Saturday, July 26, 2014

Teeth (2007) Flirting with Causality, And Anti-Castration Complex

Teeth, in the simplest terms, is a film about a vagina that eats penises. Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a post-pubescent teenage girl who was born with a gnawing problem. Her no-no parts are the living embodiment of the mythic Vagina Dentata. The myth was popularized by Freud and his musing about feminine mystery and human sexuality. In order to suppress her personal inclinations about her condition Dawn developed a religious a countering method of religious repression. She is a public speaker for the abstinence only program in her school. Dawn's biggest problem is not her dangerous genitalia but the boys and men in her life. The film depicts a cautionary tale rooted in an all too frequent feminine experience; rape and sexual harassment. 

Teeth opens to the reoccurring motif of a nuclear power plant that haunts the horizon of a suburban community. Panning down camera introduces us to Dawn and her family. While her mother and step father are resting in lawn chairs young Dawn and Brad (step brother) are sitting in an inflatable pool. Brad desired to play Doctor with her and she appropriately chews a chunk off of Brads finger. The jumps forward to Dawn's as a teenager in high school, giving a speech to a crowd of mixed aged youths on the importance of abstinence when confronting their sexual yearnings. The film then follows Dawn as she develops a restrained romance with Tobey, and a subsequent set of encounters. The relationships between Dawn and Tobey progressed innocently enough until Tobey rapes Dawn and Dawn castrates him with her Teeth.

Traumatized by the complex interweaving of experiencing rape and the full capacity of her anatomy her world crumbles. The significance of her rationale behind her enthusiasm and involvement with the abstinence-only program becomes demystified. Dawn was not motivated by some divine inclination to spread the gospel of abstinence-only but, her own unconscious knowledge of the dangers of her own sexuality. There is an odd scene that takes place where after Dawn has lost her virginal status and is giving her last speech to youth about abstinence.
Dawn: Mr. Vincent asked me to talk about purity today.
Crowd Chants: Purity Yes!
Dawn: … And yesterday I could have done that... because yesterday I was pure...
Crowd: She shall be called women because she was take out of man
Dawn: Adam... right... I cant make sense out of it... is that it? … is it the Adam inside?
Crowd: Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh
Dawn: I don't know. I don't know. But there is something. There is something inside of me. That is is lethal.
Crowd: The serpent!
Dawn: I don't know. I don't know what it is
Crowd: The serpent!
(Mr. Vincent steps on stage and guides Dawn off stage.)
Mr. Vincent: I think what dawn is getting at is so important people. Exile from the garden. Tho it was not part of gods original plan. Thanks to Even and the devil... (scene ends)
What is the biblical interpretation here? Mr. Vincent calls the audiences attention to the misogynist interpretation of the origin of evil. By linking Eve's influence over Adam as a first cause and only cause in the chain of events that exiled the first humans from the garden of Eden, he absolves Adam of responsibility. Let's think back to the first sex scene. The forbidden fruit here is access to Dawn's virginity. After a brief moment where Eve and Tobey desired to keep their distance in order to maintain their purity, Dawn invites Tobey to go swimming in a local river. They swim into a cave which has a teeth-like linking around the edge of its orifice. They swim into the cave and climb up to a ledge. Tobey then begins to kiss and cross second base with Dawn. The actions become too much for her and she tries to resist. He hits he head against the rock and becomes momentarily unconscious. Shocked awake, her anatomy leaps into action and severing their connection.

Following the biblical logic, Dawn's flirting with Tobey acts and an influencing force mimicking Eve's influence over Adam. The influencing being the initial causal point that set into motion the set of events that leads up to Tobey forcing his will on Dawn. The misogynistic logic plays on this causal displacement which correlates each successive action to the original influence. The problem here is one that David Hume made clear in his argument about the Sun.
That the sun will not rise tomorrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction, than the affirmation, that it will rise. (David Hume)
The key to this argument is about the causal relationship between the sun rising and its historical tradition of rising. Of course we know the reason why the sun rises is the complex pull of gravity combined with the perspective we have when looking into the sky creates an idea that the sun is rising upwards and over and back down again. The sequence of course repeats daily. But, just because the sun rose yesterday does not dictate the necessity that the sun will rise tomorrow. The reason this is the case is because it's simply more contemplated than the analogy than the one we use to understand and describe the perceived motions of the sun. Between the sun rising yesterday and today there is a possibility that the sun may not rise. It could explode. Nuclear war could destroy the planet. A giant asteroid could knock the earth out of its orbit, and so on. So while the sun will probably rise tomorrow, I can not say this probability is caused by the suns historical transition.

Returning to the biblical logic we can see that between Dawn's flirtations, and Tobeys actions there chain of causality that the biblical interpretation fails to address. For instance, while Eve may have influence Adam, Adam had a choice to eat the apple or not eat the apple or for that matter eat some other fruit or go swimming. While Eve's influence may have arranged the situation which created the choice to eat the apple or not eat the apple Adam's has an existential freedom to make any number of responses to Eve's request. There is a sense in which human dynamic at play here has significantly more complex than the Sun's orbit. The sun and earth are caught in a pattern of probability, while Adam and Eve are both have agency, and are embarking on a choice that has no historical president.

Returning to Teeth, the causality is layered over time and between agencies (Dawn and Tobey's). By Dawn engaging in a set of flirtations with Tobey, she presents Tobey with a set of bifarious opportunities. Dawn has a set of internal scripts which help her interpret the possible response to her flirtations. Although, due to Dawn's fundamentalist stance her script is narrowed to a minimal level of naivety in regards to sexuality in general, and Tobey's potential responses. Tobey, on the other hand, is sexually experience, and as we find out later is intentionally seducing, and responding to Dawn's flirtations in order to motivate her behavior, and raise the likelihood of a sexual encounter.

The behavior between two persons plays out on two (or more) planes of causality. In a movie, the viewer takes on the god-like perspective and views the scene as a third part. I say, god-like because we are barred access to key elements of the characters subjective experience. We are not given access to the symbolic relativity of the actors on screen. We infer, base on our own internal scripts and emotional cues from the actors and other filmic components the ideological and emotional of the protagonist and antagonist's subjectivity, but that subjectivity is never fully realized in the viewer no matter how closely empathy seems to materialized.

How do we assert responsibility if access to causal signs is non-existent? In the feminist legalistic approach, consent is an ongoing process, and at times takes the form of a verbal or written agreement that can be annulled at any time by either party. The intention here is to disrupt the biblical causality that has infested the ideology of the executive and judicial systems, specifically police and courts. The problem, of course, is that the executive and judicial systems are in a position much like the viewer of a film. They inspect the narrative retrospectively, and rarely have access to corroborating evidence for either party. The courts are left to discern truth from narrative.

Dawn is an interesting character in Teeth, because while suffering multiple traumas that usually inspire a character to embody victim-hood, she (eventually) takes full responsibility for her capacity to defend herself and use her anatomy as a weapon. The film uses the motif of nuclear power and evolutionary adaption to lead the viewer and Dawn to the conclusion that her Teeth are more accurately interpretative as an adaption. An adaption to what? I'd argue men. Women have lived globally in multiple forms servitude for all but the last 100 years. As wife's and potential wives, women were treated and used as property to be used and exchanged between men. Women's exchange value clearly linked to her capacity to produce children to work and create families. Women's value was her sex. So, teeth as an adaption, makes sense in order to support a woman's capacity to influence her mating behavior. Considering the collapse of the American family for the last century, and the marriage and procreation that were driven and controlled by men. It could be argued that Vagina Denta is an adaption to balance the power differentials between the sexes in regards to procreation and marriage stability. If a man was paired up with a female that could potentially emancipate him from his junk the dynamics of human mating would radically change.

References
David Hume Quotes at BrainyQuote.com
BrainyQuote,. 'David Hume Quotes At Brainyquote.Com'. N. p., 2014. Web. 26 Jul. 2014.

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