To anyone who knows me, it shouldn’t be surprising that the series finale of The Vampire Diaries (TVD) this Friday has me somewhat emotional. The final episode is, of course, titled “I Was Feeling Epic,” and I’m experiencing some pretty epic feelings. I am a fangirl, through and through, but this show holds a special place in my soul for many reasons.
So, instead of curating a list of my favorite episodes or quotes, I thought I would do this show a better justice by sharing the things I have learned and expressing my sincerest thanks.
Something “Wicca” This Way Comes
My introduction to television fandom started some time back in middle school when my sister and I discovered reruns of Charmed on TNT. Every weekday we would walk “home” from school to my grandparents’ house located just a few blocks away. We would be greeted by our saint of a grandmother and her “Coffee Ladies” (i.e., her friends from the neighborhood who would come over to drink coffee, eat cookies, and innocently gossip) and head straight to her bedroom to watch our shows. I swear, we were just as bad as those little old ladies obsessed with “their stories.”
I’m not sure what it was about Charmed that got my sister and I so hooked. Maybe it was because it was the story of sisters trying to get along, and we could relate to the struggle. Maybe it was that we were inspired by the fact that they were empowered women who defeated monsters and demons in their spare time. Or maybe it was something else entirely. All I truly remember is that watching Charmed seemed to satisfy my addiction to fictional stories just as much as reading my beloved books did.
Since then, my TV binge-watching hobby has broadened to include several different genres. I love shows like Parks & Rec, Outlander, and The Mindy Project just as fiercely as I loved Charmed. However, I’ve always saved a special place in my heart for shows that tend to skew more towards the supernatural.
Prior to the outpouring of love when Game of Thrones starting airing on HBO, I always felt like my passion for supernatural/sci-fi/fantasy fiction was looked down on. It was almost like the second anything less than human got involved, the fellow TV watchers in my circle aggressively turned their backs (and by extension I felt included) without giving it any sort of chance. After enough awkward conversations having my personal tastes in television bashed, I turned inward and waited for someone else to bring up my favorite show before jumping up to join in.
Dani & The Vampire Diaries: A Meet Cute
The series premiere of The Vampire Diaries aired the fall that I started my sophomore year of college. I didn’t know it at the time, but events would soon occur that still manage to affect my life to this day. There were a lot of things that felt uncertain and that I couldn’t make sense of, but I could count on The Vampire Diaries to air every Thursday. Even a routine as simple as this helped me to cope and maintain my sense of self.
Was that meet cute too sappy for you? Fear not! This show is also where I discovered my love for the literary Byronic hero. Up until that point, I had started to grow tired of the traditional “good guy” with superhero hair who could do no wrong. I found it difficult to relate to characters who were overtly positive about everything and seemed to never feel any self-doubt. It didn’t feel real or honest anymore. Real people don’t always have happy endings.
Then a certain tall, dark, and handsome vampire walked across my screen, and I finally knew why I couldn’t stomach Prince Charming a moment more. Most people, like Damon Salvatore, struggle. They screw up or make the wrong decision. They lash out and are selfish. And sometimes, they honestly try their best and fail anyway. This ongoing struggle towards redemption was something that I could empathize with and root for (minus, of course, all of the murder that happens in the realm of vampires). Additionally, my obsession of dark and “twisty” characters has only continued to grow over the last eight years. For they, to me, have always felt more honest.
An Argument for the Humanity of the Preternatural
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I use fiction as a way to escape when my mind or my reality get too chaotic. Often times this escape is in the form of reading books (usually of the urban fantasy variety). However, when my mind is too full, television helps me unwind by putting the visual right in front of me. My personality ensures that I feel everything going on around me, so it’s possible that adding the preternatural element (e.g., vampires, witches, werewolves, etc.) helps to separate myself from feeling more than I’m willing to. Or maybe I just love the idea of magic — who knows!
Perhaps because I was raised by a mother who loved vampires just as much as I do now, but I never saw stories revolving around them (or other supernatural creatures) to be any less realistic than contemporary or “reality” television and books. Now, before you jump to conclusions…I am a sane and level-headed person. I don’t believe in magic (at least in a witchy-connotation), vampires, werewolves, or zombies. I do, however, find this vehicle for telling a story more entertaining than other traditional genres. And besides, at their cores, they are very often the same.
Sure, at the surface The Vampire Diaries is about a love triangle in a small Virginian town that seems to be a hot-bed for vampires, werewolves, and witches.However, when you look deeper you see what the show is really about – a girl dealing with survivor’s guilt after watching almost everyone she’s ever cared for die, two brothers who are struggling to forgive each other after a lifetime (or several!) of betrayals and disappointments, and a group of friends trying to grow up in a lonely world where the only support they have is each other.
When you remove all of the magic and mysticism, you are still left with the same elements that make contemporary stories so popular: human relationships and the chance of redemption. These stories that, to some, seem so foreign and inhuman are compelling to fans because regardless of how unrealistic the world surrounding the characters might be, the characters are living an empathetic human experience.
Over the last eight years, I didn’t always realize why I held on so tightly to this show. As with any story, there were lulls, frustrations, and many “what the heck are the writers thinking???” moments. It’s only when I look back that I see how much it has given me. I gained a better insight into the kind of characters I hope to write about one day and have even made a few friends along the way who share my fictional passions (looking at you Natalie and Jackie!).
But more than all of that, I have learned invaluable lessons that I hope to take with me. Elena Gilbert taught me that even the most devastating grief can be survived. Caroline Forbes showed me that even the happiest people carry pain and have self-doubt. Stefan Salvatore proved that the love between siblings, even when strained, is worth fighting for. From Bonnie Bennett, I know that even though it can be difficult, helping your friends is always the right choice. And Damon Salvatore is the reason I know that redemption is possible, as long as you never stop trying.
So, to The Vampire Diaries, I say thank you. Words cannot express my gratitude for the last eight years. I will carry you with me always.