In Brightest Day: Jennifer Blake, Vanity, and Identity

Teen_Wolf_Season_3_Episode_4_Unleashed_Haley_Webb_Jennifer_BlakeWell, Teen Wolf is finally back, and sadly, Jennifer Blake still seems to be dead. I have to admit that Jennifer was the cause of much distress for me the first half of the season, but not because I didn’t like her character. I really enjoyed watching her and found her very sympathetic. No, my distress came about from reading what the fans—specifically the Sterek shippers—had to say about her.

While I am no stranger to disliking female characters—Bella from Twilight, Lori from The Walking Dead, the list goes on—the misogynistic and unfounded accusations thrown at Jennifer were hard to avoid, and they were usually entirely uncalled for. Jennifer was an antagonist, so I did expect some evil from her—and we got that. But her villainess ways were hardly the cause of the hatred and bile against her.

Most people seemed to dislike her simply because of her relationship with Derek, seeing her as an obstacle between him and his “true love” Stiles. She’s been called a rapist, a Mary Sue, and numerous other derogatory terms. Another accusation people seem fond of giving her is vanity, which, like most of the other insults, I immediately disagreed with.

Teen_Wolf_Season_3_Episode_1_Tattoo_Felisha_Terrell_Alpha_KaliI can certainly see where the argument for Jennifer Blake being motivated by vanity comes from. Jennifer used to be the druid for Kali and her pack, but Kali betrayed her. At Deucalion’s behest Kali attempted to kill Jennifer, and in the process she slashed up Jennifer’s face beyond recognition. Due to the betrayal and subsequent disfigurement, Jennifer nearly died. She lost the people she loved, and she lost herself in the process. When she looks back and shares what happened to her with Derek, she says:

I know what you’re thinking, Derek. That I’m using you, that everything that happened between us was a lie, or that I’m evil—but I hope you’re not thinking the most superficial thought: is that her real face?

Later, in a fight against Kali, Jennifer further says:

That’s right, Kali, look at my face.

So it is very easy to see why some people may interpret Jennifer as being vain, as revenge for her lost face is one of her primary motivations. Media at large has a longstanding habit of portraying villainess as wanting beauty or youth—such as the Queen from Snow White and the Huntsman—which is tied to society telling women and young girls that their looks should be one of their top priorities. Teen Wolf, despite having occasional problems portraying female characters in the past, has been a rather progressive show that treats its female characters fairly well. Having a villainess motivated by her physical appearance does seem like a step in the wrong direction.

However, I think there’s a lot more to this issue than vanity. Yes, Jennifer used to be a very beautiful woman and she wants to go back to looking like her old self. But for Jennifer, it’s not about beauty. It’s about her loss of identity. Jennifer has no power over what she actually looks like. She hides her disfigurement with a glamour because she has to. She can no longer recognize herself due to the attack she suffered. The face she has is not one she identifies with.

I would be angry, too, if this had happened to me. While we as a society have a problem of forcing unobtainable standards of beauty on women and young girls, there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to look nice, even for yourself. Jennifer literally has to hide her true face with magic, and it’s for a lot more reasons than her sense of beauty and vanity.

Yeah, I think I’d be pissed off about this happening to me as well.

Yeah, I think I’d be pissed off about this happening to me as well.

The above picture is not something she wants to see when she looks in the mirror. That is also not a face that she can show simply walking down the street. She no longer has the luxury of looking like herself, and in a society where people praise beauty as an achievement for women, it’s entirely understandable that she would also be self-conscious about her disfigurement on a more superficial level, as well as an emotional one.

Compare Jennifer’s reaction from her own attack to Lydia’s reaction when Jennifer tries to strangle her. Lydia develops a bruise on her neck from the string Jennifer used, but unlike Jennifer, Lydia doesn’t feel the need to hide the mark. Instead, she takes pride in it, because someone tried to strangle her and she survived the attack. But you also have to keep in mind that Lydia’s bruise will eventually heal, and she’ll be able to move on.

Jennifer will never be able to do that. Her face is stuck like that forever, and it is always going to serve as a reminder of being betrayed and losing everything and everyone she ever loved. Additionally, due to the attack, Jennifer had to change her identity legally as well. Her original name was Julia Baccari. While trapped with Derek in an elevator, Jennifer starts talking to him about identity issues. She mentions that people who use aliases tend to take on names that are “subconsciously derivative” of their original names—such as sharing the same first initials—as a way to hold onto their identity. Obviously, Jennifer, like most people, is attached to her sense of self and her original identity, and it’s very clear that her loss of self has only added to her trauma and prevented her from moving on.

Because of this, I find Jennifer a very interesting character, and that’s why it’s so sad that she died before she could find herself, while characters like Deucalion and Gerard were allowed to live. It’s also why I’ve grown to greatly dislike the Sterek ship and its hardcore shippers over this past year. While there are plenty of Sterek shippers who do not engage in the attacks against Jennifer, there’s still plenty of hatred going around. Many of these accusations are upsetting, because a lot of them do seem to come about from Jennifer being a woman getting in the way of a fan-beloved, albeit non-canon queer relationship. However, accusations of vanity are also incredibly upsetting because they can easily become victim-blaming.

As I said, there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be beautiful, but Jennifer doesn’t even want that. She just wants to be herself, and people have responded to her trauma by writing her off as being vain. It’s not vanity to want your own face. So often in these hate posts I find, people talk about what Derek needs in a relationship and how Jennifer will be bad for Derek. No one ever talks about what Jennifer needs. Like Derek, Jennifer is broken by her past, and though Jennifer is both an antagonist and a murderer, Derek is also a reprehensible person, so there is no reason except misogyny why Derek should be pitied by fans for his hardships, while Jennifer is written off as someone who needs to die.

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About MadameAce

I draw, I write, I paint, and I read. I used to be really into anime and manga until college, where I fell out of a lot of my fandoms to pursue my studies. College was also the time I discovered my asexuality, and I have been fascinated by different sexualities ever since. I grew up in various parts of the world, and I've met my fair share of experiences and cultures along the way. Sure, I'm a bit socially awkward and not the easiest person to get along with, but I do hold great passion for my interests, and I can only hope that the things I have to talk about interest you as well.

4 thoughts on “In Brightest Day: Jennifer Blake, Vanity, and Identity

  1. I’m not sure I get your argument that puts Derek and Jennifer on the same level? Like, sorry, but, Jennifer is a mass-murderer who killed… 12 innocent people to slay a “man” (I really hesitate calling Deucalion a man) on a night, at a time when he would have no supernatural powers at all anyway. The worst Derek’s done is break Isaac’s arm and/or kill Peter. I’m not saying Derek is a perfect gentleman or anything of the sort, but breaking someone’s arm/killing a murderer who would doubtlessly have gone on killing if he had not been stopped hardly meassures up to taking the lives of innocents who just happen to fall within a certain category.

    Additionally, there are some very severe doubt about Derek’s ability to consent to her freely, hence why she’s being called a rapist? Like, saying there’s no reason Derek should be pitied for, once again, being manipulated and used by someone he’s in a romantic relationship with comes frightfully close to victim blaming? Even if you don’t account for the possibility that JB could have used magic to seduce him.

    Aside from that, most arguments I saw against Jennifer (I saw hardly any after it was revealed she was the darach after which everyone thought she was awesome) went on that she had no character development aside from out of the blue being Derek’s love interest? And it being ooc for Derek to trust someone upon sight? Do you disagree with this? Fair enough. If you thought she was an interesting character, if you felt she had a reason to be involved in the plot before it was revealed that she actually was, good on you. Just sayig we didn’t all feel like that and we’re actually perfectly justified in that…

    If you want to know, I personally had no problem with Jennifer, but I did have a problem with her relationship with Derek. First of all, it seemed incredibly ooc for Derek (Same as it’s incredibly ooc for Scott to throw Isaac into a wall twice over Allison) to trust someone on first sight. Secondly, as a feminist, I had a problem with her early portrayal as the (not so manic) pixie dream girl that was gonna magically heal Derek of all his angst with the Power of Lurve and charming quirks.

    That’s why Allison and Lydia, and now Kira, work excellently as female characters; their story is their own. They are the heroines of their own lives and they have clear ambitions and priorities not connected to their male love interests and it’s why Jennifer was the cause of such outcry. She did not appear to have gotten the same courtesy which made her seem superfluous and unnecessary as a character.

    • I personally do not think that Jennifer killing people is justified, and that is not what my post is about. When I compared Jennifer and Derek, I was comparing fan reactions to them, and I apologize if I didn’t make that clear. As you said, Derek has done a lot of bad things—breaking Isaac’s arm, stalking Scott, blackmailing Scott, hitting Stiles, just to name a few—and too often do I see people write his behavior off as roughhousing or make excuses for him. If you don’t do that, then that’s great. But I constantly hear from other people how Derek being a victim is an excuse, and what fans think he really needs—specifically in a relationship—from his significant others, with no regards to that person.

      The problem I was pointing out in my conclusion is that Jennifer, who is also doing bad things due to her past, isn’t getting the same treatment. And I do question that a male character is forgiven while when someone mentions that a female villain is interesting, that person is met with cries of “oh, but she’s a murderer!” As if those of us who like Jennifer weren’t aware of that.

      So I should attempt to make my opinion clearer. I don’t think either of them should be excused for their actions—having a horrible past, does not excuse either of the things they have done, and it’s not victim-blaming to hold them both accountable for their own actions. It would be victim blaming if I said I thought they deserved their hardships.

      However, I do question why Derek gets a free pass when Jennifer doesn’t. Sure, killing has far more severe consequences than breaking someone’s arm, but just because a character does bad things doesn’t mean that character cannot be interesting. Sympathizing with Jennifer is a far cry from agreeing with her. However, that said, this post is not about whether or not Jennifer is evil, nor is it about her murdering people. It’s about her identity issues and why I think that makes her interesting.

      • I see. That’s okay then. It was my impression from reading your original post, you see, that you were simply angry that not as many people excused Jennifer and/or found her interesting as Derek. Derek has been shown far more to be a victim than Jennifer with far mor details and continued victimisation than Jennifer. So while I agree that her identity issues are very interesting, it was hardly what was focused on in the show and so I don’t think you can blame people for not feeling as much empathy with her as with Derek.

        Additionally when she finally explained her reasons, she was doing it to Derek, whom she had been using in a way to excuse how she had treated him instead of, say, explaining it to Scott or, I dunno, Lydia. Someone who was not as much a victim, you know? It did have the taste of an abuser trying to explain away why what they did was okay. Derek has never tried to excuse himself, especially not to the victims of of his “tender mercies”.

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