Ginger Snaps is on the surface a slightly camp horror film in which a teenage girl is bitten by a werewolf and finds herself becoming more and more wolf-like as the full moon grows nearer. But dig a little deeper, and we instead find a clever metaphor for the onset of puberty and the changes involved in growing up.
Ginger (Katharine Isabelle), an antisocial teenager and late developer who sees becoming an adult as a curse, has her first period on the same evening that she is bitten by a wolf. From this point onwards the film is filled with clever little parallels between becoming an adult and becoming a werewolf, such as when Ginger’s sister Bridget (Emily Perkins) asks the school nurse about “hair that wasn’t there before”, referring to the thick wolf-like fur appearing on Ginger’s arm, with the nurse assuming that she is referring to the natural growth of pubic hair. Ginger and her sister have always been close and have held each other together in what they see as a world of insanity and ridiculous popularity, but the further into lycanthropy that Ginger develops, the more she finds herself breaking away from the ‘immature’ Bridget in a bid to appear more normal. Ginger is in denial about her transformation until the point of no return is reached, and it is up to Bridget to research the condition and find a cure to save her sister.
From a psychological perspective, Ginger is a clear representation of the Freudian model of the id – the section of the psyche which drives the individual on a quest for pleasure, regardless of the consequences. Ginger finds herself craving to rip peoples’ throats out, and tries to satisfy her hunger with neighbourhood dogs. Her transformation signifies a regression into childhood, as this is when our id is most dominant and we rely on those around us such as parents and teachers to keep control. Cue Bridget in the role of the ego. Seeing what is happening to her sister, Bridget devotes herself to helping to control her urges and to stopping the changes she is experiencing, in much the same way as the ego would sensibly control the id’s urges with reasonability and the threat of consequence. The remaining part of the psyche – known as the superego – is not so easy to pinpoint within the film, but must nonetheless be present wherever the id and ego appear. In her article Love, Death and Transformation in Ginger Snaps, Angela Delarmente suggests that the superego is demonstrated by “all the forces outside of the sisters’ relationship”, and so the representation of this part of the psyche could be placed upon their parents, teachers, peers and neighbours.
The success of Ginger Snaps is largely due to the psychological way it will appeal to young women. What growing girl hasn’t at times felt ‘monstrous’ during puberty, as Ginger does? And who among us can say we’ve never grown apart from a close friend or sibling as either we or they have developed sooner into a butterfly (albeit a monstrous butterfly) and fluttered away?
All in all, Ginger Snaps is entertaining to watch, with a cleverly metaphoric plotline and impressive visual effects. There are some quite cringy moments, such as when Bridget attempts to calm the almost completely wolf-like Ginger by crouching on the floor and lapping up blood, but scenes such as this are not intended as ‘gross-out’ moments and are not at all overdone. The concept of Freudian psychoanalysis is no doubt on the writer’s mind, and it is cleverly represented in a way which young people – particularly women – can relate to.