While on the surface, the Vampire Diaries may have elements that are in common with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, look deeper and the similarities vanish.
At first glance, there is a similar make-up in the cast of characters and the plot, which has a young woman in love with an ageless vampire. But consider the way the relationships are built in these two shows.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer focused on the strength of the main characters' relationships throughout the seven seasons. Honesty and integrity were pillars of the show, and when a character was dishonest he or she suffered consequences. Consequences for dishonesty occur both as a result of the character's actions, and because their friends held them to account.
A good example is when Buffy ran away without telling anyone. When she came home, she was held to account by all of her friends. They let her know that she didn't have to do it alone, and that their role is to be there to support her with what she is going through. They also let her know the effects that her leaving had on them. They heal through their relationships.
The Vampire Diaries builds no such strength of character relationships. Backstabbing, dishonesty, secrecy, and plotting against each other are paramount. It is very difficult to distinguish the "good guys" from the "bad guys," as all characters seem to live in moral limbo.
The characters make very little effort at any time to investigate the motivations of others, instead making quick assumptions, killing with little understanding of context or having a well-identified rationale. Every once in a while honesty and integrity are featured, but these moments are undermined by the next series of plotted lies, murders or betrayals.
A good example is when Bonnie and her friends use magic to force her young warlock friend to give information. They violate his mind, and yet do so with the premise that it is for the better good. They make no real effort to work with him to find out his motives or to understand if he has a truly good reason for not wishing to give up his information. In this case he is the "bad guy" who isn't really bad, and they are the "good guys" who are doing bad in the name of good.
Another example is when Alaric refuses to speak with Jenna about his past relationship, because doing so would mean letting her into the reality of his world and all the supernatural occurrences in their town. Well, pretty much everyone around her already knows it all, so what's the point in lying and keeping secrets?
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when the main characters have a misunderstanding, they explore the reasons behind the actions. Ultimately, I felt that Buffy was able to convey a lesson about being honest and true to one's friends and working through hard problems together. The Vampire Diaries seems to uphold an "I'm in it for me" attitude, while using dishonesty and conspiracy against perceived "enemies" as a means for achieving individual goals.
I would like to see the writers bring in a deeper exploration of the characters motivations, a core set of friends who are honest with each other and work together to defeat the less integral motivations of the "bad guys." Granted life is fraught with gray areas, but surely this show can give us a better lesson than everyone back stabs, plots, lies, and betrays each other in order to achieve the greater good...
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