Twin Personae: Teen Wolf, Sexuality and Split Identity

Something I’ve been meaning to write about are the twins on Teen Wolf.

So, meet Ethan and Aiden:

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These guys are amazing additions to the Teen Wolf pack in season 3. Season 3a saw them more as enemies, whilst season 3b saw them more as companions for Scott and the gang. Back story aside, these guys are interesting for several reasons, and the primary reason to focus largely upon is their portrayal of split sexuality, bi-erasure and their ability to conjoin.

First you have the gay twin Ethan who has been coupled with the only other gay guy on the show Danny:

 

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Meanwhile you have his straight counterpart Aiden and his coupled partner Lydia:

 

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And then you have the powerful combination of Aiden and Ethan united:

 

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When they combine, they literally punch through one another’s bodies and pull themselves together to form one super Werewolf. They are definitely a force to be reckoned with in this show.

But interestingly, this transformation or morphing into one super werewolf provides a different insight into bisexuality. Considering the blatant focus on sexuality within the show’s narrative and its parent company MTV, these twins represent something far more queer than their overt hetero- and homonormativity would suggest. It is as if the bisexual yin-yang, in order to operate sufficiently, must remain separate and active at all times.

Their constant sexualisation through the camera’s oft focus upon their semi nude bodies suggests they are sex symbols; that they are there for visual pleasure a la Laura Mulvey (1973); but, they also represent something newer and less represented in the contemporary mediated form: the male bisexual.

There is a whole host of academic literature surrounding the notion of bi-erasure, which, in simple terms, suggests that bisexuality merely does not exist. It is uniquely a transitory phase towards homosexuality or a return to heterosexuality. Additionally, it suggests that bisexuality is merely experimental in nature and helps one self-identify as rather gay or straight and nothing in between.

I think what MTV and Teen Wolf have done is extremely fascinating and progressive should you read Ethan and Aiden as two parts of a single whole. Their transformation then suggests that bisexuality is something that, when looked upon from an outsider’s perspective is both monstrous and unlikely (thus the only time they combine is when they have already transformed into a werewolf and further morph into a super werewolf). It is something only supernatural transmogrification can permit and not something modern, natural society accepts; thus, we have a great dichotomy between the supernatural world and the normal world in Teen Wolf, and that is why it does remain that way. Moreover, upon de-transforming, the twins separate into their own disparate selves and [accepted] sexual identities. That is further when they become symbols of sexiness and powerfully lust-inducing figures.

My final observation of their symbolic status can only be explained through an immense spoiler. So, my warning to you, is that if you haven’t seen the finale for Season 3, and you intend to watch it soon, please do not read the next paragraph. This is your ending here. Take away what you will from my bisexuality observation of Ethan and Aiden and question the manner in which these two characters live in tandem with one another (they can even feel the other’s physical pain!).

As for those that will not have the following information spoiled, what I find extremely intriguing is that the straight half (Aiden) dies. Why I find this extremely telling is that, the old saying about bisexuals is that bi women end up with men and bi men end up with men. That maxim (for want of another word) is one that was also taken from the fabulous MTV soap opera Undressed. If that is the most common claim about bisexual men, then it only makes sense to read Aiden and Ethan as such and that the straight half must die upon entering into a relationship with a male partner. Now, this may be pure speculation, but, in terms of bisexuality, I would argue that the same-sex attraction would never leave even during an opposite-sex relationship; however, I would not argue the same for the opposite situation. But like I said, I may be perpetuating a negative stereotype or may have a completely skewed understanding of bisexuality, but it might be 100 percent accurate or hogwash for that matter.

 

Anyhow, if you have any comments or suggestions, please do so!

Hellbent: A Queer Occurrence

Slasher has gone through many phases, cycles, changes from its early inceptions to the present day. These films have a varied founding, with conflicting ideas of their origination (some saying with TCM or Black Christmas in 1974 and others pointing to Hitchcock’s Psycho). Whatever the case may be, there have been many imaginations of the formula. Hellbent (2004),

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directed by Paul Etheredge,

is a re-imagining of the horror subgenre, not in that it does something new with the narrative structure, rather it plays with notions of gender and sexuality.

One commonality amongst many slasher films is the final girl. Carol Clover coined this term in 1993 in her book Men, Women and Chainsaws, which, simply enough, identified that there was typically one surviving female character who was ultimately victimised and terrorised until she is either saved by a man or saves herself. Hellbent reinvents the final girl by shifting her gender to a male character, thus creating the final boy.

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Not only is the final surviving character’s gender altered, but so too is his sexuality. What remains, then, is a semblance of the same heroic male figure who must sacrifice himself in some form for the final victim’s survival.

What Hellbent has done, however, is not change solely the final surviving character, rather, the entire stereotypical character pool has undergone a sexuality shift. Where they haven’t shifted, however, is through the fetishisation or sexualisation of the minoritised body.

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As you can see in the photo above, both men are figured as sexual objects to one another. But through their positioning, we understand that the final boy is looking at/lusting after his male, shirtless, counterpart. Not only is this preconfigured through editing and positioning, but it is also configured through the accentuated lighting, which highlights in darkness an idealised/fetishised male physique. Moreover, we can even move as far to say that, through our identification with the final boy, we the viewers are meant to fetishise the sexualised male. However, this is not meant to be a critique of filmic practices, rather an exploration of their alteration to queer an arguably heterosexual subgenre. I do find this an important step of progress in filmmaking, considering that, since the release of this film, there have been several new installations of queer horror.

One criticism I will give this film is that it is overly indebted to negotiating gay male stereotypes, which I find as a gay man to be at times frustrating. Etheredge obviously has in mind a vision to combat negative stereotypes often attributed to homosexuality, however he does not do so effectively with all of them. In fact, through this attempted negotiation, he perpetuates them further, entrenching the gay community into frivolity, capriciousness and promiscuity. The final boy is not the chaste figure the final girl presents, even though this is not so much an issue. What is an issue is that the final boy is easily provoked into sexual relations, a signal that even the most ‘moral’ of gay men are not moral. I admit that sexual interactivity is important to become visible, but not through weak characters. I’d rather see man whores who are proud of their various partners than a character forced into something. Moreover, it positions the final boy as a feminine character, moving away from an independent queer ideology that can be read from the final girl.

My final thought is this: I appreciate the efforts of the film and enjoy it as a film, but as a film that trumpets itself as ‘the first gay slasher’ it really needs to take a page out of Sleepaway Camp (1983) and focus on more non-normative affects of sexuality and identity.