Updated: Mar 10, 2020
Post By Jessica
Betrayal. It is defined in Merriam-Webster as the act of betraying someone or something or the act of being betrayed is the violation of a person’s trust or confidence or a moral standard. For women, the deepest depths of betrayal is felt when we feel like we could no longer put faith or trust in the ones we love after an act of violation and disrespect. To experience this breaking of trust is to feel like your whole world has been turned upside down and all means of control ripped away from you. You feel powerless and broken inside particularly when you never saw it coming…
The horror genre is increasingly becoming a place where women can start to speak up and show the horrors and experiences that are unique to being a woman. This ranges from the experience of being pregnant, motherhood, ageing, loss of identity, sexuality and so much more. The genre's ability to push boundaries and literally show us the “ugly” truth makes it the perfect avenue to express some intimate and profound messages. Hence why so many people have issues with the genre because it puts in your face what people would prefer to ignore.
In November, Kelly and I addressed the controversial topic of Rape-Revenge and discussed two empowering films (Episode 5: Rape Revenge Genre: Is it Feminist or Filth? ) about how both the women took back control after being violated both physically, sexually, emotionally and mentally. That was a challenging month but it allowed for an open discussion about the horrors of rape and rape culture. This month, I wanted to look more in-depth about what results from such a malicious act, the betrayal of trust and its impact. There are tons of drama or romantic type films that address the issue of breaking trust and betraying someone close to you. But as you know, I am a horror fan and I am more interested in what the horror genre has to say about this topic. There is one film, in particular, that surprisingly indirectly addresses this very topic I want to address today, that is Teeth (2007).
When I first heard of the film Teeth I will admit I did not feel comfortable watching it. I am pretty sure it was Kelly who told me all about it (obviously), but I was still green behind the ears when it came to watching horror films and the idea of vagina dentata (toothed vagina in Latin) made me very uncomfortable. I was such a naive young woman at the time! Then last year after indoctrinating myself into many other horror films, I was looking for a coming of age/empowerment film one day and Shudder had Teeth on it. I then decided why not? Let’s go for this! I am glad I did watch it because I came to really appreciate this film and the unique story it tells. When I decided I wanted to write about women experiencing betrayal or breach of trust, I found myself coming back to this film.
Dawn O’Keefe is a teenage spokesperson for a Christian abstinence group called The Promise. After meeting another member of the group Tobey, a relationship begins to develop between the two of them. Dawn comes to find herself fantasizing long term about a future with Tobey, under the impression he shared her values when it came to abstinence and respect. She begins to develop trust in him. However, that soon changes during an afternoon after swimming and huddling for warmth together in a cave they begin to kiss. When Dawn asks Tobey to stop and moves to leave the cave, he becomes aggressive, shakes her until she smacks her head on the cave wall and while dazed he proceeds to rape her. As Dawn tries to fight back, something incredible happens with Tobey’s penis becoming bitten off by her vagina. She flees the cave in a panic not fully understanding what happened, while Tobey falls into the river to die of shock. Tobey’s only thought was about getting his primal needs met in that moment Not about the damage he would cause. He showed complete disrespect for Dawn who was clearly stating NO. And for that, he suffered the consequences of his actions ….note my lack of sympathy.
Sadly, this is only the beginning for Dawn as she tries to heal from the breach of trust and the violation of her body and commitment to herself. She feels broken and scared. While trying to create some sort of purity in a sex-obsessed world, Dawn sadly becomes a victim of men not hearing NO and treating women as a conquest. She had been betrayed by someone she was opening her heart to and when she turns to others for help both in professional and friendly settings, she experiences the same breach of trust and violation over and over again. This is shown in the scene when she goes to the gynecologist to have her vagina checked out to learn more about her condition. In the process, he begins to inappropriately touch her which leads for her “teeth” to show themselves and bite off his four fingers. This was a man in a profession that requires an infinite amount of trust when women are vulnerable in these moments. And at that time, he used his privilege and profession to violate an already scared and hurt young woman.
This trend continues when she goes to her friend Adam for help and consolation. He helps Dawn to realize that she has control over this ability during an intimate and vulnerable moment. However, the next morning when Dawn opens herself to Adam sexually, during the act he answers his phone to brag to his buddy about what he was doing and with who right at the moment. This is another severe breach of trust and violation and at that moment Dawn realizes that her curse is a gift and literally “bites” back leaving another transgressor against her dickless. From this moment, Dawn begins to take back her control and power. And while she is faced with other tragic events and breaches of trust, she begins to turn the tables on those individuals and uses what was used against her as a weapon. Dawn uses the trust of intimacy and vulnerability to bring her transgressors closer to her and teach them a valuable lesson about disrespecting the power of a woman.
As a viewer, I remember watching Dawn’s growth throughout the film and felt such pain for her and understanding what those violations and breaches of trust can do to someone. However, I was inspired by how she was able to turn her heartbreak around and use her pain to give her strength. Teeth is a cult feminist film that makes a commentary on male entitlement, consent, sexual violence and how the depths of betrayal can lead to an unpleasant demise or this case - bodily disfigurement.