Rating: C, but an enjoyable C!
Summary: Inconveniently in the midst of puberty and the awakening of sexual awakenings, Dawn discovers teeth in her sex organs!
I don’t typically do horror. but I made an exception for Halloween. Of course, there has to be something more than an aimless killer stalking around so I went for something smarter and a little more… weird. Atypical. Let’s go with that. Teeth is a 2007 film and it was somewhat of a darling upon its release due to its use of allegory depicting the subject of women’s sexuality. This is my first time watching it and I must admit- I have some the same sentiments watching this that I had while watching Get Out. Mind you, Teeth is more [intentionally] comical and even juvenile in its approach. (It’s nowhere near as technically brilliant, though.) College courses should show this as part of feminist criticism. Moments of Teeth are fucking brilliant and it’s still culturally relevant today in the time of the #metoo explosion. There’s so much commentary on the boxes we tend to place women in, the taboo of women and their parts (even refusing to say the word vagina in a health class!), gender binaries and biases, as well as rape culture and survivor’s guilt. The movie is only 90 minutes long, but it’s able to pack in several messages in its allegory.
Known as “She has TEETH in her vagina!”, Teeth is the tale of a young woman who is coming to terms with her sexuality as well as her capability in accepting that her body and its urges are changing. The main character, Dawn, is under the impression that her body (and the teeth) will not let anything enter her body until she is married and does things “the right way.” She is even a lead presenter for what looks like an abstinence club. Dawn’s attitude could possibly stem from the incident that opens the movie. Brad, a year or so older than his future stepsister, mysteriously has the tip of his finger sliced open. Most likely- yes- by her vagina teeth.
Anytime Dawn gets even remotely familiar with her body and what most people think of as uncharted territory or some sort of abyss, cue the horror music! We even get some images of horror creatures interjected throughout these scenes. While the teeth may be a metaphor for a woman’s comfort level of know what goes on down there, the actual treatment of the vagina as this untameable or foreign, mysterious planet is sadly very, very real. I can’t even tell you how many myths there are about the vagina that people think are true because women’s health for whatever reason is pushed to the backburner for so long. We learn about periods in school and like, that’s it, because the image of women must remain pure and somewhat conquerable for it to be… attractive? FOR WHAT, I ASK. I don’t even think I learned that it was a self-cleaning organ until I got to college. COLLEGE. That’s six years of wondering what was going on between periods. I mean, a self-cleaning organ is fucking fascinating. Teach me about that!
There’s also several images of Medusa, who was raped and then was pretty much a demon afterwards, as Greek literature goes. In recent years, she’s become a character that has been taken back by women as a sexual assault survivor and someone who is wrongfully demonized after being the victim (sound familiar?)- but the Medusa and its whole “women must maintain their purity as to not become monsters” that came after have been explored since the 70’s. If you’re interested, I recommend Helene Cixous’ infamous The Laugh of the Medusa, which tackles women’s struggle to identify and express their sexuality and explains why literature by women for women is so important. Then there’s also Sandra Gilbert’s and Susan Guber’s co-penned The Madwoman in the Attic, which breaks down the woman as an angel or monster idea and argues against the whole categorization of women by their sexual behavior.
What I find interesting about a lot of the takeaway in this movie is that a lot of people interpret the vagina as the horror element- but not the overly sexual males that see Dawn as an outlet for their urges. Not the doctor who takes advantage of her first gynecological exam, not the brother who molests her, and not the classmate who drugs her and then rapes her. I really question the people who see the men as the victims of this movie. Dawn is so very clearly the protagonist- someone who doesn’t know what’s going on with her but then learns to accept and love herself. It’s a weirdly empowering movie and a satisfying one at that.