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29 March 2012 @ 05:51 pm
Why I'm Now (Fairly) Zen about The Vampire Diaries  
Before the last new episode before a few reruns, I thought I'd offer up my new TVD viewing frame of mind.

Take this all with a grain salt because I could be completely wrong, but something has struck me over the course of the last few weeks and it's made my viewing of the show much less irately emotional. The Vampire Diaries is not written as a teen-show. It's not written for shippers, it's not written for teams (Team Damon! Team Klaus! Team NotnowDana!), and it's not written for fanbases. It is a show written as a long game with several love stories (romantic, but also familial and platonic) and characters, filled with supernatural chaos battling with small-town, human impulses. What the characters do or don't do isn't always what we want them to, but it's what makes sense when looking at any particular character's journey thus far.

Clearly, the producers/writers have a vision in mind when they sit down at the end of each season and begin to craft the upcoming season from roughly beginning to end. They have said during the first two seasons that when they sit down to write the first episode of a season, they know where they will be at the end of the season. The journey of the season isn't meant to be taken episode by episode, or character/couple scene by scene, but as a whole journey … encompassing that entire season. It's why information, character motivation and actions that seem unbelievable, ridiculous, and out-of-character shouldn't be judged on the episode you have just watched. If it's that huge a deal that enough viewers note it and/or Damon Salvatore* comments on it, then by now as long-time viewers, we should be aware that something is up. At least that's how I'm choosing to watch the show at this point.

* It's been proven time and time again that Damon is the mouthpiece for truths and twists revealed. There have been multiple times when Damon has commented on a plot, a twist, a character action, etc. that down the road (or sometimes just a hop and a skip away) are revealed to be exactly what Damon was getting at.

As much as I love the pairing of Damon and Elena, and the characters of Damon, Elena, Caroline, et al, now whenever I start to jones about a particular spoiler, or even moment/scene on the show that doesn't make my inner fangirl happy, I force myself to remember that the writers are not writing only a love story, or a show about one character. There are several love stories going on, in various stages. There are several characters and at least five of them are leads to secondary leads, with other strong supporting players who have a point of view that is unique to their character arc. And more often than not, not all of the characters are going to agree, or have the same point of view. And not all the characters – in fact, very few – have access to all of the actions and interactions, interplay and mindgames that are going on with other characters to offer up a truthful assessment.

I actually dare to say that The Vampire Diaries is a new type of show. It's the pulpy, action-based, fan-fun, snarky, sexy soap opera (ala Gossip Girl -- when it was good, Melrose Place, etc.) paired with the layered, subtextual, thinking person's show (Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men). I'm not saying it's as good as those latter shows – although, neither one appeals to me and I personally do think that TVD is better. My point is that, I believe, The Vampire Diaries combines the strengths of both of those types of shows. This is why I said at the top that I don't think it's written for shippers or fangirls/boys. Yes, it is written for the type of viewer who can enjoy the pulpy, snarky soapy fun, but also for the viewers who take in the season/series as a whole and see how the pieces all fit together, see how these character play out these arcs and where their choices, both wrong and right, will take them. It's about flawed individuals living in a crazy world and trying to survive. And I love it for every single thing it chooses to be.
 
 
 
Heather-Ann: Carolinelinsell_farm on March 29th, 2012 09:57 pm (UTC)
Great timing for this post, bb. I'm going to take your Zen approach as I leave shortly to go watch TVD at my friends' place. I will keep in mind the big picture and all the interconnecting story lines and great characters.

Talk to you later :D
Arabian: Caroline05arabian on March 30th, 2012 12:02 am (UTC)
I hope it helps. I started to get bummed about a spoiler I found out, and then I just stopped and reminded myself of this, and doing that today is what prompted me to write this post. :)
Heather-Ann: Carolinelinsell_farm on March 30th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
It definitely did help, Jenn :). I've found being mostly spoiler-free (but watching promos and some stills) has been working for me. If I do come across something I don't like, I'm able to discount it on the basis that I have no context for it.

You're a good influence. Thanks for letting me talk through this with you.
ancholiaancholia on March 29th, 2012 10:15 pm (UTC)
I saw a while ago a video where Julie Plec said she and Kevin already knew how the show would end. So, like you said, they have a plan and know where the show is going and how to go there which I really appreciate because I saw too many good tv shows deviating (Glee being one of the worst).
Arabian: Elijah01arabian on March 30th, 2012 12:02 am (UTC)
Yeah, we know that they have a gameplan. They're obviously to work with their actor's obvious talents and chemistry, but they are remaining true to their vision as it grows and develops based on what is happening with the characters.
Bogwitch: TVD - Elenabogwitch on March 29th, 2012 11:19 pm (UTC)
If the show was written for just fan service and shippers, then it would be Twilight terrible! (Which I believe is one of Supernatural's problems in the recent past).
Arabian: Elena07arabian on March 30th, 2012 12:04 am (UTC)
Exactly. It's not about "trying to please" everyone as some claim. If that was their goal, they've kinda failed mightily at that, LOL! It's about telling the best story they can and exploring all facets of the characters, relationships and plots to make it work.

I stopped watching SPN ages ago, but from all I've heard, I do not disagree with this assessment.
gidget_84gidget_84 on March 30th, 2012 12:12 am (UTC)
Very much agree! I've been trying to do this..it's SO hard!
Arabian: Caroline01arabian on March 30th, 2012 12:15 am (UTC)
It started for me half-way through "All My Children." I'd gotten myself SO worked up over "Dangerous Liaisons," even after I'd calmed down that I went into the episode expecting the worst, and then I finally admitted to myself half-way through the episode how good it was. And I realized that I was letting expectations based solely on shipper/fangirl reactions dictate how I approached a show that I loved and enjoyed and could rewatch and still madly enjoy like no other in my very-heavy-television-life. So I've been making this conscious choice, and approaching each episode this way since has led me to truly and deeply enjoy the episodes that followed. :)

Edited at 2012-03-30 12:16 am (UTC)
gidget_84gidget_84 on March 30th, 2012 12:30 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, Dangerous Liaisons was a doozy, but it did really make me think about how I react to episodes. I'm going to start doing reviews on fridays too, that way I've processed it and won't go with my OMG reaction, especially if it's something like how DL affected me.

I will definitely continue to try this approach, it worked for me with All my Children so I'm hoping I can keep it up.

Okay and am now excited for the episode. Klaus, Finn, Rebekah torturing Damon!
Silvia Kundera: tvd-elenasilviakundera on March 30th, 2012 02:00 am (UTC)
I totally agree that TVD is a new type of show. It really does feel different from everything else I've followed. Taking pulpy, sexy fun and then stirring in the light speed pacing; the tightly plotted series of interlocking mini-arcs; the "orange & blue" morality; repeated subversion of tropes & audience expectation; the subtextual character arcs that play over time; the strong, revolving supporting cast...

omg and then they do AMAZING, gutsy things like Stefan's character arc. As much as I love the Jossverse, they never ever would have done something like have Angel's character arc being that he's revealed NOT to be The Noble Vampire Exception and that maybe he actually needs to find a way to live like a functional vampire. That archetype is never subverted by creators of Moonlight, BtVS, Twilight, Forever Knight -- the audience is supposed to root for The Good Vampire who abstains from biting people and tries to live just like a human. And if that path is critisized, it's by evil characters who get triumphed over. That's how it goes. And it's just another sign of how TVD works that they can say, "hmmm, no, let's try to turn that on its head and play less by the rules, thanx."

[Though, all of their awesome plotting aside, I will CRY TEARS OF BLOOD if we lose both Klaus & Rebekah in the season finale. I AM NOT READY TO LET GOOOOOOOOOOO.]

Edited at 2012-03-30 02:10 am (UTC)
x5valex5vale on March 30th, 2012 09:18 am (UTC)
Amen to all of that.
Sylvan_Dwellersylvan_dweller on March 30th, 2012 01:41 pm (UTC)
Throughout the Vampire Diaries, I've always felt that the overarching theme, at least as far as Damon and Stefan are concerned, was not about good vs. evil (in our terms), not about archetypes, but about knowing who you are and being true to who you are. It's kind of hard to explain, and you have to suspend traditional ideas of morality in order to grasp it, but watching Stefan over 3 seasons battle with this, living between 2 extremes, watching Caroline and other balance their natures and needs with their very human feelings and morals kind of emphasizes this.

I guess the point I am trying to make, and what makes it so compelling to watch, is that it manages to both straddle a morally gray line and redefine ideas of good and evil where traditional ideas of predator and prey are subverted. You CAN be a good predator. But you have to accept who you are and maintain a certain balance.

After Buffy ended, I happened to overhear a reviewer on NPR discuss the end of the series. He said that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a fantastic show cursed by an unfortunate name, or something to that effect. The Vampire Diaries is the same way, in my opinion, compounded by inevitable comparisons and associations with Twilight. And that IS unfortunate. Because, like you said, it is such a wonderfully complex yet fantastically watchable show and wherever the writers take it, I'll be happy. (Though, I'll always have a place in my heart for Damon/Elena. Of course that gets into a whole other issue where people assume that just because you are a shipper you can't appreciate other aspects of the show. I hate that.)
Florenciaflorencia7 on March 31st, 2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
SO TRUE ♥

I'm sure we all have those moments when we would like the show to be about DAMON & ELENA ONLY doing good & bad & naughty things all the time, but, thankfully, the show is written by smart & talented people who know better than to give in to the temptation of neverending fluff & then conclude the show at happily ever after by the end of the 1st season. We're in for a ride, for a LONG ride, & even if it's painful at times, from a shipper's POV especially, it's a journey that in the long run is absolutely wonderful & makes sense through & through.