Lady Geek Girl: Well, we’re back to talk some more about feminism in Teen Wolf. This time we will discuss Allison and Lydia as strong female characters.
MadameAce: I already mentioned Lydia in my review of the first season. She starts off as the stereotypical popular girl who is ditzy and self-centered, only to be revealed as the most intelligent character on the show and someone who is quite capable of selfless acts. Lydia uses female stereotypes to get other people to do what she wants them to do. While we do not condone manipulating people based on stereotypes, Lydia doesn’t always seem to do it for personal gain, though not always with the best outcomes. For example, she spends a lot of time with Jackson, and even though she does actually care for him, she encourages his vices, namely his competitive nature and determination to be the greatest at everything. While maybe that’s not the best thing for Jackson as he’s very competitive and obsessed with winning, Lydia also unfortunately “dumbs” herself down for his benefit all the time.
But on the other side of that, while she adheres to societal norms, she doesn’t seem to like them too much. Lydia doesn’t like that girls are pressured to be pleasing and to look nice, and she has a lot of reservations about letting the world know how talented she is, which is probably the most likely reason she’s willing to “dumb” herself down, as it were. She doesn’t purposefully do poorly in school—her GPA is above a 5.0 and she’s planning to (and probably will) win a Field’s Medal someday—but this is not something she lets her classmates in on. In the second season, Lydia becomes much more willing to share who she really is with Stiles, Allison, and Scott. She translates an excerpt in a book from Classical Latin to English for Allison, and when they all go out ice-skating, she doesn’t have any problems showing off her talent to Stiles and being completely at ease that Scott and Allison can see her as well. And she also seems much more at ease accepting their friendship. After doing some very hard spins, she skates up to Stiles and invites him to ice skate with her, instead of the other way around, like it probably would have been in the previous season.
At the end of the first season, Lydia has an encounter with Peter that results in her being bitten. Werewolf bites can either turn a person or kill them, and the doctors at the hospital mention that she keeps going into shock, as if she’s having an allergic reaction. Lydia eventually manages to do the impossible and survive the bite without being turned. It turns out that she is immune to werewolves, but throughout the course of the second season she starts to go insane. Peter has infected her with something, even if it’s not lycanthrophy, and she begins hallucinating. During this time, she’s starting to feel ostracized by both the friends she just let in and the rest of the school, and starts losing her popular status due to being perceived as crazy. Lydia eventually meets a young hallucinatory version of Peter during all this who can best be described as an Edward-Cullen Wannabe (we’ll discuss that more when we get to rape culture).
Lady Geek Girl: Allison is our other main female character and though at first she seems like the token love interest, she quickly develops into much more. Allison is strong and tough, but still feminine. She is an excellent archer and skilled at combat with a knife. She was already a skilled archer by the time the story starts, but is trained in many other skills by her hunter family as the series progresses. Before the end of season one, Allison seems to struggle with her own weakness. In episode one, she gets worked up over the fact that she hits a dog and tells Scott that she does not usually act like a “girly girl.” I hate the idea of shaming girls or implying that girls are weak, but this is probably the lowest point for Allison as a character.
She eventually is trained as a hunter first by her Aunt Kate and finally by her father. Allison also acts as an anchor for Scott, which is the usual place of many women in these types of paranormal romances, but even this trope Teen Wolf flips on its head. Derek claims that Allison is Scott’s weakness and insists that Scott needs to cut her out of his life. Stiles, upon hearing this, claims that the whole “women being a weakness thing” is bullshit. Eventually Scott is able to use Allison as his anchor, because when he transforms she actually gives him strength. Nonetheless, if this was all Allison did, it would still be sexist. However, Allison is also active in her own story. She and Scott rely on each other. This relationship is written well enough that both Allison’s and Scott’s characters grow from it. There are still some problems regarding the fact that Allison tries to kill people at the end of every season, and regarding how gender roles work with the hunters, though.
MadameAce: My biggest complaint with Allison is that, despite being her own person, she has the same story arc both seasons. This is a shame, because as a character she can stand on her own. She doesn’t need Scott like he needs her. I often wonder how bad Scott would have it if he didn’t have Allison as his anchor. Allison herself tends to go off and do her own thing all the time, and she is very independent from both her family and her romantic interests. At the same time, however, she is easily manipulated by other members of her family. In the first season, Kate gives her a way to feel powerful by telling her about werewolves and training her how to hunt. Allison further learns about Scott’s lycanthrophy and ends up joining Kate in order to hunt both him and Derek. If Derek hadn’t been a werewolf, some of the arrows she looses at him would have murdered him. At the very least, in the first season, she knew Derek and Scott would survive those attacks, and she thought Kate only wanted to catch them alive. Allison also cannot go through with striking a killing blow when Kate says to kill them.
That all changes in the second season. While in the first season Allison goes kind of crazy and kind of murderous after being kind of manipulated, in this season she goes really crazy and really murderous after being really manipulated. Gerard begins his manipulations early on, molding her into someone easier to twist and to be more like Kate. Partway through the season, when Victoria attempts to murder Scott, she gets bitten by Derek in an act of self-defense and ends up committing suicide to avoid becoming a werewolf. Her mother’s suicide is the tipping point for Allison and Gerard takes full advantage of it. She becomes very brutal and ruthless toward all werewolves. She plans revenge against Derek and she tortures Boyd and Erica.
At this point in the story, she’s also calling some of the shots in how the hunters operate. The hunters train their men to fight and their women to lead. While this may seem as though it’s helping to break down gender roles, it can potentially enforce them. This setup is based on the notion that men are aggressive while women are peaceful and more levelheaded.
Lady Geek Girl: However, despite the hunters’ messed-up gender roles, it isn’t entirely clear if Teen Wolf is actually trying to make a statement about these stereotyped gender roles by subverting these stereotypes or not, but at least it seems like it might be. With the exception of Allison, every female hunter is extremely violent and aggressive, while Chris Argent, our main male hunter, is sensible and generally stays pretty peaceful. Kate, however, is downright ruthless enough to kill a house full of people, Victoria tries to kill Scott and often acts more violent than her husband, and even Allison as we already discussed is prone to violence. Her heartless treatment of Boyd and Erica surprises even her father. There is another issue, however, with the hunters’ progressive tradition of letting women lead: it never actually happens. When Kate shows up, she is ordered around by Chris, Victoria never takes on a leadership role, and there are only a few times Allison really calls the shots. She mostly follows the orders of Gerard. The ladies never actually run anything.
MadameAce: Both Allison and Lydia have their own strengths and weaknesses, which helps to make them more realistic as characters. But werewolves and the supernatural are just the beginnings of some of their challenges. Both these girls become victims of stalking and unwanted sexual advances. Some instances of this may be more subtle than others and less recognizable. This upcoming Tuesday when we continue this discussion and talk about how Teen Wolf handles rape culture and the female gaze.