In light of the spooky season and the overarching fear of what is to become of female reproductive health as Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed, what is more perfect than a horror film that really sinks its teeth into the female experience?
Written and directed by Cleveland-born Mitchell Lichtenstein, "Teeth" is a horror/comedy that has gotten a bad reputation over the years. I know I first heard of it as a joke or meme-like movie that was so terrible it was funny. But looking back the people that were saying this about "Teeth" were mostly young men...well, boys. My friends and I decided to take a watch for ourselves around Halloween two years ago as it was the spooky season and we had all heard on separate occasions that "Teeth" was just a stupid, bad horror movie. I fell in love with this movie as soon as I watched it. I started going around telling everyone how "Teeth" is actually an amazing exposé on the female experience.
Now one may be thinking, “'Teeth' is a movie about a girl with the mythical condition vagina dentata, or vagina teeth. How can that not be a joke?” Let me tell you. This film focuses on our main character Dawn (Jess Weixler). Dawn is as conservative as they come. She speaks at abstinence conferences and believes in modesty over everything. Dawn is depicted as the complete opposite of her stepbrother Brad (John Hensley) who is shown as a sex-crazed, metalhead low-life. These step-siblings are basically the on-the-nose depictions of an angel and a devil. When Dawn starts to be interested in this boy she meets at one of her abstinence conferences she starts to question her own morals. I will say, Tobey (Hale Appleman) is pretty fine, so I don’t blame Dawn. Plus she assumed he had the same moral code as her, so it would be perfect! Yeah, no.
Dawn and Tobey hang out by themselves for the first time, and this leads to some light kissing where Dawn eventually pushes Tobey away and recites, “purity, purity, purity.” He moves away from her and they go on with their day. When they find a cave they decide to take a rest. Well, I am sure no one is surprised: Tobey tries to make a move. Their makeout is such a struggle Dawn hits her head and passes out; Tobey takes this as his opportunity to well, quite literally rape her. In the midst of it, Dawn awakens along with something inside her. The thing inside her takes over and punishes Tobey for this assault by castrating him.
Vagina dentata is a mythical medical condition that Dawn discovers she has. We even get a scene of her at an OB-GYN where the male doctor makes her uncomfortable and refuses to stop an unacceptable pelvic exam, even after Dawn’s screams of pain and audible “no.” The vagina dentata strikes again and chops off the doctor’s fingers...yes, fingers. This is all horror and gore but in reality, this happens. No, not the chopping off of fingers and genitals by teeth in the vulva, but women being sexually assaulted by boyfriends and trusted professionals.
In this overdramatized world Lichtenstein created we even see the health teacher not being able to even say the word, “vagina.” The students’ health textbooks have a sticker covering the diagram of the vulva but have a full diagram of a penis that they had just gone over in class. This scene just engrains the mystery of the vagina in the students and Dawn herself. She becomes scared of her own body and is shown as numb and empty after these sexual assaults. As the film continues, Dawn becomes infatuated with another boy and they end up having sex. She warns him beforehand, but he obviously doesn’t believe her; but to her surprise, nothing happens and she has her first enjoyable experience. One may call this the climax of the film.
After that, the audience sees what is happening here. The vagina dentata only occurs when it is a forced, unwanted situation. Dawn then realizes the power she has over men now. It is the perfect way to protect herself.
"Teeth" is an overdramatized movie that has campy scenes and dialog but it is the perfect example of what women go through and what women have gone through since the dawn of time. It is said in the film that vagina dentata is an adaptation that the female body has developed due to many unwanted interactions. Now we women have not developed adaptations but there has been technology developed. The Rape-aXe is a female condom that literally has jagged teeth on the inside that would cut into the unwanted penis inserted inside of it. I think the inventors might be fans of this film as well.
"Teeth" is still as relevant as ever. With celebrities and politicians being accused by survivors almost every day, we might want to all take a look at this horror/comedy. "Teeth" is about sexual assault, consent and taking back the power you have as a female: something everyone needs to learn about. So sit back, relax and take a bite out of this film.
Jessica Goodwin is an opinion writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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