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Teen Wolf

Racial Representations

Lesley Bradshaw, Author

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MTV and Jeff Davis’s awareness of both the dire state of racial/ethnic diversity in entertainment media and the importance of non-white representation in mass media is commendable. That they encountered and then sought to improve these issues through the platform of Teen Wolf is reassuring and will hopefully serve as an example for other networks and showrunners. Their approach, however, to simply eradicate racial discrimination from the show’s landscape, is problematic and should not be used as an example for future shows. Teen Wolf is certainly not alone in this approach, especially among science fiction media, but its attempts serve as a case study for the problems that arise from this type of false utopia. Instead of respecting and celebrating diversity, differences are eradicated and racial and ethnic identities are homogenized into one nondescript mono-culture that is strongly rooted in the white, cis, male, heterosexual American hegemony. Additionally, it relocates the onus of discrimination from the level of systemic, institutional oppression to the level of personal prejudice, easily fixed with education and exposure rather than the wholesale restructuring of American society.

When showrunners present a discrimination-free, colorblind world via entertainment media, viewers “little need or justification for affirmative action or other color-conscious policies… On the surface at least, these beliefs about race are compelling. They appeal to widely held principles like fairness and equality of opportunity, diminishing the differences between liberals and conservatives” (Brown 2). However, in terms of Cedric Clark’s ethnic minority media portrayal model, the lack of acknowledgement inherent in these representations reduce ethnic identities from the regulation stage all the way back to the first stage: invisibility (Clark 18-22). According to Cheryl Harris, this kind of mediated colorblindness "further posits that to the extent that racism exists (and that is typically overstated), it is the product of the irrational behavior of self-declared racial bigots who are few and far between. The gradual ascendancy of colorblindness means that racial disadvantage… is a function of something other than racism” (912). By engaging in this kind of visual and textual rhetoric, Teen Wolf is annihilating the diverse racial and ethnic groups to which its cast belong and trivializing the difficulties they continue to face every day in their struggle for equality. Although the intentions of MTV and Jeff Davis are laudable, they are mistaking homogeneity with equality and avoidance with inclusion.

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