The New Millennial Gay Experience
|Posted on January 11, 2016 at 5:10 PM|
By Dennis Stone
"Teen Wolf" pisses me off. And it’s not because Danny left or that there are currently no gay relationships on the show. Though I’ll talk about the gay issue later in this post.
Do you remember how “Teen Wolf” was presented during its first season? A typical teenager in a typical town, with typical relationships and typical problems. Then, there are glowing eyes in the dark, a rustle of brush nearby, a palpable sense of menace in the air, followed by a sudden nighttime attack in the woods. And our typical teenager isn’t so typical anymore.
At that point the show was about the shocking idea that werewolves, the unseen fear of many a young boy or girl walking alone at night, were actually real. And then it became about how our typical teenager would handle becoming a werewolf, balancing that horrific fact with family, friends and school. And to make matters worse, the family of his girlfriend turned out to be werewolf hunters, dedicated to eradicating the world of the fearsome beasts.
So far so good. The first season did a pretty good job of handling that, and for good measure threw in a wonderfully gay inclusive ethos at the school and in the community. It was easy to suspend our disbelief about the existence of werewolves.
But what has happened to that eerie and often suspenseful setup since that first season? The show has evolved to be little more than a “monster of the week” show, losing the resonance of the relationships in the process. The dark world of often unseen werewolves, known only to a few, became an alternate universe that strains and then breaks credulity. With each new creature the impact lessens and the connection with the characters weakens. The kanima at the end of the first season pushed things to the edge for me. OK, werewolves maybe exist, and what a fantastic thing that would be! But now in addition to that, here is yet another supernatural beast, living in the same town. But that was just the beginning. Here is a partial list I got from my memory and a ten minute internet search:
Seems a bit much for one town! Each new creature is meant to evoke new feelings of awe and fear, but there are so many that my reaction is more of a sigh and an eye roll. And with all that going on, the relationships feel tacked on, the struggles of Scott seem increasingly unsympathetic. I wonder if some of the actors who left the show did so because they could see the writing on the wall, and didn’t like where the show was going.
You know what, though? I’m still watching. And I’m not going to call it hate-watching, because I don’t do that. I don’t know how much is because the premise retains some power, or hope remains that the show will right itself, or simply because there are hot shirtless guys. But I certainly don’t look forward to it as much as I used to, or react as much. Which is undoubtedly the opposite reaction of what showrunner Jeff Davis intends his monsters to produce.
A lot of gay people (and the still-puzzling-to-me coterie of young girls fantasizing and posting about gay male relationships) are very unhappy with Jeff Davis for how he has handled the gay content on the show. The last time I checked out comments on what remains of “The Backlot,” a few commenters were talking as if Davis were the devil himself. And this was long before the current season began. First the beloved Danny and his boyfriend Ethan left the show with no explanation. Then the replacement gays seemed, ahem, toothless. There were no relationships of substance and the characters were minor. And then of course there was Sterek, which I don’t think I even have to define or explain.
Davis may have talked about these issues, but I have yet to see anything really substantive. He seems essentially to be ignoring or even avoiding any gay content controversies. Why would that be, considering he is gay himself? Wouldn’t he go out of his way to insert gay content?
My theory about this is that Davis had a vision for the show, and the growing fandom intensity regarding the various gay issues was starting to overshadow that vision. He did not intend “Teen Wolf” to be a “gay show,” but simply a fun, adventurous, teen-based genre show, with hot young guys and an overtly gay-friendly vibe. But then everyone started making Danny one of the most talked about characters, speculating about Stiles’ being gay, and then virtually demanding that two of the primary male characters be brought together as a couple.
I’m thinking Davis got tired of the incessant questions about these issues, and felt hemmed in by fandom’s expectations and demands. When Derek left that ended all the Sterek speculation. When Danny left that ended the non-stop calls for him to have a bigger role, and the incessant whining about how unfair it was that Danny’s relationships weren’t more prominent. (Never mind that he was conceived as a minor character.)
I’m totally speculating, of course, but de-emphasizing the gay content would free Davis up to construct the show as he wanted, without the irritating side issues. That’s exactly what seems to have happened. There is still grumbling about the gay issues, but it no longer dominates the conversation about the show. When there are no real expectations, and no intimations of something to come, then discussion and demands fade away.
If all of my speculating has been at all correct, I totally understand where Davis is coming from. If I had a vision for a show I would want to do it my way, and I would not want to be constricted by fandom reaction and overreaction to what I considered a side issue. But….
I think I would also want to take advantage of my position as creator and executive producer of a popular show to enhance the gay content, to push the envelope a bit further, and perhaps even to be revolutionary. I would not want that to override my overall vision for the show, but I think I could stay true to that vision while at the same time making Beacon Hills a paradigm of the new millennial gay world. I would have made Danny a more prominent character, and would have given him a real relationship, with both relationship problems and – gasp! – sex. I would have made Stiles fully bisexual, since that always seemed plausible. However, I would have frustrated much of fandom by not allowing Sterek to become realized. Hey, I have to maintain my reputation as a contrarian! And, for the life of me, I just honestly don’t see a couple there. Derek is a quintessentially straight character.
As I said, if I’m correct about Jeff Davis’ motivations I understand what he is doing, and I don’t have a problem with it. But I would have done it a different way. But Jeff, please, if you are reading this, stop the monster-of-the-week nonsense and go back to the vision of the first season.
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