After two seasons of showcasing nothing but heterosexual relationships, Teen Wolf will be taking a big risk next Monday by showing a gay sex scene between Danny, who’s already been shown as canonically gay, and Ethan, one of the Alpha twins. The two have shown a mutual attraction to each other; whether they are romantically interested like Scott and Allison, or just looking for a quick hookup like Lydia and her many S3 boys, it’s only fair to give their relations the screentime that it deserves.
This is a big step for MTV, because, while gay characters on TV are becoming a dime a dozen, they’re rarely shown actually acting on queer desire. Where heterosexual interactions are so normalized that we don’t even bat eyes at a sex scene, for same-sex couples, even just showing them kissing passionately is treated by many as a nigh-pornographic taboo. For Teen Wolf to include a gay sex scene, and to treat it with the same sort of kitschy, sexy Teen Sex™ vibe that we get from any of the other characters getting it on with members of the opposite sex? That’s pretty groundbreaking, and I’d expect all the people who have been clamoring at Teen Wolf creator Jeff Davis to step up the queer representation to be really excited.
But all that is apparently not good enough for some Sterek fans. You see, this episode will also be pushing Dennifer, the pairing of Derek and the new English teacher Jennifer Blake, in earnest. This has enraged some Stiles/Derek shippers, some to the point that they are planning to boycott the episode to protest this pairing’s inclusion.
To be as frank as possible, this is the stupidest, most selfish fandom thing I’ve heard of in a long time. MTV is a company in the business of making money. They are taking a risk in giving fair screentime to a gay relationship, and, if they see that doing so results in lower ratings, they’re not going to do it again. First of all, this is hateful, because it’s taking a ultimately good thing—fair queer representation—and throwing a fit because it isn’t Sterek so it’s not okay.
If you do continue to boycott and push this movement, you’re making sure that MTV and the entire fandom knows that you legitimately do not give a shit about queer representation unless it’s representation that you want and have chosen.
–wulfhund on Tumblr
Furthermore, in doing this, Sterek shippers are also shooting themselves in the foot. Because, no matter how hard fans root for Sterek, Stiles is still legally a minor and Derek is years older than him. In the event that Sterek ever becomes canon, the showrunners would likely wait until it wasn’t a statutory offense for them to be together. But if this episode is poorly-received, the producers at MTV are unlikely to ever take a risk on Sterek. After all, if a minor character’s gay relationship makes ratings drop, can you imagine the backlash they’d foresee for two main male characters hooking up?
A wounded Sterek fan took to Tumblr last Monday night, where Jeff Davis regularly fields fan questions, to ask about Jennifer’s inclusion.
Dear Jeff, I was really terribly hurt by the way Derek and Blake were introduced as a “romance” and am resenting the entire storyline to a degree that I never thought possible from this show. Considering I’m a diehard Sterek shipper, will there come a point where I can love Blake?
–suaine on Tumblr
Jeff Davis responded gently but firmly, explaining that he understood that sometimes shows go in directions the fans don’t like. However, he points out, “the truth is no show is written by the fans”.
This is a reminder that I think all shippers in all fandoms need to be reminded of. Whether you’re rooting for Destiel, Sterek, or Swan Queen, you can holler your opinions at the writers all day every day and they’re still going to write the story they think is best.
Now that I’ve brought it up, though, how is this situation different from, say, calling for Destiel to happen in Supernatural? I do that all the time, and before you call me a hypocrite, let me explain you a thing. First of all, obviously more queer representation is better, but Teen Wolf already has a canon gay supporting character who has been there the entire show, whereas Supernatural has Charlie, who, despite my love for her, has only been in three episodes. Supernatural also spends a lot of time engaging in gay-panic jokes and problematic rhetoric, whereas Teen Wolf is pretty consistently good about… not doing that.
Secondly, Supernatural engages in hurtful queerbaiting far more often and consistently than Teen Wolf; Dean and Castiel have a profound bond and a history of lingering touches and emotional confessions, whereas Stiles and Derek share comparatively minimal screentime together and most of the queerbaiting involving them consists of teasing commercials. You can ship whatever characters you want based on whatever evidence you can find and that’s totally fine, but there’s a difference between fans shipping something and writers deliberately setting out to queerbait with a ship. One of the main reasons I hope that Destiel will happen is because it would rectify a lot of these issues by turning the queerbaiting into just… foreshadowing.
Finally, yes, Danny and Ethan aren’t main characters and Stiles and Derek are. I do agree that it would be better representation to include queer main characters rather than queer side characters. But, as I pointed out before, networks who are interested in turning a profit are not going to take a big risk on queer main characters if they get shafted after taking a small risk on queer side characters. As long as Danny and Ethan’s relationship is not played off as stereotypical, I’m not really concerned with their inclusion. Positive representation comes in baby steps. If we don’t encourage them now, we won’t make any strides in the future.