What Would She Do is a series that takes a moment to appreciate and celebrate the most kickass, most inspiring female TV characters of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres, who keep us tuning in and feeling fierce.
For this post, we’ll be heading to Beacon Hills to take a look at a key member of a high school wolfpack.
Teen Wolf ran on MTV from 2011-2017. A reboot of the 80’s Michael J. Fox classic, the TV show follows Beacon Hills high school student Scott McCall through the trials and tribulations of going from zero to hero, and becoming a pubescent lycanthrope. Throughout the show’s 6 seasons, Scott battles all manner of baddies – from the dubiously CGI’d to the legit nightmarish – with the help of his “pack”, which changes throughout the seasons, but starts with his best friend Stiles, first love Allison, and resident mean girl Lydia.
At the start of Teen Wolf, the combination of Mean Girl Lydia and Love Interest Allison was so predictable it wasn’t even disappointing. Both characters are put into easily labeled boxes, and the interesting thing to observe is how they break out of those pre-fab characters and become women who are not described in relation to their male counterparts. As this column moves forward, I believe we’ll find that where there is one excellent female character, there is usually another and another – not because they gravitate towards each other for warmth, but because writers and showrunners who give female characters their due realize that there is vibrance in diversity, and depth in trading the token for the substance.
In the beginning, Lydia is the “it girl” at a nowhere school, complete with the Lacrosse captain boyfriend, and perfect wardrobe. She is materialistic, opportunistic, and casually vapid. For a generous portion of the series, even after the audience and everyone else appreciates her intelligence, Lydia is a pawn. She is the girl that has to be protected, the girl who gets brainwashed, the girl who doesn’t know what’s going on, the girl who has to confess her love so her boyfriend can stop being a part-time lizard monster (you know, as you do). It isn’t until the end of the second season that she becomes an active player in the Beacon Hills were-game when her friends finally give the lowdown and let her know that their clique is actually a ragtag wolfpack.
From there, she grows in her position as pack-genius, and eventually discovers that she is supernatural herself. Lydia turns out to be a banshee, which comes in really handy for finding dead bodies, communicating with the spirit world, and being a harbinger of death like it ain’t no thang.
Even when Lydia is aptly filling the Queen Bee template, it doesn’t take long to realize that Lydia’s casual vapidness is an act, as she gradually lets her genius flag fly, easily explaining that Allison’s feelings for Scott are “brain flooding with phenylethylamine,” or saying with effortless confidence that she would not be winning a Nobel prize, but the Fields Medal for mathematics.
Before she fully understands her banshee powers – when she is finding corpses and hearing things beyond the veil for seemingly no reason – she works to combine her mysticism with genius-level practical knowledge to help save the day. Once she learns what she is, being a banshee gives Lydia something else to learn and hone, as she’d done for all other things, from bowling to learning archaic Latin. Eventually, she also adds fighting skills to her repertoire, deciding not to have to rely completely on the werewolves for physical defense.
Throughout canon, the key traits of banshees are to foretell death and to scream. The wail of a banshee is a loud and shrill sign of horrible things to come. As such, Lydia screams…a lot, typically giving the werewolves a ringing in their ears and leading to a crucial revelation. Later in the series, however, Lydia also learns how to weaponize her glass-shattering screams, projecting them to repel and disorient attackers. This, combined with Black Widow-esque moves, comes in quite handy.
She is constantly adapting and growing. Audiences would seldom find a Lydia who had not improved from the previous season in a way that makes her more valuable, and more able to independently protect herself, even with a laundry list of mythological creatures coming at her.
By the show’s end, Lydia is a badass for many reasons – genius, check; fighter, check; selflessness, check; attuned banshee skills, check. While it may be difficult to translate all of those into the real world, there’s one trait of Lydia’s I’d have viewers and readers leave with – trust. What allows Lydia to grow in the way that she does is trust. Particularly, trust in herself. A common thread through Lydia’s development throughout the series is that she has the faith in herself necessary for the growth. It’s a simple concept, surely, but one that may not feel wholly innate to female viewers. Any woman who has been gaslighted, or told that her emotions are invalid, or had her gut feeling rejected, and stood silent (as I have more than once), knows that it is not always easy to act on self-trust.
Yet, Lydia Martin hears phantom water running and trusts herself enough to say “someone’s drowning” in time to save a life. She trusts her gut enough to find Stiles even when, in a truly terrifying arc, his own father has literally forgotten his existence. In the face of protest, she argues what she knows is correct.
This is, in no way, a small lesson – though you may not always be right, you may often be more on track than you think, regardless of what other people say. Have faith in yourself, and when necessary, do like Lydia – use your voice.
THE YOU GO GIRL
Lydia fighting her way out of an insane asylum using her mad fighting skills and lethal screams for the first time. Season 5, Episode 4
NEXT TIME ON WWSD: The ass-kicking, bounty-hunting, planet-hopping awesomeness of Killjoy’s Dutch.
Feature Photo via Teen Wolf FB Page