So let’s address this Sterek issue? Out loud.
Everyone has a reason to be upset. That aside, it’s important to be able to address what Posey said, what Hoechlin said, what it means, and why it’s harmful to everyone involved.
First, this hate for both Posey and Hoechlin? Put that away. It’s unnecessary. The way we’re going to look at this is to step away from who your favorite is, and strictly analyze what they are saying, how they said it, and what it could possibly mean. A biased analysis is a shitty analysis, and in order to make a good argument you must look at all sides. So let’s begin.
I’ll first talk about Posey, because he was asked first.
I directly quote,
“I think that Sterek is a bizarre, weird, twisted thing. And I think that anyone who pays more attention to Sterek than the show, um, isn’t watching the show for the right reasons. And that’s—that’s all I gotta say about that.”
So we’re going to do a basic analysis first.
- According to Posey, Sterek is three things: “bizarre, weird, and twisted.”
All negative connotations, all words that you wouldn’t use to describe something that makes you happy. Right? Can it be considered homophobic? Yes.
Let’s cue a flashback to the 1960’s, the decade where Americans saw a rise in protests and riots for basic human rights, respect, and acknowledgment. The feminists, people of color, transgender individuals, and the queer population, all wanted an escape from the systematic discrimination they faced. To stay focused on what this is about, let’s consider and remember that the majority of the queer and all of the transgender population was and sometimes still is called “bizarre, weird, and twisted.”
Being fair, maybe Posey wasn’t even aware of what he was saying. That doesn’t excuse what he said though, and how many people it hurt.
- “Anyone who pays more attention to Sterek isn’t watching for the right reasons.”
Emphasis here is placed on there being a correct way to watch a television show, and that this specific pairing is a wrong reason. Why is it a wrong reason? Well, think about what Teen Wolf was suppose to be, and what it became.
It is, technically, Posey’s show. He’s the teen wolf. He’s our main in an ensemble cast, and yet, is probably the least popular of his co-actors. There are people who will turn this into a race thing. It is not a race thing. It’s a writing thing.
Posey’s character is the most boring. Plain and simple. Posey is not boring, but Scott McCall is. He is not an enchanting character. He is sweet, cares too much, and is incredibly selfish. Is Scott McCall a likable character? Yes, he is. Is he a sympathetic character? Yeah, he sure can be. Is he interesting? Not necessarily. And that’s an issue you take up with the writers–it has nothing to do with Posey’s ethnic background. That stays out.
Overall, his response is, no matter how you see it, rude and disrespectful to numerous fans. Homophobic implications should be duly noted.
Moving on to Hoechlin’s answer at a recent convention, which is actually really long. So here is what we should actually be paying attention to:
“But for me, personally, just because I have so much respect for Derek as the character and for Stiles as the character that… for me, it’s like, to live in that, or to really think about that… I… just for me, personally, as the actor playing the character… I feel like I would be disrespecting the character, so I don’t really entertain it, or even think about it, just because for me, it’s such a separate thing, it has… it doesn’t really have anything to do with what happens on the show.”
“I understand, I don’t personally understand… It… Completely. Um, I appreciate it. [laughter] You guys do what you wanna do. But to me it’s just like, I see the characters for who they really, actually are in the show, so it’s nothing to do with the work that I do. So that’s the only reason why I don’t really think about it.”
Here’s another basic analysis.
- “I have so much respect for Derek and for Stiles that I think to live in that, or to really think about that, I feel like it would be disrespecting the character.”
Okay. Let’s be honest here. “I think to live in that or to really think about that would be disrespecting the character.” is not a positive thing. It’s not a good thought to have. Is this homophobic? The short answer is, yeah. It is. It sounds very homophobic.
Why is it disrespectful to think about that, or to have the characters live in that? And what exactly does it mean? These are important questions to ask, even if it’s something you don’t really want to do.
Because let’s face it, in Hoechlin’s defense, he was always excited about Sterek. Suddenly, there’s news about Sterek fanart being banned from conventions, there’s a sudden decline in scenes featuring Stiles and Derek together, and now Hoechlin is coming out with this big statement. To most people, his answer is weird. It’s strange that he said this. However, prompted or not, this was said. We have to consider what it means.
- “You guys do what you wanna do. But I see the characters for who they really, actually are in the show, so it’s nothing to do with the work that I do.”
Hoechlin heavily implies the ability to interpret here, which is something I want to discuss more in depth later on. Essentially, when he works with the script, he doesn’t necessarily work with Sterek in mind.
- “It’s such a separate thing, it has nothing to do with what happens on the show.”
So with that direct quote, we have what is canonically true, according to Hoechlin, and we have the fan’s interpretation, which he acknowledges. It’s a disclaimer of sorts. Sterek belongs solely to fandom, and Teen Wolf has nothing to do with it. Upsetting? Sure.
Is it bad that he doesn’t interpret Derek that way? Not really. But there are issues with what he said, that imply that there are reasons Derek isn’t interpreted that way.
Here’s the important thing to remember. Favorites aren’t exempt from criticism. These responses, whether subtle or obvious, imply homophobia, misinterpretation, and even ignorance. The only difference is that one is less respectful than the other.
And I’ll start by repeating myself—don’t turn this into a race thing. This is not a race thing. This is a stereotype thing, and an ignorance thing.
So there are three factors that people gloss over when they have an opinion, specifically regarding a show or a movie.
There is fandom interpretation, there is the actor’s interpretation, and there is the writer’s intent.
The fandom feeds off of material. Our eyes scan for symbolism and metaphors. We can argue subtext and use clips or moments that may even last less than a minute, as evidence to prove our points. The great thing is that we aren’t exactly wrong. Interpreting a scene is like analyzing a book in an English class. We collect evidence and argue our interpretation’s validity, and end up with a conclusion that is reasonable to believe. X and Y determines that Z is true—fandom is born for inductive, valid arguments.
Issues with interpretation, however, is that it never really leads to a sound argument—our conclusion is not true, because in essence, we’re defending an opinion we have about something. With enough evidence for our argument, we can make enough valid points to possibly even change someone’s mind, or at least have them think differently. The Sterek fandom has this amazing ability to analyze and interpret.
What makes fandom so great is that with interpretation we are able to accept information and communicate it in ways that allow for deeper learning and maybe even self-identity. Being able to interpret is so important to us, not just as fans, but as people, because even if the writer says it is canonically wrong or untrue, we can still argue and prove ourselves right. Meanings found by you belong to you and no one else.
Then there is the actor’s interpretation. So something that I heard, and I honestly don’t know from where, is that if you want act, you’ve got to fall in love with writing. It’s just something I’ve always heard, and it’s hard to say that these actors haven’t fallen in love with their characters.
No one is as dedicated to Scott or Teen Wolf as Tyler Posey is, and no one is as dedicated to Derek’s character building and history as Tyler Hoechlin is. These actors love their characters, and that is something you really cannot argue.
Now, I don’t have a lot of experience with acting. But when you’re acting, you put a lot of yourself in the character, until you are that character. You are that feeling, that moment, that guy that you’ve spent so much time reading about. But let’s get one thing straight. The character is not you. That’s an important, glossed over distinction. The problem with many actors is that when they interpret characters, there is a tendency to interpret with their sexuality in mind—if the actor wouldn’t do it, then the character wouldn’t. That simple. Is it really though?
It’s not. Everyone thinks of Neil Patrick Harris with this. He wouldn’t kiss a girl in real life, as himself, because he’s strictly attracted to men. But when he’s acting? He’s not Neil Patrick Harris when he’s acting. He’s this really straight guy macking on a hot girl 24/7. He’s pining after women.
However, it’s a problem when it’s the other way around? It appears so. And this “issue” isn’t specific to Teen Wolf either.
Luke Grimes left True Blood over a gay scene he felt uncomfortable in. He didn’t want any same-sex anything, which is outrightly homophobic, as a professional actor. This is why this entire thing is important to talk about.
It’s an acting issue. If you’re straight, we have to consider your feelings about you with the same sex, but if you aren’t straight and they want you with the opposite sex, it’s the normal thing. We are told to just do it, because it’s the norm. We’ll call this heteronormity.
But fuck that. Let’s be real about this–pretending to be straight is easy. We’ve been doing it for years. We come out to break away from this facade only to have others push us back, until we are strong enough to push against them. So it’s important that we are represented. But why is it hard for people when it’s the other way around? One word.
Homophobia. It’s a big issue. It also has to do with stereotyping. Which is completely harmful, let me tell you.
I recently found out people thought I was a complete lesbian, because I’m dating this girl, and probably because my hair is short, and I’m not really gender specific. Your stereotyped lesbian right here, apparently. Why is this harmful?
Because I like dick too. Yeah.
Do I look like somebody who likes dick? Probably not. But you don’t have to look like you like anything in order to like it. You don’t have to “seem” like the type either.
Does anyone watch Shameless? This is Mickey Milkovich. He says something like, “What I like don’t make me a bitch.” Why does a written male character have to be specifically effeminate to like dick? Seriously, look at Mickey.
It’s not that being feminine is a bad thing, either! It’s the arresting image that guys who like other guys must be feminine in order for their same-sex attraction to be possible, because apparently that’s the only type of gay guy there is. But is it really?Hell no.
Guys in suits, guys who can break your arm in five seconds flat, fat and chubby guys, really cute guys girls wanna ask out, but he’s actually crushing on the guy who sits two desks away from him. People put so much thought into sexual orientation and how it affects gender, but it’s not that complicated.
We like what we like, but our sexual orientation isn’t the most important thing about us, nor the most interesting.
Now let’s talk about the writer’s intent.
The writer’s intention is different from the actor’s interpretation, which is different from the fandom’s interpretation. There is another thing I learned, in my writing class, about characters and acting. We don’t actually know Derek Hale or Scott McCall—and I’ll tell you why. The only thing we do know, is their interpretation of Scott McCall and Derek Hale. We know who they think and believe these guys are. The real Scott McCall? The real Derek Hale? They exist in text. They only exist in the script. These characters don’t come to life until you put yourself in them, and that changes who they are or who they were meant to be. Different actors would have brought different things to these guys. That’s the undeniable truth.
And it leads to my final point.
This all falls into interpretation, and education. That’s the problem. People have different interpretations and varying opinions, and the reason that they do is because their experiences are different.
People are uneducated, and it isn’t always their fault that they are. Most of these people are straight and comfortable with their assigned gender, and don’t really think they need to know about these other identities. Most of these people might not even know a gay or bisexual person, who breaks whatever they think a gay or bisexual person is. It doesn’t cross their mind to learn more, because it isn’t placed any importance on. What people think is important is acknowledging it exists, and they say that everyone is the same, it doesn’t matter. It does matter though. Respecting these identities matter more than only knowing that they exist.
So we interpret the way we do because we are desperate to see something that’s real and relatable to us. We want to see ourselves in something, so we pour our experiences and desires into scenes and characters, and we come out with our own meaning. The beautiful thing is that there is no one who can take that away from you.
Honestly? Keep analyzing away. Writers, write! And artists, do your thing. If someone doesn’t understand something, teach them gently and patiently. And if after that they want to remain ignorant, just walk away. You seriously don’t need that in your life.
But you can’t fight fire with fire. Hate is only going to spread more hate, and what we need is to educate ourselves and each other on things we don’t understand.
Besides, you shouldn’t depend on Teen Wolf if this is what you want. Turn of your brain for the show, but you want something utterly amazing with gay dudes who aren’t based on stereotypes?
These are just three I can vouch for because I’ve actually seen them–I know there are other shows who do it right. What shoes do you watch that has amazing representation? Let me know!
Don’t lose hope–if you don’t see what you want, then create it. Art is an amazing gift we are all capable of–don’t be afraid to use it.