While many got nauseous watching Raw, I got curious. After I sat with it a little bit, I realized three of my favorite horror films from the last two decades were cannibal coming of age films starring women. Ginger Snaps, Jennifer’s Body, and Raw all had the same fascination with cannibalism. Further, these films aren’t the only ones. Why are there so many teenage girls feasting on human flesh? Also, why do I love these three films in particular?
Like most navel-gazing, answering this was a journey that involved some internet research and a lot of reading. Just like when it comes to true crime, there is no right answer only a bunch of opinions. So let’s start macro and get micro. In ethnographer and folklorist Arnold Van Gennep’s book “Rites of Passage” rites of passage have three stages: separation, liminality, and incorporation. Van Gennep defined these stages as “rites of separation from a previous world, preliminal rites, those executed during the transitional stage liminal (or threshold) rites, and the ceremonies of incorporation into the new world postliminal rites.” What the coming of age horror movies Ginger Snaps, Jennifer’s Body, and Raw have in common is that they use female cannibalism to illustrate a girl’s transition into womanhood and what that transition means in a patriarchal society.
Separation: Leaving Girldom
As Van Gennep put it, separation signifies a “detachment of the individual or group … from an earlier fixed point in the social structure.” In Ginger Snaps, Jennifer’s Body, and Raw separation occurs between the female cannibal and others. In the case of Ginger Snaps and Jennifer’s Body, the separation is from a female relationship. Ginger Snaps revolves around the sibling relationship of timid Brigitte and the more aggressive Ginger. Jennifer’s Body is similar except that it revolves around a friendship between straightlaced Needy and the sexually assertive Jennifer. Meanwhile, Raw deals with reserved Justine’s parental and interpersonal separation.