cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

Teen Wolf and The Big Lie

Since my post about Scott yesterday, I have been thinking about the way lies have been used in Teen Wolf over the seasons.

Trigger warning: discussion of coded racism, with allusions to fascist ideology; mention of a non-consensual relationship.

I presume you are aware of the origin of the phrase "the big lie"? If not, you can find the Wikipedia entry here (warning for the racist philosophy of Hitler).

Before I go on, I'd like to give a caveat here: I am not picking this phrase and applying it to Teen Wolf in a trivial way, but rather to consider some of the ways in which Teen Wolf is genuinely giving coded social commentary about large-scale social issues, as nearly all genre storytelling does. I'm not claiming it always does this well, or sensitively, but it is because of this social commentary that I'm drawing a connection to an idea as politically (emotionally, ethically) loaded as "the big lie".

What I've been thinking about since I posted yesterday about Scott's lie to Allison, is the way in which the show has given us several lies, of varying degrees, but many of them verging on "big lies" in terms of their consequences.

Season 1: A bed of lies

In Season 1, we discovered that Kate had lied to and sexually manipulated Derek when he was 15 or 16, seducing him in order to kill his family. He still bears the emotional scars of this, and the consequences of her lie have not yet finished playing out in other ways as well. For example: Gerard's quest for revenge; Peter's continuing dysfunction; Derek's everything. But further than this, the lie and the destruction in wreaked created a taint we see throughout canon -- Derek's position as a social outcast was constructed in such a way that the audience was led to blame him for what was happening, and suspect his intentions. It was part of the plot of Season 1 that we should distrust him, and even once the truth was revealed, that he was actually the victim, there was and is still this taint, so that Scott, our viewpoint character, can in S3 still express little confidence or trust in Derek and his pack as a matter of course, but respect Chris Argent enough to sympathise with him and politely ask for his help.

To me, this big lie of Kate's and the fall-out it has created, when combined with the fact that the Hale family are werewolves, paints a strong parallel to racism. To be clear: this is not a perfect analogy, because the Hales are not people of colour (although as a non-American, I could not correctly read Derek as white at first; I thought it was possible he was part Jewish or Native American. I assume Americans would not have the same problem with reading race here). A lot of the rhetoric of the Hunters mirrors the kind of racist justifications I've heard in other contexts, and that subtle tainting of reputation with no real basis is likewise familiar to me, although more in the context of gender politics. So in this sense the race analogy is strong: werewolves in general, and Derek in particular, are othered consistently throughout the text, due to what they are, not what they have done.

I held off on discussing werewolves in terms of race politics in Season 1, despite recognising these signs, as I did not want to make a superficial "oh, look, a race analogy" commentary, for much the same reasons I am still hesitant to make simplistic commentary about the bite as a rape analogy -- if the text is not making deeper social comment through these devices, drawing the parallel doesn't seem to do much for the real suffering of real people.

I won't go into Peter's arc here, but will just mention that he was literally "lying" in bed pretending to be comatose as an alibi for murder; his psychotic break is pretty clearly meant to be read as one of the consequences of Kate's attacks (there are two pre-canon attacks we know of: the seduction of Derek, and the fire) on the Hales.

Season 2: Lies of omission

So let's move on to Season 2, in which we have four five "big lies". First, Scott's lie to Allison, when he didn't tell her Victoria tried to kill him. This one lie of omission underpinned much of Allison's arc, and as a result was also a major driver of the plot as a whole. I talked about that in my previous post, so I won't go into it again here, except to point out that Scott's lie of omission became the bedrock for Allison's endorsement of the bigotted Hunter ideology being pushed by Gerard. So here again, we have lie linked to othering werewolves in a way that reminds me of racist propaganda.

We also had Lydia being kept in the dark, the consequences of which paralleled Allison's story, in that Lydia also became vulnerable to a psychopathic older man (and remember, this Peter was born out of Kate's big lie).

Then there was Jackson's lie to the Sheriff, which closed the door on Stiles going to the authorities for help. This was an interesting lie, because in a strictly factual sense it was not a lie at all -- Stiles, Scott and Allison did kidnap him. Of course, Jackson was murdering people, and he conveniently didn't mention that part, so it was again, a lie of omission.

ETA: I forgot to add this lie originally, because I've written about it before in meta about S2. Scott's lie to Derek about joining the pack, which was one of the few big lies also told to the audience, was central to the season's plot, and is one of the main reasons I called Scott a paradoxical hero (in that the text seems to laud him for reprehensible actions) in my S2 meta. I won't repeat myself here, except to point out that Scott's lies have caused almost as much suffering in the text as Kate's, but so far he's rarely been called on them. It will be interesting to see whether that changes as he grows up. /ETA

Finally, we have Stiles' continuing lies of omission to his father. One consequence was the Sheriff losing his job, and the other is the destruction of trust between them. However, this particular lie is a long game, so we haven't seen the true pay off yet.

There are many interesting aspects of these lies, but one of the biggest is something Scott himself (ironically) comments on: no-one trust anyone. These lies are part of a culture of fear and silence; people think if they talk about what's happening, they won't be believed or helped by those with authority, and the text seems to endorse that judgement. There's no-one to turn to for help, because the well of trust has been poisoned, and everyone seems suspect. Again, I've seen similar things happen when people try to raise issues such as racism or sexism or rape, and are told they are playing the "race card" or "gender card" and are effectively silenced and disbelieved, so that there's a reluctance to raise the issue again the next time it happens.

In canon, this is the point at which the Hunt for the scapegoatswolves begins.

Season 3: Lies to protect?

Three times is a pattern. The indications so far are that lying is once again going to be both a major theme and a plot element, but it's too soon to say if it will also be linked to the race analogy.

We have already seen some key scenes about lying. Scott was actually called out on his earlier lie to Allison, and justified having done it to protect her (so the memory of her mother wasn't damaged). We then have Derek telling Isaac a lie about not being welcome with the intention of getting him out of the danger zone (and playing right into the Alphas' hands, no doubt). Stiles, of course, is still lying to the Sheriff, who has already begun to suspect that there's "something in the water", and his reasoning is also to protect his father.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. I predict that the lies will be about internalised racism this time. It will be about werewolves hating themselves for being werewolves; Kate's lie will continue to spawn new horrors, and the new lies will cause new tragedies.

And underpinning it all is our growing awareness of biggest lie of all, the lie we've come to expect in the werewolf genre: werewolves are monsters, Hunters are protecting the innocent, and ordinary people are too fragile for the truth. This entry was originally posted at
Tags: discussion, meta, teen wolf
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