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Remembering "Teen Wolf" (1985)


Lee has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.

"Teen Wolf" poster.

"Teen Wolf" poster.

Teen Wolf is a classic 80's comedy about a teenage boy who discovers that he is a werewolf and his journey from immaturity to maturity. It is basically a coming-of-age story with a fantasy twist. Plus, it stars Micheal J. Fox, which makes it ten times better.

As an 80's baby, I grew up seeing Micheal J. Fox on screen and loved basically all of his films. I loved him in Homeward Bound, Mars Attacks!, Life with Mikey, his cameo in Speed, and just about everyone loved him in Back to the Future, for which he is most famous.

I agree that Back to the Future was probably the height of his career and the best thing he ever did, but Teen Wolf, to me, will always be the second best.

Here's why.

The Story

Scott tries to talk to his coach about his "changes."

Scott tries to talk to his coach about his "changes."

The story of Teen Wolf is a bit formulaic, I'll admit. The main character goes on a journey of self discovery, faces adversity, deals with his own flaws, defeats a bully, and ultimately triumphs in the end. Rinse and repeat.

But perhaps the story being formulaic is what gives it its charm. It's sort of what we're used to and comfortable with, but at the same time, it has a fantasy twist on it.

Scott's struggles with "changes" and keeping his wolf form under control is clearly an analogy for puberty. The fact that we can all relate to that makes the comedy hit closer to home. At the same time, however, we can also observe from a comfortable distance because Scott's changes are coded as werewolf transformations. . . . and it's hilarious.

Boof and Scott make out in a closet at a party.

Boof and Scott make out in a closet at a party.

In beginning, Scott has zero control over his transformations and they appear to happen based on his emotions at the time. When he's angry or aroused, he starts changing.

For instance, when he tries talking to Pamela (Lorie Griffin), a pretty girl who attends his school, his hands start changing into claws. He is often a complete mess around her, and his sudden transformations makes it ten times worse.

Compare this to how Scott acts around Boof (Susan Ursitti ), a childhood sweetheart of sorts and a girl he's known his entire life. When he's around Boof, Scott has complete control of himself. He cares for her but it's not purely sexual. So he doesn't feel compelled to change until Boof kisses him in the closet at a party. Suddenly, his feelings for her surface against his will and he nearly mauls her, ripping open the back of her shirt in the process.

It goes to show that Scott's feelings for Pamela are purely sexual, while his feelings for Boof are something deeper. He respects Boof and actually cares about her but is in denial of the truth for the entire film.

Scott and Stiles in the locker room.

Scott and Stiles in the locker room.

Once Scott starts to get a hold on his transformations, he seeks out a confidant. He immediately goes to Stiles (Jerry Levine), the class clown and his best friend. When trying to tell Stiles that he is a werewolf, Stiles will ask if Scott is gay and jokes that he won't be able to handle that revelation.

I've noticed over the years that some gay men took offense to Stiles using the f-word (I'd type it out but I don't want to be censored), but for me . . . I always thought that was funny and completely in-character for Stiles. Maybe it's because I'm a lesbian and not a gay man. No one has ever called me the f-word except online, where it's assumed that everyone is male. So maybe I just don't get how horrible a word it is.

That said, I hate the word "queer." It will always be a slur to me and I deeply resent that these younger people are using it to rope me in with bisexual women as if we were all the same. Clearly, we aren't: bisexual women are attracted to men. I am not. That is a HUGE difference as far as I'm concerned (read some of my Dragon Age articles to find out why).


Stiles asks if Scott is gay.

Stiles asks if Scott is gay.

The fact that Stiles is such a loyal friend to Scott is what leads me to believe that he was merely joking about not being able to take it if Scott was a f-word. I mean, Scott is a friggin' werewolf, transforms right before Stiles' eyes, and Stiles stands by him instead of running away screaming or turning his back or calling him a freak.

You could argue that Stiles just wanted to make money off of Scott. I mean, later he starts selling "teen wolf" t-shirts and merchandise . . . But I honestly believe Stiles was a true friend. Early in the film, when he sees Scott struggle during a basketball game, he shouts from the stands and tries to support him. When Scott is feeling down, he tries to cheer him up. When Scott needs to talk, he's there to listen.

So yes, I honestly believe that Stiles was merely joking, and if Scott had actually turned out to be gay, I'm pretty sure Stiles wouldn't have abandoned him. (Ironically, the Teen Wolf reboot has Scott and Stiles coded as a gay couple.)

Compare this to Lewis (Matt Adler), Scott's other friend, who turns his back on Scott because he's afraid of him.

Lewis and Scott drive to a party.

Lewis and Scott drive to a party.

For a minor character in the story (not even a secondary character!), I always found Lewis to be pretty hilarious. He is the laidback, calm, voice of reason that Scott desperately, desperately needs.

Lewis is the one who always gives Scott a reality check.

When Scott is still determined to be with Pamela, his crush, Lewis reminds him that Pamela already has a boyfriend. . . A boyfriend who is twenty years old because he did time ("Time!"), and that she doesn't want anything to do with Scott beyond using him to make her boyfriend, Mick (Mark Arnold), jealous.

Lewis also reminds Scott that Boof likes him and asks why he doesn't go for her instead, the implication being that Scott obviously likes her too.

Later in the film, it's revealed that Lewis has stopped speaking to Scott because he's afraid of him. This is supposed to make us pity Scott, but it also serves to show how out-of-control Scott has become.

This is only confirmed at the school dance at the end of the film, where Scott loses his temper and rips open Mick's shirt after being goaded into a fight. This was dangerous, as Scott could have seriously harmed Mick. As he is panting and calming down, Scott notices the fear on Lewis' face and rushes out of the gym.

Once again, Lewis has served as a reality check for Scott. In other words, Lewis is a really well executed plot device. He functions to help us understand Scott and makes Scott more third dimensional as a character.

Boof sees Scott transform for the first time.

Boof sees Scott transform for the first time.

I think I should pause here to say that Boof was also an amazing female character. And by that I mean that she was written really well, as a person and not a background prop or a stereotype or a pointless sex scene. She also takes an active role in the story. This was common in the 80's and 90's, it seems. Ah, the good ol' days.

Throughout the film, Boof is the only person who likes Scott just the way he is. She isn't impressed by "the wolf." In fact, she hates his wolf form and vastly prefers the real Scott that she grew up with.

She is the only person who encourages Scott to embrace who he is, which is what he ultimately learns by the end of the story. And like Stiles, she is loyal. She truly loves Scott and waits for him to basically get his sh*t together so they can be together at the end of the film. I think she knew all along that he was just going through a phase and that one day he would snap out of it. Otherwise, waiting for him to grow up would have been a little . . . Well, unhealthy.

Scott walks with Boof.

Scott walks with Boof.

Scott, meanwhile, is in the middle of an identity crisis so typical of adolescence. He doesn't know who he is or what he wants. He wants to quit the basketball team because he's bad at it. He dreads one day taking over the hardware store from his father. He doesn't want to be some small town guy stuck in a boring, dead-end job.

Instead, Scott longs for a glamorous life that, until he actually lives it, seems ideal. Once he embraces that life, however, he finds out that being popular and having the hottest girl is a shallow, friendless existence. He loses his friends (the basketball team, Lewis), he finds himself in a loveless non-relationship with a girl who doesn't even really like him and is only there to get something from him (Pamela), and at the height of it all, he is miserable, isolated, and just as discontent as before.

Turns out the glamorous life has its downsides after all.

The Comedy

Scott bites into a can of soda.

Scott bites into a can of soda.

So the story and the characters are great, but let's get to the comedy. Because that's clearly the best thing (aside from Micheal J. Fox) about this film.

Micheal J. Fox was a pretty big star during his time, but his comedic talents deserve endless recognition, dammit. He is a phenomenal actor. It kind of makes me sad. Today's films just don't touch what we had in the 80's and the 90's because I guess all the best writers really did quit after the 2007 writers strike. Or the dip in quality sure as hell makes it seem that way.

Also, are there any great actors like the ones we had in the 80's and the 90's now . . .? I mean real stars, like A-Listers.

Where has all the talent gone?

Scott stops a boy from blowing a dog whistle.

Scott stops a boy from blowing a dog whistle.

My rambling aside, there were some great scenes in this. The boy with the dog whistle was always hilarious to me. Leaves me wondering just how much humans torture dogs by blowing those things.

Then, of course, there was basically every scene with Stiles. The party during the first half of the film comes to mind, where he has all the teenagers playing funny games and doing dares.

There's also a great bit of physical comedy when Scott is fighting back a transformation at school.

Scott Falls on the Wet Floor

Scott gets asked to solve a math equation in front of the class (Oh, god, so many bad memories of that). He gets so nervous that he starts to transform and flees the classroom in search of a bathroom.

All of the floors are wet, but a frantic Scott keeps running, until he falls down at the very end of the hall. That scene was always hilarious. And the fact that Micheal J. Fox is bow-legged just makes it ten times better.

"You knew about this and you didn't tell me!?!"

"You knew about this and you didn't tell me!?!"

But probably the funniest scene in the entire movie is when Scott fully transforms for the first time. His father asks to talk to him while he's in the bathroom. Scott opens the door . . . and discovers that his father is a werewolf too.

The scene that follows is hilarious. Scott completely freaks out, demanding to know why he was never told about something that is, admittedly, quite a big deal. Micheal J. Fox's performance is comedy gold, and after thirty years of watching the film, I still laugh at the scene every single time.

But aside from the scene just being funny as all hell, it's also a little touching, too. Scott's father seems happy and proud to see that his son is a werewolf. Harold (James Hampton) has a bright smile in his eyes when he sees what his son looks like as a werewolf. There's affection there, as well as joy. Kind of like his eyes are saynig, "Ah, look at my fuzzy baby boy!"

Meanwhile, Scott is too busy freaking out to even notice how proud and misty-eyed his father is getting. He slams the door and tells his father to go away. And in a scene that is both funny and kind of sad, Harold bows his head and walks down the stairs.

A werewolf bowing their head and walking sadly down the stairs . . . LOL.

The Soundtrack

The soundtrack was pretty great in this film. The entire "Way to Go" montage, "Big Bad Wolf" from the dance scene, as well as "Win in the End," were all perfect for the film.

These are songs that I've listened to independently of the film because I thought they were that catchy.

The Ending

Boof kisses Scott at the end of the film.

Boof kisses Scott at the end of the film.

Aside from that guy showing his d*ck in the bleachers, the ending of the film was perfect. Scott finally learned to believe in himself, love himself, and embrace the good qualities of his life.

1985's Teen Wolf is a wholesome, funny, entertaining story with well-written characters, great actors, and a good moral (love yourself) that isn't shoved in your face. There was no gratuitous sex or nudity, no bloody violence for violence's sake, no foul swearing . . . And yet the film was so good.

Why can't we go back to that?

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