Fri
Oct 12 2012 4:00pm

In Case You Missed It: Teen Wolf

In Case You Missed It: Teen Wolf

When MTV’s Teen Wolf first premiered in June of 2011, I prepared myself in equal parts for angsty teenage romance and 80’s-esque shenanigans; the MTV name undoubtedly loaned the production a certain set of credentials, as did its 1985 predecessor. I began watching it this summer and by the end of season two in August was hooked – for better or worse.

Teen Wolf thwarts its namesake at every turn. Gone are the days of car-surfing lycanthropes and “all in the family”-style hijinks. Like Stephanie Meyers’ hit Twilight franchise, Teen Wolf feeds our generation’s lust for amorous, supernatural young people and, like Twilight, is an unending train wreck that you’ll be unable to tear your eyes from (though you may find its fan base considerably more tolerable and its religious undertones considerably further “under”).

We find, in the offset of Teen Wolf’s first twelve-episode season, our first attractive young protagonist. Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) leads a normal, boring life with normal, boring problems; he has a normal, significantly more entertaining and sympathetic best friend (Dylan O’Brien), but soon decides to ditch him in favour of the hot new girl (who is at least as boring as her viable love interest).

In Case You Missed It: Teen Wolf

All goes wacky when Scott is bitten by a rabid dog with an awkward, jaunty run and soon develops similarly humanoid-canine features. With his newfound abilities, Scott becomes the top player of his school’s lacrosse team (because baseball-playing vampires weren’t insult enough), wins the girl (Crystal Reed), and even gains some new, attractive young friends. The oedipal twist and driving force of the rest of the series occurs, however, when new girlfriend Allison’s father (JR Bourne) is revealed to be a gold star werewolf hunter – thus beginning a never-ending cycle of deceit, miscommunication, and misogyny.

In Case You Missed It: Teen Wolf

It’s not that Teen Wolf doesn’t sport any fab leading ladies—quite the contrary—it simply provides the “alpha” male figures ample darkness in which to keep their X-chromosome companions. Allison, though dull at the onset of the series, soon gains independence and begins her training as a werewolf hunter. “Our sons are trained to be soldiers,” her father tells her, “our daughters, for leaders.” But despite Allison’s great strength and intentions, information is consistently concealed from her attention; her father, initially, leads the charade but is overtaken by her grandfather’s manipulations in season two, and even Scott, ever the protective lover, begins to shut her out.

Allison is paralleled in ignorance by her best friend and head bitch Lydia (Holland Roden). Femme fatal Lydia Martin is cruel, popular, and beautiful. Well-aware that her genius-level intelligence makes her unviable in the eyes of men, she hides it under the veneer of vapid vanity. An alpha werewolf attacks Lydia at the end of the first season, leaving viewers in a frenzied excitement for how her rigidly enforced normalcy will play out in the realm of the supernatural. But, she remains physically unchanged – immune to werewolf bites, Lydia instead battles with intense post-traumatic stress disorder and further manipulation throughout season two. Her friends ignore her struggles for the most part, and refuse to divulge any information to her (she doesn’t even know that she was bitten by a werewolf). To make up for this, she stars in plenty of terror-eyed nudity scenes, though why showers should trigger her trauma remains unexplained.

Best friend Stiles, devoted to Lydia in typical “nice guy” fashion, attempts to help and guide her, but is constantly thwarted by Scott’s selfish pleas to hide his identity. Scott refuses, in typical main character fashion, to be entirely werewolf or entirely human, which should on some level be charming or uplifting. However, his obvious preference for libido rather than camaraderie or respect for either Stiles or Allison, leaves his attempts to “protect” the interests of his friends flat at best.

Teen Wolf would be a phenomenal series if the secondary characters were given the limelight and respect they deserve. Even Scott’s boss at the veterinary clinic where he works part-time has a mysterious past and calm, kind façade that overpowers many of the youngsters of the series. Though I am thrilled to see that he will have a greater role in the approaching season, it is fairly obvious why he will never have a series of his own.

In Case You Missed It: Teen Wolf

I love the cute white guys of Teen Wolf as much as the next viewer (Have I mentioned alpha wolf Derek’s stoic, unmoving features and dreamboat bod?) but their level of character development is almost laughable. Push the ladies and people of color to the forefront, and the series suddenly has depth, vivaciousness, and human interest – and it is still sexy. I don’t expect producer Jeff Davis to come to his senses at any point before season three any more than I expect the media at large to start giving leading roles to people of color and women. But I would sure as hell like them to.

Would I recommend Teen Wolf to friends and Tor.com readers? Almost certainly not. However, if you love bad television as much as I do, and can veer your eyes away from the problematic social nature of the series in order to ogle the eye candy, you may well survive the first two seasons.

In Case You Missed It: Teen Wolf


Emily Nordling likes good books, bad TV, and superior tea.

9 comments
David Thomson
1. ZetaStriker
At the San Diego Comic Con, the actor that plays the lead in this seemed so awkward about being on the TV Guide panel alongside Matt Smith, Nathan Fillion and others. I think he knew his show for what it was.
Stacy Bell
2. deathbychocolate
I've never watched the show but I've totally read the fanfic! I probably should be ashamed but I'm not.
Sly Drool Rockworm
3. Sly Drool Rockworm
I keep looking for something like Teen Croc, or some other such thing, because werewolves are so hasbeenwolves, so yesterday - I mean, has nobody ever read the classic story of sukhanthropy, The Crocodile, by Vincent Eri?
Sly Drool Rockworm
4. Mary Beth
@3 -- I actually totally want to read that now, though a quick Google search tells me that the actual book is not much like the crazy scenario I made up in my head.

Re: Teen Wolf -- Sarah Rees Brennan coined the word "hilarrible" for this exact type of show, I think. It is hilarious and horrible and terrible and somehow I can't stop watching. All the gorgeous male eyecandy gets kind of addictive, though I wish the show would just acknowledge that Scott is a terrible lead and friend, and rename itself "Adventures of a Teen Wolf's Sidekick." (Stiles gets all the interesting plotlines anyway, while Scott is off mooning over Allison.)

And yes, all the girls girls are criminally and shamefully underused and ill-treated. Which is not much more than I expected from MTV, but I'd hoped for so much more.
Cameron Tucker
5. Loialson
Oh boy, I loved the first season, and was a bit disappointed in season two.

I considered season two an interlude. A bit of filler to get from point A to point B. Plus added sex and homoerotic stuffing.

It was more about Jackson's time to shine (and yet have no character development), and everybody just went around screaming like chickens with their heads cut off.

Oh, and Allison's family is Royally jacked up.
The end.

I'm hoping season 3 is more like 1 (which I thoroughly enjoyed).

We Will See.
Sly Drool Rockworm
6. John R. Ellis
"Religious undertones"...speaking as LDS myself, can I say that I'm getting quite tired of Stephenie Meyer's fictional vampire views being seen as "The exact things all Mormons everywhere actually believe IRL, LOL!"

Yes, LDS believe in chastity outside of marriage, and that the marriage relationship can last until eternity but that's about as far as the connections go. The reasons and intentions for the beliefs are considerable different.

And I -know- I'm not the only member uncomfortable with the twisted, unhealthy relationships depicted in her books.

(Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Tracy Hickman actually discussed this in one of the Writing Excuses podcasts.)
Sly Drool Rockworm
7. Sly Drool Rockworm
@4 Mary Beth

Well, Hoiri son of Sevese is a teen, Mitoro his wife is also a teen, and Hoiri suspects a sorcerer from a distant village is responsible for commandeering a crocodile to kill and eat Mitoro in retaliation for some past violence between the villages ... in the meantime the Imperial Japanese Army invades the northern coast and drives back the Australian administration, and Hoiri gets conscripted to carry supplies for the combined Australian and American counter-attack over the Kokoda Trail. He misses his young son Sevese terribly ...

Nah, far too much reality for TV or film, and not enough eyecandy :) It might make people think. They'd never let it get anywhere near the screen ...
Marcus W
8. toryx
Every now and then I'll see this show on Netflix when I'm fishing around for something to watch. I'll pause and consider it for about a second before shaking my head and moving on.

Thanks to this article, I'll never bother to pause again. But then, just mentioning in the same vein as Twilight was enough to guarantee that.
Sly Drool Rockworm
9. shadesfofgrey
Wow! I guess there's something to be said for spoiling one's enjoyment in a guilty pleasure by analyzing it too much. I can't disagree with much of what has been posted here but I'd have to say I came to watch Teen Wolf after comparing it to another show that came out the same time: "The Nine Lives of Chloe King" on ABC Family based on a young adult novel of the same title. I liked the novel but disliked the tv show which got canceled. Teen Wolf, on the other hand, grabbed my attention with it's darker approach. I guess I might have accepted a flawed show when given the choice of another with greater flaws. However, now that I've gotten into it I will probably keep watching.

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