MTV's increasingly beloved ab-and-fang fest Teen Wolf is kind of like Girls without grooming...or so a recent Tumblr debate over the show's minority representation would suggest.
It really started in May, when Teen Wolf creator/showrunner/writer Jeff Davis shared his visions of Utopia with AfterElton:
"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: you have the supernatural creatures for that to work as an analogy. In my mind, if you can create a world like that on TV, maybe life starts to imitate it."
Although Davis inspires social-media love as rabid as werewolves on...non-werewolves ("Jeff Davis is a gift" is a frequently used tag), some people found this comment ironic. Taylor, who writes of-poseys.tumblr.com shares these impassioned words among many:
But the biggest screw up Jeff Davis has made on the subject of race is with Boyd [a black character]. My beautiful, precious, nonexistent Boyd. Boyd has no family, no story, no background, no home, and when he even makes his brief cameos in the show, he's usually somebody's backup or lackey. He has no human complexity, and his one moment of individuality comes when he says he wants to be like Scott. Which is then promptly ignored and never covered again. Erica gets a storyline. Isaac gets a storyline. Matt the photographer gets a storyline.
So where's Boyd's?
Davis took to Tumblr on Sunday to respond to the accusations in his first-ever post on the blogging platform. On Boyd's perceived lack of depth, he wrote, "It's not easy to service every character equally!" More generally, he explained:
When we send out breakdowns for cast it always says "All ethnicities." I'm quite proud of the fact that our lead actor is Latino. But I have also always said I will not make Teen Wolf an "issues" show. I think a series like Glee or even the humor of Modern Family are far more equipped to handle those subjects. I also worry that as a white male who grew up in a pretty ordinary middle class suburb I may not have the insight to be particularly adept at tackling issues of race head on. While there is no way I can write without socialization and my own personal bias both informing and affecting my work, I believe my first job is to entertain. That's what I love about writing. Entertaining people. If I skirt the issues of race and sexual politics, the reason is most likely that I don't feel like I'm going to be very good at tackling those issues within a show about teenage werewolves. I don't really know how to write those stories. But I think I do know how to scare people and how to make them laugh. There are far better writers out there like Aaron Sorkin, Shonda Rhimes, David E. Kelley, far more equipped to tackle those subjects. I'm here first and foremost to entertain. All else comes under the banner of "best effort."
This has echoes of Lena Dunham's response to the accusations of racism lobbed at Girls. She explained, "I feel like - not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn't able to speak to."
It's reasonable, although ignorance of such issues in an increasingly connected world starts to transform into willful ignorance. Ask a friend, read a book and give your black character some depth. Come on now. People will call you racist if you don't. That's just the world we live in.
You can read Davis' entire letter on Oh No They Didn't — it's no longer on his Tumblr because it caused a whole new round of piling-on, which frightened him away from the platform. "Well, Tumblr, I was even gonna start putting pictures up. But you scared me away :( Back to just Twitter. Please keep it positive!," Davis tweeted after removing his post. Halting the noise is often the best possible thing a person can do on the Internet.
It'll be interesting to see if all the noise ends up affecting the show or if he stands by his deleted words. Regardless, props to him for not mentioning Precious.