It’s no surprise that Teen Wolf Season 4 has taken a toll on a lot of fans. Ever since promotion for the new season started, it got the fandom to react. A large portion of the fandom has become critical of the show and the PR team behind it. This tension has led to the creation of a lot of posts on this site. Recently, The Advocate’s interview caused a stir.
I wrote a counter-piece to the interview by Jase Peeples (Entertainment Editor – The Advocate) where the cast talked about LGBT representation in Teen Wolf. We were contacted by the author in hopes of doing a follow-up, but then an Op-ed was posted on their site. Said post also made a lot of readers and fans question the content, and a lot of them referred to it as ‘damage control’. I got the opportunity to ask Jase Peeples some questions and I hope some of the misconceptions in the fandom are cleared once you finish reading.
Some readers/fans have said that you deleted tweets promoting the Teen Wolf interview when it started to get backlash, and that the current piece is just ‘damage control’.
Jase: I was getting a lot of nasty tweets that day and to try to minimize that I removed 2 tweets from my personal account. The tweets from The Advocate’s account sharing the list of quotes from the cast were never touched. Also, the first list of quotes we published was just that: a list of quotes, not a piece about my personal opinion on the show. When I sat down to talk with the cast I asked each of them to weigh in on the show’s history of queer characters and those were the answers they gave me.
After seeing the fan reaction, I did reach out to MTV to do a follow up, but it wasn’t possible to schedule at the time, as the cast and producers were not available. So, I thought it best to follow up with an opinion piece to share my own thoughts on the show’s positive points in LGBT representation and recent missteps.
Also, I don’t believe that any of the cast members were trying to claim the show is an “LGBT gift” when we spoke, but that they were happy to be on a series that treated gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in a positive light. I know that many fans, including me, wish the LGBT characters had more visibility on the show. However, the straight characters on the show never treat the gay characters any differently than anyone else, and, regardless of how much screen time they get, that’s always a step in the right direction for furthering queer visibility on TV. In my personal opinion, images of straight people treating LGBT people in the way they do on Teen Wolf is a positive image for young people to see. In addition to providing LGBT youth with characters that allow them to see a part of themselves reflected on TV, young straight people also need to see examples of young straight characters treating LGBT people in positive ways, and I give Teen Wolf a lot of credit for sending that message loud and clear.
You mentioned that Sterek and idea of bi-Stiles were promoted during the starting seasons. Do you think the PR for Teen Wolf has changed in a manner where any mention of the main cast being gay/bi etc (from the fans) is to be ignored?
Jase: This is tricky because it’s hard to say what any PR team’s strategy is unless you’re a part it, or privy to information about it. From my own point of view, I can say that there was a lot of homoeroticism in the first two seasons. I can see how that, coupled with the show’s subtext could lead fans to perceive routes where many characters could eventually hook up, (even Scott and Stiles in that first season).
However, “Sterek” is the pairing fans gravitated to most, and perhaps the team simply thought it would be fun to capitalize on that. In all fairness, I don’t think they realized they’d caught a tiger by the tail when they did that. After all, a series commenting on its own gay slash/shipping segment of fandom had never been done like that before. It’s obvious that they’ve changed their approach on this, but who knows exactly why. Perhaps they felt that the first promo with “Sterek” came across as an official statement or tease about the characters’ storyline – I know that’s how it came across to some fans – and perhaps they didn’t want to do that. Maybe one of the actors grew uncomfortable, or just got tired of “Sterek”, or perhaps it was any number of other reasons.
Many readers/fans said that the Teen Wolf interview (considering the timing of it) was a ‘PR’ move to get LGBT+ viewers to tune in for the finale. However, the finale was the lowest rated episode, even compared to Season 1. Do you think not giving LGBT+ fans what they want had an effect?
Jase: When I spoke with the cast only a few episodes of season 4 had aired, which was also when I wrote it up. It was my choice to hold the interview until the finale because I thought it would be a stronger anchor than just another random episode, and I thought it would give Mason’s storyline time to develop. But that was not the way things unfolded, and the timing was really unfortunate.
As for the finale ratings… Teen Wolf has gone through a lot of change over the past year. I’m sure there are many factors affecting the audience and I think it’s safe to assume that some of the fans who have stepped away have done so because they’re frustrated with the development – or lack of development – of the LGBT characters on the show.
“It may not be time to put down the wolf pack just yet.” Do you think the show has lost its LGBT+ fans or is there still time for the show to make a peace offering?
Jase: Yes, there’s always a chance to include greater LGBT visibility in any ongoing series. Whether or not that would bring back any fans is another question.
Some readers/fans say that Jeff making Teen Wolf’s story occur in a non-homophobic world is an excuse to keep queer characters in the background. Any thoughts?
I think Jeff’s concept of trying to create a show where there’s no homophobia is a good one, and we’ve seen it work in different ways on other shows. For example, there’s no racism in Star Trek – well, maybe between alien species, but not in the way we know it today. That was a groundbreaking concept in the 1960s when the original show aired. However, racism in the real world at that time was very much alive and well – and still is today. That doesn’t mean that seeing a show that takes place in a racism-free utopia isn’t still a powerful message. If anything it reinforces a need to hear that message and see such images more often.
I think we also have to keep in mind that even background characters can leave lasting impressions on young people from all walks of life. The visibility that has been shown on Teen Wolf and the way its straight characters treat LGBT people will affect a young 13-year-old struggling with their identity much differently than a person who is already comfortable with their sexuality and is looking for something more. Also, a young straight person who might have bullied LGBT youth in the past might change their perception after seeing the example of a character they admire treat a queer character with respect.
Take, for example, the end of the animated film Paranorman, where one of the movie’s main characters reveals he has a boyfriend. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but the casual way in which that line is delivered – in a movie aimed at a very young audience – makes it a powerful step forward for LGBT visibility in entertainment. A viewer in their 20s or 30s may not think of it as a big deal, but what about the 5-year-olds who watch that same moment? The potential effect is something far greater.
That being said, it’s important that we keep pushing for greater diversity on TV in all forms, including LGBT diversity. Unfortunately, Teen Wolf hasn’t met the expectations of many queer positive fans – and I’d include myself among them. I was surprised to see that a show which had been increasing its queer content over time made such a huge shift during its most recent season. However, I don’t think that makes the stand-out moments we’ve gotten in the past any less important, but it does make the disappointment that much greater because the show had such potential to really push the envelope. I’m hopeful that we’ll get the chance to see more of that potential realized in the upcoming season in one form or another.
I understand where Jase Peeples is coming from, and I appreciate the fact he was willing to clear up some things in the Teen Wolf fandom with respect to the pieces he wrote. I hope the answers he gave to the questions I asked have helped a lot of you clear up some misconceptions.
Feel free to share your opinions with us! We love to hear from you all!
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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