I sometimes feel like I’m the only vampire-loving person of my generation who didn’t grow up reading L.J. Smith. I had friends who swore by her books, but I shrugged them off because I was a teenage vampire purist who did not read young adult literature
. Not ever1
So a few years back, when all the devoted L.J. Smith readers were brimming with excitement over the new show based on THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, I was... well, not exactly indifferent, but less jazzed than I could’ve been. Y’all know I love me some vampires
, but I was still newly escaped from the prison that is vampire purism. I wasn’t quite ready to watch a non-Buffyverse vampire show, particularly one with no track record. What if it got cancelled right after I fell in love with it? Fall television debuts are minefield
It got positive reviews from people I trust, though. Amy
first put it on my radar, then Iris
. My non-blogging friend Mitchie raved about it2
. And finally, Jenny
tipped me over the edge. "Memory," she told me, "the heroine has--and I cannot possibly emphasize this enough--an evil twin. The heroine has an evil twin.
I have several hardcore TV hooks, including secret teenage lesbians and random siblings, half- or otherwise. Until Jenny came along, I had no idea I needed to add evil twins to the list.
Needless to say, I’ve since rectified this.
But yes. I now had the desire to watch THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, if only my library would purchase the series. A couple of months back, they did.
I’ve now watched the first two seasons4
and thought I’d do a list review to tell y’all why I’m loving the show:
- Everybody’s got a sibling. Well, everybody except Caroline, Bonnie, Tyler and Alaric, which is really quite a lot of them; however, I like to hope that’s just because their previously-unknown siblings haven’t yet arrived in town. Siblings, as you regular readers will recall, are one of my biggest fictional hooks regardless of the medium. I love bookish siblings, TV siblings, film siblings, siblings in songs... give me a sibling and I’m a happy girl.
THE VAMPIRE DIARIES gives me lots and lots of siblings, all of whom have awesome relationships. The siblings on this show connect with each other in totally intense and mindblowing ways. And yeah, okay, sometimes things get a bit murderous between some of them, but it eventually blows over. At least for a little while.
- The show makes a clear distinction between real families and bio families. One of the characters learns they're adopted. This doesn't impact the way they feel about the people who raised them. Their parents are still their real parents, even if there isn't a blood connection. They aren't unwilling to learn about their bioparents, but it's with the acknowledgment that the newly-discovered bond won't necessarily be as strong or as valuable as the one they've shared with their real parents.
- Caroline. Caroline reminds me of Olive Snook from PUSHING DAISIES, only taller and less likely to burst into song. (Except she did sing that one time! Remember that time when she sang?) She’s frickin’ adorable. I love her outlook on life, her semi-ditsyness, her devotion to her friends, her voice, and the way she just wants her mother to love her for who she is. I’m pretty sure she’s my favourite.
- None of the werewolves fall in love with babies. They haven’t yet, anyway. And yes, this has become the standard by which I judge werewolves. I’m sure that says something uncomplimentary about the state of contemporary pop culture, or perhaps just the way I engage with it.
The werewolves do some supremely shitty stuff to Caroline, though. Bad werewolves! Leave Caroline alone, you canine bastards!
- There is, indeed, an evil twin, just like Jenny promised. EVIL TWIN, YOU GUYS! EVIL TWIN!
Do I even need to expand on this one?
- Damon. I initially pegged Damon as your standard spectacularly entertaining jackass. I expected I’d enjoy watching him, since y’all know I always lom onto the bad ones, but his actions throughout the first half of S1 convinced me I’d never like him. Turns out, I was dead wrong. I like him quite a bit5. He’s snarky, which is always a plus in my book, and I appreciate that he really does love Elena, even if he’s shite at behaving like someone who’s in love ought to. I love how he’s honest with her, too, even when it’s probably in his best interests to lie his arse off.
- The jackass vampire isn’t blond. If you’ve read or watched even a small amount of vampire fiction, you’ll have noticed that almost any work with two primary vampires has both a mopey vampire and a jackass (or otherwise not-so-good) vampire. The jackass vampire is always blonde. (Prominent examples: Lestat of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles; Spike of BtVS; Eric of TRUE BLOOD.) This is, like, the rules of vampirism.
Except THE VAMPIRE DIARIES has a black-haired jackass vampire! It breaks the mould!
This delights me far more than it should.
- Stefan. My few forays into fandom (which mostly consist of overheard Twitter conversations and gifsets on Tumblr) have given me the impression everybody hates Stefan. He’s definitely the mopey vampire in the equation, but I like him very much. He’s a fairly nice guy6, and I love how he actually listens to what Elena wants and needs. That’s important in a relationship.
- Werepire! I have nothing in particular to say about the werepire, except that I like the very fact that it exists. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t have an excuse to say werepire, and that would make my life far less enjoyable than it currently is.
- I talk to it. I know I’m invested in a show when I start shouting things at the screen. "What the hell are you doing, you stupid bastard?" is a popular one, as is "Oh, you are so going to eat her, aren't you?"
- Every episode ends on a must-have-more-oh-god-oh-god note. This effectively makes THE VAMPIRE DIARIES the TV equivalent of that book you just can’t put down. I popped it in my DVD player the other night and forty minutes later, I knew exactly what I was doing with the rest of my evening.
- There are lots of impressive houses. I'm something of an interior design junkie. I've probably spent as much time drooling over the Salvatores' spectacularly atmospheric house as the average viewer has over the oh-so-lovely cast.
- It appeals to the part of me that misses ANGEL. Yep. ANGEL, not BUFFY. I think this is because it has a somewhat more serious tone--which isn’t to say it’s entirely serious--with less of an overall Big Bad element to it. The villains aren’t bent on destroying the world or anything, like they were on BUFFY. They’re more focused on their own pursuits, like they were on ANGEL. The cast of characters, too, reminds me more of the Angel Investigations team than the Scoobies, even though it's possibe to find a Scoobie equivalent for most, if not all, of the TVD characters.
And on that note, here are some ANGEL-style credits for S3 of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. Alas, I couldn't find any for S1 or S2:
What the hell; here’s a Buffy one, too:
I love it, y’all. I’ve heard the third season gets dodgy, but I still can’t wait for it to come in for me at the library. I plan to DVR S4, too, so I can start it as soon as I’ve finished S3.Back In the Day:
- Okay, that’s sort of a lie on both counts. I did read one L.J. Smith title--THE SECRET VAMPIRE--because my friend Danielle hoisted it on me. I liked it just fine, but it didn’t convince me to rethink my stance on vampires other than Anne Rice’s or revise my opinion of YA. It took a couple more years and Francesca Lia Block’s WEETZIE BAT before I reached the second point, and five years and a hefty dose of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER before I made it to the first.
- She also became unreasonably annoyed with me when I failed to recognize that the background on her phone was a picture of Damon. Our conversation went something like this:
Her: guess who that is! Guess!
Me: uh... I've got no clue.
Her: no, come on, you know this one! Guess!
Me: okay, I guess somebody from SMALLVILLE.
Me: I guessed. Tell me.
Her: no, you know this one! You've gotta guess!
Me: someone from SUPERNATURAL? Someone from THE OFFICE? Someone super obvious from BUFFY who I'm totally failing to recognize because I have the worst facial recognition skills in all of creation? Oh my god, is it Angel? Am I staring at a picture of Angel???
Her: no, come on, you're so close! You know this one!
Me: I DO NOT KNOW THIS ONE. REMEMBER HOW I'M ALWAYS TEN YEARS BEHIND ON POP CULTURE????
Her: ...oh yeah. I forgot I was talking to you.
Me: so, who is it?
Her: Damon from Vampire Diaries!
Me: which you know I don't watch, on account of the being ten years behind thing.
Her: *abrupt change of subject*
- Then she told me all about GUIDING LIGHT and how these two cousins who were terrible, horrible people found redemption (and awesomely over-the-top storylines) through love. I'm now sad I'll never be able to watch that late, lamented soap opera, because it sounds like the kind of thing I eat straight from the jar.
- The third was still in processing a few days ago, but all the item information on it has now disappeared. This makes me nervous. I hope they didn't run into licensing restrictions or something. I wanna watch S3, dammit!
- Except when he’s terrorizing people and/or eating them; which, you’ll recall, is just one of those things you’ve gotta overlook when you find yourself in a soap operatic situation. Soap operas are a hotbed of, "I like X, except when they [do something absolutely repugnant]."
- Except when he's terrorizing and/or eating people. Oh, vampires. One can't write about you without that caveat, can one?