The Moth Chase

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

A little Death Goes Unnoticed

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Lexi and Damon

Dear Kathryn,

While I found it embarrassing to watch an emotionless Elena bounce with glee (an emotion, no?) in a pretty tame ‘underground’ club (which I actually thought for a second was The Bronze from Buffy when they first walked in), the trip to New York was somehow redeemed for me by the fact that I’m quite sure the city shots that broke up scenes were borrowed from Gossip Girl. I like the idea that these CW shows can share…Perhaps Serena and Blair will take a trip to Mystic Falls – something I’d definitely tune in for! Mostly, the trip to New York made me wonder why all these vamps bother living in Mystic Falls at all?! Damon’s probably right – with so much life, a little death goes unnoticed. So wouldn’t the city that never sleeps be the perfect place for vampires to settle down? Aside from such wondering, the NYC story did little for me – so now we have a list of potential places where Katherine might be, and Elena and Rebecca are on the run to find her (most awkward, boring road trip ever!). But what exactly did the Lexi flashbacks achieve? I guess they let us know that negative emotions seem to have more power than positive, and that Damon killed Lexi out of his own pain and guilt – not just his random disregard for life. But that seemed about it to me. Am I missing something?

Back in Mystic Falls, Bonnie escapes the witch coven to wake up and have forgotten all the havoc she’s wreaked in the last few days…proving that she was brainwashed the whole time (which leaves me wondering why Silas was continually trying to convince her to do his bidding – again, blurry lines between mind control and autonomy here!). But the really interesting part to me of the Mystic Falls narrative was how Caroline killed the witches. It seemed she forgot for a moment that killing one would kill them all, but even killing the one (rather than, say, just incapacitating her) seemed a bit extreme for Caroline. And of course, that’s kind of an awkward thing to happen just minutes after she’s said that people who do terrible things are just terrible! The possibility of a hook up between her and Klaus – as two terrible people – is certainly hot, and I’m up for it. More so, I’d like to see Caro get to play with some more complex emotions, storylines and interactions. How will she handle facing the ‘terrible’ inside her? Please don’t let her shut off her emotions now too! But given how isolated she is right now (Tyler’s gone, Bonnie’s in and out of being herself, Elena’s no good…), where will she turn – Klaus or Stefan or somewhere else entirely?

Why don’t you find someone less terrible you can relate to…


Thanks for getting us started again, Natalie, because I was having a hard time coming up with a response to what was a pretty boring episode for me. I am trying to figure out why, after so much promise in mid-season, the show feels likes its spinning its wheels. I am guessing this is because we are building to some kind of fabulous finale (only three episodes left, but another three week hiatus after next week)! At least I hope that is what is going on because if we get stuck with another season of Elena wondering if she can really be a vampire I am going to fall asleep.

And that is what this whole season has been about, right? What does it really mean to be human, now that our main leading lady has slothed off her mortal coil? “Being emotional” has risen to the top of the list in recent weeks, but you are so right that these characters can’t quite decide what that means. Most of the time it seems to mean positive emotions, or at least empathetic ones, like compassion, love, care for others, vulnerability. Switching off one’s humanity seems to involve cutting off these emotions, even if other residual feelings (elation, joy, anger) might remain. This is, I guess, what Elena means when she says she can finally think “rationally” instead of clouded by neuroses, fears, hopes, and desires like Rebekah. Rational here obviously means guided only by self-interest/self-survival. Given that our entire economic, political, and legal system is built on the assumption that human beings are fundamentally rational in this way – prone to act out of self-interest above all else – it is kind of interesting that this is the position Elena takes when she is cut off from her humanity! I like the idea that humanity is defined not just as “compassionate” – but as a bundle of competing desires, feelings, and impulses that make one act in “irrational” ways. It certainly helps explain the world these characters actually live in and the decisions they make.

But it is also clear that “the humanity switch” isn’t really a switch at all, but more like a slippery slope toward and away from acknowledging the mess of these emotions. Maybe you can switch it off in one swoop, but Damon’s story suggests that the way back to humanity isn’t a quick change but a slow process, maybe starting with more violent emotions like anger and hate (which I think count as “human” because they show that Damon was tangled up in what he felt for and about Lexi, even if those were negative emotions). The thing is, why won’t these characters actually talk about this stuff more directly? It is not like the show is scared of having them explain everything they think and feel (multiple times!). So why not ruminate on the strange nature of humanity instead of just pronouncing on it in contradictory ways?

Elena isn’t the only one helping us figure out what it really means to be human either. You are so right about Bonnie: she gives us another confused look at agency and what it means to “be in control.” But having her brainwashed so thoroughly she doesn’t even remember her actions? That just makes her entire story line seem pointless. I didn’t even think about the possibility of Caro going dark (though I would totally watch that too!); I was too busy being pissed off that anything interesting we’ve seen B0nnie do or think these past few weeks as she is trying to figure out what to do after Jeremy’s death is basically not really Bonnie. Because, gasp, that would mean Bonnie was actually in control of her own kick-ass power? For the love of god, can’t that lady just take center stage for a moment?

Oh and can we all just agree that a few pink highlights do not constitute a wild make over?!

I thought we were in the off part of our on again off again eternity of misery cycle.


Written by themothchase

March 22, 2013 at 6:54 am

One Response

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  1. I don’t know; I’ve seen a lot of comments about the inconsistency of the ‘switch’, but it seems pretty clear to me that, along with compulsion, it’s an integral part of how vampirism is constructed on the show. Whereas compulsion is a practical necessity for undetected non-fatal feeding, the ‘switch’ is a psychological necessity for a vampirism that delivers emotional escalation rather than loss of soul or acquisition of inhumanity. There is nothing about this vampirism that makes its vampires okay with inflicting pain, terror, death or at best (somewhat) metaphorical rape on their victims. Any way you slice it, eating people is not okay, even if you really enjoy it. The ‘switch’ then, is a survival mechanism, without which most vampires would not survive long term. It makes sense that different people would need – and get – different sorts of repression to achieve the end of effective, remorseless, feeding. Calling it a switch doesn’t necessarily imply anything mechanical or uniform: it makes sense in that repression ordinarily has to be maintained, whereas this effect (essentially voluntary ‘sociopathy’) once triggered, is permanent in the absence of sustained efforts at self-awareness. This also underlies Rose’s suggestion that in older vampires (who have learnt to handle the feeding process, perhaps through multiple cycles) the ‘switch’ becomes a learned behaviour rather than an almost involuntary response to psychological distress. ‘Humanity’, then, is different things to different vampires, and also repressed by the switch to different degrees according to how challenging the feeding process is to the vampire’s self-perception. Some vampires, like Klaus, become psychopaths who fully experience their own emotions. Others, like Stefan, radically separate their ‘vampire’ and ‘human’ aspects, effectively fetishising both. The inherent link to identity means all project their experience on to the phenomenon itself, and how others experience it. So there isn’t a definition, and in a lot of ways, there isn’t much to discuss? But there is an awful lot to act out…


    April 20, 2013 at 9:20 pm

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