So How Come The Black Guy On 'Teen Wolf' Doesn't Have A 'Life?'

Television
by Sergio
August 1, 2012 10:16 AM
39 Comments
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Another day, another controversy.

And today's controversy revolves around the popular MTV show, Teen Wolf (which I asusume is not like that 1985 movie with Michael J. Fox) and its creator and executive producer, Jeff Davis.

It seems that Davis likes to think of himself as an enlightened, open-minded kind of guy, free of any prejudices. In a recent on-line interview, he said, regarding his show, that: "I'm trying to create a world where there's no racism, there's no sexism, there's no homophobia. And I know it's not real life, but I kind of don't care. I'd like to create a world where none of that matters: you have the supernatural creatures for that to work as an analogy. In my mind, if you can create a world like that on TV, maybe life starts to imitate it."

O.K. sounds great. If everyone thought like Davis does, what a wonderful world this would be.

Well it would, except that, as soon as this quote got around, people took to the internet, calling out Davis on his B.S., in particular, with regards to Boyd, the black character played by Sinqua Walls on the show.

Turns out that Boyd is the least defined, most one-dimensional person on the entire show. He's your basic token black guy, with no personality, no back-story or life, unlike the other major characters on the show.

One person went into even more detail, and wrote on his blog that: "Boyd has no family, no story, no background, no home, and when he even makes his brief cameos in the show, he's usually somebody's backup or lackey. He has no human complexity, and his one moment of individuality comes when he says he wants to be like Scott (i.e. the lead character on Teen Wolf). Which is then promptly ignored and never covered again. Erica gets a storyline. Isaac gets a storyline. Matt the photographer gets a storyline. So where's Boyd's?"

Where indeed? Not surprisingly, after being called out like that, Davis took to the internet to respond, saying that it wasn't easy to service every character with equal weight.

But then we went on to explain further that: "I'm quite proud of the fact that our lead actor is Latino. But I have also always said I will not make Teen Wolf an "issues" show. I think a series like Glee or even the humor of Modern Family are far more equipped to handle those subjects. I also worry that as a white male who grew up in a pretty ordinary middle class suburb I may not have the insight to be particularly adept at tackling issues of race head on."

He further added that:

"While there is no way I can write without socialization and my own personal bias both informing and affecting my work, I believe my first job is to entertain. That's what I love about writing. Entertaining people. If I skirt the issues of race and sexual politics, the reason is most likely that I don't feel like I'm going to be very good at tackling those issues within a show about teenage werewolves. I don't really know how to write those stories. But I think I do know how to scare people and how to make them laugh. There are far better writers out there like Aaron Sorkin, Shonda Rhimes, David E. Kelley, far more equipped to tackle those subjects. I'm here first and foremost to entertain."

Of course, one's first response is to say, well if you can't, then why don't you hire writers and directors who could? But his answer smacks somewhat of Lena Dunham's response, when she was heavily criticized for the lack of black characters on her HBO show, Girls. You know, the "Hey I'm just a boring, self centered white person with a very limited view of life and the world so what do you want from me?" argument.

But reading between the lines, I sense that Davis is also saying: "Look, at least I've got a black guy on the show for Christ's sake. So what do you want from me? if you're not happy then go watch Scandal and leave me alone."

But the real issue is, does this really matter? Do you really care about Boyd on Teen Wolf, or any other similar characters on other shows? Is this really much ado about nothing, after all?

Here's Walls himself in a brief video, talking about his character on the show.

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39 Comments

  • Lauren James | October 9, 2012 5:51 AMReply

    I don't really make comments on articles like this but I actually really enjoy Teen Wolf so I thought I'd add my opinion. The whole reason Boyd has no back story is because Jeff Davis CHOSE it to be that way. That is Boyd's story: he is lonely. The whole reason Derek sought out Boyd for his pack is because Boyd is ALONE. People say he has no character development? That's ridiculous, Boyd is smart, funy and makes a badass werewolf. Sinqua Walls has said numerous times that he loves working on Teen Wolf and look where it's lead his acting career! He's now starring as Sir Lancelot on Once Upon A Time. Jeff Davis might choose to explore Boyd's back story a bit more in series 3, which is great, because I like Boyd and enjoy seeing this new relationship he seems to have with Erica. It doesn't matter at ALL what skin colour he has and I wish people would start to look past this. It's articles like this that keep arguments about racism alive.

  • ThatGuy | September 20, 2012 9:39 PMReply

    This is why you don't make statements that you can't back up with real life actualities. He put his foot in his mouth by making that statement and it lead to this minor controversy. I mean, there still aren't that many black main characters on tv! The least any of these writers could do is show that the black character has some substance and isn't just some one-dimensional, token black guy.

  • Bre | August 19, 2012 5:01 PMReply

    Us fans don't really know what's going to come , who knows they could show his life story in season 3 . He might seem one-dimensional now but you never know what's going to happen down the road . I think people blow it out of proportion , it's like as soon as someone sees an African American they say Ohhh how come he's not important , dosent get to many lines , or why is he/she a bad character . Sometimes you have to realize its just a show and not everything needs to be argued over

  • Thaahum | August 9, 2012 7:22 PMReply

    I am "African-American/Black" and I think people are overreacting about it. First off I think it's cool that the character Boyd was played by an African American actor. if you look at the show the character could have been played by ANYBODY of ANY RACE, and to me those are the types of roles I would prefer to see Arican Americans in. If you watch the show there is nothing stereotipical about his character at all. I cannot call Jeff Davis racist, but rather brilliant. Also no one is talking about the vetranarian (sp) character who is played by an African American. His character is the most imparitive, brilliant character of them all. With his intelligence he's warded off hunters, and Alpha Werewolves. And the crazy thing the way the character was written HE DIDN'T HAVE TO BE BLACK EITHER! They could have casted some old a*s Wilfred Brimbley looking white dude but instead they casted the person who fit the role best (who happens to be African American). If "we" as Blacks want to complain about roles and steretypes maybe the Black writers should stop making dumb a*s movies like "trois" or all these shucking and jiving movies on BET & TV One that depics Black people as ignorant, money hungry, over sexed people. You know what I'm good with that. I'd rather be kickin' with with the White boy who wants to cast me as a computer tech with a degree who helps save the world!!!

  • ThatGuy | September 20, 2012 9:55 PM

    "Shucking and Jiving." Have you ever even watched Tv One? That channel is nothing like BET and I believe it does a much better job of representing a larger spectrum of the black community. And even BET has some shows that are actually much better than anything they've showed in the past.

  • starry118 | August 8, 2012 11:08 PMReply

    Cede, do you even know what the word racist means? From your response, I'm guessing not. As far as the rest of what you said goes, it's clear you don't understand what is being said here, nor care to, so carry on enjoying the white-washed world you live in.

  • starry118 | August 8, 2012 11:10 PM

    correction: white-washed *fantasy* world...

  • cede | August 3, 2012 5:40 PMReply

    Have you even SEEN this show? YOU're the ones being racist. You want this "Boyd" to be a deep and overwhelmingly interesting character JUST because he's "The Black Guy?" First of all, learn his name. Second of all, there's another character just like that, she's also a wolf, she's in the same pack, and she's "The White Girl" called Erika, do you have a problem with her character being flat? They are both new, there's nothing much going on with them. Plus Sinqua Walls happens to be quite busy with the other projects.

    But apart from them, one of the most important characters on the show, Dr. Deaton, who has been there from Day 1, and who is the most intriguing character of them all, is African American, and there's also a mysterious guidance counselor, whose role should become more important in the future (unless she's killed off) and if you're not dividing people specifically into "races" (cause, frankly, "Latino" isn't a "race"), but are concerned about the ethnic diversity, the main character is Hyspanic, another one is half Native American. And you know what, out of a couple dozens of white people killed on the show, there were about 3 "black guys." Is that OK with you or is it a problem as well?

  • Clare | August 10, 2012 7:48 AM

    Well said!! Its as if they have failed to watch the show!

  • Stars | August 2, 2012 3:49 PMReply

    Me likey!!!!

  • Ellen | August 2, 2012 3:47 PMReply

    Why do people keep calling him "The Black Guy?" His name is Sinqua Walls. His ethnicity is somewhat obvious...why point that out? I think that the writer could do a better job of developing Wall's character Boyd. Write in some lines that establish some sort of family background, because right now, he seems like a ward of the court. I do remember him having a house, so it is safe to assume there is a family involved, but I would like to know more about them. You are a reflection of your family, and I would like to know what makes Wall's character Boyd tick:)

  • dinarobin | August 2, 2012 2:10 PMReply

    That's a bizarre response. Presumably he hasn't experienced life as a female, but female characters are three-dimentional and allowed to be individuals. This reminds me of a comic artist, when asked why the characters were all white, said that if he made them black/asian etc he would have to do the 'black' storyline - No, you don't!!!!!! If, as usual the black character ( because as we all know, black is a character) barely gets any storyline, and is eventually sidelined then gotten rid of(Smallville, Melrose Place), then don't bother. I'd rather see an all white show rather than tokenism. After all, most people don't have a circle of friends that looks like a Gap ad or beer commercial, and at least in those circumstances, they are companies simply out sell products.

  • the black police | August 2, 2012 3:24 AMReply

    What the fuck???! You have to be adept in racial issues to give the guy a storyline? The OTHERNESS in his statement is so fucking disgusting. No one is telling you to tackle the civil rights movement. Black people are people and they experience life like, you know, other people. Anyway I dont really care what white people do anymore. Im here for blacks.

  • @ROBatGraveShift | August 2, 2012 1:51 AMReply

    I really think this whole thing was blown out of proportion, and I'm convinced that the majority of the people complaining HAVEN'T WATCHED THE SHOW. As someone who hated the idea of the show when it was first announced, and then watched it and realized "damn, this is a pretty great show", I love that there is a brother in the mix. It's only the second season, there's a lot going on story wise, and HE's STILL ALIVE!!!!

    Also, there are two other black characters on the show, one who serves as a mentor and who has been on the show since damn near day one played by Seth Gilliam, better known as Carver from "The Wire," and there's also a sister who's name I don't know off top, but she's been in plenty of shows in her career. These two roles are very strong roles that have yet to be fully flushed out (thus far), but are destined to be very big players in the show's mythology. I'm kind of shocked neither of these roles were mentioned in the posting...

    With all this said, I don't think it's anything CLOSE to an issue. I love the show, and pretty damn impressed that it holds it's own in light of it really having nothing to do with the Michael J. Fox films.

  • jeni | August 2, 2012 1:34 AMReply

    I hate to admit that I am an adult who watches the show. The show's creator is full of ish. He writes race-neutral lines and origin stories for the rest of his characters, why not Boyd's?

    Have to add that the first season was astoundingly good, but this season is an insult to the viewers' intelligence...the narrative jumps around with too many unfinished subplots, too many new characters, ridiculous dialogue and bizarre monster origin plots that just don't make sense.

  • Julianna | October 14, 2012 9:09 PM

    well dont watch it , its not that hard.

  • Darkan | August 2, 2012 12:34 AMReply

    It is the writer's director's and producers choice on whether a character is a specific ethnicity. This is largely approached in the casting process and never taken likely. It is always up to people who are brave that make a concerted effort to make sure that the story that's written is done fair and with indicative of true life. Most production people never say what they truly feel and just go with the decisions that others make so as not to seem difficult or to stand out. The same goes for people in television. His whole statement is a contradiction and a bunch of malarkey but the same can be said about any film that has an unrealistic view in how the real world is viewed. Unless there is true casting and writing in regards to cinema, there will always be a skewered perception of black people as well as the world's relation with us. That's why when you go to other countries people only have hip hop as a way to see us.

  • Miles Ellison | August 1, 2012 11:05 PMReply

    How come the black guy on Teen Wolf doesn't have a life? Because he's a black character in an show that was created by a talentless, derivative hack for MTV, a network that went out of their way to exclude black people until they were bullied into playing Michael Jackson videos.

  • Ghost | August 1, 2012 9:13 PMReply

    How about just write him as a person? Why does he need to have an issue? I don't care if the guy was trying out for another series-you can still do a little background on the guy. A line mentioning family here or there.

  • deeez | August 3, 2012 5:21 PM

    Ding!!!

  • Orville | August 2, 2012 1:19 AM

    @Ghost I see your argument that Boyd should definitely be three dimensional but then that would be mean placing a black male character closer to the center of the show. I think the creator of the show just doesn't want to do that. I feel bad for the black actor on Teen Wolf though he's just trying to do his best with the scraps he gets.

  • Ruday | August 1, 2012 4:45 PMReply

    How difficult is it to just write a well-rounded character and then cast a minority?
    Answer: Not at all.

  • D.C. Kirkwood | August 1, 2012 4:16 PMReply

    Speaking of Scandal, what makes Columbus Short's character, Harrison Wright, any different. Columbus is a fine actor and has range but the writing that Shonda Rhimes, does for his character is poorly developed and in my opinion is poorly executed. In season one he played the smooth talking brotha who looks good in a suit. So just because you have an African American male or female on a show doesn't mean that it's a quality role.

    Arjay Smith is in the same position on "Perception" which I enjoy. He's talented and has range, but his screen time is limitted and he has very few lines. Hopefully we'll get better character development for both.

  • bondgirl | August 1, 2012 11:41 PM

    DC, that is a fair criticism however, you couldn't say that Harrison is the only character undeveloped. We know the least about Quinn, while Huck, Harrison and the redhead have the same amount of backstory given. Just a few lines of dialogue has described who they are so far.

  • AccidentalVisitor | August 1, 2012 9:05 PM

    Haven't watched Scandal but may I suggest you may be jumping the gun a bit? I'm not typically a fan of Ms Rhimes' brand of drama, but in her defense she puts together ensemble dramas in which everyone gets their chance to shine. I'm sure Short's character will get a lot more to do pretty soon.

  • dave | August 1, 2012 2:42 PMReply

    Boyd is NOT a major character. He's a recurring character! Most of the other recurring characters on this show don't have extensive backgrounds either. The show is a mystery, horror soap opera. Characters' backgrounds are slowly revealed. Sinqua Walls' character was one of three new recurring characters. Only one of whom had any background story fleshed out. The other two were both nerds who volunteered to become werewolves.

    Also, you conveniently left out the section of Davis' letter that explained that Boyd's portrayer did not have time for the show because he was pursuing a pilot. Davis provided an excerpt from the actor's agent.

    Seriously, you do realize that the same actor, Sinqua Walls, was just featured on this site for being cast on ABC's "Once Upon a Time"??!!

  • ALM | August 1, 2012 2:37 PMReply

    Davis contradicted himself. First he says, "I'm trying to create a world where there's no racism, there's no sexism, there's no homophobia". Then when the criticisms roll around he says it wasn't easy to service every character with equal weight. By not servicing each character with equal weight (or at least somewhat equal weight) he is dealing in prejudice.

  • Kai | August 1, 2012 2:05 PMReply

    his so called color blind writing smells of bs... sometimes tokenism is the worst form of racism

  • Katie | August 1, 2012 11:57 AMReply

    If the producer doesn't sit down with that mess! So what if the leading character is Latino? It's a culture, not a race. Latinos can be white. Even if Latino was a race (and it's not), the lead character still has color/shade privilege that Sinqua Walls (Boyd) does not have. He's diverse about nothing!

    Just because your white doesn't mean you can't create a African descended character with depth. He ain't slick.

  • AccidentalVisitor | August 1, 2012 9:08 PM

    Yes, this is a pet peeve of mine. Latinos are not a race of people no matter how many people in the USA state otherwise. The Latino actor chosen for this MTV show is clearly white, at least judging by the eye. He's the type you find as the leads of dramas/telenovellas on Univision.

  • theyounglion | August 1, 2012 11:36 AMReply

    But why does a storyline or back story about the black character have to deal with "issues"? Why can't he just be a regular guy with regular issues that are universal to all American youth? This guy Jeff Davis says he wants to create a world on his show where racism and sexism and homophobia don't matter, but then he looks at this black character through a racial lens and implies that he can only write something for the black character if it deals with race?

    I hope this post just took some of his comments in bits and pieces, and there is more to what he actually said. Because based on what we have here, what he's really saying is that he can't look at this black character as a typical young person that represents the American norm...and that's straight-up racism for you right there.

  • No | August 1, 2012 11:35 AMReply

    "...As a white male who grew up in a pretty ordinary middle class suburb," he doesn't feel he has the the depth of experience to develop a black character; however, he feels that he's on solid ground to develop a Latino character?

  • Logic | August 1, 2012 11:18 AMReply

    When will these people stop using "I'm white hurr durr" as an excuse for being unimaginative and dull? Ok, you didn't grow up around people of color. Got it. Did you also not grow up around a library or anyone with half a brain and a lick of common sense? And even if you were raised in an armpit, separated from all forms of people and culture other than your own, are you really stupid enough to believe that POC are so singular and strange that you can't fathom how to write us as complex human beings who have concerns other than race?

    Seriously, why do they think creating a multifaceted black character means tackling social issues? You don't have to have a "very special episode" to include the brother in the plot or make him a well rounded character. I guess the problem is they aren't well-versed or skilled in their craft. At least this guy knows he's a hack. And don't even get me started on Lena Dunham. I went to college with "screenwriters" like her. In everything they ever wrote, every character was merely a mouthpiece to regurgitate their navel gazing breakthroughs. And any character who wasn't white (you'd know they weren't white because white was the default and anyone who wasn't white would be described by their non-whiteness) was a blatant stereotype. Good times.

  • Laura | August 3, 2012 8:08 PM

    They write like this because they can. And there is no one to stop that. That's how they see the world, period. Right or wrong. That's the world they want to create. It is a simple as that. There is power in wielding the pen. You can create your own universe. That is why they are resistant to other voices. If they let in other voices, their worldview which the hold so dear would, be shatter. Look at it from a gender perspective. Look how (white) men write (white) female characters, 'Nuff said.

  • ALM | August 1, 2012 2:39 PM

    @ Logic: You better preach! It also tickles me that the thought never occurs to these producers to hire a diverse staff of multiple people of color instead of one or two token people who go with the flow. But wait, that would be too much like right.

  • No | August 1, 2012 11:44 AM

    Logic, you hit the nail on the head. If you're a writer, and you're from a different background, you observe what is unique or interesting about a culture or people, but remember that all humans are the same. It's just incredibly lazy. I wrote three novels using the voice of female character and I'm a guy. But I set up the challenge to write in a woman's voice, trying to explore another realm of humanity.

  • AccidentalVisitor | August 1, 2012 11:10 AMReply

    Everytime some showrunner says he can't service all characters equally I'm. left to wonder why most black characters end up being amongst those left underdeveloped.

  • COMMENT POLICE | August 1, 2012 10:58 AMReply

    IN DISCUSSIONS I SAW YESTERDAY, IT WAS SAID THAT THERE WERE OTHER BLACK CHARACTERS WHO WERE MORE DEVELOPED ON THE SHOW, BUT I'LL LEAVE THAT TO THE VIEWERS TO VERIFY.

  • julius hollingsworth | August 1, 2012 10:55 AMReply

    Or maybe their producers are not interested in going down that road.They may have already been told to back up.As for Dunham she says who she is.Stand up in your truth.

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