When I was five years old I lost my first tooth. It was one of the front ones, which left me with a gaping hole in my mouth as is common among kids that age. I was growing up and getting bigger, and this new adult tooth would be proof of that. I waited patiently for my new tooth, my first step into adulthood, and at last the tooth reared its head from the pink of my gums. Only when it sprouted, it revealed itself not as a flat square incisor as one would expect, but instead as a pointed peg. Small and triangular and not at all welcome. We were able to surgically remove it, allowing the true adult tooth to slide into position as if nothing had gone awry, but for a short time there was real concern about my future. My mother would later tell me that up until the procedure she worried all my teeth would come about in a similar fashion, that I would have a mouth of these pointed teeth, a suburban monster with a sharp smile.
This didn’t turn out to be the case, but the thought of my life with these pointed teeth is an unpleasant one. Not because my personality would have been any different, nor my interests or sense of humor, but because society would have treated me so unfairly. Our society likes things the way it likes them. We prefer familiar things over the strange, the average over the high or low, a straight gleaming set of teeth over anything crooked or mustarded. To be different, especially as a child growing up, is almost always a burden, whether this difference arises from a physical abnormality or a unique hobby. There’s nothing wrong with those children who play baseball and go to the swimming pool with their friends on hot summer days and grow up to effortlessly attract the opposite sex. But there’s also nothing wrong with the girl who dresses like a boy or the boy who dresses like a girl. The kid who memorizes episodes of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is just as acceptable as the kid who obsesses over sports statistics. With that said, we still shy away from the girl with a hump in her back, and this pressures her to seek acceptance. The others don’t like her the way she is, so she must hammer away that lurch in her body. The boy must throw out his Mary Hartman VHS collection. The girl must dress like a girl and the boy like a boy. And once these kids attempt to be something they’re not, unhappiness and self-consciousness reign. They fit in, but at what expense?
We all feel a little bit of this pressure. Despite having relatively normal teeth there were still odd aspects to my personality and body that clashed with the status quo. That said, in comparison my childhood was much more enjoyable with normal teeth than it would have been with a mouth of daggers. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like growing up a shark-toothed boy, and beyond that, what it would have been like to be my parents in those moments of doubt when they thought they might have a monster on their hands, to know the world would not accept me.
My next short film, SHARK, delves into an alternate reality in which I never achieved normalcy through my dental makeup. It tells the story of a father named Mike Downing, who’s a bit of an oddball himself, and his struggle to raise his shark-toothed son Matty in a world that doesn’t care much for them. SHARK explores the plight of those who are different, those who love the different, and the dangers of cramming a square peg into a round hole just because those nearby say a round peg is preferable. My team and I will be updating this blog as we move toward production at the end of May. Check back for news and updates—we’re all excited to get started, and we hope you’ll enjoy the film once it’s finished later this year.
- Zach Endres