I’ve been in many fandoms, over the years. Many, many fandoms. And in many of them, I’ve been queer-baited, and in many others, my existence as a slash fan wasn’t acknowledged, at all.
But this? Is the first time in my entire fannish life, in more than a decade, that I’ve actually felt my slash OTP might become canon. That it has a real shot at becoming canon.
This is why.
With Supernatural, we all knew that Dean would remain stolidly heterosexual in everything but subtext, no matter how perfectly we understood that he was in love with Cas, and that if Cas had taken a female form, they’d have been canon a long time ago. As much as I believed in their love, I never seriously expected it to become canon; the most I could hope for was subtext that was a lot less, well, subtexty.
Same thing with Sherlock. Or Suits. Or Star Trek. Or so many of my other fandoms. Each one of them set up a duo of same-sex characters that would, if they were not same-sex, already be in a romantic relationship. Each one of them delivered (or continues to deliver) on the Ho Yay, but never on the, uh, Ho. Pardon my French. It’s a case of always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
And that? Is because each of those shows hinges on this heteronormative brand, as it were, which cannot ever allow a character initially portrayed as straight to discover other sides of his/her sexuality. Heterosexuality is inviolable. Like a church. An institution. Homosexuality, while tolerated, is relegated to the sidelines, from where it dare not stray. Sexuality, in these shows and movies, is fixed. Rigid.
Real life, of course, is far more fluid. A person’s sexuality isn’t carved into a goddamn stone tablet like one of the ten commandments. An individual’s sexuality can evolve over time, developing in ways that the individual hirself may not have foreseen. Reality isn’t built on fear; reality is indifferent to prejudice or to our concepts of what should and shouldn’t be. Just because a father might want his son to be straight, doesn’t mean his son is going to turn out to be straight. Just because society in general may be more comfortable if two women didn’t want to get married and raise a child, doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of lesbians who do want to get married and raise a child. (In fact, many have already done both. Yay!)
The shows we’ve just spoken of aren’t quite so unbiased. They’re not reality; they’re fiction. They’re run by networks, and networks depend on ratings, and ratings depend on a general consensus among the viewing audience that the content of the show is acceptable. Thus, it isn’t surprising that most shows choose to play it safe. In fact, the more successful a show is, the less likely it is to be adventurous, because it has more to lose. Once heteronormativity has been embraced, it’s almost impossible for most networks to escape.
The only exceptions are teen-focused shows, such as Glee, in which the audience is younger and therefore more open-minded. But even then, there’s still that glass ceiling of heteronormativity; there may be a gay character that’s gay to begin with, but rarely is there a primary, popular character who is initially straight that then becomes more sexually complex.
Teen Wolf, though, has something none of those other shows have.
Actually, it has many somethings those other shows don’t have.
Here are those somethings, those glorious, glorious somethings:
1) A canonical gay character in a fictional world that has absolutely no traces of heteronormativity, at all. It’s a perfect world. It’s a world we’d all like to live in, that we are (hopefully) moving towards. It’s a world in which a gay guy can be a popular jock with a straight best friend who cares about and respects him, a world in which there’s literally no way in which his sexuality sets him apart from his peers or makes him less empowered than they are, in terms of his personal choices or freedoms.
2) A gay and out Executive Producer (go, Jeff Davis!) who is determined to create said non-heteronormative world and has deliberately placed the above-mentioned gay character (Danny) into that world. (See his interview at AfterElton.) In this non-heteronormative world, it is far more likely that a slash couple will become canon, if only because it won’t be held back by a compulsive need to maintain the heterosexual status quo. “What heterosexual status quo?” Danny asks. Good point, sir. Good point. Even Danny’s originally-portrayed-as-straight-but-now-maybe-bi best friend, Jackson, who gets all the girls (including the perfect Lydia Martin WHO I WOULD TOTALLY DATE, OKAY, JUST LOOK MY WAY, LYDIA), is open to gay flirting and dancing provocatively with another guy. The main character of the show, Scott McCall, is absolutely fine with dancing with another guy at the school prom (the school prom!), sniffing his perfume, following him to a gay bar and then getting hit on at the gay bar. Total non-issue. Hell, he likes getting hit on, because it means he’s just that fine. Yep. There’s absolutely no heteronormativity, here. In fact, there is such a glaring absence of heteronormativity that the school’s lacrosse coach tries to set Scott up with Danny. Repeatedly. I kid you not. How often are coaches portrayed as queer-friendly on mainstream television? How about, oh… NEVER. Until now. THIS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND ENTITIES OF AN INDETERMINATE OR UNDISCLOSED GENDER, IS THE PERFECT ENVIRONMENT FOR A SLASH PAIRING TO BECOME CANON.
3) A strong and vocal slash fanbase that hasn’t just been queer-baited (hello, Supernatural!) but has been directly and explicitly (heh) addressed and encouraged, to the point where Teen Wolf’s official Tumblr has used the “Sterek” tag. (Sterek, of course, stands for the main slash pairing of the show: Stiles/Derek.) Jeff Davis has read and responded (positively!) to the Sterek petition on his Twitter. The stars of the show have said that the directors regularly show them fanart and fanvids about Sterek. Dylan O’Brien (the actor who plays Stiles) has tweeted about a Sterek fanvid, calling it “so fucking awesome”. Finally, Tyler Hoechlin (the actor who plays Derek) has casually remarked on the fact that Jeff Davis has approached Dylan O’Brien about his character’s gay fans.
4) We all know that Stiles is actively portrayed as bisexual, and is shown to flirt with both boys and girls, going so far as to suggest making out with his best friend, Scott, and asking Danny whether Danny’s attracted to him. Oh, Stiles. Of course, this very likely has something to do with the previous point (re: Jeff approaching Dylan about the gayness), so. We know that Stiles, as a character, is being slowly and believably developed for some unspecified same-sex action. The fact that Dylan O’Brien also said that Stiles will never kiss a girl? Is pretty telling, too.
5) The actors playing Stiles and Derek deliberately shot a video about Sterek, on a ship, and said that the ‘shipping’ pun was very much intended. They also said that, in exchange for fan votes in the Teen Choice Awards, they’d deliver more quality Sterek content. NEVER BEFORE HAS ANY SHOW IN THE HISTORY OF EVER OPENLY BRIBED SLASH FANS IN EXCHANGE FOR VOTES. NEVER HAVE THEY BOARDED A SHIP AND THEN SHOT A VIDEO ON IT IN ORDER TO APPEAL TO THEIR SHIPPERS, JESUS CHRIST. (Hell, it worked. Their video had more than seventeen-and-half thousand notes on Tumblr within the first day.) The fact that the stars directly interacted with the slash fandom in this manner already shows how much more powerful the fandom is, in this show, although that’s probably only because it’s a smaller show and is far more dependent on pleasing every member of its audience - including the slash fans. With this kind of power, aren’t we a hell of a lot more likely to get what we want on the show, as well as on a, heh, ship?
6) Every single cast member has positive reactions to Sterek, and has openly encouraged it and/or talked about it. (For one example of this wonderful phenomenon, see this gif. There are many others, though. So many that I lost count. Colton Haynes, the cutie who plays Jackson, is widely regarded as the captain of the Sterek ship. He has been known to fist-pump when Sterek is mentioned.)
7) At the Comic-Con panel, Tyler Hoechlin said that Sterek is a distinct possibility. (And then he and Dylan held hands. No, not just that, they reached across the table to hold each other’s hands. DAMN THEM BOTH. …Ahem.)
8) Jeff Davis has repeatedly said that he is willing to consider making Sterek canon, and that he is not just trolling us. He has said that he isn’t just trolling us. (He had to say that because disbelieving Sterek fans kept freaking out and asking him if he was joking, and he said he wasn’t. Lol.) Don’t believe me? Just check his Twitter. He has also (in official documents and interviews!) referred to Derek and Stiles as a “pairing”. Uh, what?
9) AND THEN THERE WAS THIS. What the hell was that mysterious phenomenon? MTV edited out a playful comment Tyler Hoechlin made about Derek and Stiles not having a romance, haha, wink-wink. Apparently, MTV thought we might take it seriously and then deleted it. No other comments were deleted. Just that one. WHEN THE HELL EVER HAS ANY NETWORK REMOVED A HETERONORMATIVE COMMENT, INSTEAD OF REINFORCING IT? WHAT? Are they that worried about keeping us slash fans pleased? Or are they already planning to make Sterek canon, and don’t want one of their stars to go off-message? EITHER WAY, WE WIN.
10) The last reason is, arguably, the most important one. Because it’s the most practical one. Teen Wolf isn’t one of the big shows on the major networks that everyone of all ages watches. It’s not on HBO or Fox or the CW. It’s on MTV. MTV, which is primarily a music channel with a small selection of other programs. MTV, which doesn’t have the general populace to draw on, but a small subsection comprised mostly of teenagers (or those only just out of their teens). As a result, Teen Wolf has to work very, very hard for its ratings. It’s more likely to please its slash fanbase in order to keep those ratings, especially considering that the slash fanbase is a very, very large fraction of its fanbase as a whole. Large enough for it to edit its press releases to suit the slash fans, and for it to shoot promotional videos on ships, Jesus Christ, who even does that? Anyway, my point is that for the very simple reason of survival, Teen Wolf is more likely to give us Sterek. They’ve got everything to gain, and nothing to lose. They don’t have a stodgy older audience that’s going to get freaked out by the gayness; in fact, the Teen Wolf audience has uniformly and somewhat fanatically loved Danny, so they’re obviously more than okay with the gayness. The creators of Teen Wolf definitely don’t have network executives breathing down their necks about heteronormativity. Far from it. And in any case, their primary canonical romance will still be straight (Scott/Allison!), so they won’t lose the viewers who do enjoy that. All they’ll do is gain viewers who also enjoy Sterek. And that’s a lot of people. A lot-a-lot-a-lot-a-lot of people. All the people who reblogged that incredible ship video. All of them, and more.
Conclusion: Sterek is more than likely to become canon. For all that Tyler Hoechlin said it had a “50/50” chance (which is more than any other show has ever given a slash pairing!), let’s face it - its chances are even better than that. No network goes to the lengths MTV has gone to, to protect, nurture and encourage its slash fanbase, unless it plans to deliver to that fanbase. Not only did they go to the extent of making the promotional ship video (obviously, they thought it would yield generous results - they were right), but they also went to the effort of editing out that playful anti-Sterek comment, a phenomenon that has never before occurred in television history. Never before has any show gone to such lengths to deny that a slash pairing won’t be canon. Which, of course, means that it probably will be canon. These people aren’t insane; they won’t put all that time, effort and money into things that have no outcome. Sterek is, therefore, a very likely outcome.
Teen Wolf is at the center of that magic triangle (willingness from the creators and actors; license to thrill from the network; fan support) required to make a slash pairing a reality.
And for the first time in my fannish existence, I seriously think it’ll happen.
I really do.
I barely know what to do with myself other than to squirm excitedly like a three-year-old that is either a) in close proximity to an ice-cream van or b) really, really needs to pee.
…And there ends my essay. :D