A “Teen Wolf” Roundtable – Part 2
As promised we are back with another Teen Wolf Round table discussion. Every TV show represents something in front of the viewers. In its three years on air, and counting, Teen Wolf has been representative of many things. Some of them are refreshing to see on our screens, while others leave a lot to be desired. Members of the discussion are:
We will be talking about different representations on the show including parent/child relationship, female characters, as well as LBGT and POC characters. So you just know you are going to enjoy this!
Question: One great aspect about the show is the positive relationships between the teens and their parents. Which one is your favorite and why?
Sarah: For me, it’s definitely a tie between the Stilinski men and Mama McCall and Scott. It seems to be a thing in any visual medium where teenagers are concerned to have them be at odds with their parents, resulting to old clichés of “you just don’t understand” and the teens always keeping their parents at a distance. But for me growing up (and well into my adult years), I had a really solid relationship with my mom, her being my best friend and someone I knew I could always go to for advice. Due to unfortunate circumstances, my parents divorced when I was 15 and I grew up in a single parent household, my dad effectively out of the picture. I think that’s why I responded so positively to the relationships that Melissa and the Sheriff (can we give this man a name already?!) had with their sons because it reflected the kind that I had with my mom. Yes, they don’t always get along but when the chips are down, they are there for each other. At the end of the second season, when John got fired up when he thought kids had attacked Stiles, I couldn’t help but smile because I’ve been in the exact kind of situation, where my mom was running up to the school, raising hell with the principle because I was being bullied. And the moments where Melissa has given Scott advice and her busting her butt as a nurse seem so reminiscent of the times I’ve curled up in my mom’s arms, listening to her words of wisdom and laughter and her bursting through the door with a long night at work, groaning, “You would not believe the night I just had!” All the parent/teenager relationships have been, for the most part, really positive and more authentic, but the Stilinskis and the McCalls will always hold a special place in my heart.
Farid: Thank you for sharing Sarah! I also have the same favorites as you. Seeing the way parent/child relationships are shown on Teen Wolf is really refreshing. The teenagers share a bond with their parents and it looks natural on screen. Jeff has done a good job showing the struggles single parents have to go through. Scott and Stiles appreciate the things their parents have done for them. Allison and Chris also share a strong bond. Kira’s parents, especially her father, seem very close to her. Lydia is also close to her mother. Even Jackson’s father knew about his son, the whole ‘he has never said I love you’ scene, when Stiles sent a message from his cellphone. Derek’s mother also loved him. I mean, that’s amazing representation. Kudos to Jeff! Teen Wolf isn’t another ‘Teenagers go on adventures without telling their parents’ or ‘Parents just can’t understand teenagers and rebellion ensues’. The parents are quite involved in the lives of their kids and I do believe that resonates with a lot of viewers.
Undie: Completely agree with both of you – the parent/child relationships are one of the best things about Teen Wolf. It’s hard to pick just one because they all have something unique to offer. I would definitely like to see more about Lydia and her mother in the future though. And Sarah, the Sheriff’s name is John. It doesn’t matter what Jeff thinks because it’s so far entrenched in fanon that if they name him something else we will just collectively disregard it. This is the risk when you chose not to give a character a name. But yes, parent/child relationships are all phenomenal, I much prefer them to all the boring high school romance they keep pushing on us.
Kerry: I hate having to choose between the Stilinski’s and the McCall’s! For now, I’ll have to say Sheriff Stilinski and Stiles have my favorite relationship simply because it’s so very mutual. Scott definitely loves his mom but you see more of a dynamic give-and-take relationship between the Sheriff and Stiles. They not only love one another but genuinely like and get one another, which is AWESOME. I also vaguely identify my own relationship with my mom with Stiles’ and his dad’s. I’m sarcastic and worry way too much about my mom, just like Stiles does with his dad and like my own mom, the Sheriff accepts Stiles’ oddness and trusts him even when it’s beyond his own belief. Also, I just enjoy seeing two men not be afraid of being open with their love and respect for one another. It’s super refreshing.
Question: What are your thoughts regarding Teen Wolf and female representation?
Farid: For me, when Teen Wolf wants to represent strong female characters, it does an amazing job: Melissa McCall, Victoria Argent, Talia Hale, and even Ms. Morrell. But that’s not much to brag about when the leads of the show aren’t strong enough. Yes, Allison can kick supernatural butt, but I don’t find her strong when it comes to representing females on the show. I mean, when a girl is interested in the sexual tension she shares with another boy, everything else she does doesn’t have the strong impact it’s supposed to. Lydia could be a strong character in my book if she quits depending on boys. She has potential and I was expecting her to really shine in 3B, after her banshee reveal in 3A, which she hasn’t yet. Jeff has two girls that can do wonders for female representation, one is strong, and the other is smart, but only if he keeps them away from the ‘love interest’ cliché for a while. I would gladly welcome a season where none of the characters are worried about who to hook up with.
When it comes down to it, Teen Wolf doesn’t have a good track record with female characters. The female villains (yes, you can be strong even if a villain) all died, but almost all the male ones survived. Female characters of color drop like flies, and I don’t know where Breadon came from in 3B. Maybe Jeff didn’t like the backlash from fans for killing POCs? Because I still don’t see any sense in her being alive. It’s not like Jeff doesn’t or can’t write strong female characters, because he can. I just hope we get to see that skill more often in the show. I had high hopes for Kira but a lot of her scenes have been too ‘romantic’ and that has disappointed me. Yes, she is a Kitsune, has power, but where is her strength of character? I’m still waiting for her to step up. There’s no such thing as too many strong, independent female characters and I hope Teen Wolf shows that soon…fingers crossed!
Undie: Farid, I’m sorry but I have to disagree with you A LOT. First off, we need to let go of this concept of the “strong female character” it’s a loaded term that causes a bunch of confusion. It suggests that in order for a female character to be worthy, she has to be better (stronger) than other women. The so-called “strong female character” is not allowed any weakness, especially weakness that is associated with femininity, and that does more harm than good. We need to start talking about dynamic female characters, because I want women that have weaknesses! I want ALL kinds of female characters. Representation isn’t about presenting female characters as some kind of ideal, it’s about showing that women are just as interesting as men and not just because they are “strong”.
And dude, Allison and Lydia showing interest in boys does not automatically reduce them to the role of “love interest” (which is another problematic term with negative connotations) and it certainly DOES NOT make them lesser than other female characters. Allison Argent is one of the most interesting female characters we have seen on a Teen drama for a long time and what makes her interesting is her weaknesses. Her internalized misogyny that is at odds with her caring nature, it’s just so fascinating to watch her try to come to terms with the conflicting ideologies she has within her. I will admit that I am not all that pleased with her role in 3B, mainly because she has been underutilized (we need more Allison). But you are wrong if you think Allison Argent is not a shining light of female representation.
Lydia is more complicated because while she defies a lot of stereotypes and she’s my favorite character on the show the storylines she’s been giving have been somewhat problematic. She was reduced to the victim in Season 1 and her narrative in Season 2 was essentially a metaphor for prolonged sexual abuse, which was forgotten when she took on the role of beauty that saves the beast. But that said she’s a great character – a genius with seriously terrible taste in boys, give me more – and I love that she turned out to be a banshee because it turns the image of the screaming female victim on its head. So with the exception of some questionable storylines, Allison and Lydia are fantastic female characters.
That said, I don’t think Teen Wolf is as good as people think it is in regards to female representation. Characters like Allison, Lydia and Melissa (who are all interesting dynamic characters) give people an excuse to ignore the other problems. Like the fact that ALL FOUR female villains (Kate, Victoria, Kali and Jennifer) have died while ALL BUT ONE male villain (two if you count Ennis) are still alive and kicking. Peter, Ethan and Aiden have even been given significant storylines. That is definitely a problematic trend. And Allison and Lydia’s friendship is a beautiful thing but there are still a number of episodes that DO NOT pass the Bechdel Test. If you’re looking for a female character that was reduced to only her interactions with men then look no further than Erica. She had such potential but then she was just tossed around as a potential love interest for basically every dude on the show, after her ugly duckling makeover of course. Don’t even get me started on the horror that was Paige’s fridging in “Visionary” because I’m still trying to forget that episode ever happened.
Sorry I got a bit carried away there, I just really love girls a lot. Basically there are some truly wonderful female characters on Teen Wolf and I don’t want to diminish the importance of that in any way. But overall it’s not really all that great at female representation.
Sarah: Strong, weak, smart, stupid, funny, somber, good, evil…like that freakin’ song from High Musical 3, I want it all! Like Undie said, a girl doesn’t have to be a “strong female character” to be worth our time. I want an interesting female character. No, scratch that…I want interesting female CHARACTERS. Plural, meaning more than one! I know Teen Wolf likes to poke fun at itself for being a buffcake show (ala shirtless montages as a special feature on season DVDs) and I love a good-looking guy as much as the next gal, but I want to see some more pretty ladies as well! Davis’ track record with the ladies on this show is less than kind, the only ones still around after three seasons being Melissa, Allison, and Lydia. Every female villain that dies stays dead, unlike the male villains. The only one I agree with is Peter, and that’s because Bohen is a masterful performer and I’m like half in love with him. We have seen Allison’s female family members come back to torment her because all that’s in Ally’s mind. I would love it if Kira bonded with Lydia and Allison and they formed like this trio of fun girl times and ass-kickin’ intelligence. I just have this image in my head of the three of them piled up in Allison’s room, Lydia easily translating some Latin text while Allison gives advice to Kira about Scott and knife handling…the guys get to have their man time, why can’t the ladies? I understand that fangirls love their man eye candy, but we also love our ladies. What happened to the coyote girl from the first two episodes? I’m pretty sure she’s having some struggles, being human for the first time in almost a decade. And why didn’t Davis replace Officer Tara with another woman? I would have enjoyed the crap out of Agent Sperm-Donor McCall getting sassed by a lady of the law. All I want is a little more gender equality on the show.
Kerry: At first, I didn’t think Teen Wolf did that great a job with female representation. Allison didn’t seem to have much of a personality, Lydia wasn’t that interesting yet and Kate was just the cliched psycho-bitch. As the seasons wore on, however, Allison became more self-dependent and powerful and Lydia was proven to be intelligent and cunning. I wish Erica and Cora had been fleshed out more but they just seemed like vague casualties and only existed in response to male characters. As season 3 has progressed, I’ve found Lydia and Allison strangely lacking again. It’s as if they have retrogressed as characters while their male counterparts have evolved. Lydia hasn’t done much of anything except hear things and then doubt herself and Allison seems to exist only to have a relationship with a male werewolf. It’s getting super annoying. Kira has therefore been a major breath of fresh air in 3B and I thoroughly hope she does not a) die, b) become evil, c) just take off somewhere. Yet so far, this seems to be the only options she has as a female character on Teen Wolf. The only female characters I’ve loved consistently have been Melissa McCall and Talie Hale (who we only got to see for one episode!). The moms on this show are powerful, engaging, interesting, and vulnerable. I love watching these women as they are quite literally wise women and I wish they were in more of a forefront role. Also, I just want to see Talia Hale again and find out what on earth she said to a few episodes back!
Question: Jeff Davis had said that he wanted to create a world without homophobia and racism. Do you think he has achieved this?
Sarah: Eeeeh…Danny was our only openly gay character until Ethan showed up, but he’s always just kinda…been there. He’s a bit of a plot device. The only time he is ever brought in is to service another character’s plot, especially the main cast. We don’t know much about him, he just sort of pops up, and we’re all like, “Awww, it’s Danny!” Before 3A started, there were rumors going around that one of the twins were going to be gay, and some fans hoped, “Hey, maybe Davis will be daring and have Stiles explore his bisexuality with this guy!” Nah, Danny came in and they had a steamy makeout scene, but again, he was used to further Ethan’s plot. I stopped shipping Danny and Ethan together when Ethan and his brother made Derek kill Boyd and really stopped liking the twins in general. I think the only reason Davis said one of them was gay was so fangirls would like them. I mean, they already had a good start because they’re conventionally attractive, but make one of them gay? We fangirls love our slash ships; just look at the epic battle on the Valentine’s Day shipping poll. Sterek vs Destiel: two pairs of pretty boys. Before Ethan even ran into Danny, fangirls were already clamoring for scenes of them together. Davis and his writing staff are savvy and know how to manipulate their fanbase. Now this may come off as overly cynical, but I can’t help the way I feel. Yes, it’s nice that Danny hasn’t been bullied for being gay (Jackson’s one redeemable quality was being his best friend and unaffected by Danny’s sexuality), but this is Teen Wolf, not Glee. Danny is just a gay plot device. If Davis really wanted to impress me, he’d stop teasing and baiting the fans and make Stiles bisexual. This isn’t about Sterek anymore; it’s about seeing a main character on this show be something other than heterosexual. But Stiles being bi won’t and doesn’t have to be the main focus of his character because there are so many other variables and facets to who he is. It could be like on Spartacus: Agron and Nasir were OG badasses who just happened to be madly in love with each other.
Now in regards to the race element on this show, I’ll be upfront in saying that I’m a white female so I don’t claim to be an expert. But I can understand in a way where the fanbase of color for Teen Wolf is coming from in their frustrations. Just like I want to see more of my gender and the LGBT community represented on this show, so do they. I stated in the first RT discussion my disgust with the killing of Boyd, which I chalked up to lazy writing, and I stand by that. They could have done something with Boyd, reworked his storyline when Gage left, but instead, they chose to kill him off to pile more angst onto the Derek Hale manpain-fest. Boyd’s death didn’t need to happen. But it did, and Davis lost some people over it. I think that’s the only reason he brought back Braeden was because of the backlash in 3A. And really, she was just a blip on the radar; came in to save the Hale boys only to disappear again. I’m sure Davis really does try to please his fans and I apologize for the bitter tone of my response. But sometimes I think bad decisions are made…and I can only hope he learns from them for future seasons.
Undie: It’s like this – Danny is a great background addition. Having the jerk jock’s best friend be gay is a pretty good way to set up a world where homophobia is not a thing. And the male characters are constantly hanging out shirtless in the locker room with him and no one is having any kind of gay panic, that’s really cool. Also the fact that they introduced Ethan and went out of the way to include a gay romance (albeit a fairly bland/underdeveloped one) is awesome. And it’s great that the lead character is a POC (although Scott McCall himself was only recently confirmed as Latino in canon). These are all wonderful things, as is Jeff’s attempt to present a world without isms.
The problem is that while Scott McCall and Danny Mahealani might live in a world without racism and homophobia, we do not and our institutionalized prejudices affect the way we view Teen Wolf. That means that killing by Erica and Boyd and letting Isaac live they are not just killing two people and letting another survive. They are killing a woman and POC and letting the straight white guy survive, which is seriously problematic. It might not be a problem in Beacon Hills, but it’s a problem for us (and yes Sarah, Boyd’s death was also problematic from a narrative perspective but I’m not going to get started on 3A’s faults because we would be here forever). Ultimately I recognize that it’s incredibly hard to break the established mold and I genuinely appreciate that they try because they don’t have to, and SO MANY other shows don’t bother. But with a core cast of predominantly straight white characters Teen Wolf is not exactly a pillar of representation and if Jeff really wants to present a world without isms, he needs to put his money where his mouth is (hint: bisexual Stiles would help).
Farid: I agree with Undie. Jeff has given us a world where there’s no homophobia or racism but that’s not enough for the present viewers. For me, Teen Wolf doesn’t really do anything of significance when it comes to LGBT portrayal. Yes, we have Danny, but compared to the shows that have actually made a difference, his existence doesn’t hold merit. You might think “Hey! Teen Wolf isn’t Glee where a gay boy can be open and sing songs. It has action in it”. Well, Spartacus, as Sarah said, had the amazing Agron and Nasir. And if you haven’t watched that show, Teen Wolf would look like child’s play, when you do regarding action. You can’t just paint a perfect picture and expect viewers to fall in love with it. That doesn’t do anything when it comes to making a statement. The truth is that Teen Wolf has main and secondary characters that are all straight. Hinting at Stiles’s bisexuality won’t cut it. “But we don’t want a show that’s about a characters coming out and getting bullied! This isn’t Glee.” Again, Spartacus, and even Warehouse 13 (a Paranormal show) have been able to tell stories in their own genres without ‘coming out’ stories. So, I believe that Teen Wolf is quite capable of doing the same. Currently, we have Danny (a background character…gone are my hopes that his last name meaning ‘Moon’ meant he would have a bigger role to play), Ethan (don’t even get me started) in a show that dominated by straight characters (Unless Jeff actually confirms otherwise). If Stiles doesn’t come out as bisexual and the series ends I don’t think Teen Wolf can be considered a show that has done anything of significance for LGBT portrayal. Jeff might have delivered it in his own way, but that isn’t enough.
Like I said, POC characters drop like flies. Yes, Scott is Latino. But other than him, if you are of color, you better run away from Beacon Hills as fast as you can. Unless, your name is Danny Mahealani, in which case you will be used as a gay prop for giving viewers some man on man action, and checking the box ‘This show includes LGBT character/s’. However, you will be oblivious to what’s happening in the town until you are called upon again to make out with your boyfriend, who you won’t know is a werewolf and a murderer and half of team ‘B*tches of the Pack’. Kira is there, but I’ll hold out till the end of 3B to make a decision regarding her. For me, LGBT and POC characters need a lot more attention in the show.
Kerry: Seriously, he said that? Come on, Jeff Davis. First of all, saying something like this will set you up only for disaster. I consider a statement like this tantamount to saying, “I don’t see races!” Racism and homophobia exists and while it’s awesome that the characters of Teen Wolf are progressive and open-minded, the very act of not “seeing” racism or homophobia is problematic.
I’ve been repeatedly uncomfortable with the queer-baiting on the show, though I can’t say for sure it’s intentional. I also found it incredibly annoying that a main person of color was killed violently while all other people of color are simply background fillers. I am enjoying Kira and Scott’s relationship because it is so refreshing to see a central romantic relationship between two people of color on a mainstream TV show. I am crossing my fingers that their relationship lasts but honestly, I doubt it will. I rather feel that Kira is there simply to fulfill a role for the supernatural elements that is happening rather than simply existing.
Which one is your favorite parent/child relationship? Do you think female characters need more development? Do you feel LBGT and POC characters have been underutilized on the show? We want to know your answers to these questions!
In our next discussion we will be answering the questions some of you have already submitted! Feel free to leave your own questions below and it might just show up when we return. While you’re at it, check out Part 1 of the round table.
Farid has a Masters in Psychology and is the author of numerous books including Arousing the Legacy, Missing in Somerville, The Game Master of Somerville, and The Escaped Murderer of Somerville. He gives us insight on comics, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies. He reviews shows such as Gotham and Teen Wolf.
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