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.
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