I heard of Vampire Diaries in the midst of vampire love and romance seemingly popping up at every single turn. Having read the entirety of Twilight in order to be able to develop my own opinion of the series, as well as having watched all of the movies for the same reasons, I am quite familiar with the very many issues that lie with Stephenie Meyers and the world and characters she created. Misogyny, sexism, rape culture, unhealthy, abusive and obsessive relationships, anyone vaguely familiar with what Twilight is knows of those themes and the reasons people have for critiquing them. Thus, when I decided to check out Vampire Diaries for good, I never expected it to turn out thousands times worst than Twilight ever was, where the things that seemed to creep at a corner in one universe, actually take place in this one. When I got around watching Vampire Diaries, I never thought I’d see so much rape, and murder of women and black characters, and the never ending worshiping of a serial rapist bad guy gone “good”
And so, here are 6 moments from the season 1 of Vampire Diaries (There are a LOT of seasons and a LOT of fucked up shit in it, so I have to minimize for now.) that, hopefully, will make you think twice about recommending this show, or will make you think back on things you might have set aside or forgotten;
1. The treatment and abuse of Vicki Donovan:
When I think of Vicki Donovan and what was done to her and her memory, I feel sad. This is a character the show abuses at an intense degree early on on the show, and yet seems to forget entirely when she served her purpose. Vicki Donovan, little sister of Matt, and romantic interest of Jeremy, Elena’s little brother, is established as a young girl with many issues. Self-esteem issues, abuse of substances, self-destructive etc. As the show begins, Vicki serves the purpose of basically being a bad influence for Jeremy, assumed to be destructive without reasons. Yet, in the very first episode, Vicki’s boyfriend attempts to rape her only to be interrupted by someone, leading to her being alone in the woods, where she is attacked and bitten by Damon, the “bad” Salvadore brother. From there, the spiral of abuse and destruction of Vicki begins. Not a whole lot if shown in the case of Vicki, who seems lost and manipulated as she “parties” with Damon through her transition. Alone with her abuser and predator, she dances in underwear, confused as to what happened, but troubled enough to be unable to put the pieces back together. Vicki’s next few days are hard, she has trouble controlling her hunger and is treated like a puppet by both brothers on many occasions, who torture her with fear and manipulation, modifying her memories and bringing her character to an even lower, more self-destructive place. Vicki never recovers and is never given a chance, out of control and without receiving any help, Vicki is killed and her body is buried away like garbage by the very man who assaulted and turned her for his amusement.
2. The treatment, rapes and abuse of Caroline Forbes:
From episode one we are told that we should dislike Caroline, from nearly every single character, including the people that are supposed to be her best of friends. Caroline is presented as an annoying, clingy and emotionally unstable person. Yet, that is never what we actually see from Caroline, who was an insecure, lonely young woman constantly talked down to, and ignored by her friends and piers who always leave her out of things and expect the worst from her. While the show attempts to establish Caroline as someone she clearly never was, Caroline still gets used through her (so called) position as Elena’s best friend by Damon, who compels her into dating him. Being compelled, Caroline has her agency and ability to consent completely removed. She is used for weeks at a time as a blood bag as Damon feeds on her against her will and rapes her multiples times, always compelling her to remain silent and never say anything to anybody. On multiple occasions though, we witness glimpse of consciousness from Caroline, who begs for her life and expresses utter terror, yet, always unable to say anything or save herself, as she is compelled not to. Caroline’s situation is obvious to Stephan, the “good” brother, who again and again, fails to do anything to save Caroline, but rather, often uses her as bait or as a pawn, never ending the circle or rape and abuse her could have stopped. When Elena learned of the situation, noticing bruises and comforting a broken Caroline, Elena completely fails to do anything to help her friends, as throughout the show, she absolutely never utters the word “rape”, never checks on her friend, never sympathize for, and instead, ends forming a friendship and later, romantic relationship with her friend’s rapist and abuser. The many instances in the show, when supposedly “good” characters force Caroline to befriend and “stand” her abuser made me so uncomfortable that I had to stop watching the show and move on to something else.
2. The utter lack of justice for Damon’s many victims;
In the same theme, let’s, for a moment, talk about the fact that Damon absolutely never pays for any of the terrible things he’s done and inflicted onto others, or the fact that even though the show forces you to believe that he is a bad guy gone “good”, Damon actually never shows remorse for his actions. He never apologizes for turning and killing Vicki, he never acknowledges nor apologises for raping and abusing Caroline over a long period of time, the many attempts at sexually assaulting Elena, the many physically assault and threats made to Bonnie, and the countless other women he has assaulted, raped, abused, and killed for his mere amusement.
3. The treatment and eternal servitude of Bonnie, as well as every witch/black character
Bonnie, Bonnie, Bonnie. The things they’ve put you through.
Vampire Diaries is a VERY white show, and keeping this in mind, we are constantly presented with a supernatural character, witches, that are the only non-white (black in this case) characters of the show. Bonnie is introduced at Elena’s best friend, her confident, her everything, and Elena is as such for Bonnie. Yet, it is more than obvious that the character of Bonnie solely exists to do one thing, help white character whatever the situation, whatever the cost, even if it costs you your family or your life, and when you’re not doing exactly that, your character doesn’t matter, doesn’t exist, serves no purpose. Bonnie was one of the most interesting character of the show. Learning that she descends from a long line of Salem witches, women who ran away and avoided being burned at the stake by religious fanatics, she is told of her powers by her grandmother, the beloved and only adult figure in her life. Bonnies spends many episode jumping back in forth from the spotlight, teasing us with hints at her practicing and experimenting with her powers. Bonnie’s powers were more than just magic within the show, it was the one thing that, often, protected her from being killed like other side characters. Her magic, protecting her from Vampires, protected her, but it also made her valuable, and very early on Bonnie was turned into nothing more than…well, basically? A slave. Constantly threatened and black mailed into helping and serving Vampires, who she hates, Bonnie is never safe, and her appearances on the show only exist when she is needed. When white people need her. Very often expressing her fear and dislike of vampires to Elena (remember? Her supposedly best friend ever, forever?), her emotions and fears are always put aside, and she is asked (or threatened) to help vampires in anything and everything they might need a witch for (which seems to be everything to be quite honest). This costs Bonnie everything, her power is reduced into a curse of eternal servitude, and in the end it costs her her grandmother, who dies while being forced to help the vampires that he best friend loves and worships. She never fully recovers, and when it is time to grief, Bonnie disappears from the show and is only seen again…when white people need her again. This is an EXTREMELY recurring theme with witches, which are basically the ONLY non-white, black characters on the show. They are reduced to witches, slaves with magic, for the use of the white man, and if not, or when they are finished; they are killed off.
No but like, killed off one after the others, I’m telling you.
5. The establishment of Stephan’s “holiness” vs his actions
The Salvadore brothers, Damon and Stephan, the big brother and the younger one, the bad and the good one. Until…not. Stephan is always called the good brother, the good one, and sure, in comparison to Damon, he is an angel, but then, who wouldn’t be? When it matters, Stephan’s “goodness” is often questionable, if even present. When Vicki was abused, Stephan would wipe her memory to protect his brother. When he learns of Caroline’s rapes and abuse, Stephan chooses to stay on the sideline to see how he could profit of the situation, waiting to see if her could get his brother out of town, using her as bait, making her a victim, furthering the abuse, never saving her. Stephan never truly considers fighting his brother or confronting him, the women and many other victims along the way that make way to Damon’s path aren’t enough to make Stephan decide to take any action. Are these really the signs of a good guy? A man who doesn’t help victims of abuse, and instead protects the abuser because *cue coarse voice* “he’s my brother, he’s family” or some bullshit? A man who allows another man to rape a woman, his girlfriend’s best friend, no less, someone he also, never ever, apologises to. And when his own brother attempts to assault or attacks his girlfriend? Stephan accepts it and disregards it as being Damon’s nature, and does, well, nothing. That’s not a good guy.
6. The usage of women are the most common choice of victim
You’d think in a show based in modern time, with modern vampires, both male and female, you’d see a wide range of variety in human victims.
Very rarely in the show do we see men as being the chosen victim by both male and female vampires. Women are continually categorised as the easiest, tastiest, stupidest sex and so end up making “better” victims. Not only that, the differences in how the assault on male and female victims are shows and portrayed are staggering. There is a sexualised violence with women being attacked that you do not see in the rare case a man gets chosen as a blood bag, arms over waist, breasts squeezed upwards, the camera lingers on the face and the bare neck as an emotion of horror washes over the female victim. Men’s deaths are violent too, but the feeding on male victims are entirely different things, they are violent, but quick, and never shown as anything sexual. Women are kidnapped and kept as walking corpses. Used to be feed on, dressed in short dresses and heels or some times left in only their underwear, with empty eyes as they get compelled to be silent and forget, over and over. And over.”
There are very many points that I could add, but in terms of season 1, I will stop there. Many people will wonder and perhaps even ask me: “Why are you watching Vampire Diaries if it’s so bad.” To which I’ll be tempted to simply reply “I have netflix and I needed background noise” but, honestly, it became much more than just that. Just as I have done with Twilight in both book and movie form (*cries a little inside*) I personally often limit myself from forming an opinion about something if I haven’t experienced it myself. I had heard of the many issues within Vampire Diaries, but I would have never thought that it was this bad. The fact that the level of discomfort that I have experienced while watching the show, so greatly beats whatever I felt while reading or watching Twilight, says a lot considering that this is a show that often mocks Twilight and that people who disliked Twilight like to claim it being the better alternative. Vampire Diaries isn’t only a pretty good example of rape culture, it propagates it. The treatment of it’s female characters, the constant stories of sexual abuse, assault and rape and its treatment of it, as well as the shameless worshiping of a serial rapist are things I’m surprised I didn’t hear more of, and even more, the fact that the show still goes on.
What are your thoughts on this? Please let me know, and let me know if you’d like a post about season 2 and so on.
Here are some really great bits and pieces on those subjects: