The Genius of Diablo Cody: From Juno to Lisa Frankenstein

Lisa Frankenstein, written by Diablo Cody, came out in theaters a couple of weeks ago. A coming-of-age story about a teenage girl who falls in love with a young man come back to life, this film is the epitome of what Diablo Cody does best—it is a campy and funny, yet genuinely impactful, story of a young woman navigating the world. In honor of the release of this fabulous new film, we’re taking a look back at Diablo Cody’s career— which has been nothing short of iconic. 

Diablo Cody is a screenwriter known for her female-centered narratives, ranging from over-the-top horror comedies to tense psychological thrillers. Like many of the best artists, Diablo had an unconventional start to her career: while working as a full-time stripper, she was also writing for magazines like Jane and Entertainment Weekly

At 27, Diablo wrote a memoir about her time working as a dancer, titled Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. After completing the memoir, Diablo’s manager encouraged her to try writing a screenplay, and in 2005, she wrote the deeply beloved Juno

Juno follows the story of Juno MacGuff, a witty and outspoken high school junior, who becomes pregnant by her friend and classmate, Paulie Bleeker. Juno decides to give her baby up for adoption to a seemingly perfect couple, navigating through the complexities of adulthood, relationships, and personal growth along the way. The complete and utter charm and humor, and the stellar portrayal of the difficult yet gorgeous inner world of young women, would both go on to become landmarks of Diablo Cody’s films. Juno was an instant success among critics and audiences alike, with Diablo’s writing in particular earning a lot of praise. She received an Academy Award for Best Screenplay for Juno. 

Diablo’s next film was Jennifer’s Body. This film, written by Diablo, revolves around a high school cheerleader, Jennifer, who becomes possessed by a demon and starts feeding on the boys in her town. Her best friend, Needy, realizes what’s happening and takes it upon herself to stop Jennifer’s killing spree, all the while navigating complicated feelings toward Jennifer herself. Jennifer’s Body was not as instantly successful or universally popular as Juno, but has since become an absolute cult classic. It was also uniquely female-centric, which is not often the case in the horror genre: both female rage and female love were the driving forces of the narrative, while men were cast aside as weak and auxiliary. It also explored a complex queer desire and relationship which has made it a forever favorite of the LGBTQ+ community. 

In 2018, Diablo wrote Tully, which shows her navigating middle-aged womanhood and motherhood as a writer, both of which she was experiencing herself as well. Tully centers on Marlo, a mother of three including a newborn, who is gifted a night nanny by her brother. The night nanny, named Tully, is not only young and quirky but also forms a unique bond with Marlo. Tully helps Marlo navigate the challenges of postpartum depression, a changing relationship with herself and her husband, and of course, motherhood. The film is an intimate and honest deep-dive into Marlo’s psyche, and delves into the often unspoken realities of parenting, exhaustion, and the search for identity amidst the chaos of raising children. 

Tully is the sort of portrayal of motherhood that only a woman and a mother could write.

Most recently, Diablo wrote Lisa Frankenstein, perhaps her most playful screenplay yet. Lisa Frankenstein features a unique and comical take on the classic Frankenstein tale, focusing on a misunderstood teenage girl who falls in love with a reanimated Victorian-era corpse. Together, they embark on a funny yet dark journey, as she works to transform him into the perfect man and reckons the fact that her family and her peers may never accept her for who she is. The film is generous with fantastic eighties references; think dragging a body across a pink plush carpet or electrocuting the corpse with a tanning bed to bring him back to life. Lisa is confident and unapologetically different, but also has a heart of gold, making her impossible to not love.  If Jennifer’s Body is satirical, Lisa Frankenstein takes it over the top, filled with melodrama and dark humor that make the story just downright entertaining. 

From a revamped Frankenstein to an exhausted mother, Diablo Cody knows how to make memorable characters and stories. Diablo is one of the most talented screenwriters of our time, and hopefully, she will live on in the cult classics that she continues to create. 

© Julia Lasker (2/29/24) FF2 Media

LEARN MORE/DO MORE

Read Rosa Melkumyan’s review of Tully here.

Watch Juno here.

Watch Jennifer’s Body here.

Watch Tully here.

CREDITS & PERMISSIONS

Featured photo: Kathryn Newton stars as Lisa Swallows in LISA FRANKENSTEIN, a Focus Features release. Photo Credit: Michele K. Short. Copyright © 2024 FOCUS FEATURES LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Middle photo: Diablo Cody at a press conference for the film JENNIFER’S BODY (2009) in San Diego, CA on July 23, 2009. Photo Credit: Richard Chavez / PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: PND63X
Bottom photo: Diablo Cody poses in the Press Room of the 80th Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA on February 24, 2008. Photo Credit: Hahn-Nebinger/ Abaca Press / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: 2E4R0E6
Tags: Diablo Cody, female screenwriter, Jennifer's Body, Juno, Lisa Frankenstein, Tully

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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