I Hate Myself for Loving You: How ‘The Vampire Diaries’ Makes You Fall in Love with Psychopathic Killers

Left to right: Ian Somerhalder as Damon, Joseph Morgan as Klaus, & Paul Wesley as Stefan (Image courtesy of TVLine.com; Frank Ockenfels, © 2011 The CW Network, LLC.)

The more I watch The Vampire Diaries, the more confident I am that the writers of this show make it their goal to try to create characters who are morally reprehensible (and often just flat-out evil), and then somehow manipulate the audience into liking them. If that sounds like a bad thing, it’s not. Actually, it’s their job. But they do it so well that sometimes it makes me question my own judgment. Clearly, I am easily influenced by good storytelling. Take last week’s episode, “Dangerous Liaisons,” for instance. Klaus, who has been gradually acquiring some semblance of humanity throughout the season, revealed his true feelings for Caroline, at which point he went from being the resident Big Bad to a sympathetic character in, like, the span of twenty minutes. HOW’D THAT HAPPEN? I swear, one second I was minding my own business, enjoying my show, thinking I knew who was good and who was evil, and the next thing I know, I’m thinking, “That Klaus is such a nice boy…I sure hope Caroline gives him a chance.”

This show obviously has some vampire-like compulsion abilities, because I don’t know how I ended up on Team Klaus. He is literally a sociopath. Granted, he’s a gentlemanly sociopath whose charm and fancy accent make him rather enchanting (in an evil kind of way). But still. It’s like, really, Vampire Diaries? You think you can make me suddenly like the main villain from the past two seasons just by giving him a romantic interest who happens to be one of my favorite characters? Well, you’re right. Congratulations.

The same could be said for Damon, Elijah, and Katherine, not to mention New Stefan. (Stefan actually started as a moral, semi-likable character, got bumped up to Ripper status, and seems to be making his way back to being a sympathetic character.) Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely love Damon. He’s one of my favorite characters on television. Like, if I knew how to make those fan videos you see on YouTube, that’s all I would do every day. But somewhere in the logical part of my brain, the part that isn’t hypnotized by Ian Somerhalder’s lovely torso and piercing blue eyes, I know that I shouldn’t like him. To be fair, Damon has been on a journey, and he has come a long way from his early days of being the unapologetic killer that he was in the first season. It’s easy to forget that he killed Lexi (AKA the greatest female character in the history of The Vampire Diaries), and he used Caroline as a sex toy back in season one, and sometimes when he gets his feelings hurt he has a tendency to kill innocent people. But this last time, when Elena said something way too mean, his way of lashing out was just to have hot vampire sex with an Original instead! Can you say progress?

On the one hand, as a (somewhat) mature adult, I can look at these situations and say to myself, “while I appreciate the portrayal of this fictional relationship, I recognize that in real life, it would not be considered a healthy one.” At the same time, sometimes I worry that the younger viewers who are watching this show and swooning over the bad boys are thinking,  “I hope someday my boyfriend will love me enough to be as controlling and emotionally unstable as Klaus/Damon/Stefan.” Lucky for us, the purpose of The Vampire Diaries is not to teach young girls about healthy relationships. We’ll leave that to ABC Family. (Which is actually doing a very poor job, if you’ve ever seen Pretty Little Liars.) Hats off to you, Vampire Diaries. Thank you for making me care about these (formerly) evil characters. My only question is, if you can make a sociopath like Klaus into a likable character, why can’t you make me like Bonnie?

-Louise

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Posted on February 17, 2012, in Television and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I think the writers aren’t the only ones to blame for liking/disliking a character. The way the actors choose to portray their characters contributes a lot to the way we see them. One of the reason I dislike Bonnie is b/c the actress is incapable of making me believe her pain, her joy, her confusion, anything actually. Granted, the writing for her isn’t the best, but Caroline only got shallow and petty lines in S1 and yet I was still amused and entertained by her b/c the actress made it work.

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