The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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vampire diaries is getting to me, okay?
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
Watching third season of Vampire Diaries with Child--because he turns it on when I'm in the same room and it's hard to walk away when you've already invested five seconds in it--and I came to a startlingly obvious conclusion about Stefan and also, fanfic tropes applied to television.



Stefan is a canon woobie. At least, I think that's where the show is going with this. Tortured, check, in agony even when happy because reasons, check, secret shame (that everyone knows), check, everyone loves him because he's Stefan yet what that means we don't know, he must hold himself apart from others even though he cares for them but lo, he is meant to be alone it's only a matter of time, check, and deeply depressed but for that one true love who--okay, work with me here.

It's possible one of the reasons that people like to make the main heroic character evil is that in his good and right form, he's obnoxious. He can't be good and self-righteous--he has to live it every second with prejudice and everyone must know this about him, possibly because it's quite literally his only pleasure in life, as he must spend inordinate amounts of time agonizing internally about something (superpowers, Lana Lang, failure in some weirdly important way that's really stupid to even care about, whatever you see where I'm going with this. It's a fairly good lesson in how good isn't its own reward; it's miserable, but you gotta do it anyway because it's good, what's hard to understand?

Evil, however, is always wildly fun--which should tell you something, good seems to never have a good time without agonizing about it--and sure, they get their comeuppance eventually, they spring back and continue the party. The closest I can come to this is like watching a very uncomfortable anthropomorphizing of constant clinical depression versus rapid cycle bipolar disorder in very loose terms; at least one of these gets to have fun, even if they have to pay for it later.

Stefan has managed--and I don't believe this actually happened--to make evil not only boring, but also depressing. Evil is supposed to be tempting in its funness and lack of internal moral fallout; fun is pretty much the only thing it has going for it. I mean, if you're going to be cutting people into pieces while they scream for mercy for no particular reason--including just for fun--and you're also depressed while doing it, this should really make you question your life and choices, and for that matter, why the writers thought this would work.

I feel betrayed, is what I'm saying. I was looking forward to season three opening with Stefan slowly falling into evil and liking it and being horrified by himself but he can't stop himself. I got Stefan being evil like it was a huge chore, vaguely bored, and horrified with himself in the least sympathetic and most strangely detached way possible. It was just depressing to watch him slump his way into corruption like it was Friday night and the other choice was knitting socks but he lost the needles, whatever. Far worse--so much worse--there was still agonizing about it even though there was literally no enjoyment of it. His addiction to human blood that makes him crazy--really? That's not the equivalent of drug addiction; it's the equivalent of getting addicted to eating food that tastes good--was also a source of misery; every desperately needed mouthful was taken with frantic anguish. For fuck's sake, drug addiction happens because it feels good and you want more of the good feeling; Stefan's addiction is literally finding every possible method of making himself miserable by deliberately doing morally reprehensible things he doesn't like to do while he's doing them to more quickly get to the miserable regret of doing them at all. It's the exact opposite of drug addiction; it's like that monkey who was deprived of hugs and clung to wire, except Stefan clings to the wire while staring longing at the free hugs for everybody sign being offered, then asks to be welded onto that sucker on the off chance his fingers go numb and he accidentally falls into someone's welcoming arms and feels a moment of happiness.

Then it got worse; they did the entire 'turn off your emotions so you feel nothing' and made it officially a representation of what evil would look like if it could be bought at Wal-Mart and on discount because it wasn't selling well. He stalked Elena, appeared randomly to leer and loom and make her (and the viewer) both uncomfortable but also really annoyed. I couldn't figure out for the life of me if this was supposed to be terrifying because it was more totally obnoxious ex post breakup whose smile I swear to God was because he had to superglue it in place to keep some kind of expression on his face or his expression would reveal how deeply boring he found this entire existing thing. Evil not only boring, but without even the saving grace of being emotionally charged or hey, plot-relevant.

Currently--half-way through season three--I honestly don't know where Stefan is on the good-evil spectrum; I can't tell. I know he's miserable, but I'm not sure why and I'm not sure he does either. Can't find his knitting needles, I guess.

I love(d) Damon evil and also--let's say it--crazy as hell and actively amoral as well as immoral; it's a twofer. It wasn't just fun; it was ecstacy-cocaine-heroin speedball with a whiskey chaser dancing on random railings to covers of Depeche Mode fun. His life not only had a soundtrack; he had a dance routine to it. His brief flashes of pain and regret and a soul were there and gone, but searing--his manpain was extremely well-regulated and used with purpose. It was like a worm in an apple; yes, he was gonna bite that worm, but delicious apple until then. Stefan's apple was a worm--there was no apple at all, really, an apple shaped worm and this is getting gross, so moving on.

Damon, exercising until now unknown on television an actual, genuine slow growth of character, makes good look fun. Fun: he and Elena playful in front of the bathroom mirror while making vervain bombs (or something I dont' remember, I was too charmed) while Stefan loomed over them, leering superglue mouth in place, and Elena rolling her eyes at teh mirror and Damon shimmying in place while they mock each other. It was adorable; fighting the forces of evil looks awesome Sign me up. It was also the first time I saw Elena playful when Stefan was physically present in any given scene. Her default setting was seriously in love, seriously in love but afraid for him, seriously pissed and in love and afraid for him, seriously terrified and in love with him, or seriously emotionally brutalized by him while being in love with him.

(Or seriously stabbing him in the stomach, which was very reminiscent of Buffy kneeing Angel during his evil phase; like Angel, Stefan's evil manifests primarily in being clinically obnoxious without at least an attempt to cut that shit with charm, witty banter, or hell, I'd take anything that wasn't 'you love me but I don't love you, how pathetic, nyah nyah nyah' equivalent dialogue--hey, anyone think these people watched Buffy and took away all the wrong lessons from it?)

Stefan and Elena fight, it's a soap opera and they both look agonized about it because fighting is serious shit with mood lighting and it's like a betrayal of love to fight or something. There's usually crying and staring moodily into the distance afterward because time must be spent no matter what comes next to consider how painful that was.

Damon and Elena fight, Damon pushes Elena into a lake, she stands up and shouts back at him, dripping wet and not missing a beat. Then they get out and get on their way because they have shit to do and time's wasting.

I'm weirded out by the realization my biggest problem with Stefan and Elena as a ship is that apart or together, they have amazing chemistry (I still half-ship it and know better) and they make being in love passionate, dramatic, epic, world changing--I LOVE THESE THINGS, I've written characters burning down cities in each other's name--and the least fun you can have in life short of watching paint dry and not by much.

Posted at Dreamwidth: http://seperis.dreamwidth.org/988751.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments

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Well, you've very effectively reminded me that I love Damon, I loved watching that show, I want to see more of it, gosh I should get that out... and also jesus h christ wtf Stefan.

I spent all of s1 and the beginning of s2 trying to figure out how to write a character like Damon. I want more of that glee-even-when-no-good-plus-bonus-occasional-snippets-of-real-pain in fiction. I think it's the fun. Because yay, fun!

Yikes. I just realized I imprinted on Damon Salvatore. That's... alarming.

Damon's awesome! HE DANCES WITHOUT SHAME.

I guess I interpreted his lack of fun as a reflecting that this isn't what he wanted, and as a way to get back at Klaus. Yes, Klaus succeeded at forcing Stefan to come with him to save Damon, and then compelling Stefan into turning off his emotions but that doesn't mean Klaus gets his fun Ripper friend back, because screw you, Klaus. Stefan's just not that into you and your slaughter. Compulsion does not necessarily result in changes in how you feel about something, sometimes just how you behave.

No question that Damon is the fun brother, I just understood why Stefan wasn't having fun during this stretch.

Yes, Klaus succeeded at forcing Stefan to come with him to save Damon, and then compelling Stefan into turning off his emotions but that doesn't mean Klaus gets his fun Ripper friend back, because screw you, Klaus.

Let me explain where I was coming from on this one.

I liked the idea that Stefan was going to be, however temporarily, his evil Ripper self, but a lot of that was because of the creepiness factor of Stefan sliding into evil because he couldnt' help himself. I was willing to overlook the stupidity of human blood being his gateway drug to evil because it was a chance to see someone falling helplessly to their own inner demons and horrified most by not just his actions while blood-soaked, but by the fact he liked it. His manpain all this time makes sense in terms of that, and it made the life he's living less a punishment than a deliberate choice. Evil is fun and he likes it, and good's hard and miserable and not fun at all, but it was about trying to be something better than that. He annoyed me, but I loved the idea behind this that he was basically creating himself from a monster.

Him going with Klaus then--with human blood addiction even--was a desperate and horrible choice to make, but in the back of his mind, I assumed he did that knowing he'd probably lose to his inner monster but he'd still fight; the monster was still him, and the thing in the farmhouse with the women stacked together but in their component pieces that got to me because I imagined him torn--hating himself for liking it and doing it, unable to help himself, hating himself but with Klaus there, slowly sliding into this.

Then I saw Stefan and Klaus and it was like seeing vaguely hostile business associates and Stefan didn't look happy about what he was doing or even anguished about himself becoming Ripper; instead, it was a job he didn't like and was doing only because Klaus told him to, and the job was playing the part of Ripper.

This is just me here--Ripper being a part of him, a real part of him that he was learning and growing away from, learning to be better, made him make sense to me. That it was unleashed by human blood was ridic but I could deal with that because I thought it was vino veritas; it was enabling him to be his worst self and that worst self was the temptation--it's fun. Instead, human blood itself is the temptation; Ripper is just a side effect of him indulging himself, and in the show, he doesn't actually enjoy the side effect at all. His evil is like me putting up with a rash when I take vicodin; I don't enjoy the rash but I like the lack of pain after a root canal or surgery, so I deal. He treats Ripper like a necessary rash because of the awesomeness of the blood. When he stops drinking human blood, the rash stops entirely because it's not a part of him at all without the human blood.

Does that make sense? The idea that Stefan suffers and all that because he's making himself from a monster into a good person is character growth and change, creating yourself in all your best parts--that's genuine villain reformation; he'll always be Ripper, but he makes himself more than that. This is he'll always be an addict to blood that causes a rash, but without that pesky blood addiction, he'd be a good person so blame it on the blood that creates evil in him that wasn't there before.

Adding this: that wouldn't be a problem---human blood as addiction--if every other vampire also reacted like this and especially if that addiction killed the donor. But we have proof that vampires can not only drink human blood without being evil, they also can just not kill the donor and also use bloodbags. So the idea is the writers desperately needed a way for Stefan to never, ever drink human blood and created addiction to explain why--he's Ripper, a rash--instead of making it a form of self-denial that takes willpower because he likes human blood and Ripper is fun.




Adding to this because reasons: Stefan in the books was very different from this, and he was a genuinely good person who hated being a vampire and that was the reason he didn't drink human blood. The only time he broke that was with Elena (and during hard duress), and it was smoking hot because in this, the pleasure wasn't just about the blood, but sharing blood and sharing each other: it was intimate and implied a lot about why Stefan stuck to wildlife. I could see in this why he wouldn't human blood as a vampire; it was intimate and you don't get intimate with what you see as food and he didn't want to see human beings as food, ever. Sharing with Elena was special because it wasn't about food, even when he needed her blood as food; she was still a person, so much a person to him, that when they did, it was about love and trust and something they both enjoyed.

I resent that they took a lot of nuance from Stefan's character--and complications with vampirism being intensely psychological in becoming a predator of humans, of wanting to retain humanity by not letting yourself see them that way--and doing this instead. Replacing the inner struggle of not wanting to become a predator of humans with becoming a predator of human and making the decision to be as human as possible was an interesting choice and easier to show on TV and really cool: villain reformation. Blood addiction strips the complexity for Stefan away entirely; the only struggle is not to be an addict, not to be a better person.

Okay, done, promise.

Gotcha. I see what you mean. It's like they took a morally simplistic character shortcut to get the dramatic benefits of the monster-doesn't-want-to-be-a-monster story.

The only consolation is that if you don't like a storyline on TVD, much like weather in Maine, wait a few minutes! You usually only have to endure a few episodes before the plot is miles ahead and moved on to other things.

Wow, you're good; you got it a sentence. Thank you, yes! If I hadn't read the books, I think it would bother me less, but Stefan there had the same inner struggle, far less dramatic, but it made him work amazingly as a character and hero. So it's more noticeable--and annoying--to have it reduced to human blood makes him a literal different person instead of having to fight that inner demon as part of him.

This is true on teh eps--I am enjoying them a lot!

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