The Moth Chase

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

What Happened to ‘Safe is Good’?

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Hey Kathryn,

I’m titling this post with Caroline’s overly pointed question, “What happened to ‘Safe is Good’?” because while she asked it in the context of April’s dress, it was obviously meant to refer to Elena’s choices in men. Stefan has always been the ‘safe’ choice for Elena, while Damon embodies bad boy danger. And so watching the (almost hot?) sex scene unfold as Caroline pieced it all together was pretty fun. What this final revelation of Elena’s siring to Damon lifted up for me, though, was the theme of subconsciousness, instinct and sublimation that had been playing out through the whole episode – the idea that there is a real self, and enduring self, that exists somewhere beyond and untouched or unshaped by the self that acts or the self that lives in this moment. This came out especially with Matt’s explanation of the hunter instinct: something in Jer’s subconscious (presumed not to be the ‘real him’) pushes and pushes (in dreams, in nightmares, in fantasies) until it creates a basic instinct to kill. But if it’s coming from the subconscious, how can we say it’s not him? How can we imagine there’s some pure, non-hunter Jer we need to hold on to? Is this about the fear of growing up, or the fear that we’ll change with time? Don’t Jeremy’s life experiences collectively make him who he is – including all the times he’s been compelled, his awakening to his hunter identity and each and every time he’s died and come back? As Caroline quipped to Stefan, “there’s sublimating and then there’s insanity” – but who’s to say either one of those isn’t actually the ‘true’ self? And so in the end, whether Elena is sired to Damon or not seems somewhat irrelevant to the situation at hand. If we let go of the idea that there’s some true self that endures in distinction from the messiness of living, then this is who Elena is right now – a woman who wants Damon…if only for a while (which, to me, seems no different than the period in which she wanted Stefan…for a while).

This question comes together, perhaps, in the willing disposability of various characters. Elena points out how wrong it is to trade Jeremy’s humanity for her own, but perhaps she should have thought of this sooner? I for one enjoyed watching Jeremy wake up and start doing stuff rather than following others. When Elena promised him she’d never hurt him, I wondered if she had forgotten that she stabbed him in the neck a few weeks ago, killing him? I only hope poor Jer doesn’t go the way of so many other characters on this show – giving their lives to preserve E’s, whether they intend to or not.

I’ll leave the whole, the professor is in on the save-the-hybrids plan, but clearly not to save anyone. What do you think is going on there? And how does it connect to his work to bring back Bonnie’s magic? And to this elusive cure (and I continue to be intrigued by the idea of a “cure” – and by the fact that we haven’t heard whether or not Caroline would want it should it become available, or even what it feels like for her to have her very existence, who she is, described as something that requires ‘curing’).

What I do want to ask what’s going on when Stefan can justify turning and killing a guy by figuring out he’s a murderer (and seriously, what the heck were the odds on finding that guy in the hospital at random in Mystic Falls?!?). Have we reached a point in entertainment where vigilante violence is so accepted that no one even bats an eye at this storyline? Whether or not one can take it on themselves to kill a killer has been a central ethical question of shows like Dexter. But it seemed to pass in this episode with no ethical comment at all – which I found alarming! If Vampire Diaries offers one of the barometers for what kids today accept unquestioningly, those scenes left me a bit concerned about how much questions around the death penalty and the treatment of prisoners (recall how often they’ve used torture-porn on this show) have faded from public debate.

A few stray thoughts: Why was Stefan doing push ups in the woods? Can vampires change their physique? Isn’t that kind of a human activity? I enjoyed seeing the guest spot by Gabby Douglas at the ball! Shouldn’t Jeremy avoid doing super human strength tricks in front of everyone, no matter who cool it looks to life two kegs at once? And, as my husband asked – just how often does a plot line revolve around Matt and Jeremy unloading a truck of something or moving boxes? I feel there must be a youtube out there that catalogues this! Also, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I recognized this, but did you notice that the orchestra was playing a song from Twilight while Caroline and Klaus were drinking and talking on the bench (the only reason I recognized this is because a friend of mine wrote the song, not because I’m a huge Twilight soundtrack fan). Finally, does it seem strange to you that these kids are drinking champagne out in the open at a public event?!

Pick up the tempo; this is a pageant, not a funeral –
Natalie

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