This essay argues that Mitchell Lichtenstein’s film Teeth (2007) is an exemplary appropriation of the femme castratrice, a sadistic and castrating female figure that subverts the patriarchal mythologies undergirding the gendered logics of both screen violence and cultural misogyny. The film chronicles Dawn’s post–sexual assault transformation from a passive defender of women’s purity to an avenging heroine with castrating genitals. First, I illustrate how Teeth intervenes in the gendered politics of spectatorship by cultivating identification with a violent heroine who refuses to abide by the stable binary between masculine violence/feminized victimhood. This subversive iteration of rape-revenge cinema is assisted by the filmmaker’s introduction of camp, a playful and self-conscious cinematic style that renders transparent the fantasies guiding the cinematic construction of violence and the male gaze. Second, I argue that this revision of the rape-revenge genre equips audiences with important symbolic resources for feminist critiques of cultural misogyny. Teeth’s avenging heroine updates the sexual politics of second-wave feminism to resist recent political efforts to regulate women’s bodies.
Kelly, Casey Ryan. 2016. “Camp Horror and the Gendered Politics of Screen Violence: Subverting the Monstrous-Feminine in Teeth (2007).” Women’s Studies in Communication Vol. 39( 1):86-106.
[An interesting article, to be sure. Even if one didn’t see the film, they have probably heard about it, and if not, can still appreciate the theoretical perspectives in this publication. Kelly (the author) often references Barbara Creed’s work, The monstrous-feminine: Film, feminism, psychoanalysis (1993). Barbara Creed, like Casey Ryan Kelly, are critical media theorists that analyze film through a feminist lens, and I recommend checking out more of their publications to understand good films, TV, or other media or media in general in perhaps a new, important, and intriguing way.]