The “Teeth” in her vagina should bite harder!

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[Trigger Warning: Rape]

Writer/Director: Mitchell Lichtenstein

Starring: Jess Weixler, Hale Appleman, John Hensley 

It took me four years to watch Teeth (2007). My husband refused to watch it. In fact he didn’t even want to be in the same room if it was on, which left a very small window for me to sit down and enjoy the film in its entirety without interruption. The movie has a lot of concepts that I really like (ahem, like the cave sex scene that freaked out my husband) but ultimately fails to push beyond its severed penis gags to discuss rape and violence against women with any seriousness. But I admit to cheering with misandrist glee after each killing. This movie seems to strike a nerve with male viewers and its easy to see why. Trailer below.

[!!!!] This post will talk frankly about rape–if you’re sensitive to that please tune out now [!!!!]

The story follows Dawn, a high school girl, who loves Jesus and wants to maintain her virginity until marriage. She meets another boy from her high school abstinence club, however when they go on their first date he ignores her wishes to wait and rapes her. Dawn discovers her vagina can bite off men’s penises. And so the reverse-gendered horror and hilarity begins.

Dawn is raped/molested a lot in this movie. Like…a lot. She’s raped by every major male character, including her stepbrother. Even the “hero” drugs her, waits until she’s unconscious, and proceeds to have sex  while she is unable to consent. But Dawn is able to defend herself by biting off her rapists’ penises. The moral of the movie (I think?) is not to rape women. Is it scary? No. But it does challenge views about sex and women’s roles in horror films.

Let’s face it. Most horror movies are marketed towards men and their sexual frustrations. The monster/killer/bad guy is almost always male, violent, and harbors a special bloodlust for female victims. The female character always has the bloodiest death, usually after just engaging in sex or equally provocative act. Erotica and horror are a potent, powerful mix, which is why it so happens to be my favorite sub-genre of horror.

Horror movies are a safe way sexual people can vicariously relieve ourselves. I get it. You get it. We all like the violence in horror movies. But that’s precisely why Teeth is so great! For once the female character isn’t tripping over her own breasts or waiting to be rescued. Dawn rescues herself.

What peeeved me most about Teeth is that it didn’t go far enough. It’s hard to call Dawn an “empowered” character when she is raped and molested throughout the entire film. Not once is she in control of her sexual choices, her rapist is.

Teeth is still a movie for and by men, but I think women might enjoy this movie for its attempt to reverse gender politics. Four years was worth the wait. Giving this one an A and also adding it to my collection.

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Shit sandwiches, the Hugo Awards, and PuppyGate

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I must live in an alternate reality where white straight male writers never win the majority of literary awards, and white straight male narratives are appallingly underrepresented in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and speculative fiction. I mean, whenever I walk into a bookstore or library I have to search for more than an hour just to find one book (JUST ONE) about a white straight guy saving the world. I wish there was just one strong example in scifi/fantasy/horror where the main character was white. And if I want to see white straight men on the silver screen, I can’t without attending those special artsy cinemas that show indie stuff with subtitles.

This must be the alternate reality I live in. A toxic subset of manbabies think white straight male writers have struggled for centuries from what they call, “literary affirmative action” and therefore can’t win Hugo Awards without sabotaging the election process and kicking all the icky gays, racial minorities, and women out. I mean, it’s only fair, right? Because what science fiction, fantasy, horror, and speculative fiction needs more of is less diversity and we can thank the fine folks at Sad Puppies for making this our reality in fucking 2015.

Taken from Book Riot:

Along with the Nebula Awards, the Hugo Awards are considered to be one of the two major awards for science fiction and fantasy works. While the Science Fiction Writer’s Association nominates and votes on Nebula Awards, the qualifications for the Hugos are more lenient. One only has to buy a supporting membership to WorldCon in order to vote.

In recent years, the nominees and award winners for Hugos have begun to diversify. The world is changing, both in and out of publishing. As our world becomes more embracing of diversity, our reading and awards are reflecting that. More women and authors of color have been nominated and are winning. Unfortunately, not everyone sees this as a good thing.

Enter Sad Puppies, a small group of authors and fans that have decided the Hugo Awards were not accurately reflecting the tastes of science fiction and fantasy fandom. (You know, the people who were already voting on the awards.) So Sad Puppies, led by Brad Torgersen, created their own nominee list and encouraged people to vote for them. The list is significantly less diverse that it has been the last few years.

According to Torgersen, the Sad Puppies effort is to fight what he sees as an “insular” fandom of voters at Worldcon. Part of his defense of these choices, however, is more telling:

Along the way we fairly skewered the concept of literary affirmative action — that works and authors should be judged on the basis of author or character demographics and box-checking, not the audience’s enjoyment of the prose…

In a worst-case scenario (which is far too often fact in situations like these), this is coded, aggressive, anti-diversity talk. For the sake of argument, let’s take Torgersen at his word. If he’s speaking plainly, then he’s ignoring a big problem: the publishing industry (especially in science fiction and fantasy) is skewed heavily toward white, male writers.

Torgersen is right in one regard: awards should be handed to the best novels and their writers, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender. No one thinks otherwise. But if we’re not reading diversely, the pool of books we nominate will not be diverse, either.

It’s a common straw-man argument against reading diversely: “I read what I like, regardless of the author’s race or gender.” We at Book Riot see this all the time. This argument would work if the publishing industry were fair. If the genders and races of published authors were equivalent to the actual demographics of the world, then sure, that argument holds water. But since the publishing industry isn’t fair, that argument falls apart.

Further Reading:

Elizabeth Bear

Chuck Wendig

io9

George R. R. Martin also weighed into this fight. His response is taking the limelight right now, so I thought I’d also include it HERE.

The general consensus among authors and readers is this: Sad Puppies’ hijacking of the Hugo Awards is a shit sandwich and spells future disaster for booklovers and writers alike. No, Damsels with Chainsaws is not a SJW blog, but we do want to see good stories. ALL good stories. Expanding fiction for everyone is not going to hurt the SF/F/H community. If anything, I think it’ll make our readership stronger.