Wednesday, July 7, 2010

justifying the vampire diaries

It’s time I went public about how much I enjoy watching The Vampire Diaries, possibly the most unoriginal and predictable television show ever created. It’s like someone put every vaguely successful vampire series ever produced into a blender, spread it over some HD film with a plastic knife, boxed it up with every American top ten single from past 18 months and sent it to some dude in Hollywood with too much cash to spare but brain enough to know that riding the vampire wave is the quickest way to billionairdom at the moment. And then everyone entered gazillionairdom when it not only became the CW Network’s most watched show last year, but the most watched show among adults (18-34 years). How this happened when the script is worse than Twilight and the main character’s (Elena) personality is so boring it took me all of the first season to remember her name, I’ll never know. Truth be told, the producer was originally uninterested in the show till he "began to realize that it was a story about a small town, about that town's underbelly and about what lurks under the surface.”1 Because of course this has never been addressed in TV show about vampires before. Does this guy even own a television?

And yet. I watched episodes 1-22 in less than three days. I couldn’t even stop to leave the couch, and hence ate the only food in arms’ reach which happened to be a friend’s pile of Easter chocolate (thankfully this was large enough to sustain me for a couple of days). I attribute The Vampire Diaries’ addictive nature to two things, in my case – its predictability, and its male actors.

In addressing predictability, the show is so plot-driven it may as well not even have characters, and the cliff-hangers are so shameless that Jayde (fellow vamp-fan and owner of aforementioned chocolate) and I paused after each episode to list what we thought would happen next, i.e. who would hook up, who would die, and who would kill them. We were right in every case! This not only gave us a warm bubbly sense of satisfaction, but confirmed our status as vampire-experts. ‘Ohh,’ we could sniff to one another, ‘please. As if that conversation wasn’t taken directly from Buffy Season 2 Episode 19 where Buffy and Angel have that conversation while they’re under the spell of the dead flute player.’ (Okay, so maybe it confirmed our nerd-status too). Not mention the dark-haired-brooding-journaling thing that the boy vamps have going on, a common theme from Buffy to True Blood to Twilight. The True Blood rip-off goes deeper, as the hot white girl has a hot black best friend, and just like Sookie Stackhouse, Elena’s BFF Bonnie can read minds. Twilight’s not far off either as Stefan, in true Edward Cullen style, repeatedly keeps his distance from, and returns to, Elena (who, of course, is begging to be made a vamp herself so they can spend eternity together ‘cause she like, loves him sooo much). Of course it’s here we state that Buffy Summers is the most intelligent girlfriend of a vampire ever as she never valued her relationship with Angel so much she wanted to be a vampire. But I digress. The first reason I loved The Vampire Diaries was because it’s great that such mindless and easy viewing can make me feel so high-brow and informed and literature-savvy. (YES, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is high-brow and counts as literature, that is not a discussion for right now.)

The other reason the show works so well is due to the good-looking-ness of its male characters, in particular, Damon Salvatore (guy on right in photo). Wowee, just like Supernatural, you could put this show on mute and not enjoy it any less (in fact, you may enjoy it more! No distractions!) While I rail against gendered objectification of any sort, and particularly the way it’s seen in teenage television shows, I found I just couldn’t help myself. I even had fantasies of moving to LA to do my PhD and running into Ian Somerhalder (the guy who plays Damon, incidentally also an underwear model) and marrying him. It was at this stage I realised that I had probably got a bit carried away and got over it, and now I fantasise about going to Scotland and eating deep-fried mars bars, which is more realistic. However, if a feminist and Christian like me who is all about inner value and respecting the opposite sex and respecting my own sex was taken in so easily, it totally explains why this show would be so popular with 18-34 year olds. I wonder if seeing the gender breakdown of that demographic would shed light on this – I’m pretty certain the viewers would be mostly female.

While VD adds nothing new to the vampire genre and in fact just does a bad job of reworking the old, there are a couple of notable elements. There’s some minor character development in Damon who goes from annoying-evil-guy to conflicted-evil-guy-that-everyone-has-a-soft-spot-for (again, following the trend of Spike from Buffy). Also, it was cool in the final episode of Season 1, when who we thought was Elena was actually the villainess Katherine, and she turned around and chopped Uncle John’s fingers off. Season Two comes out this fall, northern-hemisphere-wise. I’ll be freezing my butt off in Edinburgh by then and watching the next instalment of good-looking predictability on the advance DVDs Jayde sends me from Jakarta and ignoring the Indonesian subtitles. Can’t wait to see if all my predictions come true.
1 Hughes, Sarah (February 5, 2010). "The Vampire Diaries - Fresh blood for teenage vampire lovers". The Independent. Retrieved February 5, 2010.


  1. Hahahaha Supernatural. So true.

  2. I can't wait to get into it. Bring it. PS Going to see Eclipse on Friday...