I don’t quite understand why the advertising team behind Mitchell Lichtenstein’s Teeth decided to market it as “the most alarming cautionary tale for men … since Fatal Attraction.” The storyline of Teeth stems from the vagina dentate myth, which has emerged in many, many myths from many, many cultures. “Vagina dentate” means “toothed vagina” in Latin and the image it creates in the mind’s eye is meant to be as frightening as it sounds. It is a hurdle men in these myths must surmount to “tame” their “shrews,” so to speak; by crushing the leering vagina, the man turns whatever she was before into a woman, according to one Indian myth.
Teeth is supposed to be somewhat comedic, though its trailer is pretty ambiguous. The film’s prudish protagonist Dawn (Jess Weixler) steps into an eerie gynecologist’s office “just” to get “checked out.” The words “Something is wrong with Dawn O’Keefe” flash on the screen as the chilling shrills of violins mount. “Let’s just take a look,” says the doctor, of course assuming this will be a routine check-up. After a series of nanosecond shots of Dawn’s face, the doctor’s face, his hands’ approach, the preview blacks out and we hear a blood-curdling man’s scream. When I saw the trailer, I assumed that the vagina had snapped at the doctor like a rabid dog, or that maybe it consumed his entire head. Either would have been great.
Dawn is aggressively socially conservative; she chooses to save herself and leads a group to help others save themselves (or just to save them?). Apparently because she grew up near a nuclear power plant, Dawn’s vagina sprouted teeth without her knowledge—and these work as an incredible defensive device against unwanted intruders. The film is shamelessly littered with prosthetic appendages.
If Teeth is meant to be a cautionary tale, I’m not really sure what it’s warning against or why. Teeth might be warning against rape like Fatal Attraction warned against adultery—but if it is, it’s making a very unconvincing argument. “Don’t cheat because the girl you bone might be a bipolar, homicidal psychotic!” sounds about as convincing as “Don’t rape someone because that vagina JUST MIGHT bite your cock off!”
If anything, Teeth more convincingly argues against nuclear power by citing the incredible genetic mutations it can induce. The statistics being what they are, I think I’m more likely to have consensual sex in my life than nonconsensual… A toothed vagina would probably put a damper on that, so as awesome as it would be to wreak that kind of havoc on uninvited guests, I think I’d prefer not to have a radioactive bear trap down there.
I think Teeth makes for a much better chick flick. By definition, chick flicks appeal to female fantasies, but why exclusively pleasant ones? Instead of falling in love, I’d like to see Meg Ryan or Kate Hudson get payback for being fucked with (pun intended), so that I, being the angry, burly feminist that I am, can experience it vicariously. It really is the perfect chick flick: extremely far from reality but just a shade shy of unreality, making the thrill of it that much better.
I give the Oscar for Best Picture to Mitchell Lichtenstein’s flawless, timeless, golden gift to the ages, Teeth.