Shippers, fans who follow specific fictional relationships, unleashed a barrage of criticism at Entertainment Weekly last week after the website decided not to include one of this season's most beloved same-sex couples in their Summer TV Awards poll.
Stiles and Derek, or “Sterek” as they are commonly known together, aren’t technically a couple on MTV’s hit supernatural drama “Teen Wolf,” and the show has yet to mention that either character is gay.
Needless to say, they weren't happy when EW refused to nominate Sterek for the poll, despite overwhelming support for them to do so.
"Way to be homophobic. Maybe next time you should clarify straight couples only," read one of hundreds of fan comments.
In a special update to Sterek fans on the poll nominations’ page, EW made the case that only “canonical" couples--that is, official pairings within the confines of the source material--were considered.
In response to the EW snub, queer culture site Alter Elton created their own same-sex only TV poll, welcoming fans to vote for a host of popular fictional same-sex pairings -- from Frodo and Sam ("Lord of the Rings") to Harry and Draco ("Harry Potter").
"Slash," or the shipping of same-sex characters, hearkens back to the days of the original "Star Trek," when fans, particularly female ones, couldn't ignore the chemistry between emotional foils Kirk and Spock. As mainstream culture becomes increasingly tolerant of homosexuality, writers and producers are less shy about teasing viewers with homoerotic subtext in their material. (See: "Sherlock Holmes.")
E! Online spoke to creator Davis after the EW debacle, who admitted to being surprised by the way fans, especially female ones, responded to characters he originally had no intent of making a couple.
I'll admit this is a bit out of reach of my understanding, even as a gay man. I'm also not sure they may see the characters as perfectly 'straight. We've certainly made some hints to the possibility of Stiles being bisexual. As to the psychology of why 'girls like boys who like boys,' I haven't asked enough questions or heard enough to really understand the psychology behind it.
Davis also spoke to the power of fan voices in an age when social media allows them to interact so easily with the creators of their favorite franchises, and to maybe even influence the outcome of a story.
I initially thought that these pairings were just in the realm of fan fiction. I understood it as a way for fans to do their own interpretation of a story. Write the characters in the way they envisioned them. Kind of like a 'what if' universe. ... I had no idea that my Twitter account would be pummeled by pleas and requests to actually make Stiles and Derek a pair in the show itself, to become 'canon.'
Even the actors themselves are getting in on the act. Here's a video of Dylan O'Brien and Tyler Hoechlin, who play Stiles and Derek, cuddling together on a ship. "Pun intended," O'Brien quips.