Vampires Kill Humans; Hunters Kill Vampires
Oh, Vampire Diaries, could you please avoid the corny framing device of diary writing? Please especially avoid showing us the page of Elena’s diary written in teenage girl writing (didn’t you expect to see little hearts over her ‘i’s’?). And while you’re at it, please note that it is ludicrous for Stefan to write his biggest secrets down! If you could do all this, then I could forgive you for last night’s embarrassing opening and closing scenes, and we could move on together from here.
So, first things first – I guess my predictions from last week didn’t feel like waiting until mid-season to come true. Connor’s dead. Jer’s got the tattoos. And Elena’s about to become bad Elena. Oh, and while Stefan wants to control everything about Elena’s destiny, we’re reminded once again, in the words of Bridget Jones, that it’s Damon who loves her just as she is, whatever that is, is. But this arc to me was not what made this episode interesting…in fact, this is the arc that brought it down and made it a little boring – we get it, evil Elena, boys all dedicated, blah blah blah. To me, it’s the side stories that continue to be most compelling!
While it feels so cliched for Elena to be choosing back and forth between these two guys – and more so, the version of herself these two guys bring out – we haven’t quite noticed that the same story is happening withTyler. And I think the way it could get told with him has the potential to be much more interesting. Whereas Stefan is unbelievably controlling – buying into all sorts of antiquated gender norms – these gender dynamics are upended with the Caro-Tyler-Haley trio. I loved that we moved from a hyper-controlling Stefan scene directly into Caroline yelling at Tyler that he doesn’t get to tell her what to do, how to feel…whether or not to understand. There’s is not just a partnership of equals – it’s a dynamic partnership of two different people trying to negotiate their differences. Hayley complicates things because she’s so much like Tyler, and because they can have this shared social justice project – “What do we want?” “Freed Hybrids!” “When do we want it…” But that sameness is also what makes her less attractive too. Caroline and Tyler offer something that looks more mature, more enduring to me – the kind of relationship we want in our adult lives, not the one we wanted as teens…a relationship that lets us revel in the mystery of otherness. Of all the characters, these two have come the furthest in their development – if you think back to the first season, Elena, Stefan, Damon – they haven’t grown or changed all that much. But Caro was a mess in season 1 and Tyler was a dick. Now Caro’s the toughest female character on the show and Tyler is caring and able to think far beyond his own needs. I guess what I’m saying is – if there was a spin off, I’d probably devote my time to the new Vampire/Hybrid Diaries and let the old Vampire Diaries go.
The other side story – Bonnie and creepy professor guy. At first I was finding their low level sexual tension fun…until, that is, I remembered BONNIE IS IN HIGH SCHOOL!! So yeah, stop flirting both of you! Especially you, Mr. Professor – it’s creepy. But aside from my bourgie morality – I guess there is something interesting going on here. I’m trying to imagine what this storyline would look like without a little heat? Can you have an older (straight, presumably, right?) male teacher usher a young (straight) female student into the depths of her power without tapping into sexual energy too? We’re kind of back to Plato’s Symposium here – just what role does desire play in a teaching process? And what is really being desired in that sexual energy? I’m sure the show isn’t trying to raise these kinds of questions – but they’re stirred up for me nonetheless. All these characters have their self-exploration, their loss and gaining of self-understanding happen so deeply in relation to their sexuality…and I guess that’s sort of how it happens when you’re a teenager. But now that they’re all wrapped up in these love triangles and complex sexual energies, I’m wondering how friendship might make it back into focus for helping each character come to know themselves again. Is sexual desire really where we come to know our truest self?
So is that where you’ve been all morning, buying bossypants?
I spent the last couple weeks cleaning up old posts on this site and I came across our first posts about this series. Believe it or not, we kind of liked the journal motif at the beginning. There was something beautiful about the heavy-handed troupe as a way to explore the internal angst of the American teen and I remember thinking that it gave Elena a kind of existential heft that is often missing from teenage female characters. This was, of course, back when I thought Elena might be an actual character instead of the “I am so compassionate and pure of heart my inner angst will kill me” caricature she fully became last night. You are being so generous to gloss over how alternately boring and infuriating her predictable collapse was once she killed Conner. Not only does this insistence that Elena is the most sensitive of flowers, easily crushed under the weight of survival and instinct make me want to pour her a stiff drink, but it presents her as incredibly hypocritical. How many people have been killed to save Elena? How many people have died because of her, more or less? She did not fly off the handle and loss herself in the craze of a feed; she self-defensively (and a bit vindictively) killed a man who was systematically trying to kill her and everyone she cares about. If they need to take Elena into this desperate place, couldn’t they at least make her kill more morally ambiguous? I know this makes me sound like a cold-hearted bastard (all death is still death after all), but come on! This is a vampire fantasy; people die all the time.
Which leads me to admit that where I had been hoping for a “Elena becomes like Damon” storyline – in which she embraces her more reckless/darker desires but within some realm of control – I am now willing to settle for a “Elena becomes like Stefan the Ripper” storyline, with all its far less interesting black/white morality tropes. Anything, god, except another Carrie-esque bathroom scene.
Perhaps I find all the wasted potential in Elena’s vampire turn so frustrating, because, like you, I think the show is still doing something interesting with desire in its other characters. I love your read of Bonnie and creepy Professor Shane. It will be interesting to see how much they follow a rather predictable story (professor awakens new knowledge in student, laden with all the subtle or overt sexual tensions; professor revealed to be evil/untrustworthy; student uses new knowledge to defeat professor but moves on wiser in many respects) or how they might mix it up. A lot depends on what the Professor’s plan actually is. As to your question about friendship, and how it may or may not exert itself again, I am probably most fascinated by Jeremy, Matt, and Bonnie right now, especially as they are all primed to become a kind of anti-vampire force. They are also now all related to the other characters through bonds of friendship and family, not romance, which will make these dynamics that much more interesting.
I feel residual guilt that I pulled us back into this series on the promise of a vampire Elena, who has turned out to be the lamest vampire in the history of the world. But I promise I won’t go on a classic shame-spiral.