In this essay, I explore the radical reframing of the traditional werewolf narrative with respect to the figure of the double and the abject female body in the Ginger Snaps werewolf trilogy. Notable theorists discussed herein include Barbara Creed, Carol Clover, Julia Kristeva, April Miller and Robin Wood.
Throughout both its folkloric and cinematic history, the creature of the werewolf has been constructed almost invariably as a male monster suffering within a Jekyll and Hyde-like narrative of the double. An otherwise exemplary member of Robin Wood’s society of surplus repression, the male lycanthrope is doomed to endure a monthly transformation into monstrous, murderous beast, the Other that challenges normality through its very existence. The agony of the male werewolf, therefore, is generally believed to exist only with regard to the regret he feels for the previous night’s violent excesses. However, it is actually the male lycanthrope’s bodily alignment with the female Other that causes his distress. Forced to confront an abject body tied to a monthly lunar cycle, the male werewolf is feminized. Not only does the sufferer’s body not respect the boundary between human and animal, but the tentative boundary between male and female is also violated, and it is this transgression that accounts for the true agony of the classic male werewolf.
The Ginger Snaps werewolf cycle challenges this narrative by situating lycanthropy within the lives of female teenagers Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald. Following the subgenre’s typical trajectory, Ginger is bitten by a werewolf, thus becoming a werewolf herself, and her younger sister, Brigitte, attempts to save her. However, by transmuting the werewolf narrative from the male to the female, the implications of the doppelganger narrative must change. By virtue of her abject female body, Ginger is already marginalized and constructed as Other in the suburban world in which she lives. There is no monstrous double for Ginger, for as a menstruating female she has always been this monster. As a result, Ginger eventually embraces her lycanthropy and in doing so also embraces her identity as a woman. She becomes the “goddamn force of nature” of her teenage dreams, and unlike the male werewolf, whose monstrosity is a nightmarish shadow of his own normality, Ginger’s monstrosity is her own reflection, an unwavering look at a fantastic self otherwise unattainable to her in the world she lives.
Yet Ginger Snaps is still a doppelganger narrative. It is Brigitte who suffers under the agony of Ginger’s transformation, for in losing Ginger, Brigitte loses her identity as well. Brigitte longs for the reconciliation of her and her sister, but as the two have become two distinct persons in Ginger’s monstrosity, this is impossible. Coded as Carol Clover’s Final Girl figure, Brigitte destroys her sister, thereby coming to stand for the symbolic order she resists so enthusiastically at the start of the film.
However, despite their radically different engagements with monstrosity, both Ginger and Brigitte are punished. It appears that as subversive as the Ginger Snaps films are in respect to the werewolf narrative, they also reflect a deep cultural ambivalence about female identity. It is only together that the girls can triumph, making the Ginger Snaps cycle a powerful statement on the power of relationality between females in the construction and maintenance of self.
Flaherty, Erin M., "Howling (and Bleeding) at the Moon: Menstruation, Monstrosity and the Double in the Ginger Snaps Werewolf Trilogy" (2008). Honors College Theses. 67.