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Jennifer Lopez vs. the World

A brief history of J.Lo’s battles

Ringer illustration
Ringer illustration

The Cell is a movie starring Jennifer Lopez. She plays Catherine Deane, a psychologist who uses a machine to wander around in the subconscious of people in comas. I don’t want to say very much about The Cell beyond that because it makes me uncomfortable, but I will tell you that there’s a part in it where Vincent D’Onofrio’s ultra-creepy comatose serial killer Carl Stargher cuts open a man’s stomach with a pair of scissors. Worse: he snips the man’s small intestine in two with the scissors. Double worse: he attaches the small intestine to a barbed pole. Triple worse: he slowly unspools the small intestine out of the man’s body by twisting the barbed pole ‘round and ‘round. Quadruple worse: he giggles and claps like a child while he does it. Quintuple worse: it’s not even the most unsettling part of the movie.

Stargher is the villain in The Cell (or, more specifically, his mind is the the villain). Jennifer Lopez fights him (or, more specifically, she fights his mind). She fights lots of things in her movies, actually. Some of them are Very Ordinary and some of them are Very Not Ordinary, while others are somewhere in between. She fights them literally, with her fists and feet, and she fights them figuratively, too, with her wit and her guile. On the spectrum of all the things you can fight in a movie, she’s got a notch for, I think, every single section.

New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

Sure, Jennifer Lopez fought a killer inside of his own mind in The Cell. But has she ever fought a killer in the real (movie) world?

Yes. In Money Train (1995), Jennifer Lopez fights a guy who’s going around New York setting subway station workers on fire. (His nickname is Torch. It’s a pretty good nickname.) Additionally, she also fights off the advances of a coworker played by Woody Harrelson, though that seems less substantial than fighting the person setting humans on fire.

While she isn’t the one who kills Torch, she is the one who helps lure him out into the open, and she doesn’t die, or even get set on fire, while doing so. I’m counting that fight as a W for her.

Re: Harrelson: She never sleeps with him in the movie, so I think that’s a win, too. Or maybe it’s a loss? It’s kind of unclear. Because on the one hand, he’s Woody Harrelson, and Woody Harrelson is not an especially handsome man, so I’m leaning toward another W. But on the other hand, he’s a grown-up and his name is Woody, and I figure any grown-up who willfully refers to himself as Woody is probably super good at sex, so there’s a slight chance this could be an L, but actually probably not because his face is still his face, so, you know what, I’m going back to the original assessment: this is a win for Lopez, too.

Two fights in Money Train, two wins in Money Train.

(Sidebar: Wesley Snipes plays Woody Harrelson’s cooler, slicker, more cosmically blessed foster brother in Money Train. It’s basically White Men Can’t Jump 2, but with subway trains instead of basketball and Jennifer Lopez instead of Rosie Perez.)

Well, does she have any experience fighting genetic disorders?

You would think no, but it’s actually yes. Jack (1996) is a movie about a boy who has a disease that causes him to age four times faster than normal. He asks Lopez, who plays his teacher, to go to a school dance with him. He says he can’t ask any of the girls in his class, because even though he’s only 10 his disease means he has the everything of a 40-year-old man, so it’d look weird to show up with one of them. She tells him no, that she can’t, that it’s not appropriate. He starts crying and runs away. Then he has a heart attack and falls down some stairs. So not only does Jennifer Lopez fight a genetic disorder, she fights a genetic disorder inside the body of another person.

(I’m counting this as a loss because I legit almost started crying the first time I watched Jack, but that does not change the fact she fought, and she fought fearlessly.)

Has she ever fought anything truly treacherous, though?

Jennifer Lopez’s most harrowing fight happened in 2003, when she had to fight to keep her career alive after Ben Affleck tried to destroy it with Gigli. Gigli was so bad that when he made Jersey Girl (2004) the following year, Lopez said she’d only be in it if her character was killed off in the movie. That’s why her character died during childbirth* in it.

*I’m not sure how true this actually is. Probably “zero percent,” would be my guess.

Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

OK, but has she ever even fought a deadly animal?

She fights one in Anaconda (1997), a movie about a group of documentary filmmakers that gets tricked into trying to capture a gigantic anaconda, which quickly turns into the filmmakers just trying to not get eaten by a gigantic anaconda.

The movie ends with the giant anaconda dead and the regular-size Jennifer Lopez alive, so not only has she fought a deadly animal — she’s won. I’ll go a step further here and point out that the giant anaconda never even seriously injures Jennifer Lopez during the fight, so if you rank animal fighters she’d have to land above Leo DiCaprio, who won an Oscar for essentially fighting a bear to a draw.

Has she ever fought anything metaphysical?

She fights George Clooney’s charm in Out of Sight (1998). (She wins this fight, but also loses this fight, as fights with George Clooney tend to go.)

Any political fights?

The secretly heaviest fight Jennifer Lopez has ever been involved with, directly or indirectly, is in the animated movie Antz, when the inner workings of the totalitarian ant universe get topsy-turvied by Z, an ant who decides he wants something different for himself. Z does most of the fighting in Antz, but I’m including it here because watching it was the first time I ever gave any thought to the idea that animated ants might have sex with each other, which is heavily implied.

Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Has she fought incredibly inconvenient timing? Or unbelievable fate? Or a sexually abusive husband? Or Latino stereotypes? Or a lost love of dancing? Or her own haunted past? Or her own uterus?

The Wedding Planner (2001) → Angel Eyes (2001) → U Turn (1997) → Maid in Manhattan (2002) → Shall We Dance (2004) → An Unfinished Life (2005) → The Back-up Plan (2010)

Enough (2002) is the easiest movie to point to and say, “Look, this is Jennifer Lopez fighting something,” because she has to literally fight her way out of an abusive marriage. There’s a training montage scene where the following conversation happens in the background while she dodges medicine balls and breaks free from chokeholds:

TRAINER: You ready?

LOPEZ: Yes.

TRAINER: You sure?

LOPEZ: Uh-huh.

TRAINER: Can you lose?

LOPEZ: No.

TRAINER: Can he hurt you?

LOPEZ: No.

TRAINER: Even though he’s bigger?

LOPEZ: He’s a lot bigger.

TRAINER: Even though he’s stronger?

LOPEZ: He’s a lot stronger.

TRAINER: So if he hits you …

LOPEZ: No way.

TRAINER: Say it.

LOPEZ: It takes twice as much energy to swing and miss as to swing and hit.

TRAINER: So how do you win? How?

LOPEZ: I attack.

TRAINER: And what do you do after you attack?

LOPEZ: Nothing.

TRAINER: And why nothing?

LOPEZ: Because I never stop attacking.

Enough ends with Lopez picking a fight with her abusive husband. She tells him she wants to fight. He asks if she thinks it’s a fair fight, what with him being a foot taller and 50 pounds heavier? And a few minutes later he’s dead.

I don’t trust any movie star to adequately fight something more than I trust Jennifer Lopez.