Q:"But my dash is full of ... when it should be full of outrage" People mostly blog about things they like. What do you want teen wolf fans to do? Do you want fans to be upset and blog about it every day until the show starts? The new season hasn't even started filming yet. We don't have much information about the plot or the characters. What do you want Jeff to do? Fire the actors and actresses MTV hired? That won't happen.
Yes, I do want Teen Wolf fans to be upset. There are definite racial problems in the casting and packaging of the show, and I want fans to be aware of that. I’m not saying that we should harass Jeff Davis, or that we should stop watching the show. But I am asking the fandom as a whole to step back from their idolization of Jeff and understand the ways that he has refused to apologize or admit to his white privilege.
Tumblr is a fantastic source of knowledge about social and racial issues. The Teen Wolf fandom has brought me beautiful character studies, graphics, fic, and in-depth assessment of story arcs. It taught me that I chould recognize a show’s (or character’s) faults and still love it. It has also brought to my attention some badly used tropes, race issues, and the way that Jeff Davis deleted his tumblr instead of facing fans’ accusations. (That’s like being in a fight, realizing you don’t have a good argument for what you’re doing, yelling one last parting shot and then slamming the door behind you.) Not cool, and not a polite way to treat fans who have legitimate questions.
These fans, by the way, are the same ones who have given Jeff so much fame for their Sterek campaign. So Jeff welcomes our advances when we give him popularity and After Elton polls, but rejects us when we want to discuss issues in the way that he mistreats racial minorities.
And you’ll notice that the last Tweet Jeff sent before he closed down his Twitter was a shoutout to the Sterek fans. So he was asked by fans why he didn’t cast according to the character’s actual race, addressed those questions poorly, decided to close his Twitter to “focus on work,” and then reminded fans to talk about STEREK, which earns him points, instead of race, which is icky and causes him problems!
The issue is that Jeff Davis seemed to genuinely think that no one would notice or care that he had cast a half-African American, half-White actress as an Indian character. Look, it’s bad enough when a light-skinned black actress plays a dark-skinned black character. You can read the post for yourself, but the gist of it is that the audience that relates to the character wants someone like them playing the role. Indian women watching Teen Wolf will feel that they are being made into a caricature because their character is not actually being played by an Indian woman.
This new character, Kali, is named after an Indian goddess. She is supposed to fight barefoot so she can attack enemies with her feet’s claws. Cool, right? But when you make the actress who plays her a black woman, then she becomes merely a non-Indian person playacting what she thinks Indian culture is about. Instead of an Indian actress showing respect for her own culture, she’s a black actress who doesn’t know the intricacies of Indian culture. If Jeff Davis or the writing team tell her to do something that seems Indian, she won’t know the difference enough to correct him or suggest changes to the script. This miscasting enables stereotypes and misconceptions.
And really, the worst part of it is that Jeff said that fans don’t realize that the show’s “resources” are limited. What kind of resources was he talking about—salary budget? You’re telling me, Jeff, that not one single Indian actress showed up for a role specifically designed for an Indian actress, whom you thought was a proper fit, and who accepted your salary? Really, not one?
So here are the basics: Jeff Davis has a history of refusing to admit his privilege in casting a White or passing cast, with the exception of background “no-life” black characters. He opened a casting call for “open-race” characters, meaning that anyone could audition but he reserved the right to make them White. He cast a slew of white characters for the new season, completely botched casting of the only non-white character, and then refused again to admit his fault and his privilege, shutting down his social media and his fans’ means of communication to him, but not before reminding them to focus on the shipping instead of the racial issues. And that’s all without mentioning the sexist way he introduced a character as a “love interest,” which you can bet your ass I’ll get into later.
And yet my dash is full of unwavering Jeff Davis support and calls for Sterek, as if nothing happened.
So yeah, I want you to be upset.