I'm Laurel McKee, and I have a confession to make. I’m a 30-something with a writing career, a mortgage, and a car payment; a responsible, somewhat mature woman—and I am completely obsessed with The Vampire Diaries. It’s not my first relationship with a CW show—I’m also quite fond of Gossip Girl, with its gorgeous clothes and rich, skanky teens. But it’s nothing like my love of Vampire Diaries.
At first I didn’t really want to try it, despite my love of All Things Vampire. I’ve been burned by shows that looked promising before. I’d been pulled in by Twilight too, which looked so fun and juicy at the beginning, only to find it was some kind of wimpy abstinence allegory. Didn’t want to do that again, and the Diaries previews had all the earmarks of a Twilight knock-off. Then I had a quiet Thursday night between Netflix movies and decided to give it a try.
O.M.G. I was drawn in right away, and haven’t been able to get out since. It’s true love. At least until it jumps the shark. Or until Damon leaves the show, God forbid. (Sigh. Damon).
Okay, if you’re a Vampire Diaries newbie, here’s a (very) brief rundown. I don’t have the space here to do justice to all its complexities. At the center is a classic love triangle. Human Elena lives in Mystic Falls, Virginia, one of those weird little towns that attracts all sorts of paranormal stuff. She encounters the vampire Salvatore brothers, who were turned in Mystic Falls in 1864—the “good” Stefan (who is also very bad when he’s been drinking human blood) and the “bad” Damon (who can also be good when we glimpse his hidden vulnerability—until he turns around and rips someone’s heart out, literally). Elena loves Stefan, who loves Elena back, but Elena is also drawn to Damon (natch). Their drama is surrounded by all kinds of angst and passion, both paranormal and human. My friend and fellow Diaries obsessive, author Alicia Dean, says, “It all works together to make an enjoyable show filled with enough surprises and spine-tingling, heart-wrenching moments to make you want to keep watching.”
So, here are just a few of the things I love about the show (aka, Why Vampire Diaries Is So Much Better Than Twilight):
The heroine. In a setup like this, the central heroine is essential to the success of the story. Elena is young, but her life has been shadowed by tragedy (her parents died in a car crash, leaving her and her brother alone), and she doesn’t shy away from the dark side of life. She’s strong and independent, and will do anything to protect the people she loves. She never whines, or sits around waiting for Stefan to turn her into a vampire (this isn’t even an issue—yet).
The setting. I’ve long been a sucker for those “small, weird town” stories, the mystery and mysticism surrounding a place, and Mystic Falls is a good one. Despite the fact that no one at all has a Southern accent in this small Virginia town, it’s a Gothic-y place full of vamps, witches, and werewolves, complete with a sinister Council among the founding families. I even enjoy the Civil War flashbacks, despite my inner history geek screaming in agony at the blatant historical inaccuracies! (I forget them when the villainess vamp Katherine swans onscreen in a fab hoopskirt—I’m easily distracted by fashion.)
Speaking of fashion—there are lots and lots of party scenes. Masked balls, Founders Day balls, charity benefits, etc., all full of great clothes. (I actually ran out and bought a cute BCBG cocktail dress after Bonnie wore it in the “Masquerade” episode.) Parties never end well in Mystic Falls, alas. Someone always ends up attacked in the woods, such a bummer . . .
The vamps are real vamps, even ones who fight against their nature, like Stefan. They can be vicious and dangerous, they kill people, they look ugly when angered. They’re unpredictable to the max.
And along those same lines, there’s also sex. A lot of it. And no whining about it. (Also—shirtless men. There’s lots of gorgeous eye candy in Mystic Falls besides the Salvatore brothers, and all of them end up stripping down for one reason or another on a regular basis.)
Witty writing. As a writer, I deeply appreciate this. Dialogue sounds natural and different for each character, the plotting is twisty and unpredictable as well as tragic and complex (anyone could die at any time, and anything can happen), and each new character is integrated into the show to make a real impact. The casting is spot-on for each part. The pacing is also impeccable—important things happen in every episode, sometimes many things, and events build on each other so no episode can be skipped. They also end on great cliffhangers. I’ve learned so much about plotting from The Vampire Diaries. (See, it’s Important Research for work! Not just ogling men.)
I mentioned the heroine, Elena, but now we come to the (real) number one reason I love Vampire Diaries—the heroes. Namely, Damon. Don’t get me wrong, Stefan is yummy indeed, and there’s much to be said for Matt, Tyler, Alaric, etc., but I confess I’m a Damon fangirl. I think it comes from my teenage addiction to All Things Bronte, but I do love me a dark, brooding, tortured, unpredictable anti-hero. Ian Somerhalder, with his otherworldly good looks and blue-blue eyes, his bad-boy smile and flashes of real violence, embodies the character perfectly. His hidden love for Elena is agonizing, but as Alicia Dean says (and I totally agree), it would be wrong for him to really get together with her. “He should always be a free, lonely, tortured soul. I love Damon’s angst in wanting the woman he can’t have. I also like that I know, deep down, Elena wants Damon too.”
I also asked my friend Lana Clary what she loves about Vampire Diaries (to get the 20-something perspective!), and she answered, “What’s not to love? Gorgeous guys and girls, great acting, memorable quotes, surprising twists and turns, edge of your seat story lines. And all things Damon.”
It’s now halfway through Season 2. Season 1 is out on DVD, and I highly recommend getting a copy ASAP. Warning—you might end up like me, totally addicted! But it hurts so good . . .
Laurel McKee writes historical romance for Grand Central Publishing, writes as Amanda McCabe for Harlequin Historical, and can be found at the Risky Regencies every Tuesday, and on Twitter as @amandalaurel1 whenever she’s procrastinating.