2007, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
Jump Cut, No. 49, spring 2007
Perpetual flight: the terror of biology
and biology of terror in the
Ginger Snaps trilogy
by Patricia Molloy
When Canadian filmmaker Karen Walton was first approached by fellow Canadian director John Fawcett to write a screenplay for a teen girl werewolf flick, her initial impulse was to run. For one thing, unless you were David Cronenberg, the chances of getting "this type of movie" made in Canada were not very good. But more so, Walton had never been a fan of the horror genre, especially its vapid and violent portrayal of women. Fawcett managed to convince her, however, by suggesting she make the type of horror film that she would like to see. [open notes in new window] What thus emerges is a tale of the horrors of growing up female in the banality of a North American suburb. That is to say, Ginger Snaps (2000) and its two subsequent instalments (Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, both 2004), relies on as many truths (of femininity, family, kinship, community and nation) as it does fictions, including a possible argument for the origins of lycanthropy itself in the logic of sovereignty, exemplified particularly, as we shall later see, in colonial Canada.
Depending on which side of the reality/ fiction divide one aligns oneself, a lycanthrope is either a human being who periodically undergoes a magical metamorphosis into a wolf, or a human who, for whatever reason, thinks he/she undergoes such a transformation. Lycanthropy is thus either a mutation of the flesh or a delusional stage of advanced psychosis. Lycanthropy, in other words, can be either a physical state or a state of mind. But, as suggested above, whether lycanthropy is a physical transformation or psychotic episode is dependent upon whether the tale of the lycanthrope in question is encountered in a psychiatric journal or fictional text.
The word "lycanthrope," from the Greek lykanthropos (or "wolf man"), is a relatively modern term, first appearing in Richard Scot's The Discoverie of Witchcraft in 1584. Here Scot relies on ancient medical theory in order to dispel equally both Roman Catholic notions of lycanthropy as the Devil's doing, and theories which locate lycanthropy in practices of witchcraft. For Scot, lycanthropy is a disease of delusions, its sufferers inflicted with a form of melancholia (Lupina melancholia, or Lupina insania). For five centuries prior to Scot's treatise, the term "werewolf" (derived from the Latin word, vir, "manwolf") predominated English usage in describing the metamorphosis of man into wolfish beast. As Charlotte Otten discusses, though rooted in the Scriptures' accounts of the wolf attacking the flock in Christ's Sermon on the Mount, Middle English ecclesiastical texts substitute werewolf for the scriptural (non-humanoid) wolf. For Otten,
"the shift in the image of wolf to werewolf may well indicate the perception of a closer alliance with Satan than the word wolf (although ravening and grievous) connotes."
By the Middle Ages, however, werewolf narratives had shifted from both the Scriptures and ecclesiastical jurisprudence, as well as the explicitly moral tales of human to animal transformation in the ancient myths of Greece and Rome. Indeed, whereas Scriptural and ecclesiastic werewolves "were manifestations of the Devil's power in human lives," in medieval narratives, werewolves were "victims of domestic plotting." This shift, Otten argues, could have something to do with the anti-feminist bias of the time and, in accordance, has some effect on the reader.
"While the ancient myths are powerful warnings to humans to abstain from indulging bestial appetites and from obeying irrational promptings, and ecclesiastical and Scriptural werewolves are to be feared because of the wily stratagems of the Devil who goes about "seeking whom he may devour" (Peter 5:8 AV), the werewolf in the medieval narratives evokes pity and sympathy for the werewolf, who, banished by fellow humans, was barbarized by his shape and excluded from human fellowship and love."
In a more recent narrative, however, namely Ginger Snaps, it is the barbarism of the human shape — the curse of the pubescent female body in particular — and the condition of (in)human fellowship which evokes pity and sympathy for the lycanthropic turn taken by the title character. Taunted and teased by their more popular high school peers, the gothy and geeky, death-obsessed (almost) 16-year-old Ginger and her even geekier 15-year-old sister Brigitte are simultaneously excluded by their school and suburban community as they exclude themselves from it; the human fellowship of love reserved only for each other. "Out by sixteen or dead in the scene. Together forever..." goes the sisters' suicide pact, made, and signed in blood, at age eight.
But let me back up. In the previous paragraph, I described Ginger's beastly transformation as "lycanthropic" rather than "werewolfish" for the (not so) simple reason that the term lycanthrope enjoys a more liberal usage throughout the filmic text than does the word werewolf. Whilst the two terms were used almost interchangeably by the 16th century and are, etymologically speaking, virtually indistinct (manwolf vs. wolfman), their connotation in the lore of more modern times is markedly different. That is to say, and as alluded to above, the word "lycanthrope" today is medicalized, the professional term for a pathological condition, whereas "werewolf" is a "non-medical term for a fantasy or criminal state," the stuff of horror flicks and Gothic fiction. Though perhaps mere fancy on the part of screenwriter Karen Walton, referring to Ginger and the creature who attacked her as lycanthropes consistently throughout the film nonetheless and importantly provides a more medicalized (therefore "legitimate") frame of reference for the "condition" than is typical of modern fictive werewolf chronicles. On the other hand, unlike accounts of lycanthropy in today's medical annals, within the film Ginger's affliction is not regarded as psychically imagined or drug induced, but "real." Lycanthropy in Ginger Snaps is indeed a pathology: not a "disease of the mind," however, but the biological body. As the character Sam says,
"Biology, now there's something you can sink your teeth into, so to speak. You're real, your problem's real, the solution's real."
For in the film, lycanthropy is a virus, an infection which is transmitted by blood to other biological bodies, and if not curable, is at least perhaps preventable.
Complicating Ginger's condition, however, is its timely coincidence with the onslaught of her (decidedly) delayed first menstrual period. That the horror of (real) pubescent biology — the body out of control — is mapped onto the (surreal) supernatural body, which mutates into beast (the dangerous body), is not novel to this particular telling. However, in departure from its notable precursors including I Was a Teenage Werewolf, An American Werewolf in London, The Exorcist, and the menstrual hell of Carrie, Ginger Snaps is told from an explicitly female point of view, which garnered the film much critical praise and a good buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival, if only modest commercial box office success. Though it is not my intention in this paper to discuss the Ginger Snaps films within the terms and context of the horror film genre per se, it does bear pointing out that whereas imaginings of a mutant or transmogrifying body have populated the screen since the mid-1980s, most notably in the "body horror" of fellow Canadian David Cronenberg, celluloid werewolf sightings have been relatively scarce since John Landis's 1981 American Werewolf in London. Not surprisingly, given its dark humour, high school setting and female-centredness, Ginger Snaps draws as many comparisons to Joss Whedon's hit television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer as it does to the tradition of "classic" horror cinema. Indeed, for Toronto film critic John Harkness, Ginger Snaps puts a "post-Buffy spin on an old familiar tale." This warrants some examination.
As with Buffy, Ginger Snaps subverts the horror genre by providing an alienated cum kick-ass high school chick as its heroine. Yet whereas it is Buffy's reluctant transformation into the Slayer, the overwhelming responsibilities of being the "Chosen One," which is the source of her teen angst, Ginger's outsider status as geek is overcome with her transformation into a hypersexualized werewolf. Moreover, whilst Buffy fights the forces of evil, Ginger embraces it with abandon. Buffy soon forges bonds of friendship and love in a collective struggle against the vampires and demons of Sunnydale, whereas Ginger's lust for the lycanthropic and its attendant sexual awakening threatens to sever her only meaningful human connection: the deep bond she shares with her sister, Brigitte. And it is this impending loss which is the true source of terror for Brigitte, forcing her to grow up — the full impact of which is only realized in the 2004 sequel (Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed).
I will return to this later in the paper. In the meantime, I want to suggest that the biological and emotional horror show which constitutes the coming of age is but one metaphoric level on which Ginger Snaps operates. That is to say, the collapse of the (territorial) boundary between adolescent and adult, girl and woman, "represented" by the transformation of human to beast, occurs within a larger frame in which virtually all thresholds are zones of indistinction suspended in what Giorgio Agamben terms a "state of exception;" where violence and the law become indistinguishable and human life is reduced to one's biological or "bare" (politically unqualified) existence. Simply put, bare life is a life that is powerless.
Horror films, as many theorists will attest, are always political allegories but, as I will argue in this paper, with Ginger Snaps we witness the workings of sovereign power more specifically as biopolitics: enacted in the realm of bare life, and inscribed on the body. Biopower, as we know from Foucault, reaches everywhere, inhabiting every body and circulating throughout every space in which bodies congregate or dwell. And this goes doubly for women whose lives have historically been excluded from the realm of political power and decision making while their bodies have been the object of and regulated by state practices of power. But what Foucault associated as a modern practice, Agamben finds in ancient Roman law, particularly in the figure of homo sacer ("sacred man") who is included in the political realm solely on his exclusion, in his capacity to be killed. Homo sacer's is a life not worthy of being lived, expendable, life available to be killed. As a politically unqualified ("bare") life, the killing of homo sacer is a murder without the commission of homocide.
For Agamben, it is not merely that life as such becomes a calculation, an object of State power. It is the politicization of bare life — the coinciding of bare life with the political realm and the blurring of their borders to the point of indistinction — which props up the modern political system of the West. Agamben writes that
"the decisive fact is that, together with the process by which the exception everywhere becomes the rule, the realm of bare life — which is originally situated at the margins of the political order — gradually begins to coincide with the political realm, and exclusion and inclusion, outside and inside, bios and zoe, right and fact, enter into a zone of irreducible indistinction. At once excluding bare life from and capturing it within the political order, the state of exception already constituted, is in its very separateness, the hidden foundation on which the entire political system rested."
The sovereign decision over whose and what sort of life is considered worthy of continuing extends beyond the confines of bounded space and specific locales. Every society, says Agamben, sets its limits and decides who its "sacred men" will be. No longer localizable, bare life "dwells in the biological body of every living being." In the same way a (concentration) camp can and will appear anywhere. And as we shall see through the full spectrum of the Ginger Snaps trilogy, no place is safe for Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald who, like homo sacer himself, are always in perpetual flight, belonging nowhere, not even in time.
In the first film, Ginger and Brigitte deliberately cast themselves outside of the liminal spaces of home, high school and suburb, fleeing from both the strictures of adulthood (particularly womanhood) and structures of family and community which try to, but ultimately cannot, contain them. In the sequel, Brigitte, now living in the city and "hooked" on the antidote which could not save Ginger, is incarcerated in a rehab clinic, struggling to keep her wolfishness at bay to the point of self-mutilation. Haunted by the ghost (and deeds) of her dead sister, and hunted by a (male) werewolf, she escapes with her newfound surrogate "sister" (actually named Ghost) to a cabin in the wilderness. The third instalment, a prequel (Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning), catapults the sisters backwards in time into a fate worse than suburbia: a 19th-century Canadian fur trading outpost populated by explorers and trappers, its inhabitants soon terrorized by a pack of werewolves, and from which the sisters must flee. In the rest of what follows, I will track Ginger and Brigitte through the inhospitable and biopolitical spaces of home, high school and hospital; from the margins of the city (through the forest) to the margins of the Nation; as they struggle alternatively with or against the bodily constraints of desire and hunger, infection and addiction, terror, love, and death.
Biology run amok
"Can this happen to a normal woman?"
Horror films are more commonly read through the lens of psychoanalytic theory than political philosophy. This is hardly surprising given that psychoanalysis itself is based in horror, with its presumptions of an unconscious which Freud defines in terms of the irrational and fear of the uncanny. Critics of the horror genre tend to view its conventions as "fetishistic substitutes for the objects of sexual fears and desires." Readings of sexual repression, castration anxieties, and incest taboos abound in most accounts of gore and slasher films. However, for Linda Badley it's almost too easy to account for horror in psychosexual terms. James Twitchell, for example, argues that horror flicks are both a rite of passage for adolescents and cautionary tales which covertly "demonstrate the dangers of incest and implant taboos while providing safe outlets for sexual energy and anxiety." Whilst it's difficult to argue that horror is not an important vehicle for adolescent socialization, at the same time where, for Twitchell, the spectacle of mass media violence is monopolized by young males, a gallup poll in the 1980s found that most readers of popular horror fiction are women in their thirties and forties.
Perhaps more important than demographics, according to Badley, is that films such as the Nightmare on Elm Street series, David Lynch's Eraserhead and Blue Velvet, and Jonathon Demme's Silence of the Lambs are allegories which problematize psychology itself
"often taking the form of nightmares set in the 'cellar' of the unconscious. In so doing these movies do not testify to repressed sexuality but instead reflect our saturation with sexual images and options, a state of cultural hyperconsciousness, confusion, and terror."
Sexual repression has given way to sexual anarchy as sex is not the shadow or dirty secret that it was in the Victorian era (of Freud and the gothic novel), "but rather its extroverted alter ego — sexual panic." Thus for Badley horror as the expression of repressed sexuality is now defunct and a new post-Freudian and postmodern horror is energized by something else: sexual terror. She writes:
"Sexual terror has become part of a much larger anxiety about gender, identity, mortality, power, and loss of control, and Eros is coupled with sadism, masochism, and Thanatos [the death drive] in ways that Freud's 'family romance,' with its focus on the child and presumption of a male model, overlooked."
Indeed, the Freudian preoccupation with the bourgeois family, sexual repression and the unconscious in contemporary horror is not so much passé as cliché, invested with nostalgia, parody and satire. Importantly,
"the Freudian 'family romance' at the heart of the Gothic novel is told increasingly in body language and with reference to social and economic contexts."
The family and repressed sexuality are, of course, important thematizations in Ginger Snaps. However, the psychosexual parent/child attachment of, say, Psycho gives way in this instance to a humourous representational play of "mere" family dysfunction. Ginger and Brigitte gaze in horror at their ditzy mom and doofus dad. The terror here is in the sisters' fear of becoming like their hopelessly dull suburban parents. "I hate our gene pool," Brigitte says to her sister. Their solution is to stick together and bypass adulthood altogether by avoiding, in addition to their parents, both the lecherous boys and popular (mean) girls — without which no high school experience would be complete — and delaying menstruation by, it would seem, sheer will. Panic sets in, however, when Ginger is attacked by a creature who's been doing in the neighbourhood dogs, on the day she — at the age of almost sixteen — gets her first period.
That the onslaught of puberty is met with a vicious and, moreover, highly sexualized attack is crucial in establishing the metaphor of lycanthropy and menstruation as a "violent invasion" of the body and sets up the terror that follows. Not only do the sisters have to hide the evidence of Ginger's wounds from their mother, but Brigitte's inadvertent capture of the beast's face on Polaroid leads her to suspect that this is no ordinary animal. Evidence that Ginger's attacker is extra-ordinary, and perhaps even otherworldly, mounts as her wounds heal far more quickly than nature should allow, and then begin to sprout coarse hairs. By the time Ginger begins to sport a tail, Brigitte is already reconciled to the fact that her sister is now, well, a werewolf. Meanwhile, the girls' mother, Pamela, oblivious to the attack and its aftermath (her daughters acting even weirder than usual), revels in the news that "our little girl's a young woman now" — having found Ginger's soiled underwear in the laundry — and bakes a cake which oozes and drips (red) strawberry juice. If that weren't bad enough, a trip to the school nurse confirms what the girls knew all along both about adults and adult bodies, namely, that they're equally scary.
The changes occurring to Ginger's body on account of her close brush with the werewolf parallel that of the "normal" bodily changes which accompany menstruation. Puberty provides, in fact, a good deal of Ginger Snaps' wit and satirical bite, so to speak. After all, the tagline of the film does read, "They don't call it the curse for nothing." As already iterated, the body as site of revulsion and loss of control is a common trope of the (post)modern horror film with the female body in particular overcoded as the site, if not the origin, of all things monstrous. For Badley, the shift in horror from the Freudian psyche to a post-Freudian "body fantastic" is the product of an increasingly technologized, mediated and consumerist culture.
"Horror announced the crisis in the 1970s and 1980s through its images — its bodies in pieces and organic machines, its sexual mutations and re-genderations."
Moreover, this fantastic body language provides the iconography for the re-imagining of a self that is, above all, changing.
This postmodern self is embodied yet Puritan, in denial of death and dying. Health today is disguised as "wellness" and death is unmentionable except as an enemy to be overcome. No longer experienced within the life and fabric of the community, thanks to advances in medical technology death and dying is displaced to the hospital and funeral home. However, for Ginger and Brigitte, death is not to be feared but confronted, the only aspect of life that makes any sense. The sisters are constantly staging and photographing their own grisly death and suicide scenes which they present as a school project on "Life in Bailey Downs." And, as I remarked in the previous section, they made a suicide pact at the age of eight. Indeed the sisters' fascination with death is what both binds them and marks them as freaks to their teachers and peers. As I suggested earlier, the girls are not as much social outcasts as they cast themselves outside the purview of the "normal." For them, normal is a dreary suburb of identical houses, road hockey and yapping dogs, and normal "femininity" met with an overwhelming floor-to-ceiling drugstore display of sanitary products.
The other face of denial, says Badley, is sexual paranoia and panic, indeed a "mass mediated sexual terrorism" has spawned a cultural obsession with sex in the age of AIDS.
"At a time when pure, unselective, pleasurable sex means death, every body's sex (and sexual preference) is everybody's business."
What the horror film does is provide a "metaphorics" for a time of transition, giving the unknown a shape and a language. Metaphor makes the horror that's become the human body bearable. But whereas body horror films such as Cronenberg's The Fly treat supranatural metamorphosis as allegory, lycanthropy in Ginger Snaps is not a metaphor for AIDS, it is an STD. As Brigitte explains, "it's like an infection, it works from the inside out. It's like a virus." Ginger's own condition was the result of being bitten by a werewolf, but she spreads the "infection" through having unprotected, and violent, sex with a boy named Jason, who quickly begins to sprout hairs and bleeds from his penis (male menstruation). Thus Ginger's body is a site of danger not just because of an innocent lycanthropic turn which was beyond her control, but because of an increased and violent sexual appetite which she fully embraces — and is up to Brigitte to control. Ginger's new interest in sex and boys, and rampant desire to "tear everything into fucking pieces," comes at a price beyond the mounting body count, and which I will examine further in the next section.
In short, as we have seen thus far, the entrance to womanhood which the sisters Fitzgerald guarded against so vehemently is fully realized as a zone of violence. Ginger's "crossing over" was precipitated by an act of violence from which there was no return, but it at least gave her some moments of glory and resistance to the boundaries of gender and biological determination before her own (inevitable) demise. As one film critic notes, femininity in Ginger Snaps "is a precondition of violence, and violence offers Ginger an alternative to the sexual stereotyping that surrounds her." As she says to Brigitte,
"No one ever thinks chicks do shit like this. A girl can only be a slut, a bitch, a tease, or the virgin next door."
The entrance to womanhood is also the threshold which, although perhaps not entirely kind to Ginger, excludes Brigitte altogether.
"Though the relationship between Ginger and Brigitte is akin to that between twins, the age gap between them pitches them on either side of the pubescent divide."
This divide also sets moral limits which can only be resolved with Ginger's death and Brigitte's crossing into a different zone somewhere in between the (fully) living and the dead.
Oh sister, where art thou?
"Sisters, sisters. There were never such devoted sisters." (Irving Berlin)
While it is Ginger's body that undergoes a series of transformations (puberty mirrored in/as lycanthropy), it is Brigitte who must cope with the fallout. In other words, Ginger undergoes a metamorphosis, while Brigitte reaches an epiphany: she is now separate/d from her sister. Thus, the arbitrary boundary of human/ monster so central to the contemporary horror genre lies not so much within Ginger herself but constitutes what now separates Ginger from Brigitte. "It's like we're no longer even related," Ginger says to Brigitte after killing a teacher and school janitor. In accordance, Brigitte must bear the brunt of, and assume responsibility for, Ginger's transgressions. It is Brigitte who charts the progress of Ginger's "condition," marking off on a calendar the days to her next period/full moon, and who locks Ginger in the bathroom on the day her full transformation is to occur (which of course will be Hallowe'en). And it is Brigitte who seeks outside help — in the form of a boy, Sam, who just happened to be driving by at the time of Ginger's attack, both running over and killing the beast and inserting himself into the narrative as witness.
Sam is also Bailey Downs' resident dope dealer and thus savvy to the potentialities of many an herb. Simply put, he has use value. He has not only a knowledge of botany but also a healthy respect for the existence of lycanthropy. Indeed, Sam is able to come up with an antidote to Ginger's affliction. But he is also a threat to the bond that Ginger and Brigitte have lived their lives securing. As Ginger would have it, Sam is a "pervert" whose only interest is in raping her sister. As writer Karen Walton aptly put it, Ginger expresses a "territorialism over Brigitte."
Any mapping of territory is a practice of exclusion, a containment if not an expulsion of that which threatens cohesion and unity. And throughout the film's second act we see both sisters trying to contain the other in an effort to resecure and protect their increasingly vulnerable territory of two. Indeed, most of Ginger's victims are figures who she perceived threatened her sister more than herself. And for Brigitte, the ultimate fear is Ginger's dying without her, violating their prior agreement to be "together forever," whether in life or death. What is read by both Pamela and Ginger as jealousy in being excluded from Ginger's rite of passage is, for Brigitte, an attempt to halt the process of differentiation and separation from her sister and restore their exclusivity. The only possibility for a future is to flee, together. But when Brigitte's plan to inject Ginger with Sam's antidote and "blow this joint" is foiled, Brigitte reprises their blood pact and infects herself instead with Ginger's "curse". "Now I am you," says the younger Fitzgerald. "Yes, but what am I?" is Ginger's response.
Ginger's (moral) crisis of identity is mapped onto Brigitte in the final moments of the first film. For when Ginger, now fully transformed into beast, attacks Sam leaving him for dead, Brigitte is unable to complete the job and join her sister in monsterhood. Indeed, at the film's close Ginger dies by Brigitte's own hand, in the same room where we first meet them: the bedroom they share in the unfinished basement of their parents' home. It bears reiterating here that death does not sever the sisterly bond entirely. To be sure, in Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed Ginger appears as a ghostly presence imparting words of wisdom to Brigitte, who intends to live out the rest of her now lycanthropic life trying to keep the monster within at bay with regular injections of monkshood (the antidote concocted by Sam). For Brigitte, unlike Ginger, there's nothing sexy about being a werewolf.
Where the (mis)recognition of puberty and lycanthropy and its Buffyesque "high school is hell" metaphor provided much of the original Ginger Snaps' humour, the second film, directed by Brett Sullivan (the cinematographer on the first film) and written by Megan Martin, sees Brigitte misrecognized as a drug addict and incarcerated in a rehab clinic housed in a debilitated and largely abandoned hospital. But while the discourse of addiction and group therapy scenes have their moments of mirth, "There's a room full of people who think you really suck at suicide," says one patient/inmate to Brigitte, Unleashed is decidedly darker than its predecessor. Returning again is the body as site of terror and beyond control. Puberty, however, is no longer an issue but rather the ravages of drugs on the body and self-mutilation. We see opening credits juxtaposing voiceover flashbacks to the first film with images of Brigitte now cutting herself and "shooting up".
The action also moves from suburb to city (though with the suburbs not being too far behind); from home and high school to hospital in the first half of the film, and a cabin in the woods in the second. Sisterly devotion also reprises its role in Unleashed, but ever more tenuous with biological kinship put to the test with the character of Ghost, a young girl who befriends Brigitte at the hospital. "I've always wanted a sister," the girl says cheerily upon Brigitte telling her how and why she deliberately infected herself with Ginger's virus ("I thought I could make her stop if I was like her.") Ghost, however, has her own reasons for wanting a werewolf for a sister, the sum total of her knowledge, up to this point, gleaned from her stash of comic books which, by the end of the film, take over "the real."
Moral terror unleashed, or Ghost's world
The sequel begins with a glimpse of Brigitte's new life in the city following her (solo) flight from Bailey Downs. Life, as we know it, may not be the best word to describe it, however, as Brigitte's state of being is reduced to a bare(ly) biological existence, if not an outright biological experiment. It is now winter and she lives in a seedy motel, frequenting a local library late at night to check out books on bloodletting and the like. Brigitte is only ever one step ahead of the virus/ werewolf within and charts its progression by slashing herself with a razor at timed intervals, recording the varying lengths of time it takes for the wound to heal. Injecting monkshood, as the ghostly Ginger reminds her, is not a cure but only slows down the inevitable transformation. Also Brigitte is only ever one step ahead of the (male) werewolf, which is stalking her on the "outside" not in order to kill her but, as we later discover, to mate with her.
Lecherous males, both real and imagined in the first film, have an increased presence in the second. Aside from the boy werewolf which stalks her, Brigitte also has to contend with a young male library employee who has designs on her at the outset of the film, not to mention Tyler, an orderly at the hospital who grants young female patients their illicit drugs in exchange for illicit sexual favours. Here any distinction between "inside" and "outside" collapses as the threat of danger knows no boundaries. The wolf which lurks outside the hospital is paralleled by the dangerous wolf inside, namely Tyler. The hospital has other dangers, of course, namely Brigitte herself. Thinking Brigitte is a drug addict, the staff confiscates the vials of monkshood she was carrying at the time she was (unknowingly) admitted. Without the antidote to slow down her transformation into fully fledged werewolf, Brigitte is acutely aware that she presents a danger to those around her. Her resistance to being treated as an addict is read as "denial" and when she tries to warn the earnest yet hapless social worker, Alice, that "people are going to die," Brigitte is locked in her room for issuing threats.
The only person who believes Brigitte's story is Ghost, the young girl whose legal guardian grandmother lies wrapped in bandages following a house fire. With no place to go and no one to care for her, Ghost remains a resident of the hospital, where she seems to have acquired a particular skill for being everywhere and seeing everything she shouldn't. When she finds the grisly remains of her pet dog, Ghost initially confronts Brigitte as the killer, having witnessed key details of her transformation and attempts to deter it. Once satisfied that she's not "the monster," Ghost helps Brigitte escape through the ventilation system and deserted corridors of the hospital's empty wing. Along the way, Brigitte encounters fellow patient Beth Ann having just performed fellatio on Tyler and enjoying a snort of her reward. By this point, the (other) monster is now inside the hospital in pursuit of his potential mate. A wounded Brigitte and Ghost manage to escape (Beth Ann is not so lucky), steal a car and, with Ghost at the helm, drive to the safety of grandmother Barbara's house, which is a secluded country cabin (with safety being relative in a horror film).
While en route, Ghost quizzes Brigitte about the werewolf as if reciting from one of her comic books (which she does throughout the film): "Where did it come from? The infinite darkness?" "More like the suburbs," says Brigitte. If the suburbs encroach upon the city, fleeing to the woods is only a temporary respite. "It's going to find you," says Ghost (echoing Ginger in a prior scene), and eventually it does, but not before she gets a chance to play surrogate sister to Brigitte, e.g, munching on potato chips while camped out in front of the fireplace. Life with Brigitte around is like having a "permanent sleep-over," something Ghost's grandmother prohibited. Ghost is clearly having the time of her life, and Brigitte gradually comes to bond with her in the absence and loss of her (once living) biological sister. Time, however, is not something that Brigitte can enjoy and once she uses up the monkshood that Ghost managed to confiscate from the clinic, Brigitte has little choice but to call Tyler.
It is once Tyler arrives at the cabin that Ghost's (seemingly innocent) musings of a "moral terror" take shape — and a twist. The line separating fiction from reality is, in Ghost's world, a blurry one. The girl not only devours comic books on werewolves and the supernatural, she assembles her own. Moreover, she lives them. In reciting a tale to Tyler late one night at the clinic, the following exchange takes place:
Ghost: "Late at night, secret chambers, he carried out his reign of moral terror."
Tyler: "Isn't that mortal terror?"
Ghost: (cheerily) "No!"
The sort of terror that unfolds at the cabin does indeed play out in a moral dimension, but one in which any easy determination of "good" and "evil" collapses. Even though we know Tyler to be a sexual predator with patients, his relationship with Ghost at the clinic is tender and caring. Tyler, in fact, freaks out when the monkshood he administers to Brigitte at the cabin causes the veins in her arm to swell violently and horrifically to the point of almost bursting. Tyler's desire to help, rather than harm, Brigitte is not lost on Ghost. Nor is Brigitte's attempt, while in transformation mode, to seduce him (which is thwarted by Ginger's sudden apparition). As with Ginger before her, Ghost has marked Brigitte as her territory and must maintain and "protect" what she's conquered from any outside invader. The short of it is that Ghost fabricates a scenario wherein she is sexually assaulted by Tyler, and Brigitte, unaware of the deception, is only too happy to turn him out into the snow to be devoured by the monster outside.
Understandably, Brigitte was more willing to believe Ghost's version of the event than Tyler's: "I don't think she knows what's real and what's a cartoon," he said to Brigitte when quizzed about the gashes to his face. And, up to this point, the viewer sees only what Brigitte does: a dishevelled Ghost trembling in the attic accusing Tyler and Tyler downstairs examining his wounds. The audience's point of view shifts to that of Ghost, however, as we witness her witnessing the bloody demise of Tyler through the window, unbeknownst to Brigitte. Thus, when Ghost subsequently asks Brigitte where Tyler is, we come to suspect her duplicity before Brigitte does. Once social worker Alice arrives on the scene, however, Brigitte comes to the realization that not only is Ghost lying about the incident with Tyler, but the circumstances surrounding grandma Barbara as well. It was Ghost who set the fire which nearly burned Barbara alive, and quite deliberately. And Tyler? "He was going to take you away from me."
Ghost's efforts to get rid of Tyler and possess Brigitte completely stem from more than a mere desire for a (mortal) sister, however. By the film's end, Ghost has killed Alice and trapped a rapidly transforming Brigitte in the cellar (where she'd fallen whilst killing the monster who had meanwhile gained entrance to the cabin). In the final scene the camera sweeps through the main floor of the cabin. The dining room table is set for two and a "Welcome Home Barbara" banner hangs from the door frame. The trap door to the cellar is padlocked, and being banged on from below. We hear the sounds of a monster howling. Upstairs in the attic, Ghost sits with her back to the camera and is writing at her table. Brigitte provides a voiceover: "Growing steadily stronger beneath the floorboards, her faithful companion, with a deadly hunger for human flesh, waited to unleash the darkness and fury of hell on her mistress's enemies, of which there were many." The doorbell sounds, Ghost turns around in her chair and smiles as Brigitte's voiceover continues: "And so begins Ghost's reign of moral terror."
Not every little girl gets to have a pet werewolf in the basement and while the tale ultimately ends well for Ghost, Brigitte's fate is in some senses even more tragic than Ginger's before her. For whereas Ginger at least got to die a "real" death, and with a modicum of dignity — at the hands of the sister who loved her and in the only space where they'd ever felt secure — Brigitte has neither the certainty of death nor possibility of escape. Imprisoned by Ghost, maintained and kept alive for the sole purpose of killing, Brigitte's is not a life worth living. Indeed, neither fully dead nor truly alive, Brigitte hovers in between, devoid of a self to call her own and denied the rights that (ideally) should accompany it. It is Ghost who assumes and enjoys a sovereign authority over the life held within her power. In other words, her reign of terror — as much moral as mortal — is an exercise of sovereign power. Ghost determines who will live and who will die, and who will remain in a stasis in between. As sovereign, Ghost is able to transcend and suspend the rule of law itself which collapses into a state of violence. Returning to Agamben,
"the sovereign is the point of indistinction between violence and law, the threshold on which violence passes over into law and law passes over into violence."
More complex a matter than the "real" monster turning out to be a human, and a child at that, in Unleashed we bear witness to the mechanisms of sovereign decision as biopower: the administration of, and presiding over, life and death. From the clinic which regulates the drugs which enter her body and attempts to modify her behaviour, to the child who imprisons her in order to lay claim to that body and the havoc it can unleash, Brigitte's life is defined solely by inclusion in the order which excludes her. Moreover, as a werewolf, Brigitte (as with Ginger in the first film) occupies a threshold of indistinction between animal and human, simultaneously included and excluded. Precisely "neither man nor beast," the werewolf "dwells paradoxically within both while belonging to neither."
As I have argued elsewhere, werewolf tales are as old as sovereignty itself, if not directly implicated in its origins. It is the wolf-man, not the wolf, which populates ancient Germanic and Anglo-Saxon legal texts as a bandit who can be harmed without impunity and expelled from the community, banned from the city. In the laws of Edward the Confessor, the bandit "bears a wolf's head from the day of his expulsion, and the English call this wulfesheud." For Agamben, these words echo through Hobbes's own formulation of sovereignty as the state in which "man is a wolf to all men." The state of nature is therefore not a matter of a war of all against all but
"a condition in which everyone is bare life and a homo sacer for everyone else."
The werewolf, then, marks not only the threshold of indistinction between the animal and human worlds, but the passage between nature and politics. The werewolf film, therefore, cannot be but an articulation of the political.
Moreover, the werewolf and the sovereign are in proximity to each other. The passage from human to beast achieved by the werewolf is proximate to the sovereign likewise assuming a bestial form. Agamben illustrates this with the transformation of the guardian into tyrant in the Arcadian myth of Lycean Zeus. Citing the Republic:
"The story goes that whoever tastes of one bit of human entrails minced up with those of other victims is inevitably transformed into a wolf... Thus, when a leader of a mob (demos), seeing the multitude devoted to his orders, does not know how to abstain from the blood of his tribe...will it not be necessary that he either be killed by his enemies or become a tyrant and be transformed from a man into wolf?"
The continuous zone of indistinction between man and beast, nature and culture, is why the originary juridico-political relation is the ban. We thus need to question "the myth of the foundation of the modern city" in accounts from Hobbes to Rousseau. Indeed Hobbes erred in defining the sovereign relation as a contract rather than a ban. The effect is that democracy is rendered impotent when confronted with the problem of sovereign power. Moreover, Hobbesian thinking has
"rendered modern democracy constitutionally incapable of truly thinking politics freed from the form of the State."
In his later work, Derrida as well points to the inadequacy of the simple dichotomy between "man" and "animal" which props up Western philosophical thought (including, I would argue, the horror film), precisely because the delineation of the human coincides with the inauguration of the sovereign. In his 2002 Critical Inquiry essay "The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)" he argues that
"the sovereign, by definition, reserves the right as sovereign to become 'bestial'." As an agent before the law, the sovereign may exceed the law and act outside the law, to literally, be an "outlaw."
As with Agamben, Derrida rereads Rousseau to uncover a genealogy of the werewolf in the logic of sovereignty. Building on a series of seminars on "The Beast and the Sovereign" Derrida writes in Rogues that
"packed full of wolves from the four corners of the world, the seminar [...] was in large part a lycology and genelycology, a genealogical theory of the wolf (lycos), of all the figures of the wolf and the werewolf in the problematic of sovereignty. It just so happens that the word loup-garou in Rousseau's Confessions has sometimes been translated into English not as werewolf but as outlaw. We will see a bit later that the outlaw is a synonym often used by the American administration along with or in place of rogue in the expression 'rogue state.'"
There was nothing anachronistic, therefore, in George W. Bush's heavily maligned, and subsequently withdrawn, quip of "wanted: dead or alive" to spur the capture of Osama bin Laden following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. That is to say, the frontier discourse of outlaws and bandits summons the "wild wild West," from which the modern West has clearly not strayed too far.
Here the role of outlaw, or bandit, does not belong solely to bin Laden, but to Bush in his capacity as the sovereign: the outlaw who by definition acts outside of (international) law, the ultimate rogue. Roguishness, it would seem, is a perpetual state. Commenting on Chomksy's Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs, Derrida agrees in principal with Chomsky that the "first and most violent of rogue states are those that have ignored and continue to violate the very international law they claim to champion" and that "the name of these states" is the United States. However, for Derrida there is no relative degree of roguishness. One state cannot be more or less roguish than another, for "as soon as there is sovereignty, there is abuse of power and a rogue state." There can be no sovereign who is not at the same time also a rogue. There are only rogue states.
If I seem to have veered off the navigational path set by Ginger and Brigitte in their perpetual flight from (and into) harm, it is precisely to get to this discourse of perpetual frontier justice, particularly inasmuch as the third film is set in frontier Canada, prior to its founding as a sovereign nation-state — sending message boards aflutter with speculation, in advance of the film's release, that it was a remake of the first, but "in a different time." To a certain extent the fans were correct. The sisters are both alive at the beginning of the third film and, unlike in Unleashed, share equal amounts of screen time. And, as in the first film, it is Ginger who is bitten, while Brigitte reprises her role as caretaker of her elder sister. They have a pact to be "together forever," and as in the original film, there is a curse. But what is especially significant is that whereas the beast in the first film is described as a lycanthrope and as a werewolf in the second, in Ginger Snaps Back there's no mention of either. Rather, the mysterious and deadly creatures which have been attacking the inhabitants of the fur-trading outpost are described by Native locals as the Windigo, brought by the White Man and deliberately at that. According to the fort's Reverend the beast is the devil's doing unto the sinners amongst them (in particular the Captain for having married an Indian woman).
The "time" is 1815, some 50 years prior to the founding of the Canadian state. As director Grant Harvey explains, "new Canada is sort of the suburbs of Britain and France in the 1800s." The suburb, as frequently represented in North American pop culture, is where scary things happen beneath its idyllic but bland veneer. Indeed, in a post-Columbine North America, the suburb has taken over the inner city as the eminent site of danger and lawlessness.
In the opening scene of the third film, the Fitzgerald sisters, on horseback, are on the run, but we don't know from whom (or what) nor do we ever find out. Are they outlaws? Quite possibly. Their parents are dead but not from drowning while on an expedition to find a westward passage, as in the tale concocted by Ginger when she and her sister first arrive at the fort seeking refuge. While out in the snowy prairie wilderness, the sisters, lost, had come across the bloodied tent of an old Indian woman — a seer as it turns out — who handed the girls necklaces (which they wear vehemently in the first film) warning them to "kill the boy, or one sister kills the other." Their horse, as freaked as they are, takes off leaving the girls lost in the woods whereupon Brigitte steps into a steel animal-trap, mangling her foot in the process. It is here that we first meet the Indian hunter whom both girls assume at first to be foe rather than friend. The hunter is a scout for the outpost, and upon freeing Brigitte from the trap and tending to her wound with herbs, he takes the sisters to the fort, where danger and lawlessness abound. Indeed, the exterior walls of the fort bear deeply gouged scratch marks and are adorned with crucifixes. "Welcome to civilization," says Ginger to Brigitte as they walk past the Reverend's presiding over a (sizable) graveyard only to be greeted with guns drawn by the rest of the outpost's skittish inhabitants.
The men have good reason to be nervous. Not only are they being terrorized by beasts, but their contingent that had embarked on a trading expedition in the spring failed to return with provisions for the winter and were feared devoured by the beasts, if not turning into beasts themselves. Their captain, Wallace Rowlands, while suspicious of how Brigitte acquired the wound to her leg, is at this point still in command of his men and reluctantly grants the girls safe haven (of sorts). The Indian hunter doesn't seem an especially welcome presence in the outpost either. When he returns at dinner time with the bones of a "seven footer" beast, he is treated by one of the more aggressive inhabitants, named James, as even more of a threat than Ginger and Brigitte, and with an added note of racism:
"What keeps him here? Some sort of blood brothers out there? They work for us from the outside and you, red skin, work us from the inside?"
The hunter does, in fact, know much more about the way of the beast than he lets on, at least to the men inside the fort. His role, however, is not as the enemy within but as protector to the girls and, in accordance, the guarantor of the fledgling nation's future. For unbeknownst to them, red-haired Ginger and her black-haired sister, are central to an Indian legend about a "curse" passed down through the blood of generations, and which they are fated to either break forever or allow "to live on to plague generations to come."
As explained by Brigitte in a voiceover to the opening credits, the curse is the legend of the Windigo "and the coming of the red and the black." On the day of reckoning, "death would consume the land and good would face evil," or the curse would be broken and good would prevail. "But," Brigitte continues,
"ours was a story of survival, of two sisters bound by blood, a bond that would not be broken. That was our promise, above all, above men, above God, above fate. It was in our blood, together forever."
The "but" in the narration is significant, indicating that the sisters' survival may bode well for them but ultimately spells the triumph of evil over good for the rest of the land, and into perpetuity. To be sure, at the end of the film Ginger and Brigitte are both alive but the curse has not been broken. Ginger has been bitten, and moreover, has failed to "kill the boy." Nor has one sister killed the other, in accordance with the prophesy told by the old Indian woman. (That doesn't happen until almost 200 years pass.)
The boy in question is Geoffrey, the son of Captain Rowlands and his Indian wife, who had (presumably) died a few weeks prior, while Mrs. Rowlands passed away some time before that. For the scripture-spewing resident Reverend, the "plague" which has befallen the fort is the direct result of Rowlands' love for his "savage wife," the "sin which has brought the devil upon us." Geoffrey, as it turns out, is not dead, nor are the circumstances of his birth (i.e., miscegenation) responsible for the "plague" which is sweeping through the outpost. But he has been bitten, and once he started exhibiting symptoms of "turning" was hidden by his father inside the fort rather than suffer the same fate as others who have turned (think of that graveyard). When Ginger awakens in the night and hears sounds of a child crying, she sets out exploring and finds the boy who, frightened, bites her. If the behaviour of the men in the fort didn't convince her, this certainly did, and Ginger wakes her sister and tells her they have to leave. Here the possibility of the girls' having a less than stellar past again comes to the fore. For when Brigitte sees that Ginger is bleeding she doesn't ask what happened to her, but rather what Ginger has done (which is not lost on the latter). "Where are we going to go?" asks Brigitte. "The same place we always go — away." Brandishing a sword, and with a suspiciously great facility, Ginger and her sister are, however, stopped at the gate by James, but not before they manage to open it and inadvertently let in the beasts outside. A bloodbath thus ensues.
In what follows, the girls are captured by the Reverend and locked inside the house (where a beast roams), but escape to their room upstairs while outside the hunter kills many beasts and the men turn on each other. The Reverend continues his scriptural rant and the captain comes to suspect that Ginger has been bitten, and by Geoffrey at that. And it is with this realization that Brigitte and Ginger gain the upper hand. For if any harm comes to Ginger, Brigitte will reveal to the others that not only is Geoffrey "alive" but that the captain has been lying all along. Usurped of his power by a teenaged girl, the captain has no choice but to comply and let Ginger live, signalling the onslaught of the decline and fall of his increasingly unstable empire.
Meanwhile, Ginger's transformation into beast is intensifying (there is a full moon after all) and, as in the first film, she is acutely aware that she is "turning into something dangerous," and poses a threat to her sister. Here, the "kill the boy, or one sister will kill the other" of the old woman's prophesy is read by Ginger as a warning that she must kill Geoffrey in order that she not kill her beloved sister. But also as in the first film, Ginger's transformation is accompanied by an awakening of sexual desire, for the hunter in particular. But the moment of passion we see between him and Ginger, kissing in the upstairs hallway, is revealed to be but a dream on Ginger's part, thus miscegenation is in this instance a desirous fantasy only. When Ginger awakens and goes to find Geoffrey, the hunter approaches Brigitte and urges her to leave Ginger behind and go with him to find the seer wherein the truth will be revealed. The hunter, we now learn, has known Brigitte before he found her in the woods, her face having appeared to him in dreams since he was a boy. Indeed, his role is to protect Brigitte as, according to the seer, their fates are tied together.
Brigitte, however, refuses to leave without Ginger. And Ginger discovers that she is unable to kill the boy. The survivors of the fort do find him however and, confronting the captain, stage a mutiny. Outmanoeuvred, Rowlands shoots his son himself rather than have him die by the hands of anyone else. During the commotion, the Fitzgeralds make their escape and eventually find the old woman and the hunter, but not before Ginger is briefly separated from her sister and kills Milo, another Indian who had earlier been turned from the fort.
For the seer, Brigitte has arrived too late as the curse is upon them and the hunter finally explains the White Man's legacy to the girls:
"The English and the French brought with them their diseases to plague our land, and with them came the Windigo. This was all foretold, watched for. And with the Windigo would come two sisters, the red and the black, and their love and their deaths would decide the way of things."
This still leaves things, like the future of the land and its Native inhabitants, rather vague however. The seer hands Brigitte a potion to drink which will enable her to "see things," more specifically, her death. Brigitte falls into an hallucinatory state in which she sees herself back at the gate to the fort with a knife in hand and a beast before her, which morphs into Ginger. The hunter appears and is about to kill Ginger when Brigitte rushes forward, raises the knife, and plunges it into her sister's chest and the two fall together in the same position as the final scene in the original film. One sister kills the other.
But not really. This is according to the prophecy and realized in a drug induced state. If we recall Brigitte's voiceover at the beginning of the film, theirs is a story of survival, above all else including fate. When Brigitte awakens, the old woman is but a bloody corpse, Ginger is gone and the hunter, packing up his weapons, demands that Brigitte tell him what she saw.
Brigitte: I didn't see my death. I saw Ginger's.
Hunter: It was you that killed her, wasn't it?
Brigitte: It's what I saw. What did you see?
Hunter: I saw myself die. I give up my life to save you, so that you kill her.
Brigitte: It's still her. We will be together. She will come back to me.
Hunter: She has to die by your hand....or the land suffers forever as foretold.
Brigitte follows the hunter back to the fort, not to kill Ginger but to save her from the fate laid out for them. At this point, the outpost is in a state of utter lawlessness. The Reverend seizes Brigitte, screams at her to beg for mercy, whereupon the hunter reasons with him to be patient and that "the other will come." And enter the fort she does. Again the Reverend lays the blame on the Captain for letting
"a pair of little girls destroy us. You could never see how they lied and tricked us into oblivion just like that bitch wife of yours."
And thus the Captain kills the Reverend, and Ginger kills James and lets the beasts inside. The Captain sets the house on fire, the hunter proceeds to kill many beasts, and the Captain kills himself.
With just Ginger, Brigitte and a now bitten hunter remaining, the hunter turns to Brigitte: "You know how it must end," and gives her the knife which she plunges into his, not Ginger's, chest. In the final scene the two sisters, holding each other in the woods, embrace hands and fuse their blood. "The day of reckoning," goes Brigitte's final voiceover, "the day the curse grew stronger in the red and the black. Sisters united in blood. Together forever."
Whilst this is indeed a tall tale, for those who like to think that the Canadian state, unlike say revolutionary France, England or United States, was not founded in blood, the history and practices of sovereign power suggest otherwise. Every society, as Agamben says, sets its limits and decides who its homines sacris will be. And one thing that has been consistent throughout the history of the Canadian nation from the moment of colonization is the subjugation and demonization of its native population.
The cast of characters who man the outpost in Ginger Snaps Back are a microcosm of early 19th-century frontier Canada: predominantly English and Irish, with a smattering of French, and set in "Indian territory" which can at any moment erupt from the "outside." But there is no distinction between inside and outside in this infernal region "on the edge of the known New World." Peace is precarious and security a myth as danger lurks everywhere and for everyone, whether within or beyond the (gated) walls of the fort/ community. All the characters within this film are in some sense rogues: both outlaw and sovereign, acting outside the law or taking the law into their own hands, deciding who should live and who should die.
Conclusion: sympathy for the werewolf
It would be helpful here to return to Charlotte Otten's observation that the figure of the werewolf in medieval narratives evokes sympathy and pity because of its barbaric shape and exclusion and banishment from human community. As I have argued, in the first Ginger Snaps film Brigitte and Ginger present a slight departure from the medieval norm as it is the human shape and inhuman conditions of community which the girls seek to escape. Ginger even embraces the monstrous, which offers her a flight from the banality, and persecution, of home and high school. Ultimately, however, it is Brigitte who elicits the most sympathy as she struggles to save her beloved sister whom she sacrifices in the end. Indeed the final scene in which she cradles her dying sister (however beastly) is infused with a pathos seldom seen in a horror film.
Brigitte also elicits sympathy in the second film as she struggles diligently against the beast within only to be betrayed and exploited, in short, managed, by the human child Ghost. Indeed in both films, Brigitte is a tragic figure whose fatal flaw is her consuming love for her sister. But in the third film the ethics of love and death is more complex. If, according to legend, the Windigo has been brought by the White Man, it might be fitting that it is the responsibility of the White Man (i.e., Ginger) to break the curse. But why must that involve killing Geoffrey who is, after all, the product of a Native woman and a White man, unless within Native lore miscegenation is as taboo as it is within White colonial practice? Insofar as he crosses several zones of indistinction, Geoffrey is doomed from the very beginning to a life without qualification. It is his life which is considered the most expendable and which can be taken without sanction. As part-Indian, he is considered by the Reverend to be less than human. As werewolf he is neither man nor wolf. And as a child, younger even than Brigitte and Ginger, he is not even a man. Yet it is his status as a child that prevents Ginger from killing Geoffrey, even though her letting him "live" might mean that she ends up killing her sister, as foretold.
In the end Ginger Snaps Back is a tale in which there are no survivors, contrary to Brigitte's opening narration. Not only are the old woman, the hunter, and everyone at the outpost dead, but the Fitzgerald sisters are as good as dead with Ginger bitten and Brigitte having cursed herself with Ginger's blood. They may have defied the ascribed fate in which one kills the other, but in doing so have opened the door to a life not worthy of being lived, of being hunted and persecuted, continually in flight but with no place that will have them, "together forever" in their banishment. Moreover, Ginger and Brigitte's perpetual flight bespeaks a nation without survivors, with nationhood a state of exception in which force trumps law and wherein everyone is a potential homo sacer to someone else. To this end, the third film is indeed a remake of the first, in which the violence and pain inflicted upon and lived in terror through "the body fantastic" sees its parallel in the subjugation, violence and terror enacted in forging the fantasy of Nation itself. Wrought through biopolitics, it is the body (as nation) and nation (as body) that are "together forever."
1. Karen Walton, Ginger Snaps, DVD Commentary.
2. Charlotte F. Otten, "Introduction," in Otten (ed.), A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986), p. 8.
3. Ibid., pp. 5-6.
4. Ibid., p. 8.
5. Ibid., p. 3.
6. The fate of (too) many Canadian films, the 2004 sequel, Ginger Snaps Unleashed, went virtually unnoticed and disappeared after only two weeks in (limited) commercial theatres. The third in the trilogy went directly to DVD.
7. See Linda Badley, Film, Horror, and the Body Fantastic (Greenwood Press, 1995), pp. 9-11.
8. John Harkness, "Witty Werewolves," NOW Magazine, 20(36), 2001, p. 99.
9. See in particular Michael Ryan and Douglas Kellner, Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1998).
10. To see how this is played out in the realm of warfare, see Veronique Pin-Fat and Maria Stern, "The Scripting of Private Jessica Lynch: Biopolitics, Gender, and the 'Feminization' of the U.S. Military," Alternatives 30 (2005), pp. 25-30.
11. See Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1998).
12. Ibid., p. 139.
13. Ibid., pp. 139-140.
14. Whilst Foucault did well to examine the prison, military barracks and the clinic as spaces in which living bodies are arranged, modified and governed, he stopped short of recognizing the Nazi concentration camp as the most fully realized biopolitical space of our time, which, for Agamben, is the most decisive event and very paradigm of modernity.
15. See Agamben, p. 183.
16. The film's subtitle, "The Beginning," suggests not just the beginning of the sisters' tale but the origins of the Canadian nation itself.
17. This accompanies a television commercial playing in the background early in the film.
18. Badley, p. 10.
19. Ibid., p. 12.
20. Ibid., p. 13.
21. Ibid., p. 17.
22. Karen Walton, Ginger Snaps, DVD.
23. See Barbara Creed, The Monstrous Feminine: Film, Feminism, and Psychoanalysis (London and New York: Routledge, 1993).
24. Badley, p. 21.
25. Ibid., p. 22.
26. In the DVD commentary, Walton explains that she originally wanted to make consumerism a more explicit theme in the film but feared that adding another layer would make the narrative too unwieldy.
27. Badley, p. 22.
28. Ibid., p. 34.
29. Ibid., p. 10.
30. Ginger's violence is not exclusively sexual, however. "I get this ache," she tells Brigitte, "and I thought it was for sex, but it's to tear everything into fucking pieces." Ginger's killing spree begins indiscriminately with a dog, but for the most part is directed at those who threaten, or appear to threaten, her sister. That those figures occupy the high school is not insignificant.
3 . Linda Ruth Williams, " Ginger Snaps, review in Sight and Sound, June 2001.
33. Karen Walton, Ginger Snaps, DVD Commentary.
34. Brett Sullivan, Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed, DVD commentary.
35. Brigitte had collapsed in a snow bank following a tussle with the werewolf in which library employee was killed.
36. Agamben, p. 32.
37. Agamben, p. 105.
38. See Patricia Molloy, "Demon Diasporas: Confronting the Other and the Otherworldly in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel," in Jutta Weldes, ed., To Seek Out New Worlds: Science Fiction and World Politics (New York: Palgrave, 2003).
39. Agamben, p. 105.
40. In Agamben, p. 108.
41. Ibid., p. 109.
42. Ibid., p. 109.
43. See R. John Williams, "Theory and the Democracy to Come: Review of Derrida, Rogues: Two Essays on Reason," in Postmodern Culture, 2005.
44. Jacques Derrida, Rogues, p. 69, quoted in ibid.
45. Ibid., p. 96.
46. Derrida, in Rogues p.102, 103. Cited in ibid.
47. The word "windigo" is derived from the Algonquin witiku which signifies both "evil spirit" and "cannibal" and within Native lore often refers to a combination of both. Although it assumes a recognizably human shape, the Windigo is non-gendered. See John Robert Colombo (ed.), Windigo: An Anthology of Fact and Fantastic Fiction (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1982).
48. Ginger Snaps Back DVD commentary.
49. In addition to the Windigo within Native lore, the Frenchman Claude tells the sisters that when he and his brother (who disappeared on the trading expedition) were boys in France, their grandfather had told them of mysterious happenings when the moon was full. "Man transformed into wolf. On the full moon it preyed on the shepherds and travellers near his village. The old man warned us, beware its bite or we might become slaves of the full moon too."
50. The film’s writers and producers made a deliberate choice not to have a back story to the girls' past, but to provide only enough detail to suggest that "they'd been up to something." The ease with which Ginger swings her sword could indicate that she'd used one before. See DVD Commentary.
51. The seer explains that Ginger was to kill the boy before he had a chance to bite her.
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