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Posts Tagged ‘The Vampire Diaries’

Cults of Mortality: Selfies and Vampire Diaries’ investment in Aging

In Memories, teen soaps, Television on August 1, 2014 at 7:14 am

Screenshot 2014-07-31 16.48.16

Phoebe B.

**Spoiler alert (only for season 4)

For a show populated almost entirely by young, firm-bodied, and beautiful characters, The Vampire Diaries (TVD) is obsessed with mortality. Nobody in Mystic Falls appears to live past the age of 50, either killed off or sentenced to a premature afterlife as a vampire or ghost. As a result, nobody ever truly leaves Mystic Falls, even in death. Vampires stick around, drawn to this magical epicenter, and ghosts continue to haunt characters, appearing every so often to provide advice and wax philosophical.

Despite the predominance of immortality in TVD, many of its characters remain (at least during season 4) committed to ditching eternal youth in favor of a fixed life span. While one might live forever as a vigorous (not to mention gorgeous) vampire, vampirism also means no kids and no growing up. Season four of the TV show is dedicated entirely to this obsession with aging, as the troop of supernatural characters go in search of a cure for immortality.

Rather than feel nostalgia for days of yore and youth, many TVD characters actively long for their lost mortality and the potential of aging. Their fixation with living out a “natural” life seems strangely at odds with a culture that regularly champions youth and beauty above all else. To them, living forever in a youthful body is a curse rather than a gift. Even so, the show glorifies its young and beautiful vampires: by the end of season four, almost everyone remains forever young.

Early in Season 4, after Elena transitions from a human to a vampire, the show’s three girlfriends—Elena, Bonnie (witch) and Caroline (vampire)—get together for a good old-fashioned girls’ night. There’s alcohol, blood bags, loud music, dancing, and lots of selfies. The girls even agree, in a seeming nod to the Bechdel test, that on this girl-centric night they will stay away from discussions about men. Instead, they focus on being happy in these moments together and escaping the violence that has heretofore overtaken their young lives.

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Bare Your Fangs: Torture, Women, and The Vampire Diaries

In misogyny, Television, Uncategorized, violence on May 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

Sarah T.

I do not want to write about The Vampire Diaries and torture porn. If I write about it, I have to watch the torture scenes again, and that makes me feel at best feeble and at worst extremely nauseous. But after watching “Before Sunset,” the penultimate episode of season three, I can’t put it off any longer.

In many ways The Vampire Diaries is a compelling show. The plot moves at a clip as lightning-fast as the show’s bloodsuckers, and there are enough juicy love triangles to stump (and enthrall) a practiced geometry teacher. The central characters are permitted to evolve over time, often branching out in surprising new directions.

The show has its problems too. Racialicious, for example, has featured two great articles outlining the issues with the show’s treatment of characters of color, particularly Bonnie Bennett, teenage witch. TVD also features a mind-boggling amount of scenes that depict protracted physical pain, violence, and human suffering. All of the show’s main vampires have been tortured at one point or another, but the character who seems to get tortured most often is the young, blonde Vampire Barbie—also known as Caroline Forbes.

No way I’m showing an image of violence against Caroline here. Instead, here she is befriending a horse.

Caroline is one of the show’s most well-developed characters, a rightful fan favorite. (Sarah S. explains in more detail what makes her so awesome here.) She’s funny, neurotic, and deeply caring; her commitment to social events and proper dress attire is unparalleled. Theoretically Elena, as the kind and broody girl torn between two brother vampires, is the show’s central character, but Caroline tends to get more emotionally rich scenes and storylines.

She also tends to get caged, bound, gagged and tortured while she screams in pain and begs for her suffering to stop. These torture scenes render the most physically powerful woman on the show—a character with superhuman strength and speed, not to mention immortality—essentially, though temporarily, powerless. Read the rest of this entry »

The Unique, Potentially Surprising Ethics of The Vampire Diaries

In gender, girl culture, teen soaps, Television on March 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Sarah S.

*spoilers*

The Vampire Diaries employs many twists and turns of plots in its depiction of the supernatural roller-coaster that is the life of Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev). And it needs these twists to keep the story going through now, its third season. If Elena and her vampire boyfriend Stefan (Paul Wesley) vanquished all the bad guys, found a non-Elena true love for Stefan’s brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder), and lived happily ever after, the show would be over. Many series deal with this dilemma with a shrug, paying no heed to continuity or character development in pursuit of ever more soap-operatic happenings to keep viewers engaged (paging Lost). The Vampire Diaries does something different though: it adheres to an unwavering ethical conviction in second chances that grounds its continuous switching of allegiances—romantic, familial, political, or all-of-the-above.

The motif of redemption characterizes the entire love triangle between Stefan, Damon, and Elena. When the series begins, she’s looking for a new life after the death of her parents, Stefan’s looking to fix the mistakes of his past by loving Elena, and Damon comes to strive for the same endeavor—albeit with seductively wiggling eyebrows and the added moral quandary of not hurting his relationship with his brother. This dynamic continues in seasons 2 and 3 when Stefan “turns off his humanity” and becomes a monstrous, murderous “ripper” who Elena and Damon, nevertheless, believe can be saved. Elena functions, in many ways, as the moral compass for both brothers and for the show as a whole. However, she’s no pure and wilting damsel, making mistakes of judgement herself that often require apologies or other attempts to fix what’s broken. In the end, no matter how despicable either Stefan or Damon is, was, or will be, all three of the central characters believe the offender can be redeemed.

She's like a love compass.

We see a similar emphasis on second chances in the rest of the boys who round out the cast: Elena’s emo younger brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen); the high school quarterback Matt (Zach Roerig); the tortured vampire hunter/history teacher Alaric (Matthew Davis); and the town bully turned self-reflective werewolf Tyler (Michael Trevino). Tyler epitomizes the group’s belief in second chances perhaps best of all, transforming from a swaggering ass to a tortured werewolf to Caroline’s boyfriend to a hybrid werewolf-vampire unable to exert self-will against the orders of his “sire,” Klaus (Joseph Morgan).  Through each of these transformations—emotional and supernatural—Tyler grows as a character and, therefore, rises in the audience’s connection to him. Read the rest of this entry »