Stiles, Kira, & Gendered Possessions in Teen Wolf
An evil or possessed Stiles has long been a favorite topic of speculation in the Teen Wolf fandom. It has been explored in countless works of fan art and fan fiction, along with cleverly edited .gif sets.
The conclusion of the latest episode of Teen Wolf, however, told us that we no longer have to imagine such an idea. Stiles is in trouble and he may very well be the next main (if not reluctant) villain of the series.
By revealing to the audience and Stiles simultaneously that he was the one who wrote Kira’s name on the blackboard for the serial killing Barrow, Teen Wolf took us in a refreshingly new direction and hinted at the darkness to come. It’s obvious now that the darkness that surrounded our Golden Trio’s hearts has become something deeper for Stiles. While Scott seems to be controlling himself just fine and enjoying a healthy relationship with Kira and Allison has no problem with her confidence or skills, Stiles is clearly still under the Nemeton’s power.
He had no recollection of writing Kira’s name on the board and setting her up for dead. His surprise was as genuine as ours. Therefore, he can’t be actively and knowingly evil. Possession seems to be the answer, though his hallucinations and inability to tell waking life from dreams in previous episodes could allude to a form of mental disorder.
A great deal of the heart of Teen Wolf lies in the fact that Stiles is human. He refused the bite from Peter in the first season and his only skills were his intellect and quick wits. His humanity is even more apparent than Allison’s due to her deep connection to the supernatural with her family and her almost superhuman archery capabilities. Stiles has nothing like this. He isn’t adept at fighting, he isn’t particularly physically strong and he merely relies on his own observations of the world to survive. There have been countless times where Stiles’ research and quick thinking have saved the group and when the Nemeton invaded their subconscious, it was his ability to read and rely on his senses that was attacked.
So, what does this mean for Teen Wolf? Is there a darker Big Bad out there that we haven’t met yet? Will there be a traumatic and heartbreaking confrontation between Stiles and his best friend, our hero, Scott? With the knowledge that apparently one of our main characters will die this season, fans are speculating that Stiles will be our victim and if he is now our villain, it does make sense.
Yet, Stiles is not the only character dealing with a newfound and scary self-awareness. In “Illuminated,” it is hinted that Kira is a kitsune, or a fox (at least, her aura was that of one). In Japanese mythology, the fox is a major player: intelligent, shape-shifters, tricksters, messengers, and more. In an interesting unintentional nod to Teen Wolf, the Dictionary of Symbolism claims, “the vulpine spirits that can transform themselves into humans – ‘werefoxes,’ we may say – were called koki-teno. They possessed the ability to dazzle humans, mislead and corrupt them” (Biedermann 144).
Like Stiles, Kira apparently is being transformed into something she does not want to be. She is horrified and confused by her apparent supernatural connection, though it did help her escape from Barrow in “Galvanize”. Barrow, as he claimed, killed children with glowing eyes and while the audience’s first instinct is to think he is referring to werewolves, it became obvious that light is a major part of Kira’s supernatural abilities. From the way she absorbs electricity and then releases blinding sparks to destroy Barrow, it’s clear that Barrow could have been referring to something else beyond werewolves.
In fact, we should’ve seen this coming as Kira, in Japanese, means “glitter” or even sparkle. Kira literally glitters and exudes light.
This brings us back to Stiles. If he, under hypnosis or possession or something else, attempted to get her killed, are we looking at a stark duality in this season of Teen Wolf? Is Kira the light and Stiles the darkness? And does this mean that Scott is stuck between the two of them and will he have to make some heartbreaking decision eventually? Only time will tell.
While the two characters aren’t stark contrasts, they are somewhat similar in the sense that they are both well-read, interested in research, and a little on the awkward side. They are also now dealing with unexpected supernatural powers. From a gendered perspective, it’s interesting to note that while the source of Kira’s powers are unknown (her lineage perhaps? Her parents are heavily featured for a new character), Stiles’ seem to be related to possession, which is a distinctly gendered horror motif.
Many feminist critics have argued that possession is typically a female burden. Think of the famous possession films (The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Possession, Poltergeist), and you’ll notice that more often than not, it’s a woman who is being possessed. According to critic Carol J. Clover, women are usually possessed because women are viewed as “enterable” (80) or essentially, vulnerable to penetration. Possessed people are effectively portals for evil and women have often been viewed as simply vessels. Indeed, the title of Clover’s essay on this, “Opening Up” harkens back to Deaton’s insistence that Stiles and others must close the door in order to survive the darkness. Stiles, it seems, is still ajar.
So what does this mean? Is there some gendered ambiguity with Stiles? I don’t think it’s as overt as this but I do think it’s important to recognize the gendered way in which Stiles is becoming a villain. By being possessed, his evilness is gendered feminine and we therefore have another example of woman = bad in our pop culture.
Yet, we do have to see what will happen with Kira and whether or not her apparent lightness is indeed good or bad. Is she being possessed as well? Or is she simply something else altogether and if so, is she a victim or a powerful woman with agency?
What are your thoughts and theories on how Teen Wolf will continue this season?
What does Stiles apparent possession mean to this show’s universe?
What do you consider Kira to be?
Biedermann, Hans. Dictionary of Symbolism. New York: Facts on File, 1992. Print.
Clover, Carol J. Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992. Print.