Can fictitious idealism shape our realistic world?

Posted: November 6, 2013 in TV Shows
Tags: ,

I certainly hope so.

You’ve heard me talk about Teen Wolf time and time again, but I hope you don’t mind me bringing it up once more. (Okay, it won’t just be once more. But in my defense, it’s a pretty big part of my life, and I usually don’t stop thinking about it for more than a couple of hours at a time.)

Teen Wolf is not Glee.

And by that I mean Glee is a show about problems. They take a problem — alcoholism, homophobia, bullying, etc. — and turn it into a PSA. It’s an episode meant to highlight the realism of the show in order to portray the real world to the audience.

I’m not a Glee fan anymore, but this approach is fine. That’s what the show is designed to do and there are obviously enough people who enjoy and care about the way the show is written.

Teen Wolf is the opposite of that. Teen Wolf presents an idealistic world. There are still “problems,” but they don’t highlight them in order to make a statement about them. The one major plus to Teen Wolf is that this is a world without homophobia.

How amazing is that?

Teen Wolf Danny Smile

One of the most popular characters on the show is Danny. Danny is gay, but he’s so much more than that. He’s a lacrosse player, he’s a hacker, he’s super smart, and pretty popular. Everyone likes Danny. Everyone. There’s no bullying here.

I’m not here to say which approach is better, though it’s pretty obvious which version I prefer. I am, however, here to ask a question: Can this idealism, as seen on TV, influence the real world?

As I said above, I hope so.

Presenting an ideal world like this has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it isn’t very realistic. Saying there isn’t homophobia in the world would be a grossly ignorant statement. On the other hand, a show like Teen Wolf portrays a world in which it’s okay to be gay and shows how it really has no effect on the story. It isn’t a Big Deal for Danny like it’s been a Big Deal for Kurt.

I don’t know if a show like Teen Wolf will ever have an effect on our world. It isn’t going to change the course of the human race overnight, but I hope it has effected someone, somewhere. If this issue — and other hot-button issues, for that matter — are presented positively in the media more often, I can only hope they’ll begin to change minds.

Sometimes you need a show like Glee, but sometimes you need a show like Teen Wolf. It’s just too bad that there’s more of the former than the latter.

What do you think? Does a television show or movie or book have the ability to present a world in which we want to live and have that presentation effect the world in which we DO live? Are there any examples where this may have happened over the course of several years or decades? I’m honestly curious!

  1. Star Trek springs to mind immediately. Not in the techno-sense – we repeatedly seem to think it predicted the future in that way. Actually the tech of the original series was pretty cliched SF, a lot of it founded in ideas well explored earlier by Heinlein and a few others. Because they had identified a real tech-trend, a direction stoically followed in Trek, we’ve inevitably ended up with much of the ‘tech’ portrayed as futuristic by Trek: TOS. However, I think its real value was social – Roddenberry had such an optimistic vision of a collaborative future. And while, again, he was simply extrapolating nascent trends of the 1960s, I think the popularity of the show interacted with expectations. It was only one of many social factors pushing trends. But we can’t deny its place in the popular mind along the way – an optimistic vision which we are approaching now more than we were when Roddenberry thought it up.

    Also, I still think the Kirk vs Gorm scene was one of the coolest – and cheesiest – ever shown on TV… But that’s another matter.

    • Karen Rought says:

      Star Trek is definitely something that sprang to mind for me, too. I’m not that familiar with the stories, but I am aware of how popular and influential it was. Great stuff!

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