Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Jenny Archetype: Greasy Hair, Broken Dreams

Remember Jenny? Sure, Forrest Gump himself had adventures a-plenty, but poor Jenny just had bad stuff happen to her. The quintessential crappy female character, Jenny was there for Forrest to save, much like the woman Sling Blade saved in that terrible movie. Lank and downtrodden, Jenny was constantly being abused and exploited. Sadly, Jenny never gets her own story or power. The movie ends with her getting pregnant with Forrest's child and then dying. 

This sort of downtrodden, abused and passive female character is an archetype in American cinema. Often from the wrong side of the tracks, the Jenny can be anything from an abused hooker to an abused housewife. She has lived hard, and she will probably have sex with/be saved by the main character, who may or may not be mentally deficient. Her lank, greasy hair and unfashionable-by-Hollywood-standards wardrobe are also keys to her inner pysche. Generally considered "low class", the Jenny probably won't be getting married any time soon, being much more likely to die in some harrowing way before the movie ends.

Speaking of women who are abused and have sex with Billy Bob Thorton, here's Halle Berry in Monster's Ball. I remember seeing this movie for free cause my friend worked at a movie theater, and then my other friend was like, "This is the worst movie ever" and we left. True story.

In Broken Flowers, Bill Murray wonders why all the women he used to date are like, such old bitches now even though he's still so cool and great. He briefly has an encounter with a Jenny type, played by Tilda Swinton, but luckily she fends him off with a shotgun.

Here's Emily Blunt in 2012's pretty boring Looper. Okay, she does some stuff, but mostly the stuff involves protecting her son who happens to be magic, which has some convoluted connection to the plot of the movie. And she's only abused by her magic son. She does have sex with the main character, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, and she sure is downtrodden!

What are some other examples of this character? I know there are a ton more, but this was all I could think of. Gaby suggested "every role Jennifer Jason Leigh has ever played."