MTV’s Teen Wolf might just be the most underestimated teen-drama TV show on the market. This werewolf/teen-drama/romance/comedy revolves around the supernatural happenings of Beacon Hills, California and how Scott McCall and Stiles Stilinski and their friends always managed to get wrapped up in it.
What the show has:
To start off, the show’s female protagonists, Allison and Lydia, are two of the most badass, clever, smart, feminist/girl-power, role models with significance to the plot other than romantic interest on television. They break down stereotypes of butch feminists, nerdy smart-girls and show that feminism and femininity aren’t mutually exclusive.
Trigger warnings. MTV has been doing a good job with incorporating trigger warnings into their show, but especially with Teen Wolf. Warnings have included suicide and violence triggers.
Teen Wolf also has some pretty cool moms. Melissa McCall, Scott’s mother, is a single mom who is a loving, supportive, hard-working, educated total badass. She is one of my personal favorite characters for her multi-dimensionality, even as a somewhat minor character. She is sensitive yet logical, nurturing yet strong, and proves that even minor female characters can be interesting and important to the audience. Also to be noted is super-star single-dad Agent Stilinksi. He shows that a man can be a “masculine” crime-fighting police officer while also being a supportive father.
Real friendships between a male and a female. For once, not every relationship between a girl and a boy on teen TV is presumed to be romantic. Finally. But even the romantic relationships on Teen Wolf seem to be healthy and based on trust. There are even sexually confident and in control female role models for teenagers in relationships to look up to.
What the show doesn’t have:
Body shaming. Never once have I observed even a slightly body shaming comment on Teen Wolf. To be fair, all of the main characters are gorgeous and fit the beauty ideal, but fat-shaming, “skinny-shaming,” figure-shaming are just not options on this show.
The show also makes a point of excluding sexist jokes or jokes that use femininity/girliness as the punchline. For example, in season 3, Scott is too nervous to ask a girl out on a date. When he goes to Stiles for advice, his friend nixes the usual “man up” or “quit being a pussy” banter in favor of the phrase “be the hot girl.” The “hot girl” is described as someone who is smart and awesome and interesting – someone anyone would want to go on a date with. Apparently empowered by being compared to a girl, Scott plucks up the courage to ask his crush out. This simple yet funny exchange is just one example of how Teen Wolf routinely turns sexist jokes on their heads.
Teen Wolf has also never included a gay-bullying plot line. This may sound like a bad thing, but I for one am sick of the predictable “person comes out; person loses friends; person gets bullied; person overcomes (or doesn’t overcome) this traumatic episode” character arc. How about, “person comes out; friends and peers say ‘thanks for sharing’ and continue to treat them like an equal”? Thats when you know you’re watching Teen Wolf. This show was also the first time I have seen non-heterosexual, main characters (yes, characters) be included without their non-straightness being used as a plot point or joke. Good job MTV.
Unfortunately, the show also does not have a hugely diverse cast. Main character Scott McCall’s identity is briefly touched on in season 3 when he discusses his mother’s latina roots with her. Actor Tyler Posey himself is of Mexican and Irish descent. Kira, a new recurring character in season 3 is Japanese and Korean American. Danny Māhealani is Pacific Islander American (and openly gay). Both Dr. Deaton and Ms. Morell are African-American. One other character of color was killed before the season 3 mid-season break. The fact that I can name all of the people of color in Beacon Hills is a little troubling, and while I can see MTV trying to incorporate a more diverse cast this season, they are still falling short.
The main thing we can learn from Teen Wolf is that being a “strong” female character doesn’t just mean being a woman who engages in typically “masculine” behaviors. Women can be complex and there is power and respect in femininity.
We give this one four stars.
Have you ever watched Teen Wolf? Have we inspired you to give it a chance? Let us know!