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Healthy love or exciting love?
It’s a trope that we TV addicts know all too well. From Buffy and Angel vs. Buffy and Spike to Stefan and Elena vs. Elena and Damon — girl gets with the “good guy” and trades him in for the “bad guy.” Spurred on by what I believe is an increasingly unhealthy relationship between Damon and Elena, my question is this: why do we, as fans of The Vampire Diaries, value a passionate, sometimes [unhealthy] relationship over a healthy one?
Damon and Elena have undeniable chemistry, and at one point in the series I was absolutely rooting for those crazy kids to work it out. However, over the last couple of seasons the writers have taken the time to try and draw parallels between Elena’s first love and her second one, and again and again they intentionally acknowledge that Damon is, and will continue to be “the worst choice that [Elena] ever made,” intentionally prioritizing sexual tension and passion over the need to take care of yourself and eventually say no to relationships that you know are bad for you. “Elena” broke up with Damon and he both killed Aaron and tried to kill Jeremy. Again and again we have been told that nothing is more important than Jeremy to Elena, and yet in the promo for this week we have Elena saying “I love you!” to the man who was willing to let [her brother] die because he got his feelings hurt.
So, basically, he’s bad for her. All of the characters keep telling us this. However, the writers…. repeatedly stress that love is more important than being certain that your choice is the right one for you. It’s in an obvious plot device intended to juxtapose the safe, calm love she shared with Stefan to the dangerous, exciting, exhilarating but damaging love she shares with Damon. She herself says that Stefan was the perfect boyfriend, but this feels like an unimportant offside to do credit to Stefan more so than an attempt to send a message — that respecting your partner is important.
I do understand, and in a general sense I almost agree. Why only make a choice if you’re certain that it will have a positive outcome? Playing it safe will often deprive you of so many good experiences in life. But! When you’re certain that your choice is not only bad, but the worst one you’ve made so far? That’s when alarm bells begin to ring for me. It’s easy to love someone who you know is bad for you. It’s much harder to love yourself enough to acknowledge that they’re bad for you and take a step back because you deserve better.
To me, Elena is a wonderful soul who could do much better than both brothers and who, ultimately, is a character who deserves more than to be reduced to a sire-bonded, ripper vamp who casts off all previous qualms with immoral behavior with a simple “I love you, and that’s not going to change so why should I make waves by being angry when I’m just going to love you anyway?”
Elena has taken issue with the behavior of many characters in the show, in particular the Salvatore brothers, because she sees their actions as morally reprehensible, which they usually are (although this show does take somewhat of a double standard with morals, with many characters often ruthlessly sacrificing innocents to save friends with central roles). My question is, why on earth have they stopped being true to Elena and started compromising her character for the sake of a relationship that seems problematic at best when it operates under said pretense? The point of the couple was, originally, that Elena made Damon a better person. And so I ask why, why, WHY have they stopped allowing her to be herself and lead by example? Damon hit the nail on the head when he said that he had to be a better person than he was to deserve her love and she had to be a worse person to accept his. Why is passion more important than good ol’ confidence that the person you’re with is a good person?
Damon and Elena have potential, but they’re never going to satisfy those audience members who prefer to see real-to-life, healthy relationships on television if they don’t clean up their act. We all like to indulge sometimes, and just sitting back and loving the bad ones because they’re bad can be wonderful, but if you’re constructing a relationship with a problematic power structure that gives one party a definitive upper-hand (in this case, Damon) and then telling your audience that this is healthy and desirable and the best thing you’ll ever get if you’re lucky enough to even get it, then there’s a problem.
— Fan Contributor Sally
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