“I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain”.  – Eve Ensler – author of ‘The Vagina Monologues‘ in response to a chant of ‘Drill Drill Drill’ when Sara Palin spoke at the Republican National Committee rally.”

I don’t know what Eve Ensler  thinks of  Mitchell Wilson Lichtenstein’s low-budget horror movie Teeth. Based on the above quote, my guess is that she would relate to the fictional physical condition ‘vagina dentata‘ as a kind of built-in female deterrent to the unwanted intrusion of male fingers and penises. The premise of the movie is that  a blue-eyed blonde heroine, Dawn (Jess Weixler) literally has teeth in her vagina that has the power to cut men off in their prime.

These hidden gnashers only do their worst when threatened , so the victims are a boyfriend who tries to force himself on her, a guy who beds her for a bet, a heavy-handed gynaecologist and a stepbrother from hell. In other words they act as a defence mechanism against rape, domination and general male malpractice.

At first , Dawn, a virgin, is unaware of this anatomical condition and sees it as a kind of beast within but it becomes a useful secret weapon when she learns how to control it. Despite its pseudo-feminist message, I suspect the movie is more likely to prey on men’s castration fears. This is partly borne out by the fact that my teenage daughter saw the movie after it was recommended to her by virtual male ‘friends’ on Facebook. Maybe the fact that the director , son of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein,  is openly gay meant that he felt safer in satirising  heterosexual bonding.

This is not a sicko movie but  at the same time it is too crude and overly focused on the David Cronenberg-like shock-horror aspects of her condition (though way less gory than Cronenberg would have made it).

A good, but underdeveloped, part of the movie is the exposure of  a male centred sex education in schools. In one scene, students in a biology class find that a diagram of the female reproductive organs have been covered over with a sticker in their textbooks.

The film can be read as an endorsement of the rights of women to see the vagina as a tool of female empowerment rather than a source of shame or disgust . In other words,  the message is essentially the same as Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, albeit presented in less subtle terms.

Incidentally, my daughter  thought the movie was gross.

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