How Tumblr and MTV’s Teen Wolf Saved Me From A Breakup Summer
“Teen Wolf? The Twilight-esque MTV reboot of the Michael J. Fox werewolf turned baller classic 80’s movie? That saved you from having the worst summer of your adult life?”
Yes dear reader, it did. It wasn’t just the show though. It wasn’t all the steamy guy-on-guy locker room bromances that the show relied on, or the longing stares exchanged between the latest camera-ready crop of the best male specimens Hollywood has hatched.
Let me lay out some context.
I moved to New York City in August of 2012 with a guy who, at the time, was my boyfriend. We had met in April of that year, and after a whirlwind romance, which included a long distance element that was as long as the time we had actually spent together, I asked him to move to the city with me. I had been planning on moving to New York from Tampa, Florida, for a while, at that point, so it was only a matter of moving around a few small things to include him in those plans.
I had been single for a few years when I had met him, and he just struck me. He was a younger than me, but whatever we had sparked something in me, and for the first time, in a long time, everything was fresh all over again. I was moving to a new city, with a new guy, with a new job, and a new school. New. Exciting. The world just kind of had that shimmer that you only see when you’re newly in love.
Fast forward to June of this year.
After a series of pretty serious revelations and lies unraveling, we broke up. He had cheated on me. Several times. This still hurts, but at the time it felt like the worst pain I had ever felt, despite having experienced some pretty serious losses in my life. We tried to be friends through the breakup, but that really didn’t work. All that came from that was some pretty awkward situations, not the least of which was an embarrassingly tearful and drunken episode at the White Castle in Williamsburg. There was sobbing through mouthfuls of hamburgers.
Mostly from me.
We don’t really talk much anymore.
I don’t know where Teen Wolf popped up on my radar, but I’m pretty sure it was from some LGBT tumblr that I follow. One gif lead to another, which lead to another, which lead to some fan fiction, which lead to me watching the entire series in my room, in the dark, subsisting entirely off of takeout and pizza from around the corner.
You see, there are these two guys. Stiles, who’s this awkward nerdy guy, and in between sarcastic quips, he’s the go-to tech/answers guy for rest of the cast members and serves to move the plot along really well. He’s awkward, nerdy, and ungainly, but he just wants to help out. Then there’s Derek, he’s this surly, misunderstood, and emotionally distant werewolf, and, besides whatever he does in the actual plot, he gets shirtless, makes terrible decisions, and just generally gets all up in Stiles’ space. The writer of the show, Jeff Davis, probably wrote them to be foils for each other, but the actor’s chemistry on screen is absolutely insane.
So Sterek happened.
Google it. Go ahead. Take a minute.
You back? Good. See, that’s what I thought the show was about. These two guys that have this love-hate relationship, that is completely underscored by this hot for each other, will-they won’t-they dynamic. The parallels, for me, were obviously there. I’m a total nerd, who’s really into technology, and my ex was this ruggedly handsome guy who just became this person who was emotionally unavailable. It wasn’t a lot to go on, but it was enough. I was hooked.
“Sterek” is a portmanteau of Stiles and Derek. This kind of naming is big in the shipper community. Oh, that’s another word I learned this summer. Shippers. A shipping community is a group of fans who are just really into two characters, usually from a show, who don’t actually have a scripted relationship, but the community just loves their chemistry and wants them to be together. They write stories, called fanfictions, or fanfics, where they are together. Or fighting. Or zombie hunters. Sometimes these stories are set in-universe, other times they are mixed with other fictional universes from other stories. Shippers make gif sets of the characters, and rewrite the stories as they feel they should be, or want them to be. Those with more talent then I ever hope to have take to drawing them and posting them to DeviantArt, because they just love they way these characters come to life together in the their heads. Maybe they even need them to be that way.
Shipper communities aren’t your parent’s fan clubs. Calling themselves fandoms, these communities cover everything. There’s a Faberry ship, which pairs Quinn Fabray and Rachel Berry of Glee, and there’s Destiel, a pairing that includes Supernatural’s Dean Winchester and an angel named Castiel. There’s Harry Potter ships and there’s Merlin ships, and the list goes on and on to weird places I won’t even begin to describe. Shipper communities are all over the web, and I even remember them from my days of Livejournal blogging as a teenager, but I wasn’t really interested in any particular communities then. Since then, most of these communities have found a home on Tumblr, drawn by its richly social and media-based nature, and there they tell their stories.
So I started reading Sterek fics. I started following Sterek tumblrs. I blogged, I reblogged, and I liked, and was blogged, reblogged, and liked in return. Most important of all, I interacted, which is what I think I needed the most. My breakup had soured a lot of New York to me, with most of it just seeming to drip with the residue of my failed relationship. Sunday’s spent brunching with friends or sitting in a park just reminded me of him. Fridays spent at bars we used to hang out with friends we used to hang out with just kind of tore me up with memories, despite how hard I pushed them away. It was really crummy way to live in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, but that’s the kind of emotional corner I felt like I had painted myself into.
It’s weird how some group story that we’ve all kind of made up can draw us all so compellingly, but it did. Some of the stories were silly, but it helped pass the time. There was this one fic that was set in the Song of Fire and Ice universe, where Stiles was a Tully, because he was sweet and he had freckles, and Derek was a Stark, because, duh, werewolf. It was odd, but, like all other Sterek fics, it was centrally about love. In some stories it was doomed, in others their love was triumphant, while in others it was soft, slow, and troubled. So, I’m not sure if Teen Wolf itself saved me from a summer of total emotional torment, but the communities I found and the stories I needed to hear did. The fact that all the guys on from the show involved were total babes didn’t hurt either.
The next thing I knew, it was fall. Things didn’t hurt as much as they did, though it still stung like a bitch when I thought about him. Time had moved on though, and actually seeing that helped. Time hadn’t stopped when we did. It was getting colder, and it was time to start looking for a fall boyfriend to cuddle up with and drink apple cider with. It was time to find that great fall cardigan, time to start thinking about how many space heaters I was going to need this winter, and how goddam awful my power bill was going to be. It was time to move on.
So, thanks Tumblr. Thanks Teen Wolf. Thanks MTV. Thanks all of you amazing nerds that took this story and made it so real it helped me to start patching the holes in my heart with your words, pictures, and adorable gif sets.
Anyway. Go watch the show, the first two seasons are free to watch on MTV.com. It’s good. I swear. Even the non-Sterek bits.