Fucking hell, someone did the thing and that Scott post is going around again. I should have gone back and inserted some context for the racism comment, but since I didn’t, here it is. That post was made in a series of posts discussing Argent anti-werewolf bigotry being coded as racism, and that’s what I was talking about with regard to Scott, not actual internalized racism.
Let’s say someone decides to do some worldbuilding - for a TV show, a movie, a comic book - and has within it as one of the primary conflicts a group that is “not like everyone else,” that is forced to hide those aspects of themselves when out in public lest they be persecuted, who cannot fully participate in society because of those qualities; and then on the other hand you have a gun-toting paramilitary operation that operates outside the law - thinks themselves above the law - takes it upon themselves to police that group, calls that group less than human…. those are some very obvious parallels.
So there’s a TV show. And the narrative sets up this group as something that I will immediately associate with a hate group, even though it might have some more extreme members and others who are supposed to be considered more reasonable. And then we have a hero who becomes/realizes they are/are discovered to be a member of the marginalized group that the hate group has extreme negativity to and are actively trying to harm and kill.
Sometimes, you will have a character who dislikes these aspects of themselves that the hate group dislikes, maybe because they’ve been told that these characteristics are undesirable, or because that’s what makes them a target. This is a parallel with internalized racism - people who belong to a certain marginalized group who hate those characteristics about themselves, who put down other members of that same group for being too much like that and not more like that majority. Because we are talking about metaphors, these parallels aren’t perfect fits but they get the point across.
This is not an unheard of way to discuss the complicated issues of being a marginalized group with others who are hellbent on denying you existence. There are a lot of stories that do this - see Star Trek (not the godawful reboot), or possibly you may have heard of the X Men.
I am a Korean American woman who grew up in the rural Southern US, after moving there from Seoul. My grandmother used to tell me stories, with my mother translating for me after I lived here long enough to forget my native tongue and translation became necessary, about how she had to learn Korean in secret and had to try very hard to keep the Korean accent off her tongue when she spoke Japanese lest her secret be discovered, how she lived most of her girlhood underground in the basement for fear that she would be taken away to become a comfort woman like her older sister, about the dud bomb that landed in the blanket she was carrying my mother in as they ran from a shelter that chased them out because they didn’t dare allow a baby in. They would sing me sad love songs with hidden meaning, ostensibly about a long lost lover but that everyone knew to be mourning over Korea’s lost sovereignty. I also grew up hearing my dad’s white family liberally using the n-word, saw their jealousy that a mixed girl could possibly outperform their own pure white children, heard my uncle call my mother and me “colored” without understanding that as far as he was concerned, not-white might as well be black.
So when I watch a TV show with a gun-toting group that goes around hunting people who are living in secret for fear of being found out as being part of a marginalized group, I am going to associate it with, well, hate groups. And I am going to have a pretty fucking visceral reaction when a member of the marginalized group is constantly painted as doing the wrong thing - like Derek- or when a member of that group - like Scott - prioritizes being an ally with the hate group over the justified fears of someone whose life has been ruined by the hate group. I also am going to find that characterization really fucking hard to swallow when it appears to me that the character is supposed to be a real-life POC who would have had other experiences with marginalization and bigotry and who therefore, I would think, should know better. My gut reaction is is always going to be to be suspicious of the hate group, and to not want my hero character to have anything to do with them. I am uninterested in storytelling that gives me a hate group and then spends the whole time painting them as sympathetic or reasonable.
If you love the way Jeff writes Scott, carry on, my friend. I’m not trying to stop you. But before I get more anons calling me a race traitor for daring to criticize a character that happens to be played by a Latino actor, let me just say: if you prioritize the way white man Jeff Davis writes a (COMPLETELY FICTIONAL!) character he never intended to not be white until Posey forced his hand - “Kali is barefoot and so exotic” Jeff Davis, “We’ll just make Kira a mixed Japanese-Korean character and have her compare the war to Casablanca” Jeff Davis, that Jeff Davis - over the way POC who have actual lived imperialist, racist family trauma dislike the way he is handling these characters and tropes, then go fuck yourself.
All of this. It’s something I talked about in my meta on race and racism in Teen Wolf (A Unified Theory of Teen Wolf).
Scott’s internalised racism is part of the deliberate race narrative within the text, but it’s also, due to casting, part of what I think is an unintentionally racist counter-narrative that exists at the same time.
This is best explained with a Doylist/Watsonian reading. The Doylist/Watsonian idea comes from Sherlock Holmes. In short, when we discuss the inner workings of the created world, we talk about Watson as the narrator. When we talk about the text as it exists in the real world, we talk about Conan Doyle as the writer. Two different reading positions, through which we can examine the politics of the text.
Within the text (the Watsonian reading, in which we take the text as a real world with self-consistent rules) Scott is part of a racist situation, as dirtydirtychai points out, and is dealing with it in a realistic, but flawed way. That doesn’t make Scott a bad person, it makes his struggle real and meaningful, and it means we can relate to the ways in which Scott struggles with his own identity and how it conflicts with the oppressive narratives he’s exposed to which tell him what’s right and wrong. That said, Scott’s stance of taking the side of the hunters is racist. Understandable, but racist.
When we do a Doylist reading (looking at the text as an artifact of the real world, as an artifact of Hollywood) the casting undermines the story’s narrative about race in a racist way. Casting is not colour-blind, even when people make efforts to cast without regard for race, because the race of the actor who is cast will be read by the audience in particular ways (assuming they know the race, which fandom has assured us of in Posey’s case at this point). This is part of why representation is important — so that actors from stigmatised groups are not continually used to further that stigmatisation. However, racism is entrenched at an institutional level within Hollywood. Even a person trying to write an anti-racist TV show can unintentionally make racist casting choices as a result.
Leads of colour are too rare for me to be comfortable arguing Posey shouldn’t have been cast. There’s no reason a lead of colour can’t be in a role which examines internalised racism. Where the problem lies, in my opinion, is in also casting the Hales as white. That’s what makes Scott’s arc about internalised racism so gross in this particular narrative about racism. White is not a politically neutral choice, but also a racial one. We can see why this flipping of the race dynamic is a problem when we lay it out like this (comparing Watsonian and Doylist politics):
- Werewolves = stand-ins for victims of racism within the show
- Scott = character of colour with internalised racism towards werewolves
- Derek = white character who is the recipient of racist acts and victim blaming
It means the racism is embedded in the character of colour (Scott), who articulates it towards a white character who is inhabiting the othered role within the text (Derek).
It’s inherently racist given the American context, and it’s embedded in the foundations of the show because: 1) the main narrative is about the evils of racism, 2) an actor of colour was cast as the protagonist who would at first buy in to racist thinking, and 3) the main victim is played by a white actor.
No matter how you dice it, this is racist. It’s not accidental that Scott is written this way — it’s part of the anti-racist theme of the show and done on purpose. It’s not Posey or Hoechlin at fault here for being cast and how they play the characters. It’s not even Davis’ fault in terms of him wanting to write an anti-racist narrative which explores internalised racism. It’s is Davis’ fault where intent and the institutional racism of Hollywood have intersected in the casting choices in a particularly gross way — given the show’s theme Davis should have been more politically aware during casting. But even placing the blame entirely with Davis isn’t right, because the realities of economics and MTV’s agenda in making this show would have had a big part to play in who was cast.
Honestly, though, given the themes of the show and the character dynamics, in some ways it would have been better to cast Derek as a person of colour, and Scott as white. Although then you have a character of colour getting all Derek’s torture and rape arcs, and… gross. Still hugely problematic in terms of a Doylist race reading.
This whole show is an unintentionally ironic example of institutional racism playing out. It couldn’t be a more perfect exemplar of how even with the best of intentions, people can end up being racist because it’s the default, and the wheels of capitalism are built to enable it.
Thank you for the additional commentary! All excellent points, and much better stated than I could have done. I personally think that a combination of casting the Hales as POC, and then having Scott come around to the whole wolf brothers thing sooner (or at least not be so ready to give benefit of doubt to the hunters), in addition to less terribly written and pointless pain for Derek (or just better writing in general, ha!) would solve most of these issues. I also think it would have made much more sense for Stiles, who is human as well as white, to be the one who initially suggested an alliance with the hunters, with Scott protesting that those are people who shoot first without even confirming that the werewolf they’re shooting at actually hurt anyone.
I think it’s interesting that a similar situation re: Scott’s role in this reading happened with Sitwell in CA:TWS and the Agents of SHIELD series. Fandom in that instance, or at least the parts of it I saw, was generally able to see the problems with having a part played by an actor of color end up being the mole for what is clearly a racist organization. Perhaps it’s because Sitwell wasn’t a lead character and the role of the mole could have been swapped out for another character, whereas Scott/Posey being a lead is very much cherished by many, and rightly so as it happens so rarely. Perhaps it’s because it’s made very clear that HYDRA is a decidedly supremacist organization - Skye even (refreshingly) calls out Ward on it when he tries to insist they are different, whereas in the first season of Teen Wolf it was stated that the hunters had good reason for doing what they do (and then undermining that by having the rabid werewolf alpha turn out to have been caused by a rogue hunter’s damage to him in the first place). And of course, within the Marvel universe, it’s absolutely true, so one doesn’t need to look so far, I suppose, to see that HYDRA is a racist organization, whereas one could give the hunters more benefit of doubt. The posts I saw generally puzzled over Marvel’s decision to go with Sitwell on this, criticizing it as obviously unlikely for a character of color to sympathize with a Nazi and supremacist organization. Yet similar puzzlement over TW’s choices - acknowledgment that the problem lies in TPTB who decided on all of these story elements - isn’t nearly as universal.
Again, I suspect the combination of having a lead character and actor of color being so dear (and again, rightly so) as well as (based on responses I have gotten previously) certain segments of TW fandom not understanding how the presentation of a gun-toting hate group declaring all of a minority group to be animals who probably should be shot could be perceived by some viewers as an obvious allegory for other kinds of existing hate groups, all of that led to many gut reactions of viewing any criticism of Jeff Davis’ handling of Posey’s character to be “Scott hate” and blaming Scott. And there are definitely plenty of racists in fandom who do just dislike Scott/Posey because he’s not white. (Fuck alla them.)
(Any Scott- or Posey-hating racists reading this, let me make clear to you that is not Scott- or Posey- hate, this is crit of white man Jeff Davis writing racism-based narratives and then not committing to it by casting more POC or making the racist narrative clearer. This is crit of him putting Scott/Posey in the position of being a character that sympathizes with what he set up as a hate group. So fuck off.)
ANYWAY, as I was saying, I think that knee jerk reaction possibly inhibited some of the discussion that we saw taking place rather more calmly in AOS fandom when the Sitwell situation was revealed in CA:TWS. I even saw several in TW fandom say that by virtue of casting Posey as Scott, nothing Davis has Scott do within the narrative could possibly be racist, and reading it as such was in itself racist.
To sum up my rambly response to your excellent commentary:
And Jeff’s use of what seems to me to be a very obvious oppressed-group-versus-bigots storyline while failing to think through the ramifications of making the werewolf family white and the resistant character who utters phrases like “well maybe they deserved it” (realize i am paraphrasing) a non-white character is definitely worthy of criticism. I do not think that a content creator should get to play in the “marginalized group being hunted by a bigoted hate group” sandbox and not pay due diligence to being thoughtful with the characters he then puts in that sandbox. Deciding to make the character played by an actor of color have early sympathies with the hate group - that is not paying due diligence.
But then I guess that assumes that Jeff even realizes the implications of what he’s writing, and that’s probably assuming too much.
A lot of people are asking what exactly Jared and Aisha said and I am literally too angry to want to retype it all but I just tweeted about it, so here:
And that’s basically the summary of it, there was more but I was a bit distracted by rage to catch all of what was said.
I am just so angry because it shows just such disrespect and misogyny and I can’t even describe how hurtful their comments were, as a female fan, as a woman and a person who values the stories and lives of women, to see such blatant disregard and scorn for the idea of female characters, especially after Jeremy Carver’s condescending remarks earlier, and I just…
I DON’T KNOW IF YOU KNOW THIS BUT YOU WERE MY FIRST FRIEND IN THIS CRAZY ASS FANDOM. i know you don’t watch the show anymore, but i still love you and i still following you! you were so approachable and darling and you continue to be. i get such a kick out of reading your reactions to my tags?? like so cute. so so cute. i just have a lot of fondess for you OK
we haven’t been friends for very long but i think you’re seriously hilarious. we both have the same sense of humor and i know talking to you means some laughter, which i need a lot as of late. i think that you are too hard on yourself because your graphics and the things you make are really lovely and people obviously see that! it isn’t just me!!! ur gr8 okay
OKAY OKAY i hope you know this one is for you!
you were one of my very first friends in this fandom? we don’t talk very often, but i always enjoy when we do!!! i think you’re great and i feel we are very similar in the things we like and our mindset!!! thank you so much for continuing to listen to me and follow me!!!!
i adore you. you’re hilarious and i got to watch as you went from this shy little lady to the person you are now which is a kick ass and take no bullshit type attitude. i love that you don’t care and that you literally threw confetti at your irl enemy. like. amazing. you’re such a great cosplayer?? and seriously u will forever be my muppet ok