Teeth is a movie that centers around the old myth of the vagina dentata or, as Deniro so succinctly put it in the classic Analyze That, a “pussy with teeth”. It’s the type of legend that shows up across multiple cultures and times because guys are apparently really afraid that women are going to rip their dicks off. It’s also a legend that’s supposed to keep men from sleeping with strange women and from rape. Apparently none of the men in this movie have heard of it, though, because every one of them in this movie is an uncontrollable sex monster.
Our main focus in this movie is Dawn, a young girl that has devoted her life and her body to purity for Jesus and so has never even touched herself, let alone been with a guy. Things in her life start to go crazy when she gets her first boyfriend and said boyfriend then tries to rape her. Turns out in the case of legitimate rape there is a way to shut that whole thing down and it is by biting his dick off with your vagina teeth. Whether it is used defensively against a gynecologist that tries to molest her or offensively to punish a wicked step-brother, the vagina dentata ends up being more of a boon than a punishment for her.
This movie is thick with imagery and symbolism. I actually kept a running tally of every time the movie used yonic imagery such as a tree opening, a cave, a ring, the mouth of a monster on TV and more. Also I just had to add “yonic” to my computer’s dictionary but it knew phallic. For shame, computer. It never shows any actual vagina but there is a whole lotta dick in the film which further shows how our culture finds it acceptable for male sexuality and genitalia to be exposed but female sexuality is somehow mysterious and best kept hidden away. The movie has a biology book where the school board put a sticker over the diagram of the vagina but had no problem with the diagram of the penis. We fetishize the female form to such a degree that it becomes alien even to the women themselves as they are told that what they have is strange or naughty or disgusting.
We also get a lot of confrontation with the religious as it is brought into schools. The movie takes a dim view of idea of abstinence only education and of creationism versus evolution. Dawn is so indoctrinated with the idea of purity that she doesn’t know anything about her own sexuality and finds it horrifying even without the prospect of teeth down there. The boyfriend she gets is shown to be both full of pent up sexual urges as well as overwhelming sexual guilt. Her best friends are a couple that constantly look miserable as they get near each other but then feel like they can’t touch. We also get this wonderful scene where a teacher is trying to tell the students about evolution while they scoff and then the next scene opens on Dawn reading a book called Enduring Myth and it was super cute.
The movie has a lot of other clever things that it does throughout the movie. There are plenty of points where teeth are in focus with some being more subtle than others. Also several humorous references having to do with it like hearing the dad say “There’s dinner on the table if you want a bite.” We also get the first and only female nudity in the film after Dawn ends up having sex where she felt ok about it. Linking the discovery of one’s body with being able to fully enjoy your own sexuality. Of course, that sex scene was also skeevy because she was taking powerful pain meds and so couldn’t really give consent. Of course, we then find out that the guy actually is a complete asshole so it wasn’t the movie saying that this is ok but rather that having sex with a girl that is unable to give consent is the action of an asshole that deserves to have his dick ripped off.
There is a lot to unpack in this film and I really enjoyed it. The true horror of the film isn’t a vagina with teeth but rather the rape culture and fetishization that causes something like vagina dentata to be more of an advantageous adaptation than a terrifying problem. I give the movie a 4.5 out of 5.
Favorite thing in the movie: It is meta about the legends and that they typically require a man to conquer the monster but the movie is all about showing how it doesn’t need to be conquered but appeased.
Least favorite thing: A couple of the characters, the brother especially, were a little too much of a caricature than an actual person.