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Teen Wolf

Racial Representations

Lesley Bradshaw, Author

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Despite the relatively representative nature of Teen Wolf’s cast, the development of their identities has been problematic at best and non-existent at worst. For example, though the show and the show’s creator boast that their lead actor is Hispanic, there has been no acknowledgement of Scott McCall’s race or ethnicity within the canon of the show. In fact, actor Tyler Posey is often asked whether or not Scott is meant to be Hispanic. In an interview with Lee Hernandez for the Latino Voices section of the Huffington Post, Posey was asked following question: “Your character Scott McCall is an all-American guy. He’s not Latino, right?” While this should be an obvious answer since McCall is played by a Hispanic actor, Posey qualified his answer by saying “Well, his mom has got a dark complexion, so I think he's half-Latino. It never comes up in the show, but I'm pretty sure that he is Latino. I mean, look at the guy! He looks Latino, a little bit” (Hernandez). Unfortunately, the whitewashing of Posey’s character is not the only example of problematic identity development for person of color (POC) characters. Although she is played by white, blonde actress Gage GolightlyErica Reyes is implied to be of Hispanic descent. While there are many Hispanics with fair complexions, Teen Wolf again denies even the slightest nod to her supposed heritage. This lack of acknowledgement may be in part due to Jeff Davis’s take on a discrimination-free world but, regardless, it leads audiences to read both characters as exclusively white, thus nullifying their attempts a representing a diverse cast.

In addition to a lack of acknowledgement of POC character heritage, the POC characters themselves are underdeveloped. In keeping with the Magical Negro stereotype, Dr. Alan Deaton and Marin Morrell are almost completely lacking in terms of backstory, motivation, and character development. Danny, one of the fan favorites, was not even granted a last name until the prop department added it to his lacrosse jersey in season 2. In fact, beyond his popularity, his sexuality, and his lacrosse skills, the only personal information divulged to the audience is his criminal record. Kali is never given a last name or a backstory beyond a flashback depicted her turn to the darkside; she is aggrieved after the death of fellow Alpha werewolf Ennis but no explanation as to the nature of their relationship was made. However, despite these problematic POC character developments, the most egregious example is Vernon Boyd. As a recurring regular for seasons 2 and 3 present in 15 episodes, Boyd should by all rights be the most well-developed POC in the series, aside from the lead character. That, unfortunately, is not the case. Boyd is never given a home, a family, a backstory, or any level of human complexity. He speaks few words and, when he is present in a scene, he acts as the casting call requested: as an enforcer. By the time of his death, the audience only knows that he worked in an ice rink, joined the lacrosse team after being bitten, participated in ROTC with a victim-of-the-week, and lost his younger sister to a kidnapping. Jeff Davis tried to excuse Boyd’s lack of character development by saying “I have said numerous times in interviews that the new supporting characters are there to “support” the main characters. I have 41 minutes a week in which to tell a story. It’s not easy to service every character equally!” (Davis). However, under the same time constraints, white supporting characters Erica and Isaac were given three-dimensional histories and personalities. Overall, the writers are batting 1-8 in terms of POC character development and that is only accurate if Scott McCall is, in fact, being considered Hispanic.

In fact, the most notable development regarding Boyd’s character was his death. Boyd was killed in season 3 to further the character development of white male character Derek Hale, both within the context of the plot and within the machinations of the writers. It’s plain to see why the writers would consider Boyd disposable, considering his lack of personality and depth, but the rate at which the writers kill of POC characters is also cause of concern. On a show that often jokes about how many guest stars and extras are killed in a given season, it’s fair to say that characters of all sizes, shapes, sexes, orientations,and races are killed fairly regularly. However, as with most entertainment television programs, POC characters on Teen Wolf are generally cast as non-recurring guests and extras (largely deputies and victims, sometimes both); as such, POC characters, especially female POCs, die with more frequency than non-POC characters. In the first 36 episodes, the deaths of POC characters KaraDeputy TaraErica, Boyd, Kali, Braedan, and unnamed deputy were featured. While this list is not exhaustive, it does illustrate Teen Wolf’s penchant for killing (especially female) POC characters to further the plot and increase the body counts.

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