So, 2009 being the "Year of the Vampire," LJane's dishy novels finally made it to the television screen in an equally dishy series, the first season finale of which aired last night (5-13-10). In February 2010, the CW announced that the TV series would run for a second season...yay!
I've been a fan of the vampire since I first clamped eyes on the black-and-white 1931 Dracula film starring Bela Lugosi. I was maybe two or three...a toddler. But my love of film transcended my rather unseasoned chronological age. And so did my love of monsters.
The classic monsters like Dracula, Wolf-Man, the Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon--all show more about humanity than any Hollywood soul-searching drama. Monsters are powerful, yet still vulnerable. All of them want companionship--inevitably, that's where the conflict in their storylines always arise. And it's still the same, though the consequences for being a monster have drastically shifted in favor of the monster...I suppose that has something to do with history. When twenty-first century humans look backward, we can clearly see that the real monsters don't really have fangs or fur--because the real monsters are us. Genocides like the Holocaust, Apartheid, terrorism, school-shootings--these are all human-acts. Vampires and werewolves can't even touch our level of monstrosity. So I suppose it makes some semblance of sense that now, in our escapist entertainment, we are comforted by fantastical monsters...because as horrified as we pretend to be about the feeding practices of "monsters" like Dracula, we KNOW it's still better than the real threat in the dark...other humans.
And if all vampires were Eric Northmans or Damon Salvatores...you could sign me up in a second! What woman doesn't like the bad boy? Edward Cullen is often thought of as a Byronic hero a la the Bronte sisters. And actors like Rob Pattinson give the character a James Dean edge. But on the heels of the Vampire Diaries first season finale, I think it's important to note that the "bad boy" good-guy, like Stefan Salvatore or Edward Cullen, are not the REAL bad boys of the vampire world.
Stefan is broody and angst-ridden over his lack of humanity--that doesn't make him bad, that makes him whiney. A character like Damon, however, is much more complex, and therefore, much more human.
Damon is the underdog in many ways. Many, many ways. In the TV series, he's the older brother who gets shafted by his younger brother--first in love, then in life, then...in death. Yes, Stefan goes through a fire to save Damon in the season finale, but he's also willing to drop Damon when it suits his self-righteous purposes. Stefan's supposedly "good" because he refuses to drink human blood, but then, when he does eventually drink human blood, he becomes psychotic. The EXCUSE is that he's just not used to it...but I'm not used to a lot of bad things that happen, and you don't see me brainwashing innocent people to drain them of their life-blood, do you??? I don't find Stefan a sympathetic character because he realizes he's an evil bastard so "saves" humanity by not drinking human blood...what a crock! Damon, however, is the real hero.
Damon puts up with Stefan's bi-polar behavior, negative jibes, undue criticisms, and general jerkiness--and sure, Damon's no milk-toast, but he's loyal. He's a true friend. He can also be brutal. But he's a vampire! He does have fangs, for goodness sake! You don't step into the lion's cage and not expect to come out with a laceration or two. In other words, Damon Salvatore isn't without his faults, but of the two brothers, he's more vulnerable so more human...and therefore, more heroic. He takes bigger risks even though his struggle is enhanced by his duality--that takes real courage. He's faced trials and still transcended his duality. He's the "Master of Two Worlds" a la Joseph Campbell. In Damon, the transformation of consciousness is very apparent. While in Stefan, he failed his trials. He is not the "Master of Two Worlds"...and he knows it.
Supernatural also wrapped its fifth season last night. There will be a sixth season (thankfully). The Supernatural series is a little bit of everything: Vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, hell hounds--you name it, they've got it! And though the writers for the show shift around, as do the directors, the one consistency is the hopeful message that good triumphs over evil in the HUMAN heart. Because you see, in Supernatural, though monsters are abundant, the most dangerous creatures on the show are the humans.
I'm VERY biased when it comes to my Supernatural sons, Dean and Sam Winchester. Yes, there were canned moments in the finale but the show has always had a campy edge while maintaining its dramatic integrity. I LOVE that about Supernatural. I also LOVE how the various writers always incorporate pop culture references, too. It's really delightful, though every show seems to end in some kind of horrifying bloodshed...do you KNOW how HARD that is to do??? It's INCREDIBLY difficult to write and equally hard to convey for the actors. That's why my hat goes off to Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. Those two play a very convincing couple. It's a good dynamic, though Padalecki's ego is often apparent, weakening the brotherly-bond. The good news is, it's consistent with Padalecki's character, Sam...who has demon-blood in his veins. That's what's so beautiful about the show--you have a show-off younger brother who's smarter, taller, more powerful, and just as tough as big-bro, Dean, played convincingly by Ackles. But Dean never envies Sam. He sticks by him, over and over and over ad infinitum (as we are lead to believe that Sam and Dean share bloodties with the Biblical Cane and Able).
As Sam (possessed by Lucifer, of course), beat Dean to a bloody pulp, Dean, whose face was nearly unrecognizable, kept reassuring his little brother he wasn't going to leave Sam. Dean recognized it wasn't Sam weilding the punches, and it didn't matter. It was still okay. Dean wasn't going to leave Sam alone with Satan, even if it meant dying.
I don't know who of you out there really understands this dynamic, but I do. I have a younger brother. And yes, he's smarter, taller, and more powerful than I am--but I've always taken care of him; I've always been his protector. And weirdly, even though we're now adults, I STILL feel that way. I understand and can relate to the Sam-Dean dynamic...and more importantly, so can many of you: Dean, who can never win for losing, who tries hard and does his best with what he's got, no matter what, versus Sam, influenced by what's in his blood, he can be egotistical, self-righteous, and annoyingly naive. Sam can do anything he wants but in many ways, is afraid of himself. Dean is more limited but despite his limits, shows consistent courage and loyalty. Man, that's good writing.
Sera Gamble will take over for Eric Kripke in season six. Gamble was an influence in one of my favorite seasons, season three. The storyline will return to that earlier season, focusing on the brothers' relationship, and will have a connecting season-long story arc that will undoubtedly wrap what appears to be the sixth and final season in a satisfactory way for the die hards, like me. Though frankly, I'm hoping the show goes on for at least another two seasons: Eight--it's a lucky number.
So, on the Housel-scale, Vampire Diaries gets a 9/10 and Supernatural, with my admitted bias, 10/10!
Until next time, dear readers....