The Moth Chase

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

Here We Go

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Dear Kathryn,

Sooo, am I the only one who is a bit concerned about how easily these kids moved to a nuclear option?? There was no good reason to kill rather than just dagger Kol that didn’t land squarely on the immediate needs and desires of our crew. Sure, Jeremy’s mark gets completed with a “single” kill (and btw, I laughed uproariously at the Hulk style ripping of the shirt at the end – pure cheese! I loved it!). But it’s not a single kill! It’s something more like dropping a nuclear bomb on thousands of people from the safety of an undisclosed location. How long can they pretend to themselves that they haven’t directly killed anyone? I hope we get to see the devastation at some point – the effects of their actions. There has to be some payoff for their utter lack of moral  deliberation. Given the constant turning to violent video games throughout the episode, I can’t help but wonder if there was a real level of self-awareness on the writers’ part – a constant subliminal reminder of how distanced we all are from the violence that holds our lives together. Pair that with the weird cancelled 80’s dance, which evoked a nostalgia for the era in which the Cold War played out (do the kids watching this show, all born around 1995, I would think, even get those references??)…and I can’t help but wonder what political subtext is going on here? For me, I’m reminded of the drone warfare that tricks us into thinking we’re targeting specific ‘bad-guys’ – even as its collateral damage is terrifying and moral implications remain largely outside the realm of genuine public consideration. But I’m abundantly aware that kids watching this show just want to see their favourite characters hook up and have what they want – and so they, like our characters, are probably willing to go nuclear too.

Rebecca’s role in all this is kind of interesting – in response to our commenter Honeyfizz, from last week, yes, I find her terribly annoying. But I’m also intrigued by the narrative function she plays. Rebecca always slows things down (with her, ‘let’s all catch up under compulsion’ in the library Breakfast Club style scenes from two weeks ago, and last night with her need to go to the cancelled dance…). The space and time her adolescent needs creates could actually make room for the types of moral deliberation these kids could be learning to practice.  The fact that it’s not just her insecurity, but a deep desire to be human, that makes her yearn for what seems silly might actually be a pathway out of the chaos being created for the group to wonder whether they should be doing what they want to be doing.

Because let’s remember, after all – the crew right now is willing to bring on THE APOCALYPSE to cure Elena of something she doesn’t seem all that bothered about. Of course, I love the teenage drama evoked in this move. When you’re 17, everything feels this urgent, this grand. And negotiating the power one is coming into with adulthood alongside giving up the quite normal self-centredness of being a kid takes time. Kol’s concern was that the group had lost their bearings on where faith should be placed and what they should fear…he longed for a world with more structure, religious perhaps, but at least moral. I wrote a few weeks ago about how that structure seemed undone in Bonnie’s awakening for her. Now I think it’s been slain for the whole group. It’s telling that Bonnie’s power is “Expression” – the absolute desire of a teenage girl (and perhaps our culture in general at this point) – the ability to express herself for who she is. I love her family scrambling to deprogram her from the newfangled ideas she’s learning from a prof (can’t you hear the panic of right wing anti-elitism/anti-education there!). But I’m bothered by the fact that this awakening, this ‘expression,’ does seem to be deeply problematic.

My hope at this point is that the chaos unleashed will bring us to the point of a real moral question – that the instability will give way to some sort of development for our characters that isn’t infinitely arrested. At least I think I do. Some small part of me also wants them to be the wonderful monsters they are and just let hell loose and revel in the aftereffects. I like the idea that we might actually be watching and rooting for ‘the bad guys’ in a world that no longer operates along the lines of good and bad, but which ushers in something that transcends both.

I become more and more convinced that the writers actually have these things in mind as well. There’s an undercurrent to this show that is quite brilliant. I once thought it was all by accident, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s real.

Be bad with purpose. Otherwise you’re not worth forgiving –
Natalie

————-

It’s a bit late to be joining in since the next episode will air in two days, but I couldn’t resist responding to your excellent points. I agree completely about the kill Kol option – since when are any of these characters so cavalier about taking life, even vampire life? I found it telling that in this same episode Stefan talks to Rebekah about what Lexi meant to him and we can see the pain of losing her in the wavering of his chiseled jaw. What countless Lexis were killed when Kol died? Who is mourning for them? How is this not even registering as a host of vampires plot to kill an Original? As the Originals are integrated more and more into the core of the group – still discussed as though they are uneasy alliances, but in practice are substantive relationships – we don’t really have any “evil” vampires anymore. Or as you point out, we’ve moved to some other moral plane, where dealing in death is just part of the scheme for “some greater good” – in this case the cure.

But honestly I haven’t heard anyone but Rebekah mount a compelling argument for wanting the cure! I was also fascinated by the idea that Rebekah, of all of them, represents real humanity. In all her pettiness and manipulation, she is holding the torch for human emotions – or at least the stereotypical desires of high romance: commitment, love, growing old together. Whereas our previously human characters are getting sucked deeper and deeper into the power struggles of the supernatural world, slowly shedding the moral debates that used to plague them.

I would love to think that this is intentional on the part of the writers and I think we’ll be able to see those intentions more clearly as the Silas vs. the cure showdown comes to a head. So far a lot seems to hinge on whether we believe Kol’s interpretation from the witches – that Silas will bring about the end of the human world in some way – or Shane’s fanatical hope that Silas will raise the dead. But really, what the hell does that look like? Shane has hedged his bets on this one. At times if seems like Silas will raise just those killed in pursuit of his freedom. But he has promised Bonnie some hope of seeing her Grams again, which suggests all dead people might get in on the resurrection. And if the dead are raised, how is that not the end of the human world? In which case, who really cares about a cure that makes you human again if humanity is over? We’ve longed for this show to take seriously discussions about what makes us human in light of all these non-human, more-than-human characters. Maybe the impending apocalypse/cure will bring those discussions to the fore. I’d settle for that, even if we don’t get any serious moral reckoning. Or are they one and the same?

I eagerly await what looks like our first real foray outside Mystic Falls (except in flashbacks) and some hardcore exploration of ancient witchcraft!

Kathryn

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