06 July 2008


Teeth, a film by Mitchell Lichtenstein, was fun to watch, as it is based on the imaginary plot of one interesting what-if. What if a girl has a vagina dentata (toothed vagina)? The film manages to show how teenagers nowadays are surrounded by temptations, both through peer pressure and mass media, to be sexually active before marriage.

Dawn, a female protagonist, tries to steer her life through this modern-day labyrinth of corporeal desire and materialist society, in which premarital sex is getting increasingly commonplace. She tries to stick to her belief that virginity should be kept until marriage (this sounds like Ronan Keating of Boyzone). However, it is not until she meets a series of men like Tobey and Bill that she realises that her promise is hard to keep and that men around her are just a bunch of desiring machines who know what abstinence means but never bothers to seriously practise it.

After such encounters with wrong men, Dawn starts to realise her mutated private part and gradually learns to acknowledge its potential power to punish men. All in all, it's a very good film that sheds light on how the vagina dentata can be used as a tool to perpetrate poetic justice.

However, when one dwells on something below the surface, I think the director plays upon the characterisation that is too facile. Men are always hunters and women are always preys. In the real world, one wonders whether such a disparity on that terms can be seriously held true. One such scene is when a male doctor probes into Dawn's vagina. Of course, a message is got across of how this doctor can make use of such a situation to fulfill his own sexual fantasy under the disguise of science, but one also wonders why Dawn does not particularly choose a female doctor to handle her case.

In fact, when one comes to think seriously about it, the myth of vagina dentata is mainly created by men because they are afraid of women, especially their dark cavern where men's vital force (semen) vanishes. This film is perhaps then directed by a man to men rather than to women. If the vagina dentata is just a myth, it still means that men are still safe and their conjured fear is unfounded. Moreover, their fear of the female private part is no longer just an anthropological and psychoanalytical truth, it can also milk money. When viewed in this light, women are still exploited paradoxically through their empowerment.

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