precise, Ginger Snaps serves as a twenty-first century magnum opus. As a subgenre of body horror, the timeworn anecdote of lycanthropy is evidently used as an allegorical symbol for puberty and coming into womanhood – a profound and colourful reinvention of the genre. Subversively told from a female perspective, Ginger Snaps displays Ginger’s destructive transition into female adulthood as an analogous to her evolution into a monster.

Although Ginger and Brigitte can be analyzed under the lens of societal rejection – it’s worth taking a closer look at the bond between the Fitzgerald sisters as their relationship is the beating heart of the story. As the younger sister, Brigitte often follows Ginger’s lead. Brigitte and Ginger’s social standing amongst their school, and town at large – serve as a precursor for the eventual downfall between the pair of sisters. While excluded from their surrounding communities, Brigitte and Ginger are immediately categorized as outsiders for a collection of reasons. Overall, Ginger Snaps depicts women, adolescents and essentially anything remotely different from the conventional expectations as recluses. Though, as a wedge is driven between their inherited connection, the shared role of the scapegoat is then entirely transferred over to Brigitte. As the narrative flourishes, Brigitte becomes the ultimate underdog in pursuit of saving Ginger. As the one who is always left to clean up Ginger’s bloodshed (literally), Brigitte is knocked down and ignored over and over again. While Brigitte tirelessly searches for ways to defuse the situation, her genuine fears are met with doubt and condescendence. The trait of the underdog can vary in an array of possibilities throughout cinema. Though in the case of Ginger Snaps – Brigitte’s naivety and innocence, alongside her apparent admiration for Ginger, feed into her demise as the underdog. Eventually, in the final act of the film Brigitte stands up for herself, expressing to Ginger, “You wrecked everything for me that isn’t about you. Now I am you.” Perhaps, since the beginning Brigitte had inhabited an unchecked desire for individualism as a separate entity from her sister’s shadow without even realizing it until Ginger eventually pushes her away. Accompanied by a reoccurring leitmotif of a heavy violin in moments of catastrophe, Brigitte’s devotion and loyalty to Ginger puts her in a compromising position time and time again.

Ginger Snaps is stacked with gruesomely mutated depictions of young girls, navigating their cravings for blood and destruction, in a display of radical growth of the female form – in a terrifying way. While the character development and the polarizing themes are fascinating, the trait of the underdog builds throughout the film, ending with an explosion – smoke, teeth, and blood. Lots of blood.