Thursday, March 20, 2014

Talking Teen Wolf: On Mourning Character Death And the Loss of Allison Argent

It happened, and I still haven’t really accepted it – although I swear to goodness MTV if this is all an elaborate trick I will hurt you, I don’t know how I am going to hurt a faceless corporation but I will figure it out and it will suck for you. Anyway, as you can tell I’m a little upset by what happened to Allison Argent, and I wanted to vent share my feelings with you. 

Can I tell you how much I loved Allison Argent? Because I loved her a lot. She wasn’t my favorite character (alas Lydia and Derek are the ones that stole my heart) but there is little doubt in my mind that she was THE BEST character on this show. She defied all my expectations and I really hope that a whole generation of girls see Allison and realize that just because they hero falls in love with you doesn’t mean you can’t be a hero in your own right.

If you want to know more about my love for Allison Argent please check out this post I wrote for The Geekiary: What’s so Special About Allison Argent?

Anyway because Allison Argent was so amazing, and because she was part of our pack, it’s understandable that Teen Wolf fans took her loss pretty hard. If you weren’t upset I am side-eyeing you right now. Allison telling Scott that she loved him as she died in his arms? That shit is heartbreaking. Tears were shed. Most of them were my mothers, she’s old, these things make her emotional (sorry mum).

Now when something like this happens there are always going to be people that say we are overreacting. People who think it’s ridiculous to mourn a fictional character. You know what, screw those assholes. Mourning Allison’s death is a sign that we cared, and caring about something passionately is not a bad thing. In fact I kind of feel sorry for the people that don’t understand the emotional loss of losing a character you love because it means they have never experienced the joy of being invested in fiction.

The thing about loving fictional characters is that a lot it happens in side of our heads. The television show – book, movie, comic, whatever – gives us a glimpse into these characters lives and we’re expected to fill in the blanks. So in a way every time we invest in a character we are giving them a piece of ourselves. When that character dies, it’s like losing that part of ourselves and it hurts. So much.

We’re not overreacting we’re expressing healthy emotions over the loss of something that was important to us. Anyone that tries to make you feel bad for mourning Allison Argent is an asshole.

On the flip side of things there has been a bunch of discussions about the problematic trend of killing female characters in Teen Wolf. This upset a lot of the people who were just trying to deal with Allison’s death. So there’s this argument happening that assumes you have to pick a side. Like you can either appreciate Allison and everything that happened to her or you can complain about the treatment of female characters. But it’s a little more complex than that.

Look here’s the thing – there is definitely a problematic trend of killing more significant female characters than male characters. For details check out this post by Tumblr user apriki and this article at The Daily Dot.  This is a thing that is happening and Allison’s death adds to this trend, as well as diminishing the number of female characters on the show and losing THE ONLY female relationship on the show. It’s a problem.

BUT we also know that Crystal Reed chose to leave Teen Wolf because, as she told EW, “I love the art. And I felt like, creatively, there were things I wanted to do differently, and I wanted to explore other avenues of film and TV. I wanted to jump into different characters. You know, I’m 29. So I think the age difference was something I wanted to change as well because she’s 17. I love the show so much. So I went to Jeff and talked about it and he said, ‘We’ll write you a great ending.’”

And you know what, it was pretty great ending. If Allison was going to go she had to go down fighting because there is no way she would leave her friends or her father voluntarily and I would have hated to see Allison fade into obscurity forgotten like Jackson or Cora. Allison died to save her best friend and it was beautiful. It’s not like Jeff consciously decided to kill of one of only two lead females because he hates women. Crystal WANTED to leave, and he gave Allison the farewell she deserved.

The thing is though, none of that alters the discrepancies I discussed above. Just because they are not consciously trying to kill more women than men, doesn’t mean they’re not doing just that. Because they are. And the reason they are doing that is institutionalized privilege. Our subconscious is geared to favor straight white men, so we do that without even noticing that that’s what we’re doing. In order to combat that underlying imbalance we have to acknowledge the problem and make a conscious effort to change it.

Allison’s death is not in itself problematic. She wasn’t fridged, she died because the actress wanted to leave, it was reasonably well done considering Jeff’s not great at hitting those emotional beats. But her death didn’t happen in a vacuum, it effects and is affected by the world around it. So you look at her death and go: hey Teen Wolf, I don’t know if you’re aware of this but you actually have a habit of killing strong female characters and now that Allison has gone there is an even bigger gap in representation. What are you gonna do about it?

And they should do something because more female characters sticking around for longer could never be a bad thing. No doubt they will bump Kira up to the main cast but just means Teen Wolf is the same as it was before Kira was introduced. It doesn’t actually do anything to combat the problems. And as much as I love this show, I still want to see women better represented.  

The hard line is this: it is possible to love Allison Argent, respect Crystal’s decision to leave, enjoy the show and still acknowledge the problematic aspects. Check out this FANTASTIC blog on How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things and then go back to weeping over the loss of one of the best female characters ever.