TV Guide Magazine’s Matt Roush adresses “kick-ass women” and social issues in The Vampire Diaries

Question: Did you catch the season finale of The Vampire Diaries? I never expected back in September that it would become “must-see” television, but it has. Part of this likely has to do with the excellent pacing, the spookiness, Ian Somerhalder’s character and the likeability of almost every character. However, two things continue to bother me about the show. The first is the lack of kick-ass women: Every time a tough woman shows up who can (at first glance) hold her own in a battle, she is killed (see: Lexi, Anna). The human female characters are quite strong emotionally, but it would be nice if they could fight back, too, a la Buffy, where even Cordelia got to stake a vampire. I think they sort of addressed this in the finale by bringing back Katherine and making Bonnie issue an ultimatum to Stefan, and I hope this continues in Season 2.

My other problem with the show is the setting. Seriously, they spend the whole season celebrating “Founder’s Day” in a Southern town and never make mention of issues like slavery? They skirted this by making witch Emily Katherine’s “hand maiden,” whatever that means. And the vampires in the tomb had no more adjustment problems to the 21st century than figuring out how to use a modern laundry machine or cell phones. I never expected the show to delve deeply into issues of race and sexuality as True Blood does so well, but it would be nice if the show at least acknowledged that there were other things going on besides vampire vs. human Mystic Falls conflicts. The show is so good at many other things, and it worries me that a show built for the young adult crowd is unwilling to inject a bit of historical realism when so much time is spent obsessing about what happened 140 years ago. The “hand maiden” mentions are particularly frustrating as the show seems to be at once renaming or erasing the practice of slavery and the effect it had on Southern society. What do you think?—Anne

Matt Roush: I agree the show had a “must-see” finale. What a blast. But I’m afraid I don’t take the show seriously enough to lament its lack of social/historical context. Where would they fit a lecture on the evils of slavery in a show churning this much juicy melodrama this busily? I suppose it would be interesting if some of the vampire revolt had to do with seeking vengeance against the mores and masters of the antebellum past, but it’s intriguing to me that characters like Bonnie and her grandmother (and their ancestors) nurture a supernatural power that seems to render them pretty “kick-ass.” I don’t really get the gender complaint either. The show has a pretty high body count, both male and female, and Elena’s hardly a pushover at the center of all of the hubbub. The fact that characters like Bonnie, Anna (poor Anna) and that ferocious Isobel even register on a show so dominated by a wicked breakout character like Damon is probably a small triumph.


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