A Traipse Through Television: Sexuality in Teen Wolf

Photo courtesy of MTV.

Photo courtesy of MTV.

In the summer of 2012, TheBackLot.com, formerly After Elton.com, a news site for LOGO, held the “Ultimate Slash Tournament” to celebrate gay pairings on television. In the championship round, fans rallied around their favorites and the Teen Wolf pairing of Stiles and Derek (Sterek), won with 327,912 votes. Teen Wolf had only just finished its second season on MTV, and winning the tournament brought the pair’s popularity to the writers’ attention.

Executive producer, head writer and show creator Jeff Davis said in an interview with AfterElton, “I’m trying to create a world where there’s no racism, there’s no sexism, there’s no homophobia.” Thus far, Davis has been true to his word. The main character, Scott, is Latino, there are positive representations of female sexuality and gay characters appear and pass through storylines seamlessly.  Danny Mahealani, the best friend of Jackson Whittemore (a side character himself), is the popular, charming lacrosse player who happens to be gay. As Michael Jensen writes for an article on TheBackLot.com “Oh, and kudos to Jeff Davis, the show’s out writer, for including a gay character in the show. It’s yet another example of how having gay folks in the writer’s room can make a huge difference.”

But some fans want more. In “a world where there’s no homophobia,” why are there not more prominent queer characters? Why do interesting events only happen to straight characters? Davis states in an interview with Entertainment Weekly about Stiles, Scott’s best friend and a major character himself, “We’ve certainly made some hints to the possibility of Stiles being bisexual.” Why hint? Besides, hints aside, Stiles has only ever shown romantic interest in female characters like Lydia and Heather. Queer characters, while significantly more prevalent than on other popular shows of the genre, are still sparse.

You can count all the notable appearances of queer characters on one hand. Danny appears 50 percent of the time as a friend to Jackson and 50 percent of the time solely because he’s gay. A lesbian couple goes camping in the third season (though their romantic date is cut extremely short when one of the girls is used as a virgin sacrifice). Stiles is hit on in a gay bar by a man and two transsexual women. One of the Alpha twins, new villains for the shows third season, Ethan, is gay, but he seems to exist mostly so that Danny can have a love interest and it is revealed [SPOILERS] that he has only taken interest in Danny because of his importance to Scott [SPOILERS]. While none of the openly queer characters are harassed or bullied, we still have to wonder why these characters aren’t more prominent.

Teen Wolf doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is written and viewed within our universe, one that is far from free of racism, sexism and homophobia. The Teen Wolf Universe can’t exist on its own; it’s actively shaped by the writers and producers in the real world. Gay and lesbian fans expect more from Teen Wolf, and they expect more from an openly gay head writer and executive producer. Teen Wolf has made tremendous strides in queer representation in media, but it still has a way to go before it lives up to its promise.

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