I for one think the title card should be printed on a book with vampire fangs. Seems logical to me, even if a little on the nose.

The Standard Vampire Diaries title card, sometimes depicted with dripping blood.

Vampire Diaries is a CW Teen Drama, which like the WB teen dramas which existed before its merger with UPN created the CW, is characterized by teens whose social problems are treated like life or death situations (though depending on the show, sometimes they are), and frequently feature excessive angst and/or brooding about the teenage condition.

 

The TV series, however is based on a trilogy of “young adult vampire horror” novels, written by L.J. Smith and published over a decade before Twilight. The series proved popular enough for fan demand to spark the writing of a fourth novel, and later two additional trilogies (though the most recent is being written by a ghost writer instead of the original author). Despite this popularity and being around before Twilight really exploded the vampire romance genre, I doubt this series would have been adapted for television had Twilight not opened the floodgates for popular culture.

 

Now I’m no fan of the Twilight series, and my reactions to vampires in fiction are often lukewarm, but I am a student of all kind of television, which means I try to give shows a fair chance even if they seem sub par or downright unwatchable at first glance. My first experience with this show was during what some of my friends with similar industry aspirations call a “Pilot Party”. At the start of the fall TV season we’ll get together to watch the premiere episodes of various shows, good or bad and discuss them. We watched Vampire Diaries’ pilot and I was on board with the general consensus; it was better than expected but probably not something I would watch.

I wonder if a vampire could compel your mind through a photo. It would explain my recent taste for human blood.

This is what the cover to the season 1 DVD set looks like. I've had sexy male vampire staring at me for a few weeks asking "why aren't you watching us?"

 

Flash forward to late last year, when I was hanging out with a friend of mine, Amy. When just the two of us are hanging out, we will often watch shows that most of our friends don’t or won’t watch, because she has slightly different taste than most, and as I often say, I’ll watch almost anything. On this particular night, I watched a current episode of Vampire Diaries, and Amy was eager to see what my reaction would be. I had to admit I enjoyed it more than I expected. It still had some problems typical of teen dramas, but I’ve watched at least my fair share of those in the past and enjoyed them despite such issues. This set the wheels in motion.

 

Flash forward again to when Amy acquired the first two seasons of Vampire Diaries on DVD. She loaned the first season to me and told me to watch the whole thing. Well I’ve been gently nudging my friends to give me suggestions or what I like to think of as Challenges of shows suitable for this blog to write about. A challenger approaches: The Vampire Diaries!

 

Enough about me, let’s get into the basics of the show. Let’s start with the supernatural namesake, vampires. As a well-established monster, vampires have reached a point where authors often tweak the rules of vampires powers and weaknesses. The Vampire Diaries follows this trend, but certainly not so egregiously as “Vampires sparkle in the sunlight”. Have I mentioned I don’t like Twilight?

 

Vampire Powers (or Vampowers if you like portmanteaus):

 

-Immortality: Vampires don’t age and will live forever unless someone uses one of their weaknesses to kill them.

-Healing Factor: Vampires aren’t completely indestructible, and can be cut or otherwise hurt, but their natural healing abilities quickly kick in and prevent lasting damage.

-Super Strength: While I don’t actually recall the vampires of the series using their strength for anything especially noteworthy so far, there have been multiple arguments ending with someone being tossed with obviously superhuman strength.

-Super Speed: This one’s pretty straightforward. Vampires are fast! It makes getting from place to place in a small town like Mystic Falls without a car pretty convenient.

Say, since vampires have reflections in this world, I bet they could compel themselves to quit smoking.

Damon Salvatore compels you to watch The Vampire Diaries. And also keep reading my blog.

-Mind Compulsion: This one’s the real kicker, and this show rarely pulls any punches with it, which I appreciate. Vampires can control other people’s minds plus they can erase or create false memories in them. I assume there’s some limit to this power, or else the two central vampires of this show would have compelled their issues away years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Vampire Weaknesses (or Vampeaknesses if you just like mashing words together):

 

-Wooden Stake: Taking one to the heart will kill a vampire, this holds true as vampire 101.

-Sunlight: Does burn vampires, though if the exposure is not sustained it seems that the healing factor can undo the damage to some degree.

-Invitation: A vampire cannot enter a house without being invited, though once invited they are free to come and go.

-Vervain: Admittedly I’m not a vampire scholar, so I don’t know if this was made up for the show, or established yet obscure. Vervain is an herb of some kind that weakens vampires, to an extreme degree if it’s ingested. If worn or kept in close proximity, vervain also provides some degree of protection for humans, at least to counteract their ability to compel minds.

 

There may be more weaknesses that eventually develop or haven’t been discussed, but those cover the main bases.

 

The Premise:

 

The show revolves around two brothers, Stefan and Damon Salvatore, who were turned into vampires about 150 years ago. They take sibling rivalry to a new level as a woman they fought over even before they were turned is still driving hostilities between them. The pair seemed to be affluent members of society when they were young, but eventually left the town where they lived, Mystic Falls, for reasons not entirely clear to me just yet (though I suspect it was due to a rise in the rates of vampire hunters in town).

 

Things start off as Stefan returns to Mystic Falls, being compelled to meet a girl named Elena Gilbert, the spitting image (and possible descendant) of his and Damon’s old flame, Katherine. Damon quickly shows up and takes just about every opportunity he can to spite Stefan and make him miserable. Things continue largely from there with Stefan merely trying to live a quasai-normal life, Damon being a sociopath and the rest of the town trying to cope with “mysterious animal attacks” and other such vampire fallout.

 

Also not pictured is Matt, who is like Schrodinger's main character. So far the box is empty.

Not pictured is Aunt Jenna, who looks way too young to be anyone's legal guardian.

Characters:

 

There are many, but the show focuses largely around three and a half of them, who I will discuss here.

 

Stefan Salvatore: The “good” vampire who doesn’t feed on humans, but instead feeds on the blood of animals. As a result his vampire abilities are relatively weak, especially his ability to compel humans. Stefan is sensitive, caring and introspective, which combined with his lonely life as a vampire obviously leads him to brood with some regularity. Stefan is remorseful about things he has done in the past due to his vampirism, but has largely changed his ways. He still worries that he is a danger to others because of his relationship to his brother, Damon.

 

Damon Salvatore: The evil vampire brother, no quotes for that one, Damon’s a full on sociopath. He makes it clear that humans are at best pawns in his mind games and at worst nothing more than food. Whatever the details are regarding his love triangle with Stefan and Katherine (a girl the boys knew way back before they were vampires) are they seem to have had a severe impact on Damon’s mental stability. He has no qualms feeding on people or using people to hurt Stefan…or really doing anything that might hurt Stefan. He’s very smart and feeding on humans makes him strong as well, this guy’s seriously dangerous.

 

Elena Gilbert: She is the object of vampire affections in this story. As things kick off Elena and her brother, Jeremy, are being raised by their aunt after their parents died in a car accident. The pair of them are both handling things in a pretty emo fashion, but at least she’s not taking copious drugs and picking fights with guys at school. She is however complaining to her (vampire) diary that she’s totally emotionally stunted. Well, she was until Stefan came along. She feels like she can open up and relate to Stefan. Things are complicated of course by the fact that he is a vampire, and she quickly grows tired of all the secret keeping and moral peril.

 

Bonnie Bennett: This is the half-character of importance I mentioned before. Bonnie is somehow the best friend of every teenage girl in Mystic Falls, despite rarely interacting with them in a typical best friend fashion. It turns out that Bonnie’s a witch. Don’t mistake that for a spoiler, her first conversation brings up the possibility that she’s a witch and almost every single scene or exchange of dialogue with her in it somehow pertains to the fact that she’s a witch. This bothers me mostly because the fact that she is a witch has yet to impact the story in any meaningful way, but she just keeps bringing it up and talking about it incessantly. I strongly suspect that it is a rule of witches in this continuity that if you are a witch and you don’t talk about the fact that you’re a witch once every fifteen minutes you will spontaneously combust. If that IS the case, I hope Damon finds an excuse to muzzle her.

 

Bonnie seems nice enough, maybe I will hate her less if/when she finally gets an actual storyline.

Alright already, Bonnie, I get it, you're a witch! Did you have to ruin my pillow to prove the point?

 

I think that does it for my primer on this wacky world of Vampires (or Wampires if you have a Russian accent or a deep appreciation for alliteration). I figure examining a supernatural romantic teen drama is a good way for me to spend the week of Valentine’s Day. After that, you may continue to see some periodical and unconventional updates on the subject.

 

All you happy relationship people enjoy tomorrow. Me? I’ll be celebrating Vampentine’s Day.

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