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Deliberatepixel / Teeth


Last month, I received an email from a friendly film publicist who sounded like he actually might have read at least a bit of my blog and forwarded press info on a movie appropriately relevant to my feminist/film slant: Teeth.

In case you haven't heard the rumblings about this indie horror flick yet, it caused a bit of a stir at last year's Sundance with its subject matter - a reworking of the vagina dentata myth. Brush off your Latin, and, yes, that means what you think it means: toothed vagina. The myth is often seen as a warning to men about having relations with strange women, and a symptom of dread about women's sexual power.

As for Teeth itself, it goes something like this: "High school student Dawn (Jess Weixler) works hard at suppressing her budding sexuality by being the local chastity group's most active participant. Her task is made even more difficult by her bad boy stepbrother Brad's increasingly provocative behavior at home. A stranger to her own body, innocent Dawn discovers she has a toothed vagina when she becomes the object of violence. As she struggles to comprehend her anatomical uniqueness, Dawn experiences both the pitfalls and the power of being a living example of the vagina dentata myth." (from publicist email).

Reports about the film paint it as extremely violent, appealing to women, and disturbing to men. And although it has "strong feminist undertones" (also from publicist email), it also seems to have a current of dark comedy running through it. This is definitely a film impossible to call worthwhile or worthless until it's actually viewed - and I think, if only for curiosity's sake, I'm anxious to do that.

Update: I just came across an IFC interview with the director of Teeth Mitchell Lichtenstein, and it makes clear he approached this with the intent of twisting the vagina dentata myth around from the subjugation women to the empowerment of them. Also interesting is his description of some men's intense reactions to the film:

There are often guys who storm out at some point in the movie, which I usually find satisfying. We were at a film festival recently, and I came back for the last 15 minutes. After the dog incident, these two guys stood up and walked out, saying, "Thanks for that." It was really funny that they would last that long, and then five minutes before the end, that was the last straw and they couldn't take it anymore. Men react differently to certain parts of the movie more viscerally than women do, and I've heard about men who were disturbed about just how into the movie their girlfriends were.

So, looking at this through the lens of torture-porn apologists who think extreme horror featuring on the sexualized destruction of women is harmless - maybe the harm comes more clearly into focus for them when the violence has a different gender target? Maybe this film will at least convince those men who never understood before why some women object to those films why they in fact do.



Dan · 14 January, 05:49 PM · #

“So, some men can’t take targeted violence against men on screen? How about all the instances of torture porn that focus on violent, sexualized destruction of women – which we are definitely not lacking in recent cinema?”

I don’t want to see either of those things. I don’t think the existence of one justifies the other. You didn’t say it did, but I guess I’m just not seeing the connection that you appear to draw.

(Not having seen it, I’m not saying this film is unjustified. I do think I’ll skip it, though.)

Jen · 14 January, 06:10 PM · #

I reacted so strongly to that quote because I’ve often heard filmmakers and film goers (online and off) that sexualized violence in movies against a the female gender is just fiction and not that big of a deal. My point is that maybe this film could make the danger clearer to THOSE type of people. And while most of those type of people are men, I certainly know that not all men are those type of people. In fact, I think they’re in the minority of men. But, they do exist. And it’s hard to argue with them in anything but their own terms. Hence why I think this film could be potentially useful.

I have been writing and reading about the torture porn phenomena for a while now, and I might not have provided enough context for my comments there. I’ll give more background links next time.

Dan · 14 January, 06:34 PM · #

I think the element I didn’t catch on to was that of communicating in their own terms. My fault.

Of course, such men can also be seen as a symptom of a broader problem of people who don’t look at things from others’ perspectives – but pragmatically, we aren’t ever going to solve that problem entirely, so I see what you mean by this being useful.

Jen · 14 January, 07:47 PM · #

No, I don’t think I was very clear. I reworded it a bit :)

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