Right before the last climactic battle in Mad Max: Fury Road, Furiosa and the band finally make it to her childhood gang, the Vuvalini. After Furiosa talks to them, they approach the wives and without introducing themselves or anything and start checking their teeth, and pinching their supple skin.

Teeth checking, just like how "Keeper of the Seeds" did it to "The Dag" is a common trope of slavery in Hollywood films.

Is there any non-Western cultural way of looking at teeth-checking? Or possibly a movie it is paying a homage to? Any way of interpreting teeth-checking as anything other than a way to introduce a dominate-exploitative relationship?

I have since watched the deleted scenes, and noticed something ever more striking and potentially plot changing.

There is a scene revolving around that old lady from the Citadel (they seem to call her History, or something like that). She makes a comment about how their society is going to be overthrown, that "she is already on her way". And this scene appears as developed as the rest of the movie, so presumably we know this was part of the story until very late in the development.

There does not appear to be any alternative way of interpreting this scene but that from the very beginning the plan was to turn around and conquer The Citadel. It is also very obvious that the wives did not think this was that plan.

2 Answers 2


Historically (for humans and equines as well as other species I'm sure) checking teeth is a very easy way to gather information about the health of someone. If they're not eating properly, or dehydrated, or diseased, likely their teeth and gums will show. In some post-apocalyptic type movies, cannibals would sharpen their teeth, so checking that they aren't sharpened is a way of validating they aren't a cannibal. (Don't ask me what movie that's from, I can not remember to save my life.)

  • 3
    Even in the context of slavery, teeth as a proxy for health is the reason for it rather than the assertion of a dominance relationship which the OP suggests. Indeed, in the slave system the dominance is implicit and unremarkable and therefore there is no need to assert it. The skin pinching is certainly a dehydration test.
    – Yorik
    Aug 27, 2015 at 18:55

As far as I understand it checking horse's teeth shows the age of the horse, where the phrase "long in the tooth" comes from and "looking a gift horse in the mouth", hence checking its worth.

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