I finally got around to watching Teeth, last year’s campy horror flick about a teenage girl who discovers during a sexual assault that she has an unusual genital mutation: a toothed vagina (“vagina dentata”) that doesn’t hesitate to defend her by dismembering her attacker. There has been a lot of comment about this film on the feminist blogs I read, and discussion about the movie’s messages about female sexuality, teenage sexuality, and abstinence.
There were some priceless moments. My own favorite scene was Dawn, the main character’s, first pelvic exam, which she schedules after her impulsive break with chastity goes horribly wrong. The (male) gynecologist is bumblingly patronising and when he fails to respond to Dawn’s nervous cues in a respectful manner things get bloody. Dawn is a teen spokesperson for an abstinence program called modeled after such programs as The Silver Ring Thing which allows the film to highlight the hypocrisy of “education” programs that spread ignorance and simplistic fantasies about sexuality. And given its plot, the film makes some particularly well-pitched points about our cultural ignorance about teen and female sexuality.
But overall, I was not impressed. One of the most striking things, to me, was the film’s overall lack of positive male characters, and boys or men who act in a positive way toward Dawn as a sexual being. Her stepfather is kind, but peripheral. All the other boys and men in the story are violent, duplicitous or otherwise creepy. Okay, I know it’s a horror story, but it struck me as particularly unfair that while the film wrestled in a serious way with an (apparently straight) teenage girl’s sexuality, it failed to offer any possibility of non-combative sexual relationships for its main character.
I’m glad a saw it, but it’s not on my list of top-ten feminist faves.