Thursday, January 03, 2008

Film Advertisers Seem to Be Unable to Grasp the Concept of Original Concepts

Ever since a friend rented "The Last Kiss" which was touted on back cover to be a quirky romantic comedy and turned out to be one hundred and fifteen minutes of bleak, uh- bleakness, I've been wary to not view movies based on what they advertise themselves as.

So, I'm in a quandary with the movie Teeth. It was discussed on Feministing a while back, and a friend saw it at the Williamstown Film Festival (which she covered for the school paper, you can read here). She seemed to like it a lot, and certainly the subject is interesting, so I've been anticipating a chance to see it. However, the advertising has created some confusion as to what the tone of the film is- you see, the first poster looked like this:

It's very fluffy, and our hero strikes an almost Clueless-esque pose, but without pants, of course. The writer at Feministing took issue with this, and rightly so- there is rape and castration going on, and this poster looks like an American Pie sequel- but I was at the time at least hopeful that this indicated satiric humor. I thought some humor might not only bring people out to theaters to see a movie about, you know, a vagina with teeth, but also could be useful in discussing the sad state of sexuality in the country. Abstinence clubs and purity pledges are inherently funny to me.

This afternoon I was browsing movie trailers when I saw one for Teeth, and I was obviously excited. However, my excitement faded when I see the advertising spin switched from fluffy teen movie fare to straight-up horror. Not fluffy to dark comedy (as I had hoped), not fluffy to riveting drama- there is no mistaking, if I knew nothing about this movie, I would think it was a bizarre and even tacky (every rose has its thorns? really?) low-budget thriller instead of a feminist Sundance gem. You can watch the trailer out on the official website. Also observe the black-and-red horror motif of the website itself, which seems to clash with the blue tint of all the screen shots I've seen. There is also, less importantly, poor grammar- the tag line, Every Rose Has It's Thorn, implies Every Rose Has It Is Thorn. Tsk!
Here's the new poster:

From what friends and reviews tell me, the film is an interesting (though intense) way of confronting society's fear of sexuality, particularly female sexuality, and is generally empowering. However, these ads just seem to be exploiting this fear- the quote on the film states that is an "alarming cautionary tale for men". Herein lies the problem, or at least my problem.

Why is the film suddenly about/for men? I'm sure there's something to be learned for men here, but is it comparable to Fatal Attraction, in which the female antagonist tortures a family and eventually gets killed? I don't want to spoil the ending of Teeth (though I obviously don't know all the details yet, I do know the general arch), but the answer to the conflict here is not violence, and the woman is certainly not a threat to be eliminated. She is, you know, the heroine and everything. But you wouldn't know it from the trailer- the protagonist (or at least her vagina) is made out to be the monster and her touchy-feely gyno to be one of many hapless victims (by the way, the friend that covered it stated that in a Q&A following the film, one male viewer expressed he did see the gynecologist as an innocent victim- a statement to which anyone in the audience who had ever been to an actual OB/GYN appointment scoffed).

Revolutionary idea: pitch the film about female sexuality with a complex female protagonist to women for what it is, instead of a sexy teen comedy or a tacky rehashing of an old horror story.

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