When I logged into Tumblr earlier today it didn’t take me long to figure out what had happened. Someone’s insulting slash fans again, must be Tuesday. I wasn’t even surprised to discover that Teen Wolf’s Tyler Posey was the offender and Sterek was the subject – as many fans have pointed out he has more reason than most to dislike Sterek – but when I watched the interview in question I was surprised by how much it actually hurt.
I should preface this by saying that I am a Sterek shipper, but I am also a huge fan of Tyler Posey. His interviews are usually a source of joy for me, his carefree energetic personality comes is a breath of fresh air and, unlike many other young stars, he doesn’t often say offensive things. Tyler Posey is one my favorite parts of the Teen Wolf fandom and maybe that’s why this hurt so much.
The interview, for Hollywood Life , was fairly routine. Tyler Posey, Holland Roden and Tyler Hoechlin were asked about various romantic relationships including of course Sterek. The interviewer even prefaces the Sterek questions with the usual patronizing dismissal of fandom but Posey took things to a whole new level when he said: “I think Sterek is a bizarre weird twisted thing and I think that anyone pays more attention to Sterek than the show isn’t watching the show for the right reasons.”
There is part of me that desperately wants to be able to defend Posey, but there isn’t much room for interpretation. Although there was some background laughter as Posey begins by the end of his speech it was pretty clear that he was being sincere.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Tyler Posey has reason to be somewhat annoyed by Sterek. As Aja Romano from The Daily Dot puts it: “On top of [Dylan] O’Brien’s popularity, there’s Sterek—a phenomenon which focuses on two characters who don’t have a lot of onscreen interaction. That’s got to be at least a little annoying for Posey, who’s faced with the possibility that much of the show’s success may be due to fans latching onto something he thinks isn’t there.”
A lot of fans recognise this, which is why most of the responses I encountered were conflicted by Posey’s words. Many fans came out in defense of the actor because his previous interactions with Sterek might not have been positive.
Tumblr user tacoposey: “He doesn’t see those ridiculously deep and amazing posts or those fanfics that mean a lot to you or how great some of the sterek shippers are- because the connotation that comes with sterek (due to fandom wars and online postings) is mostly negative.”
Tumblr user otherbully1: “Posey is nothing but sweet as hell to all kinda of people in this fandom, but I promise you that at some point he startedd(sic) coming across so much negative shit about him and his character in favor of sterek and hobrien.”
Tumblr user lycanthropique: “he didn’t handle the question with tons of grace and professionalism, but he was clearly just tired and fed up, and his frustration is valid”.
These are all valid reasons that Posey might be frustrated by Sterek’s prevalence but that doesn’t change the fact that Posey’s words were offensive to a large chunk of his show’s fandom. As Tumblr user diiingus said: “i dont even care if tposey likes sterek or not whats wrong is how he insulted his own fans because they do he has a right to his opinion but he could have handled and said that a lot better”.
If we’re going to put Posey’s words into context then we have to do that with the fandom’s reaction as well. Slash fans have consistently been dismissed and insulted by the media and the people that make the things they love. For the most part we accept it as an inevitable part of being a slash fan. At least we used to, but as slash slowly comes out of the shadows and into the mainstream slash fans are less likely to accept insults.
In fact Sterek, and as a result Teen Wolf, owes much of its visibility to the increasingly vocal slash fanbase. Way back in 2012, Sterek fans did not just accept it when EW.com snubbed them from a Summer TV Shipping Poll and that resulted in AfterElton’s (now The Backlot) Ultimate Slash Madness Tourney and a weekly column about slash fandom. As well as a number of high profile articles and A LOT of mainstream recognition of slash and shippers in general.
I’ve been in slash fandom for over fifteen years and I have to say the way that Sterek was embraced and discussed by the cast, writers and official social media of Teen Wolf was A HUGE DEAL. Sure Sterek shippers might have taken their passion to the extreme at times but let’s face it, Teen Wolf relied heavily on social media interaction for promotion and if it wasn’t for the active, enthusiastic fandom (much of which ship Sterek) this show probably wouldn’t have been such a huge success. Not that I’m suggesting fandom (or Sterek) is the ONLY reason for Teen Wolf’s popularity but it’s impossible to ignore that fandom had a significant impact.
So while Posey might be justified in his annoyance of Sterek’s saturation, fans have every right to be angry at what he said. Shipping might seem frivolous to outsiders, so they often don’t consider the impact before insulting it, but it means a lot to us. Having someone we like and respect tell us that something we love is “is a bizarre weird twisted thing” is not a pleasant experience, especially when we have been told similar things hundreds of times before.
As Tumblr user ricaresin put in an open letter to Tyler Posey: “People who look up to you and people who admire you get to read your words over, and over, and over again and question and read into what they mean. People who love you, and who also love Sterek, now sit back and think.. Something I like is bizarre, weird, twisted? Does that make me twisted? Does that make me weird? Am I watching this show for the wrong reason? People now murmur in the shadows about boycotting the next episode.. we won’t, because we love it. People tweet anger and sadness and bitterness and try to get recognition, because our feelings are hurt. We want validation.”
That’s the thing, I want to dismiss Tyler Posey’s words because it’s not entirely his fault. He doesn’t know. Like tacoposey said: “HE DOESN’T SEE WHAT WE SEE.” And yeah, a lot of this is because mainstream media continues to paint slash as something deviant, something to be laughed at and certainly not something to be taken seriously. But you know what? It doesn’t really matter because even if Posey didn’t have all the facts, even if he has every reason to be frustrated by Sterek, it still doesn’t excuse his rude and disrespectful words.
That doesn’t mean I am going to stop watching Teen Wolf, or that I am going to stop liking Tyler Posey. He is still completely adorable and I am still thoroughly impressed by his performance this season. But I’m also not going to let him get away with making the people I care about most in the world (and for me fandom is my family) feel bad about what they love. Tumblr user theasterbunny said it best: “I am criticizing what he said, how he handled the question, not him as a person. This is the first time I’ve ever felt like criticizing him, because Tyler Posey so far has done nothing but given me good impressions before this interview.”
I am a slash fan, I write A LOT about slash fandom and I genuinely love it (even though I recognise its MANY problematic aspects) and it REALLY upsets me that this fantastically creative queer female dominated community is constantly dismissed and insulted because people don’t understand it. It’s worse because they don’t even TRY to understand it. Websites like Hollywood Life are perfectly happy to use us as click bait and shows like Teen Wolf continue to use our enthusiastic support as a source of publicity. But then when someone outright insults us we’re accused of overreacting when we get upset.
Honestly, we don’t really need to talk about Tyler Posey, because yeah he said something disappointing (I don’t want to ignore that) but really he’s just the product of a larger problem, and that is what we should be talking about.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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