Trigger Warning: Please note that this article discusses a rape that occurs within one of the films.
Jack Frost came out in 1997 and is the horror story of a serial killer, Jack Frost, who comes back to life as a snowman and continues on his killing spree. Jack Frost, a dramedy by the same name, came out in 1998, and is the story of a father, Jack Frost, who comes back to life as a snowman. Aside from the obvious title, topic, and release date similarities, I discovered a curious thing about these two films that couldn’t be further apart in terms of genre. They’re both perpetuate the same tired cisgender stereotypes and stress about questions of masculinity with running themes like, “What is a snowman without his snowballs?”
Jack Frost, the horror film, is just a really bad film any way you look at it. From the awful acting, to the nonsensical plot, to the cinematography, to them literally filming in a city where it’s clearly not snowing, this entire film deserves every bit of that seven percent that Rotten Tomatoes gave it. It’s pure B movie drivel and advertises itself as such, so it’s probably no surprise it falls back on sexism and cliches for easy laughs.
The entire tone for this is set when a young man asks the sheriff of the film early on, “What’s the difference between snowmen and snowwomen? It’s snow balls! Get it?” The man says this as he cradles two snowballs that he’s crafting into breasts to put onto his lithe and sexy snowwoman, his against-the-grain entry into the town’s snowman contest.
It’s a terrible line and one you assume is just a punny throwaway, and yet it’s repeated at the climax of the film when the sheriff is facing off against Jack Frost. The sheriff defeats Jack after throwing out that one-liner, and in that context the line takes on a different meaning: the sheriff, a man, bested Jack, another man, so he therefore has the bigger balls and is The Man in this context. Jack, being defeated, is now a (snow)woman. Yep, this film is indeed very transphobic in it’s assumptions that to be a man you must have balls. It also conforms to cisgender stereotypes by automatically equating strength and dominance to being a man. Both are incredibly reductive points of view, and yet they’re what fuel this film.
And this kind of rhetoric, that being a woman makes you lesser and more susceptible to (or deserving of) violence, is carried throughout the film. Jack kills several people throughout the course of the film, but the most prolonged and violent ones are with the women. Jack kills two men first, and they happen off screen and in a relatively comical manner. The third victim is a mousy woman whose husband verbally abuses her. Jack strangles her with Christmas lights while repeatedly smashing her face into a box of glass ornaments. It’s a prolonged scene, and when she finally dies, he strings her up on the tree as decoration, shards sticking out from her face. The cops find her that way. They take notes and discuss taking her down, but not before one of the cops interjects with, “Should we just leave her up there? For Christmas decoration?” Hilarious!
Later Jack materializes into a bathtub of a just-turned-eighteen year old woman and rapes her to death with his carrot. (I’m not using a euphemism here; his carrot is literally missing from his face during the rape so one can only assume it migrated elsewhere.) The rape, like the last woman’s murder, is drawn out, with him slamming her against the bathroom wall until she dies. “Hope it was as good for you as it was for me,” he says as he rolls out.
As for the women who are left, there’s the sheriff’s wife and his secretary. Both have zero effect on the plot, and the sheriff is threatened by Jack with, “Once I’m done with you, I’ll enjoy your wife.” As an aside, Jack’s body only includes the snow. The carrot was added on by a child and is not actually a part of him, so when he says “enjoy” he doesn’t mean pleasure. He means enjoying the actual act of doing violence onto women, which is in line with the idea that rape is really about asserting masculine control.
On the other hand, Jack Frost the romance/drama/comedy certainly has no serial killers. In this tale, Jack Frost–two separate writing crews really thought they were being clever with this name–is a musician played by Michael Keaton. He dies in a car accident, but when his son plays his favorite harmonica he is brought back to life in snowman form. This film couldn’t be more different than it’s horror counterpart, and yet somehow it retains some similarities to the other Jack Frost. Summoning your father back from the dead into a body that’s not his own certainly sounds macabre. And while this is a film for kids, they really couldn’t resist throwing in digs at women as well.
There’s a scene of a ton of kids having a snowball fight, with insults like, “You throw like a girl!” being tossed around. When Keaton’s Jack comes home (pre-snowman), he jokes with his wife that he can see their elderly neighbor in a robe from their yard, and she’s lookin’ hot and foxy. Later, when Jack and his wife are in the bedroom, the wife jokes that a man hit on her that day. “No wonder men hit on you, look at you,” Jack says, pointedly eying her skimpy nightgown. He playfully dogs her about her appearance with what vaguely sounds like slut-shaming. Mind you, he hasn’t seen his wife for several days, and this is their first full conversation we see. She then has to placate him with hello, she doesn’t actually wear the nightgown outside the bedroom. He finally relents and they fall into bed laughing together.
Jack then tells his wife that when he makes it big he’ll buy her a nice car, like a Porsche. “Anything but a Jeep is a sissy car,” his wife matter-of-factly tells him. Why did anybody think that was a necessary line to put into a film for kids? In case you couldn’t tell, this film was written, produced, and filmed entirely by dudes.
When Jack gets revived as a snowman it doesn’t really sink in that he’s not human until he looks down. The camera pans to where his junk would normally be, and all he sees is smooth snow. Jack groans in agony, and the joke here is that oh my god his family jewels are gone, gross. I don’t know about you, but the thing that would horrify me more than having no private parts is me being a literal snowman with stick arms and no legs but whatever. Again, what is a man without his balls.
Jack meets up with his son and they end up snowboarding away from some teenager hell bent on giving Jack’s son a hard time. The teen pelts Jack with two snowballs, giving Jack snow boobs. This is a kid’s film so of course the appropriate thing to do then is show Jack fondling and playing with them for a bit before deciding to throw them off. Jack is literally made of balls, but those are two balls that just won’t fly.
I don’t know. Maybe a snowman’s tale is the perfect vehicle for a masculinity message like this. Being given a body where genitalia doesn’t exist anymore seems to be an acute fear of men: think of how even kid’s male superhero action figures need to show a clear bulge between the legs. On the other hand, a snowman is literally all balls, which allows for puns and maybe allows for men to reclaim their masculinity in different ways? Does having three balls make you hyper masculine or less so? Who knows. Honestly it’s all garbage. Call me when they finally make a film about a woman who becomes a snowman and she doesn’t have two clearly defined boob bumps, will you?