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Into The Hive Mind: Addiction, Fandom And 'Teen Wolf'

Christine Bancroft |
October 30, 2013 | 5:58 p.m. PDT


Tyler Posey plays Scott McCall, just your average teenager who can shapeshift into a wolf. You know. (MTV)
Tyler Posey plays Scott McCall, just your average teenager who can shapeshift into a wolf. You know. (MTV)
Okay, so first things first: Prior to writing this column, I knew nothing and actively avoided "Teen Wolf," not because of any sort of aversion to the show itself, but because, from what little I'd seen, it appeared to be yet another addiction that I can't afford. I am much too caught up in waiting six months to two years between seasons for my show. 

But I knew I was going to have to delve into the fandom at some point, and I thought, what better time than October to do a spooky column about werewolves, lycanthropy and MTV? 

I am all about the spooky. 

Subject: "Teen Wolf," MTV

"Teen Wolf," the 2011 MTV series starring Tyler Posey, Dylan O'Brien and Tyler Hoechlin, is loosely based off the 1985 high school comedy of the same name, which starred Michael J. Fox as a high school basketball player and, in a shock twist that surprised no one who read the film's title, a werewolf.

I note that it is loosely based, because the show takes the "Darker and Edgier" twist on it, focusing on the isolation and potential implications of being outcasted in such a way. Supernatural elements aside, being a teenager sucks. High school is all about fitting in and going (relatively) unnoticed by your peers; anything that makes you different is liable to make you a target. However, in both the 1985 film and the 2011 show, student/werewolf/protagonist Scott (in this version, played by Tyler Posey) is able to benefit from his newfound abilities and achieve success socially and athletically. Even so, Scott needs to keep his identity as a wolf a secret from the populace, which drives the plot (as does the internal conflict of identity between man and wolf). 

According to several sources, "belonging" is the true theme of the show, wrapped up in a tidy package with lycanthropy and a heavy dose of drama. 

Supposedly, the producers of the show were influenced by "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," making a suburban high school a supernatural ground zero and centering around group conflict, conflict of identity and secrecy. 

The fandom: No definitive name

No, but seriously. Teenage werewolves. What's not to like? (Twitter)
No, but seriously. Teenage werewolves. What's not to like? (Twitter)
Unlike many other Internet-heavy fandoms, the "Teen Wolf" fandom doesn't have an agreed upon name. But then, they don't really seem to be yearning for one. Their collective identity is not in a word, but in a mutual love affair with the show. 

The show’s ratings have been highest within the female 12-34 demographic, and it’s easy to see the draw: the drama contrasted with periods of wit, the chemistry between the actors and the high-quality performances or even because, yes, the cast is incredibly attractive, everyone has their own reasons to watch. The fandom is a draw, too. Sometimes, people are just so inundated with “Teen Wolf” hullabaloo that they’ll start an episode, and then, three sleepless days later, they’ll be full-blown addicts. 

I’ve seen many good people go down the road of addiction, my friends. It’s hard to go through and even harder to watch. 

If you’re going to have to pick an addiction, this is one of the better ones out there—this coming from a person who has recently been placed on a baking ban because I made too many pies. “Teen Wolf” is available for free on MTV.com and is therefore less liable to drain your pocket money than most habits; however, I can’t say that it will be any less likely to interfere with your personal, academic or professional life than any other dependency.

Pick your poison, friend. I am typing this amongst a sea of apple cinnamon scones because I refuse to admit I have a baking problem. 

Fan activity: Creative output, teas, cosplay, meta- and mythos-analysis

"Teen Wolf" returns for the second half of season three on Jan. 6. Have fun! (Twitter)
"Teen Wolf" returns for the second half of season three on Jan. 6. Have fun! (Twitter)
Like most other fandoms, the “Teen Wolf” fandom has a propensity for creativity. In an ideal world, fandom is a non-judgmental, safe space for creativity, forming a sort of creative machine for art, writing and everything in between. (Whether or not this is true in reality is questionable, but that’s beside the point.) 

Noted “Teen Wolf” fan (as well as a well-known fan in other fandoms, including “Sherlock,” “Night Vale” and “Doctor Who”) Cara McGee made a name for creating fandom-inspired teas on Adagio, a mix-and-match tea site. She breaks down characters, designs labels and creates the tea blends, which exploded on the multi-fandom scene enough that she gets paid a minute amount for every blend purchased. 

Additionally, whenever there is a mythology to explore behind a subject, you can bet your sweet butt that the fandom is going to delve right in and dissect it. Just look at what happened to “Harry Potter”—there’s still information about the wizarding world being discovered by fans, 20 years after the first novel. 

“Teen Wolf” is no different. Many cultures have differing mythos on lycanthropes, shapeshifters and similar supernatural creatures, and this provides changing opinions on what the “Teen Wolf” werewolf culture is like. The show has established some canonical facts, including depictions of telepathy, memory input and removal, pack mentality and pack hierarchy, but much has not been explored. This leaves an opening for fans to world-build, creating “headcanons” to fill the voids left by the in-show material. 

Fan resources:

You can watch the entire show, for free, here. Be warned—I’m not just saying the show is addictive for the hell of it. I had a friend watch all the episodes in two days. I don’t know if she slept or ate. 

According to my source Bre, here are some of her favorite reference Tumblrs, including a meta-analysis resource for all your needs. Teen Wolf Today, sinyhale, Chasing Shadows, Teen Wolf Meta (note that the latter has not updated in some time, but its backlog and archive have some valuable posts that may interest new or long-time fans alike)

"The fandom is different because we get things done," Bre said. "This isn't just because of our passion, but because the creator/writer of the show actually listens to us...'Teen Wolf' is all about being progressive. We wanted a disabled character, so there was one. We wanted to see more of an LGBTQ minor character, so we're getting more."

Additionally, the "Teen Wolf" Tumblr and Twitter pages routinely host Q&As with the creators to address questions or discussions that have cropped up in the fanbase. 

And, as always, I have linked the TV Tropes page for your convenience (presented with an additional warning for addictiveness. If you feel the urge to click further, use discretion. My computer was collapsed under the sheer incapability of running 232 TV Tropes tabs at once.) 

For the newer fans, it may be worth noting that ostensibly the most popular ship in the show, “Sterek,” is a portmanteau of Stiles and Derek, played by Dylan O’Brien and Tyler Hoechlin, respectively. From what I have gleaned, it seems like the actors and the writers kind of ship it too. 

I don’t know if the show itself is spooky, per se, but werewolves. Werewolves are spooky as hell. So spooky. Much creepy. So turn on, tune in and hunker down—prepare yourself to be sucked into the “Teen Wolf” fandom. At this point, I’m not sure there’s any real use in resisting. Like I cannot resist my inner, undying urge to bake, many of you, too, will succumb to your inexplicable curiosity. 

See you in the aftermath, and Happy Halloween!

Have an idea for a column? Comments? Questions? Declarations of love? Bequeathals of gifts and riches? DELICIOUS, DELICIOUS RECIPES??? 

You can reach Columnist Christine Bancroft here, via her stupid Twitter here. Also through any number of smoke signals, carrier pigeon messages, Morse or enigmatic communiqués. She is currently making a secret no-bake pumpkin cheesecake, which allows her to circumvent her baking ban.  



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