Wtf did I just watch? – “Teeth”

07/22/2009 at 8:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Trigger warning re: sexual assault. Also, spoilers.

So I finally got around to watching a certain film… a film about Vagina Dentata… I’ve heard of it before and was morbidly curious to watch it, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it. But once that curiosity sets in, it’s hard to dislodge. Finally, I said “Fuckitall,” and watched it, partly at the suggestion of another vulvar pain blogger.

I wanted to like this movie, I really did. I was ready to like it.
I should like it, because imagine having vagina dentata, only in reverse – where the teeth are turned inwards, and bite the vagina owner! That is one way to describe what having vulvodynia can feel like.
Then Teeth comes along. Oh but now the tables are turned, aren’t they. Things are going to be different now, aren’t they.

But I don’t like Teeth.
Nope, did not like it. Could not get on board with it.
It’s pretty much as bad as I expected.
Wtf did I just watch?
Why did I watch this?

Teeth is categorized as a horror film. A feminist horror film. Seriously that’s what it says on the Netflix sleeve it came in. I still have not figured out what makes the movie inherently feminist. Is it because it deals with sexual assault? Is it feminist because it deals with lack of comprehensive sex education? Or is it purely because of the penis biting? Please tell me that is not what makes it feminist.

I have mixed feelings towards horror movies in general. They’re pretty hit & miss with me. I’m still a fan of the Scream series, since I grew up with it. I love anything with Zombies in it. The Ring was not scary. But Silence of the Lambs scares the everloving shit out of me.

I decided to give it a try, and I did… A sure swing and a miss.

I didn’t like it. This is a bad movie. It’s not so much a “Horror” film so much as it is a horrible film. Everything is exaggerated to the point of being completely unbelievable. This includes everything from the pushy Purity group ad-libbing biblical quotes in unison, the high school jerks that actively go out of their way to torment other students, the sub-par sex education that includes covering female anatomy diagrams with gold stickers, to the “Special effects,” if you can even call them that. It’s as though a bunch of juvenile-minded folks got ahold of some very expensive camera equipment and decided to make a sex revenge film with all the worst stereotypes of sexuality. An anti-American Pie.

The acting is terrible. I’ve seen some reviews that looked at Jess Weixler’s acting favorably, and there were some believable moments from her. But Weixler’s character scrunches her face up quite a bit, which looks strange – I found myself scrunching up my own face while I was trying to figure out why she was doing that. What emotion(s) are you trying to convey? Towards the end of the film, she has very few lines too. I don’t think she said much for the last 10 or 15 minutes.
Lots of screaming, mutilation and shock going on.
Perhaps with the exception of the asshole step-brother (who, despite his image of toughness, open misogyny, and violence, still lives at home in the suburbs with his parents,) the character’s behaviors aren’t consistent from scene to scene. One minute someone will be shy and charming, the next they’re completely out of control.

Dawn, the main character, is sexually assaulted several times, usually ending in disaster for both herself and the male characters when her toothed vagina clamps down & bites off penis and fingers alike (How could teeth have bitten through bones?) The fingers belonged to the most unprofessional gynecologist I have ever seen. When she turns to modern medicine for help & support, her gynecologist molests her, causing obvious pain – and the loss of his hand (and hopefully his career.)

Both the rapes and the results are terrifying to her. That’s not supposed to happen – either part! After the first time, Dawn is so distressed that she drops part of her identity, symbolized by the red purity ring she valued so much. She is unable to continue forward with the sexual purity movement.

As the protagonist, Dawn should be the heroine, but throughout the film she is compared to villains in old stories, especially Medusa. Dawn reads up on vagina dentata (as well as general female anatomy, having been denied access to this knowledge by her school,) and decides to address her condition by taming it old school – allowing a male to sexually conquer her during intercourse. That is how you “Treat” vagina dentata, according to the internet. (In my experience, I wouldn’t recommend that approach to other vulvar pain patients. Maybe if you want to roleplay after you get the pain under control first.)

At first, it appears that Dawn’s chosen treatment may have worked – she sought out a sex partner and was able to have intercourse without biting off his penis. (Where did he get all those candles to decorate the room with anyway?) However, I have questions as to her ability to consent to sex at the time, as she was clearly disoriented from an anti-anxiety medication. (Valium?)
Later on, they Dawn & her partner have intercourse again. During the second sex act, she refers to her partner as “My hero,” only to consciously bite off his penis with her vagina when he displeases her a few minutes later.
The reason for Dawn’s displeasure is that her partner admits to having made a bet that he would be able to have sex with her. I’ve seen this unoriginal idea in other TV shows and teen sex movies. But who would want to injure or kill the hero of a story? Only the bad guy, or bad girl in this case.

Notably absent from the film were other female characters. Dawn’s mother is dying. Dawn does not seek out the company of other female friends, although I believe she had at least one who appears in the movie. I wish the director had taken more time to flesh out the nature of Dawn’s relationships with other women.

I needed help understanding wtf I just watched. Am I the only one who hated this movie? Am I the only one who questions whether Teeth is inherently feminist? Is there any redeeming qualities about it that I missed? There’s some who do and will find Teeth empowering, but I am not among them.

I’m struggling to figure out the message Teeth is trying to convey. Is it about the danger of rape, which can happen to anyone? It doesn’t matter how chaste or attractive you are, even the most pure & virginal nuns can be sexually assaulted. Is it trying to warn viewers that rape is bad and you shouldn’t do it? A deterrent in the form of fear of punishment. Dawn may have a built-in defense mechanism, but she still has to live in a society that condones & perpetuates rape culture. And even then, her vagina dentata may not protect her from harm. It’s not shown in this movie, but a risk of fighting back during a rape is that an attacker will become more violent. I’m surprised that Dawn’s brother did not fight back in the end.

Is the movie about placing too much pressure on youth to remain virgins until marriage, and the backlash it can lead to? Backlash, including misunderstanding of healthy sexuality & sexual health? How would you know what “Normal & healthy” is if no one ever taught you? What if you were instead taught that that whole ~*~area~*~ is a no-man’s land and merely looking at it is defiling?

Is it an environmental movie? In the background over and over again two cooling towers from a nearby nuclear power plant appear. The introduction hints that the nearby power plant is responsible for some animal mutations locally – the animation shows fishes devouring what I can only guess are tadpole eggs floating around in the water… until one dark egg turns around and eats the fish, which is unexpected. Later on in the film, Dawn walks in on a biology class during the middle of a discussion on evolution. The bio teacher just happens to be talking about mutations & adaptations. Coincidence?
Is Dawn the first in a new line of humans with unique abilities & adaptations?

Or is Teeth supposed to be some kind of big joke?
If so, I don’t get it.
I didn’t laugh even once.

In the end, Dawn leaves town, hitching a ride when her bicycle breaks.
Of course, I must ask, “HOW was she even able to ride a bike comfortably? I can’t ride a bike with a normal saddle anymore; wouldn’t applying pressure to toothy bones in her vaginal canal have felt really uncomfortable?”
It is implied in the end that, whatever path Dawn will take (Did she even finish school? Is she going to be okay?) she will not hesitate to use her vagina dentata to get what she wants or needs to survive.

I could not relate to Teeth. I feel like, I should be able to relate to it… vagina dentata, vulvodynia… but I can’t. It’s easier for me to relate to the fumbled handling of vulvodynia that happened on Private Practice & Sex & the City than it was to relate to this! That’s how bad it was!

There was maybe one worthwhile moment in the film. It happens a couple of times. The only thing worthwhile is hearing people scream “VAGINA DENTATA” on tv.
Alas, it was not enough to redeem the rest of the hour & a half.

I think I’ll try my luck with Ginger Snaps next, that’s supposed to be a decent feminist horror film. Let’s hope. I have been renting nothin’ but bad movies lately.

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3 Comments »

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  1. […] Movie review – Ginger Snaps 12/15/2009 at 9:24 pm | In Uncategorized | Leave a Comment Tags: animals, Feminism, media, menstruation, movies, puberty, relationships, sex, werewolves A couple of months ago, I had my first taste of so-called feminist horror cinematography, in the form of Teeth. […]

  2. no youre not the only one that found it horrible. i`m totally disappointed. i just finished it right now. i totally understand what youre writing and the feelings youre writing about. i was also looking for feminist horror movies as they seem to be very rare and i`m just so fed up watching sexist horror movies. i found this one on the internet on a feminist movie blog (if i remember right) and i`m shocked by what some people seem to think is feminist. i really tried to like the movie but i just couldnt. so thanks for having all that blogged. for me it gets it down to a point what i felt after watching the movie.

  3. The reason Teeth is viewed as feminist is because the movie is (whether it intended to be or not) viewed as a criticism of the long-held belief that female sexuality is mysterious, dangerous, and too inappropriate to be taught in schools. It is also criticizing the tradition of young people being told that women need a strong, heroic man to conquer them (and their sexuality, be it by reining in a promiscuous woman or introducing the joys of sex to a virgin).


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