Teen Wolf writer Jeff Davis has explained before that in the Teen Wolf universe, there is no racism, sexism, or homophobia. Instead, supernatural creatures occasionally fill in as the group being discriminated against. He said:
I’m trying to create a world where there’s no racism, there’s no sexism, there’s no homophobia. And I know it’s not real life, but I kind of don’t care. I’d like to create a world where none of that matters: you have the supernatural creatures for that to work as an analogy. In my mind, if you can create a world like that on TV, maybe life starts to imitate it.—writer and creator Jeff Davis discussing Teen Wolf (x)
Saika, not too long ago, did a post on just this issue. Does the utopia erase the struggles of minority groups or portray them as having been overcome or even nonexistent? It’s true that creating a world without discrimination could affect people enough to change things. It’s the whole “be the change you want to see in the world” thing. I agree with Saika that both portraying discrimination and portraying a utopia can have its ups and downs depending on the narrative, but there is still something that has always bothered me about the utopia, and I couldn’t put my finger on it until very recently.
I think the utopia only works when the person writing it is part of the minority group that they are writing about. Jeff Davis, for example, is gay, and I think that’s one reason why Teen Wolf does a pretty good job at portraying a world without homophobia. There may be a lack of representation for any queer people who are not gay men, but other than that, there is no overall sense in Teen Wolf that homophobia exists. Danny and Ethan, Teen Wolf‘s gay couple, are never made fun of for being gay. No one looks down on Danny—in fact, “everybody loves Danny”, as the other characters often say. When straight characters are mistaken as gay, they are never offended and they never feel uncomfortable. Basically, gay characters and gay relationships are treated the same as straight characters and their relationships, and their identity is never erased. Danny and Ethan’s sexuality is never ignored. Gay culture and identity is never dismissed or downplayed on the show, it’s simply accepted. Teen Wolf’s representation isn’t always perfect. Yes, there could be more focus on queer characters and relationships, as well as a more diverse range of queer representation, to be a true utopia, but Teen Wolf does do well with what it has. In my book, Teen Wolf gets an A for portraying a non-homophobic utopia, but it fails (or almost fails) when it comes to racism and sexism.
So far on Teen Wolf we have been told that the hunters have a matriarchal society (for weirdly sexist reasons), yet we have never once seen a woman in the Argent clan call the shots. Every female villain has died while every male one has lived. Derek screws nails into Erica’s head, but it’s okay—she can take the pain better than the men because she’s a woman. Feminism! Scott McCall is the show’s main character and a person of color, but no mention or reference to his ethnicity has ever been made. In fact, it almost seems purposefully ignored, as if ignoring race means equality. Boyd and Kali were both murdered, and Deaton and Morrell fulfill the Magical Negro Trope to a tee. While Teen Wolf isn’t terrible at portraying people of color and women, it isn’t a utopia by any stretch of the imagination.
It’s not that you have to be a part of a particular minority to be able to write that minority group (for example, Joss Whedon is pretty good at writing women), but I think it certainly helps, especially when attempting to write a utopia. Jeff Davis, as a gay man, does a good job at portraying a utopia for gay people, but he fails at creating a utopia for people of color and women. It’s clear that he tries—much of Teen Wolf is filled with mistaken ideas of feminism and racial equality—but he falls short of reaching the same nuances he has with sexuality because he is approaching them as an outsider with limited knowledge of what a utopia would look like to women or to people of color.
Now that’s not to say that, because Jeff Davis is not a woman or a person of color, that he has an excuse not to portray these minority groups well or at all. He’s already tried to use that excuse before and I’m not having it. On a Tumblr post he later deleted, Jeff Davis said,
I also worry that as a white male who grew up in a pretty ordinary middle class suburb I may not have the insight to be particularly adept at tackling issues of race head on. While there is no way I can write without socialization and my own personal bias both informing and affecting my work, I believe my first job is to entertain. (x)
But this type of ignorance can only go so far. It’s not like there aren’t women or people of color around Jeff Davis who could help him better understand their perspectives. His perspective may be the reason he is currently failing now, but that’s no excuse to continue to fail this badly in the future.
I understand wanting to portray a world without discrimination, but our whole lives and world views are so entrenched in discrimination that it’s hard to imagine, let alone create, a world like that. I’m not saying that writers shouldn’t attempt to create utopias in their stories, but they need to be very careful with how they do it; otherwise, they run the risk of writing a story ripe with racism, sexism, and homophobia, and then telling their viewers or readers that this is what a utopia looks like.