Ok, so some of those Teen Wolf thoughts that Tumblr deleted
Jeff Davis has said that Teen Wolf, Like Archie Comics, takes place in a kind of ‘perfect world’ without racism, sexism, homophobia or classism. He’s wrong. Archie can get away with it a little more, by virtue of being incredibly lighthearted, and staying away from dark corners. But Teen Wolf is a horror show, and horror mines all that’s terrible—fantastical and mundane monsters, both. I’m not sure that it’s possible to do good horror without digging into contemporary problems and oppressions. So while Teen Wolf steers clear of very special episodes, it still mines rape culture, child abuse and other ordinary horrors, to anchor the supernatural.
Whatever Davis’s intent, the show proves him wrong.
What I think Teen Wolf actually does, as opposed to try to create a ‘perfect world’ is to create lead characters who are nascent, idealistic, and sometimes unconscious progressives, and surround them with lots of other happy progressives. Most people in Beacon Hills are queer positive, seemingly colour blind, and not especially sexist. It’s not a ‘perfect world’, but it is a ‘good town’, where people are generally getting along so well that underlying class, race and gender tensions don’t come to the forefront. But because Davis’s mission is essentially to ignore this stuff, and because in a sense, the people of Beacon Hills are right with him on this, we get blindsided from time to time by the oppressions that are still operating on and within the show.
Boyd is a great example. So hey, one of the were-puppies is a super hot black guy, who out-muscles Derek. Fantastic! Sadly though, the show hasn’t yet figured out what to do with the character. Where Erica and Issac show up regularly, and get to carry integral plot points, Boyd is usually an afterthought. We’re beginning to get hints that Boyd is going to be the ‘smart one’, in addition to the muscle, and I’m down for that—that sounds like a great balance to sexy-dangerous Erica and Issac. But in the meantime, we have a token black supporting character, who doesn’t even have a last name. Jeff Davis isn’t interested in racism as a plot point, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t acting on and within his show.
What gets foregrounded a lot more than race or class, is rape culture, and one of the interesting things the show does is to basically throw all of rape culture into the badguy box, while still retaining some sexism for the good guys. Scott and Chris want desperately to protect Alison. Everyone is keeping secrets from Lydia, thinking maybe, that she can’t handle it. Interesting too, is how often the male characters on the show are threatened with sexualized violence. Derek’s relationship with Kate was statutory rape—he was fifteen to her twenty-three—and their reunion has her caressing his naked chest while tasering him. He’s put on display for her—and our—sexual gratification, and then punished for it. Stiles and Jackson are both threatened by older men, who try to physically and emotionally dominate them. Recall Derek looming over Jackson, holding his neck. Stiles kneeling in front of Peter, and being tugged up by his chin.
What Jackson and Stiles experience though, has nothing on Matt’s sustained stalking of Alison, or Lydia’s highly sexualized torture by Peter. Through Matt’s utterly mundane but horrifying advances, and Peter’s omnipresent serial killer!Edward Cullen impression, Teen Wolf is dealing with the pervasive threat of rape and assault that real women are forced to live with. At every turn though, it says that rape culture is evil. As douchey as Jackson is, he only breaks out the sexist insults and looming, when he’s possessed. Matt’s interest in Alison, even before it’s explicitly called stalking, encourages us to question his motives. Two characters, Melissa and Stiles, are disturbed by him early on, though neither can quite put their finger on what’s wrong with him. And then there’s Peter. Lydia’s interest in young Peter seems largely due to emotional vulnerability, and Peter clearly and explicitly exploits this vulnerability. What’s interesting about his ‘seduction’ of Lydia is that it was strategic. He could have just as easily manifested as older Peter, and threatened her until she came to the Hale House. Instead he chose to approach her when she was at her most vulnerable, and to undermine whatever feelings of safety her house might offer. He’s playing with her, and this just serves to underline, in huge black lines, how incredibly evil he is.
Teen Wolf doesn’t take place in a ‘perfect world’. Maybe it was an off the cuff remark. Maybe Davis doesn’t want to deal with ordinary oppressions head on. The fact is though, that the show is tackling rape culture full speed ahead, and in not dealing with race, is lampshading its problem with race. I don’t usually pay attention to what show runners have to say—auteur theory strikes me as pretty useless in the case of such a thoroughly collaborative medium—but this was an interesting comment. It sheds a lot of light on why Danny seems to face no homophobia, and is possibly the most popular kid in all of Beacon Hills. It sheds some light too, on what Teen Wolf might be trying to do with the Hunters. (And when it comes to the Hunters, I think it’s more interesting in how it fails, than how it succeeds).
One thing I find heartening is how much less white and straight Beacon Hills is this season. There are people of colour all up in those crowd scenes. Boys making out at parties. Girls macking on Erica in class. Coach Finstock thinks all his players are dating. And Alison. Oh! She’s slowly but surely, breaking the bonds of parental (and boyfriend) control, and charting her own path. So while there are issues aplenty to talk about in the show, it seems to me that the show is interested in and listening to criticism. Which is bomb.
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