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Teen Wolf

Racial Representations

Lesley Bradshaw, Author

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Racial Representations

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... In my mind, if you can create a world like that on TV, maybe life starts to imitate it.

- Jeff Davis, creator, writer, director, and showrunner of MTV’s Teen Wolf

Media representations of racial and ethnic minorities is important not only to normalize their presence in society but also to educate people, white and nonwhite viewers alike, about the broad spectrum of lived experiences of those groups. In fact, "in the absence of personal experience with different types of people (including those of other racial backgrounds), we (especially children) rely on cues from the media to learn about others..." (Conners 207). If those cues are incorrect, derogatory, or absent, viewers are unable to learn about other races and minorities in their culture and society. Unfortunately, minorities are “underrepresented and represented negatively in many cases. Members of minority groups appear in supporting roles, and they are likely to be shown in predominately white cultures with their own racial culture and values obscured or devalued” (Wood 267). For the third year in a row, diversity on prime-time scripted series remains minimal in comparison to the overall demographics of the United States, with less than 25% of 796 series regulars being portrayed by persons of color (POC).

In 2011, MTV piloted a primetime, scripted, supernatural drama series aimed at teenagers entitled Teen Wolf. It followed the story of 16-year-old Scott McCall who is bitten and turned into a werewolf and subsequently must balance teenage and supernatural drama to stay alive. Teen Wolf is broadcast to an average audience of 1.70 million viewers and is not, has never been, intended to be a serious commentary on otherness; it is merely a fun, frankly ridiculous show about teenage werewolves. However, the show did receive attention for a somewhat revolutionary take on discrimination: not only did lycanthropy mimic the discrimination faced by teenagers, as it often does in horror and supernatural stories, it replaced all other forms of discrimination. Jeff Davis, the creator, writer, director, and showrunner, is an openly homosexual male who decided that Teen Wolf would be the change he wanted to see in the world. Within the bounds of the universe that he and MTV created, there was no prejudice against race, gender, or sexual orientation. As such, he outfitted the cast with a racially diverse mix of lead, supporting, and guest actors and wrote them into a world designed without racial slurs or stereotypes. His intention, to positively represent racial minorities as equals, falls in line with the suggestions of media diversity scholars. His implementation, however, has far-reaching ramifications that do not necessarily coincide with his intentions

  • Representation: Compares the racial demographic statistics from Teen Wolf, Alameda County, California, and the United States, per the United States' 2010 census.
  • Stereotype Subversion: Explains the ways in which Teen Wolf's POC characters subvert the common negative Hispanic and black stereotypes. 
  • Model Minority Subversion: Illustrates the ways in which Teen Wolf's POC characters complicate the model minority stereotypes.
  • Development: Compares the character development of POC and white characters on Teen Wolf.
  • Racial Stereotypes: Explains and illustrates Teen Wolf's deeply ingrained stereotypes and tokenistic tropes.
  • Discussion: Illustrates the negative aspects of Jeff Davis's approach to curtailing discrimination in the media by looking at the locality of discrimination as well as prominent theories on the ramifications of colorblindness.
  • Bibliography: Lists all of the sources cited on this website. At the location of each citation, there will be a green link with the author's name and the page number. If you hover over the green link, it will display the bibliography as a pop-up; if you click on the link, it will take you directly to the bibliography.

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