Back in ‘09, like a lot of teenaged girls with a penchant for fantasy stories, I was all about vampires. Needing something to tide me over until the rest of the “Twilight” movies came out, I eagerly tuned into “The Vampire Diaries” when it premiered on the CW.
It had everything I loved then and honestly still love now. Witches, werewolves, family, flashbacks, and a soundtrack to (pun intended) die for. What more could a fangirl want?
For a solid three seasons I never missed an episode, I even sporadically kept up with the Mikaelsons on “The Originals” on and off through college. And yet, there is a reason other than midterms I found myself enjoying the show less and less over time: Julie Plec’s writing is hella problematic.
But despite having disavowed “The Vampire Diaries” universe ages ago when the Comic-Con trailer for her newest show “Legacies,” dropped, I couldn’t help it— I watched and I was intrigued. Then, remembering my experiences with The Originals and The Vampire Diaries, I was filled with dread. To explain why, I’ve laid out a list of things I pray to the gods both old and new that Ms. Plec avoids with “Legacies” this fall:
1. Her Mammifying Of Marginalized Characters
Bonnie Bennett my love, you deserved so, so much better. From Bonnie on TVD to Vincent on The Originals it’s painfully obvious Plec has no clue how to write black characters, but man does she love her magical negros. From Mystic Falls to New Orleans it’s hard not to notice that her black characters exist to serve. They exist to clean up emotional and magical messes. They exist to be physically and emotionally tortured. They exist to remind the Damon Salvatore’s of their humanity or give the Cami O’Connells advice. They exist to be vilified for their totally valid feelings. They exist to die, over and over again for white tears. But they don’t get epic love, they don’t get agency, and they don’t get happy endings.
Pro-tip: Diversity which includes POC and queer folks only to make them cannon fodder for white protagonists character development, is a poor excuse for diversity.
2. Her “Women In Refrigerators”
What’s a supernatural soap opera without a few dead girls to make the love interests sad. But seriously. Hayley Marshall, Cami O’Connell, Viki Donovan, Gia, Anna. I get that the body count gets high on these shows for dramatic effect, but there are a thousand different ways to spur character development that doesn’t involve fridging a perfectly good character.
3. Her Questionable Portrayal Of Consent
A staple of the vamps in Plec’s world is their ability to use compulsion on humans, meaning they use mind control on them and can force them to forget things. There are chilling moments where vampires use mind control on romantic partners, which is in a word: horrifying. Mind control isn’t consent. Jessica Jones for all its intersectional shortcomings got this right, if one person is using magic to take away the free will of another person it’s not consent freely given.
4. Her Toxic Relationships
I’m down with suspended disbelief, but good god a person cannot fix you. Stefan, Damon, Klaus, Elijah. According to Plec and company, all a tortured immortal who likes to torture others needs to see the error of their ways is the love of a good woman. The problem, however, is that this comes at the expense of the women involved. It comes at the expense of their character development, their loved ones, and often their own lives. It also perpetuates the idea that it’s healthy for one person to be responsible for your emotional well-being and morality. And controlling behavior isn’t romantic or sexy. Protip ladies, gentlemen, non-binary folks do not, NOT stay with anyone who threatens to break your arm *coughs* Delena. Even if they say it’s for your own good. A person who loves you will respect your right to make your own choices even if they don’t agree with them.
5.Her giving eternal free passes to her immortal abusers
Say it with me Jules, having bad things happen to you does not give you a right to happen to other people. This is tied up in number three a bit, but for some sad reason, Plec seems to think having bad things happen to you gives you a green light to be an abuser. Examples? Through the seasons of TVD Damon’s pretty blithely forgiven for his attempt on Bonnie’s life, his psychological abuse of poor Caroline, and oh so many things. Same story for Klaus’s controlling, cruel behavior when it comes to his siblings. To be fair, he shows growth, but even when he’s dead wrong his pain is always bigger than everyone else’s A well-developed backstory can explain a character’s behavior, but it doesn’t excuse it.
What’s always drawn me in about the fantasy genre is that it allows us to imagine a better world. Plec lazily relies on the misogynist and racist assumptions of our society to move her stories along and in doing so reaffirms them. In the trailer for “Legacies,” Alaric Saltzman says that the boarding school he and Caroline started was created so that the next generation could be better. Stick to the script Julie Plec and be better. Give the next generation of views and your longtime fans better. Be consistent and don’t romanticize abusive relationships, don’t abuse female characters, and don’t create tortured tokens and call it representation.