Being part of a fandom is an amazing experience. You get to interact with people that like the same thing as you and talk about all the ‘feels’. For me, being excited about something together is better than being excited about it alone. However, not everything is all sunshine and flowers. A fandom is a group of people and with every group there’s bound to be some disagreements. These escalate when there are different factions in the same fandom.
The highly popular Teen Wolf fandom is an example. Teen Wolf, as a show, can be considered as a ‘Shipping Paradise’. Almost every character can be shipped with one another, even if they don’t survive, or leave the show, or are antagonists. The fandom has even shipped characters with inanimate objects: Gerard with Mountain Ash going by the moniker “Ashard” and the Argents with their Code named “Corgent”.
Though I am proud to be a member of the Teen Wolf fandom, what saddens me is the internal prejudice most of the fans have and which they openly express. One of the biggest slash ships of the show is ‘Sterek’, the pairing between Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Biren) and Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin). Whether you ship it or not is another topic. Here I’m more interested in an issue that’s getting a lot of traction inside the fandom, an issue that’s trying to color a part of the Teen Wolf fandom as racists.
Scott McCall: The Lead?
The main lead of the show is a teenaged boy, Scott McCall, played by Tyler Posey. He’s the one who gets bitten by a werewolf and we get to see him handling his transformation along with the help of his friends in the first season. However, things kind of get confusing for fans who are introduced to the show through different sources, mainly through Tumblr, and specifically the Sterek ship. Fans that got on the Sterek bandwagon receive a reality check when they start watching the show and realize that Scott is the lead and not Stiles.
There’s no doubt Stiles Stilinski has earned a lot fans within the fandom. This is because of how the character is written but the way Dylan plays him is important as well. Such a character, paired with the boost given by the Sterek shippers all over the internet, it’s no surprise new viewers are confused about who the lead is.
Yes, you can argue that Teen Wolf has more than one leads, mainly, Scott McCall, Stiles Stilinski and Allison Argent. Some fans even put Lydia Martin and Derek Hale in there because they are a part of the main cast too. But after everything is said and done (don’t get mad at me for this), the ‘main male lead’ is Scott McCall. He is the show itself and the destined hero as shown by his story arc in season 3. There’s a difference between the lead of the show, the ‘fan favorite’ of a show, and your ‘personal favorite’ character. In more than one occasion these terms don’t necessarily mean the same character.
I Don’t Care if Scott is the Lead
Now, it’s totally your call if you want to like or dislike a character. There are fans that don’t like Scott, there are fans who love him, and there are fans that are indifferent to him. The world of fan fiction gives free reign to people to write whatever they want. They can even rewrite the whole season or they can continue it during a hiatus. It’s all a part of free expression and trying to monitor what a person writes about doesn’t make sense.
A person writes fan fiction in relation to their slash pairing. For Scallison shippers, the main focus of their fan fiction is the said relation and in the same manner, for Sterek shipper the main focus are the characters of their ship. Other characters can be included in their fics but it’s up to the writer how he or she portrays any character. It’s also up to a fan to like or dislike a character, even if he’s the lead. Being a lead of a series doesn’t mean that everyone has to like the character. I have my own preferences when it comes to manga, TV shows, anime’s, etc. I don’t feel it’s necessary to like a character just because it’s the lead.
A lot of the fans accept that Scott isn’t the favorite of the whole fandom. It would be childish to think that everyone has to like the same thing. What some fans don’t accept is the bashing of a lead character that is well-liked, just so another character can take his place. This is where the whole ‘Scott haters are racists’ debacle rose from. The mindset of “I don’t care if Scott is the lead” does seem like a valid argument, but the way it’s being expressed in the fandom is worrisome.
Sterek Shippers are Vicious!
Sterek shippers are a force to be reckoned with inside the Teen Wolf fandom as well as when they go head-on against others. It’s only fair they get the praise. Sterek shippers banded together and brought their ship under the limelight, they also raised thousands of dollars for charity (with the help of other fans as well). If they are vicious, then it’s probably because they show their love with impressive, sometimes near to crazy, passion.
So, what happened that caused Sterek shippers to be addressed as racists? As I mentioned above, if a fan was introduced to Sterek before the actual show, there’s a high possibility he or she will still ship Sterek regardless of any other main character in the show. For such fans, Sterek is their OTP as well as the leads of their fan fiction or any other work they produce.
The biggest argument Scott fans give is that Sterek shippers ignore the character in everything they do. They ignore the actual lead of the show and focus on Stiles and Derek, along with a relationship that isn’t even canon.
This is where Scott fans, or any other fans that seem to think similarly, need to understand. The name of the ship is ‘Sterek’, and as the name implies, of course it’s going to be about those characters. If Sterek fans make photos in which they cut out Scott or any other character of the show in order to put in Stiles and Derek, then they aren’t doing anything wrong. Believe me; Sterek shippers have even put their OTP in pictures from Spider-Man, Batman, Pacific Rim, and what not. Doing the same thing with Teen Wolf images having other characters isn’t something to be annoyed about. You can do the same thing with the characters you love. No one has forbidden you from doing so.
The same is the case with fan fiction. If Scott or any other character doesn’t appear, then it’s not a big deal. It is fan fiction and the writer can write what they want. They can add characters they like or even create new ones. Ignoring Scott from a fan fiction doesn’t change the fact that he is still the lead of the show. It’s all fiction and there’s no need to be offended because of the exclusion. Scott fans can write their own fan fiction and portray Scott or any other characters any which way they want.
The Hate Speech!
It’s difficult to determine when or how the racist card came into play between the fandom. Do we live in a world where race isn’t an issue? Well, sadly no. And that’s why the race card can be played be anyone who wants to defend an argument or go against it. Teen Wolf is a diverse show. There are many characters of color in it. Scott McCall, the lead of Teen Wolf, is Latino, and that says a lot about the difference Teen Wolf is making in the television industry. Jeff Davis has created a world where race, sexual orientation, or anything else, doesn’t matter and that’s exactly what we see in the show and it’s very refreshing.
I think the race card came into play unexpectedly between Scott fans and Sterek shippers, and then found traction. A fan, or some fans, trying to defend their character, somehow started to talk about race. Now, I’m not taking sides. For me, there must’ve been something from both sides that ignited the argument.
Scott fans raise the argument about hate-speech. They say that a lot of Sterek shippers have used Scott’s heritage in order to belittle him and using Mexican stereotypes. They also say that fans like shipping Sterek because they are both white. They also say that Sterek fans have put Scott in the same page as Gerard, or Peter Hale, because he used Derek in Season 2. As far as the Scott fans are concerned, Stiles and Derek have made bad choices as well, and ignoring those but exaggerating Scott’s faults is racist.
Now, there’s a possibility that some fans have belittled Scott by associating offensive stereotypes and undermining his character by comparing him to the villains of the series. The fact that fans ignore the choices made by Derek Hale, or any other character, is something that’s related to ‘Woobifying’ a character. Fans tend to justify the actions, which are bad or immoral; of the characters they like by saying that he or she had no choice, etc., a recent example being the Hannibal series. Even if you like Hannibal, the fact remains that he is a murderer. Peter Hale has been woobified by some fans too and even Matt, saying that what they did was because of a ‘reason’. So, trying to justify a character’s actions in order to keep him in a positive light doesn’t necessarily have to do with being racist. If fans see Scott’s actions as questionable by the end of Season 2, then it’s their call. They are free to think what they want.
A lot of the fans I know don’t like Scott. They ship other characters and the fan fictions they write are about those characters. That doesn’t mean they are racist, it’s just that they like other characters more, for example, Deaton, Ms. Morrell, Mellissa McCall, Danny, etc. If not liking Scott is racist, then not liking characters such as Lydia, Stiles, Derek, Allison, etc., and not focusing on them in ‘Scott centric’ fan fiction can be regarded as racist as well.
The most important thing any internet user needs to know about is ‘Trolls’. There are people out there who have made it their mission to start an argument or a controversy. They troll forums, comment sections, and what not in order to annoy people. They don’t have sides. All they want is to rub people the wrong way. There’s a very high possibility that all those ‘Asks’ you get on Tumblr, or offensive comments directed towards you or your character are sent by such people. So, try and keep your cool when you face something like this. Trying to ‘defend your point of view’ will get you nowhere in the end. In the end, you will just be wasting your own time and mental health because of such people.
Throwing Terms Left and Right
The internet has allowed everyone to speak their mind. We all like to express ourselves. We all have ‘feels’ we want to share. During our expression, sometimes we tend to use sentences that sound offensive to others. We also use terms without knowing their proper meaning. Calling someone racist seems to be such a word. It’s true that if a person doesn’t like a character, things can blow out of proportion if the said character happens to be a minority.
Can Sterek shippers say or do something that can be offensive to Scott fans? Yes, they can. We are all human beings and when trying to prove our point we can go a bit overboard. But does focusing on their own OTP and not Scott, make them racist? I don’t think so. No one is erasing Scott out of existence. He is the lead of the show but fans need to keep in mind that the rules the TV show follows don’t have to be followed in the world of fandom.
Saying that people would like Scott if he wasn’t Latino, is a low-blow for a fandom that’s known to accept anyone in their ranks. That’s the same as saying people wouldn’t like Stiles if he was of color. We, as a fandom, need to accept that all of us have different preferences. We all love Teen Wolf but we also have our own OTP’s. The same thing can apply to any fandom. Take the X-Men, for example, Cyclops is the leader, but Wolverine seems to be a fan favorite. I myself like Storm and for me, she’s the strongest mutant. Beating up other characters with her in a video game, or in an argument with a friend about who wins, doesn’t make me a racist. Actually liking Storm just because she’s African-American and emphasizing specifically on that aspect, and thinking she’s better than the rest because of that, would make me a racist.
The word ‘racist’ is a two-way road. It’s something that needs to be fully understood in order for people to take it out of their lives. Liking Scott just because he’s a Latino lead of a show and ignoring other characters would come across as racist. The same is true for liking a white character because you personally don’t like a minority as a lead.
But liking or disliking a character just because you don’t like the way they are written doesn’t make you a racist or anything close. That’s why as a fandom, we need to take care of other fans as well. We should be careful when it comes to portraying other characters. We shouldn’t come across as insensitive and we should not come across as over sensitive either. We should not immediately tag anyone as a ‘racist’ or a ‘hater’ just because they don’t like a character we are passionate about.
That’s why liking or disliking Scott, or any other character, doesn’t mean a fan is being racist. And ignoring the lead of a show doesn’t mean fans hate him or her. However, using such terms again and again hurts a lot of people and causes disturbance in a fandom. No matter which fandom you belong to, we need to be accepting of all the people in it.
Author’s Twitter handle: @tempest071990