Thursday, April 22, 2010

Theater Thursday: Teeth

Spoiler Warning - Okay as the title says I'm going to be talking about a movie. Despite the fact that my Theater Thursday posts are more discussion than review I will be talking about what goes on during the movie and doing so I will inevitably bring up specific details about said movie. If I bring up specific details about a movie that you haven't seen yet this is what you call a spoiler. Now its up to you and your taste in movies to decide if you don't want to read said spoiler. So now that I have explained a spoiler I warn you. This post contains specific details about the movie mentioned in the title of this post that you may not want to read. Tread carefully.

Okay so this time I went out on a limb here and watched Teeth. I had heard what it was about and I had the expected and natural thoughts of terror (and if you try to argue that thinking about having one's genitals severed is unnatural then you're the one with the problem) over it. I'm a fan of chance so I decided to watch it. And I have to say I think it was a bit of a mixed bag.

The film centers around a young woman named Dawn. Devoted virgin complete with promise ring and fear of any and all premarital sexual desire (early on she is having a sex dream and just before she began genital stimulation she is scared out of it by an image of a monster). During a rape Dawn discovers that her vagina has a set of teeth inside. I'm going to go straight to the meat and potatoes of this movie and look at her usage of her teeth. Throughout the movie she uses them four times (and movie ends with the anticipation of a fifth bite coming up).

The first time she uses them she is in a secluded area with a classmate and things begin to get hot and heavy. Well she decided it was too hot and too heavy for her liking and wanted to stop. However the guy she was with apparently decided it was just hot enough and just heavy enough for his liking and he chose to continue despite her desire to stop. Shortly after going inside of her and during her cries for help and pleas to stop the boy suddenly stops. He backs away from her screaming in pain. The majority of his penis is laying on the ground and he is profusely bleeding from what remains of his genitals. Later on he is found dead, having bled to death.

Okay there is no question that this was a matter of protecting herself from a rapist. In fact I'll go as far as to say that the only type of person that would try to say what she did in that situation (even though she didn't have control of the teeth at that point) was unjustified would be a rapist or rape apologist.

The second time comes at a visit to her gynecologist. Lying on the table waiting for the exam to start its pretty clear that she is uncomfortable. Perhaps because he just wasn't paying any attention to her discomfort, he noticed it and chalked it up to simple nervousness that would pass, or whatever reason he continued with the exam. However things did get to the point where she was trying to back away from him and just followed with his hand inside of her vagina. Once the tension reaches the breaking point she bites down on his hand and takes his four fingers off. His fingers are saved and are reattached but he refuses to talk about how they were severed.

Notice something? It seems the writers are trying to paint up the teeth in her vagina as a defense mechanism that only come into play when she is in danger. It would have been nice if that was how the other uses of her teeth had played out.

After the visit to the gynecologist and running off with nowhere else to go she ends up at the house of one of her other classmates. He seems to be offering assistance however after letting her take a bath at his house and easing her mood he drugs her and proceeds to have sex with her. In short its drug induced rape. Now I'm not trying to say that what he did was right. However... The next morning while having another round of sex (this time consensual) his phone rings and its a friend of his calling. While on the phone he brags to this friend that he did manage to get her into bed and says that he wins the bet. (Mind you he is on his back and she is on top of him and they're having sex.) When he comes clean about his motivations for helping her the night before being simply for the goal of having sex with her to win a bet she promptly chops his penis off and leaves.

Okay I have a problem here. Alright there is no question that he raped her with the assistance of drugs to take away her ability to consent. However she doesn't severe his penis then, that would have made total sense. What she does instead is severe it the next day during consensual sex. That's not right. Essentially she found out that he only had sex with her to satisfy a bet and took her own vigilante justice out on him. This was not self defense it was revenge. From the looks of it she never seemed to realize that she was drugged. She didn't chop it off because he was violated her, she chopped it off because she was pissed over being used for a bet. I can understand her being pissed but does getting pissed off over being used justification for maiming someone? I would say no.

(And just for those that like to think there is no sexual shaming of men I'd like to point out that when the third guy is in the hospital and the surgical team is reattaching his penis the team manage to throw in the obligatory joke about the size of his penis.)

The forth and final time wasn't rape and it wasn't tension over an exam. It was a planned attack. After realizing that she could also go on the offensive she concocts a plan to put her half brother in his place. What she does is go to her half brother and actually initiates sex with him. During sex he notices the look on her face and he has a flashback of when he stuck his finger in he vagina when they were little and her teeth cut his finger open. Too late. In the blink of an eye she completes her plan by chopping his penis off. (And to add insult to injury his dog eats the severed body part.) Did he try to rape her? No. So where is the justification for initiating sex for the sole purpose of mutilating him?

The movie ends with her leaving home on her bike. After her bike breaks down she catches a ride with an old man. The old man pulls up to a hotel and refuses to let her out. He starts to lick his lips, pretty much a gesture that he wants to have sex. She turns around to the camera, smiles, and the credits roll.

So you have:
1. Clear self-defense
2. Understandable self defense
3. Revenge
4. Calculated plan
5. Apparent clear self defense

So while some may think that the lesson here is to respect a woman's body and wishes and you will be alright that's not the entire picture here. While it is important to respect a woman's body and wishes I think with the way she acted in scenarios 3 and 4 show that the old Ben Parker (Peter Parker aka Spiderman's uncle) advice of "With great power comes great responsibility." applies here. Now hear me out. There was nothing inherently right or wrong with Dawn having teeth in her vagina in and of itself. The right/wrong comes into play in the same way as anything else. Its all about how she uses them. As this movies shows there are perfectly justifiable uses such as defense against rapists just there are downright wrong uses like initiating sex with someone for the purpose of mutilating them.

So for anyone that has seen this movie I ask if you perhaps came to different conclusions about or what you thought about anything else in the film that I may not have covered (like I said this post is not a review but a discussion). And if you haven't seen it then I ask you if you would watch it. I think you should if for no other reason than to form your own opinion. But I must warn you that the castrations are pretty graphic, gory, and bloody.

Well off to find my next movie. Til next we meet on Thrusday to talk movie.

13 comments:

EmilyInIowa said...

I saw this movie last year and you echoed my thoughts exactly, the step brother's mutilation, though you could argue he's responsible for her mother's death, wasn't justified.

Also, while I realize rape is common and all the situations Dawn was in are realistic in of themselves, seeing one character being repeatedly assaulted by multiple characters in the span of a couple days was beyond disturbing. I fear, contrary to the filmmaker's intent I'm sure and probably due to the constraints of film making, that it made rape look almost justifiably common in that one could infer from the movie that all men are rapists and therefore men are just being men when they rape. While rapists could embody any person so showing a wide range of them is good in a way because it takes away some of the misleading stereotypes about rapists which in of themselves are a problem, I think it normalized the action a bit. It might have been good to include at least one other main character that didn't rape someone.

Danny said...

Yeah the guys that rape and violate her bother me just as much as how she decided to go vigilante, as if her being violated gives her the okay to be violent.

It might have been good to include at least one other main character that didn't rape someone.
You could argue that her dad would fulfill that but he gets nowhere near the camera time as those who violate/rape her. Pretty skewed view I say. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

chava said...

Gahhhhh...

Um, no. I wouldn't watch it. I don't know if that makes me squeamish, or just disliking of needless violence, or what. I don't like movies with rape scenes in general, even when those get turned around in violent ways.

Why, why WHY did you watch that!?

(ok, deep breath)

On a more analytical note, I would add that I think this film's plot is NOT that "edgy," but rather just playing into a deeply laid societal fear that women DO have some sort of "weapon" in their genitals which they can and do use to harm men. I mean, yes, this film made that fear literal. But women have been executed for "murdering" men by putting a spell on them or some such hooey with their killer sex organs. So, not that funny, not that edgy, and total violence porn.

Danny said...

Hey chava. Really the only reason I watched it is because I recall a year or so ago there were some feminists who talked about it and I recall that they seemed to only talk about the violence that was done to here and made no mention of the violence she committed. So I decided to check it out myself. And after watching it I can say that while they were right about some things they left some (IMO) big things out.

On a more analytical note, I would add that I think this film's plot is NOT that "edgy," but rather just playing into a deeply laid societal fear that women DO have some sort of "weapon" in their genitals which they can and do use to harm men.
Which somehow runs in direct contradiction of the notion that "women don't those kinds of things".

I think this plot also serves to show that just like men, women are fully capable of committing unjustified violence. Well yeah they tried to "justify" it with the bad things that happen to her early on (and I find that often times in tv/film that when women do bad things there is almost always some attempt to justify it unlike violent men who are just bad).

chava said...

Well, no one said that those two inane scripts can't co-exist at the same time! (male anxiety over the dangers of female genitals and "nice girls don't do that stuff"). Both are destructive, clearly.

I'm not sure I'd watch that movie and go "Yay! Women can do awful shit too!" though, I'd much rather go see a less icky but well done action movie where the woman gets to, you know, be the anti-heroine or something. It would still be stereotypical on many counts male and female (viz: female action heros are usually highly sexualized and either killed or the bad guy), but probably more fun to watch. Kate Harding just did an interesting post on Hit Girl you might like, actually, over on SP.

Danny said...

I'm not sure I'd watch that movie and go "Yay! Women can do awful shit too!" though, I'd much rather go see a less icky but well done action movie where the woman gets to, you know, be the anti-heroine or something.
Oh its certainly not cause for celebration. What I'm saying is that we as a society need to come to terms with the fact that women can indeed be violent and quite acting like we don't think violent women exist. I don't want to cheer over the portrayal of violent women I'm just glad to see that people are realizing they are real.

It would still be stereotypical on many counts male and female (viz: female action heros are usually highly sexualized and either killed or the bad guy), but probably more fun to watch.
Oh I agree that simple badass action women are few and far between and that's not right. Which is why I enjoy the works Michelle Yeoh and the late Anita Mui so much.

I saw the post but didn't read the whole thing because of her spoiler warning. But from what I gather it looks like she likes the idea of Hit Girl because she's not sexualized and is wondering why parents are going nuts over it (but like I say I didn't read it all because of spoilers).

elementary_watson said...

I think male action heroes are also quite sexualized too, although hetero men don't usually get the sexualization. Look here for a picture of men in action pose (from the upcoming "A-Team" movie), and see how feminist women swoon over displays of traditional macho masculinity.

elementary_watson said...

And thanks Danny for fixing the comment counter, it's wonderful!

Danny said...

Okay EW so you're right a game of which thread was commented on last is not very fun. Thanks for letting me know.

Danny said...

I agree. Some are too quick to say that men are not sexualized. Its a matter of what they are sexualized over. Women are sexualized over their bodies whereas men are sexualized over their status/power.

Anonymous said...

@ EW:

Which would be why I said:

" It would still be stereotypical on many counts male and female "

Of COURSE male action heros are highly sexualized. And on their bodies too, have ya SEEN how often they get them with their shirts off? It's done a bit differently, and they tend to get to, you know, win without dying and mostly on their own merits.

But was this sentence really freaking necessary:

"Look here for a picture of men in action pose (from the upcoming "A-Team" movie), and see how feminist women swoon over displays of traditional macho masculinity."

Dude, really? "Feminist women" For reals? Not even women in general (which would still be annoying), but you had to get the potshot at feminists in? And fwiw, I don't entirely see that much wrong with a certain degree of sexualizing and/or stereotyping of either gender. Obviously past a point, it becomes destructive--and worse, artistically BORING.

elementary_watson said...

Hmm, but as action characters all are sexualised to quite a degree, regardless of gender, how does the sexualization of female action characters especially enforce gender stereotypes?

The article I linked was (to me) an example for sexualization of male action characters where straight male me didn't see anything sexual, but which obviously struck a chord with the woman who runs that site, so much so that she titled the article about that picture "what a gal wants" - and, last time I looked, no woman there disagreed, but quite a few did agree. And I do think it is noteworthy that the blogger is a vocal feminist, as well as many of the female commenters on her side, and still be openly turned on by macho posturing. I don't think it is *wrong* or *hypocritical* for a feminist to be turned on by it, and of course I do not begrudge them their pleasurable fantasies about manly men; but still, it is noteworthy to see those feminists who wrote about their enjoyment of that photo fantasize about something feminists usually condemn in real life.

Danny said...

Hey chava just out of curosity did you try to comment with you name and it didn't work? I'm asking because I've been tweaking the comment system for the last few days.

-->