The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

I want the boy

with one comment

Dear Natalie,

I think you are going to be able to read this in the wilds of Canada, and I can’t wait to hear what you thought! Tonight we got the were/vamp showdown we had been promised. At first, it really didn’t seem like a fair fight. Damon and Stefan were taking out weres faster than I could track. And then they got caught in all those clever vampire fighting weapons and for a moment we wonder how they are going to get back on their feet fast enough to ripe a spine or heart or neck out, when Dr. Martin shows up working some particular kind of witch power to incapacitate just the “bad” were and no other supe. That is a cool trick to learn and definitely raises the stakes in the “is Elijah trust-worthy” game? I don’t know, having Dr. Martin on your side looked like a pretty big perk last night. But the real plot revolved around one sad, confused, young were, Tyler.

So I guess Caroline and Tyler aren’t going to be kissing and making up anytime soon? While I hate to see their relationship dissolve like this, isn’t it kind of a supernatural version of what often happens in these cases? A guy and a girl try to be friends, one of them wants to be more, and then bitter acrimony ensues, each feeling wounded and betrayed. Of course, in this version, the guy’s friends captured and tortured the girl and they are each being told they are bitter species enemies… but doesn’t it kind of feel like that in real life too (minus the wooden bullets in the head)? I continue to love the way the show uses its supernatural plots to magnify normal teenage situations and emotions and give them world-important consequences.

It was also a real question to me what the weres’ end game is. Jules wants Tyler more than vengeance. Is this just because of the wolf honor/duty thing or did she know something about the moonstone? Brady’s eyes lit up at that one and something tells me Bonnie’s failed spell is going to start mattering. I do hope that the whole “wolf duty” story isn’t dropped – I’d love to see how weres imagine their sense of community in contrast to the isolation of the vampire culture we’ve seen so far.

And um, Uncle John – first, what is up with that hair do? Does a near death experience cause all middle-aged men to go into teenage boy crisis mode? And I have to say, I’m with Elena on this one – don’t trust him as far as I could throw him.

OK, this is going to be short but I’d love to hear what you thought!

Isn’t Stefan just the best, knowing that what ever girl needs to deal with a near death experience and the betrayal of her best friend is a good old-fashioned girls night?

Kathryn

—————————————–

Hey Kathryn,

Of course I too was drawn to the showdown and the growing distance between Caroline and Tyler.  The fight was pretty cool to watch, especially with its witchy aid.  But I was also struck by how much this episode centred on themes of of trust and loyalty, particularly as they relate to different types of natural and supernatural life.  They might have hit us over the head a little with the repetition of the word, “trust,” to clue us into what was going on – but even so, the theme was an interesting one.  In every relationship we had the decision to move forward in trust or to retreat, while every relationship felt charged with the danger of going either way. 

I don’t trust John either – as he handed Damon and Elena the tools they needed, I began to wonder what magic charged those objects, and whether it would help or harm.  Weres, it seems, have an innate, uncontrollable form of trust and loyalty built into the structure of who they are (like Twilight, echoing the dog-like nature of the creatures) – Jules’ boyfriend wants vengeance, but it seems she really does just want to care for Tyler.  Bonnie mentions the trust that should exist between witches, and her frustration at that trust beign broken.  We have Stefan and Damon’s ongoing attempts to trust each other, Caro breaking Matt’s trust by lying about Bonnie, and even the hug between Bonnie and Caro at the end lingering in a way that reminded us of the depth of loyalty in their strained friendship. 

And at the center of all this, then, Caroline and Tyler – I love what you say about the almost natural breakdown that happens when friendships get complicated by their transition into something more.  Yes, their fight felt like the most natural extension of adolescent sexual life.  But at the same time, so much more seems to hang on them.  I loved seeing Caroline come into a place where she actually stood up for herself and called him to task for taking his time on rescuing her.  But the fact is that in the end, he did also help her out.  And this seems to be the real fulcrum on which the trust that will lead to ruin or redemption will pivot.  Perhaps if Caro and Tyler can work things out, they can reach some sort of a truce between vamps and weres that is negotiated rather than magically created.  I’m not sure if that would be more boring or more interesting to watch, but I’m intrigued by the idea nonetheless. 

I’m also intrigued by how different this is than Twlight (for example).  We’ve noted already how much Elena and Stefan’s relationship is being moved out of the spotlight.  With last night’s episode, Caro and T got moved directly into that spotlight as what might be the most significant relationship of all.  There’s a natural feel here that these shows often lack – different people will rise to the apex of any community’s narrative at different times – and yet television tends to focus on a core center.  With Vampire Diaries, I’m starting to wonder if this destablized center opens up the possibility of new ways to tells stories in pop culture. 

Of course, when it came to trust last night – in the end we again had Damon’s situation framed in a new way for us.  Rather than the antagonistic choice between good and evil we saw him perform last week, we dug a little deeper to get  more of a sense of the particular  role trust plays in moral decisions – can we come to trust ourselves, and can we live into the trust others have in us?  Damon continues to fall short, even as he struggles to think his way through the problems he encounters.  What form will his self-discovery take next week, I wonder?

Finally,  I can’t sign off without noting someting that intrigued me with regards to gender representation last night – we opened the episode with a sexualized, fairly nude vision of Damon in the shower (mirrored nicely in his bathtub at the end).  But I was struck by the casual nature of his towel slinging, and how much the peek-a-bo ways his body was displayed reminded me more of how women’s bodies are shown in tv shows than of how men’s are.  Later, when Caroline’s body bore the pain of physical and psychological torture in ways I found quite shocking and difficult to watch, I was struck by how we’ve seen men’s bodies go through such turmoil on this show – and on tv in general – but we rarely see such violence (non-sexualized) performed on women’s bodies on tv.  The way we usually see the sex/violence relationship played out with regards to gender felt a little shifted last night to me – and I wondered if you had the same thought?  As various vampire narratives we know in the contempory sphere have tended to entrench traditional gender roles, I wonder if Vampire Diaries is actually upending them a bit?

Wanting a little more from Bonnie!
xoxo,
Natalie

Written by themothchase

February 4, 2011 at 6:30 am

One Response

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  1. I definitely agree that this episode focused strongly on the themes of trust and friendship. Stefan’s interaction with Caroline was particularly good. As her friend, he’s not only there for her if she needs it, but he tries to give her what she does need. In the midst of all the sturm und drang, it was a quietly touching moment.

    I also felt this episode, and perhaps this season as a whole, revolved in a lot of ways around what it means to grow up. You mentioned how Tyler and Caroline’s relationship and how it is affected by the supernatural seems to feel like a real life teenage relationship written big. I also feel as if–and perhaps this is reading too much into it–the show uses Tyler and Caroline’s transformations into supernatural characters to represent their transitions into adulthood. Caroline says it outright: “I’m not girly little Caroline anymore. I can handle myself.” We realize that, looking back to season one, she has grown up. Becoming a vampire forced her to come to terms with who she is, what she values, and the sacrifices she’s willing to make for what she loves. Tyler, on the other hand, is still in the throes of that evolution. I think that finding out the truth about what happened to his uncle and being placed in the middle of the vampire-werewolf drama is going to force him to make some evaluations of his own.

    Lastly, there’s Damon. It seems a little strange to talk about him in the context of growing up, but unlike Tyler and Caroline, becoming a vampire seems to have frozen him in a century and a half long adolescence, like a dark and twisted Peter Pan. Now suddenly he’s starting to realize that he’s got things he cares about besides himself and that if he doesn’t think about the consequences of his actions, they could get hurt. It’s almost more touching, because he’s fighting so hard against it.

    Kit

    February 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm


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