I don't love you, but I always will - a Damon/Elena shipper manifesto (part 1)

May 26, 2012 22:45

Yes, I am talking about D/E again. Apparently, now I'm this person who makes shipper manifestos. Oh, whatever.

I've started making this post a while back, and today I had an epiphany and actually, you know, remembered that I meant to finish it. I did some editing, added some 3x22 thoughts... and decided that no finishing will happen today. In fact, I'd better just start posting, because once this manifesto is done, it will be too long for anyone sane to read. So here goes part one. Probably out of three. Probably. Feel free to poke me with a stick if I'm running late with other parts. You know how I get distracted by shiny objects.

I don't love you, but I always will - a Damon/Elena shipper manifesto
Why would anyone want to ship something like that?

Warnings: This post contains Damon and Elena.

This isn't a typical meta. I'm not trying to make claims or prove points. This post is purely subjective; it's about what I like, what makes D/E attractive for me, why I spend hours writing yet another post, why I have feelings and all the ugly stuff. It's not an analytical post -- or, at least, analysis is not my main goal. Basically, it's emotional vomit. Only, you know, with fancy words. I meant there to be more pictures, but my internet hates me and everything takes ages to load, so here it is.

ETA: If you're just commenting to try to convince me that Damon is not a rapist, please don't bother. Trust me, it won't work. My opinion on that matter is stated here. If "Damon is not a rapist" is all you've got to say, I'll just screen your comment, because, call me a weirdo, but I don't fancy hosting a flamewar here.

1. They don't know what love is

Whenever someone asks me if Damon loves Elena, or if Elena loves Damon, it turns out I can't explain.

I don't even know how to begin talking about it. Love as a concept is terribly difficult to define, and each of us probably has a slightly different idea. I usually have so much trouble telling what it means to love someone, because the very word is so ambiguous. And it seems like Elena and Damon have the same problem.

When Elena says that Damon doesn't know what love is, and neither does she, she is obviously being angry and melodramatic (and, hey, given her circumstances, she's earned melodramatic). She hates that Damon hurts the ones he loves, she hates the circle of abuse in which he's stuck, and she hates her own helplessness. She is the queen of unreliable narrators. And yet - totally by chance - she got the crux of their relationship in one sentence. Damon/Elena is a constant struggle with various definitions of love.

On the surface, everything seems fairly simple.

Damon defines love as something a person can't help. If you can't bring yourself to walk away from someone, no matter what, you love them. He knows he loves Katherine, because he's spent 145 years waiting for her, and he still can't fully shake her. He knows he loves Elena, because she keeps rejecting him, and yet he was ready to promise he'd never leave her. He knows Elena loves him, because he's broken Jeremy's neck, and fed Elena his blood, and done many other terrible things, and yet she's still speaking to him. Of course Elena also loves Stefan -- she must love him, because she didn't give up on him. It's simple like that.

For Elena, love is a choice. She can decide to love this or that person, and it doesn't mean that she's being dishonest, or forcing herself to do something. She's simply refusing to be erratic and irrational. She knows there's more than one possible Elena, and she wants to be the Elena who feels good in her own skin. She knows she loves Stefan, because she stood up and said: “I love you, and I will be this person who always finds you, who always saves you like you saved me, who helps you be your best self like you help me be my best self”, and then she kept her word. Love is a choice of the version of the self. You should love the person that makes you glad that you're alive.

So, for starters, we have two people whose definitions of love contradict one another in every possible way. For Elena, love is an act of free will, for Damon love is a fundamental violation of free will. Damon thinks that Elena's kind of love is in fact a lie and an act of cowardice (There is something going on between the two of us, and you know it. And you're lying to me, and you're lying to Stefan, and most of all, you're lying to yourself. I can prove it. - 2x01, The Return). Elena thinks that Damon's kind of love is a thoughtless, destructive force and an act of insanity (But he did this to me, Stefan, which means he doesn't really know what love is. - 2x20, The Last Day). So who is right? Logically speaking, they can't both be right. Are they both wrong?

Even if we manage to answer those questions (and we won't, trust me), other problems emerge. Damon and Elena are confronted with other definitions of love, definitions they don't buy into, and yet they can't dismiss them. To love someone means to want them (You are attracted to him - Caroline in 3x04, Disturbing Behavior). To love someone means to know them (You and I... We have something. An understanding - Elena in 1x14, Fool Me Once). To love someone means to sit with them in the dark (the final scene of 1x19 Miss Mystic Falls). To love someone means to not be able to let them go (I can't lose you - Damon in 2x20, The Last Day). To love someone means to be willing to die for them (I don't want to be saved. Not if it means that Klaus is going to kill every single person that I love. - Elena in 2x10, The Sacrifice). To love someone means to make difficult decisions for their sake, even if they don't want you to (I'll even let her hate me for it - Damon in 2x18, The Last Dance). To love someone means to need them (Where were you, Damon? - Elena in 3x05, The Reckoning).

This is an impossible situation, an ultimate stalemate. Damon and Elena can never formulate one definition of love they'd both buy into, and their personal definitions are constantly challenged. Elena can't shake Damon even though she doesn't want to choose him, and Damon's definition is not sufficient (it only helps him decide whether he loves someone or not, but it doesn't tell him shit about implications of love, so he needs additional definitions that would help him decide how to behave). Damon/Elena is, essentially, about a failure of all definitions, and about a struggle to still find a way to describe emotions. It's about the lack of language (there is a reason why they hardly ever talk about the important stuff). Which is the best thing ever. Because, hey, I don't know what love is either, I have never been able to create a definition that would satisfy me, and my entire life I've been playing it by the ear. I don't want a ship that has a simple answer. I want a ship that would stand in front of me and honestly admit that they can't find an answer, and that it's possible that there's no answer. I can relate to their contradictions, and to their lack of an objective definition. My quality of form is purely subjective.

2. Damon only gets to pick up the pieces

In this section, I vomit emotions, then words, then some more emotions. I regret nothing.

It's just so painfully, unbearably beautiful imagery. Damon is never there in time for a heroic rescue, isn't he? Elena was alone when Klaus sacrificed her on an altar of fire, and she was alone when Klaus compelled Stefan to kill her. She died alone, died a terrible, slow death, while Damon was miles away, fighting Alaric. Damon is so determined to save her, but when push comes to shove, he just happens to not be around. Always too late, never the white knight, couldn't save Katherine, can't save Elena.

There is only one thing he's good at. After the curtain falls, he is allowed to pick up the pieces. There are so many pictures of Damon carrying Elena out of various places, but only after she was hurt, after something terrible happened. Damon is never a part of the big story, he steps in when the story is over. Damon happens in the dark.

Because this is what he understands, the most real part of him. He died shot by his own father in a dark forest, no last words, no dignity, no sense. Died trying to rescue someone who didn't need to be rescued (see what happens when he does get there in time?), and then was victimized by his own brother. So when Elena goes through the horror of Klaus's sacrifice FOR NOTHING (Klaus didn't die!), Damon knows exactly what that means. Been there, fucked that up.

The thing is, Damon and Elena aren't supposed to share any symbolic space. Elena is the protagonist, she totally could be the hero, so her sacrifices can matter, her suffering can matter. She deserves better than being brutally murdered for nothing, deserves better than to be just a human blood bag, deserves better than to drown, not even knowing that she had vampire blood in her system. And yet she ends up in the very same forest where Damon was killed 145 years before, terrified, shaking, meaningless. Wearing those idiotic trainers that, for some mysterious reason, turn me into a tiny, sobbing ball of ugly feelings EVERY FUCKING TIME, because it just can't be happening, it can't be real, and yet my girl is being carried out, her neck bloody, and those stupid, stupid shoes are the fucking epitome of the meaninglessness of her suffering. You can't be heroic in shoes like that, because it violates every known decorum. Our Father who art in Heaven. Our Father who art buried in the yard.

Yes, I find Elena's trainers symbolic. No, I don't intend to try therapy.

I can't get over Elena's meaningless suffering, and I can't get over Damon's helplessness. Damon is the character who chooses to be active every time he can, he hates being passive, and obsessively avoids dealing with victimization, up to the point when he openly refuses to discuss Elena's trauma with her (Stefan won this round for us - yes, Damon, thank you, VERY comforting). But sometimes he can't escape. Like when she's physically hurt, and she needs him to DO something. So he steps in, and helps her (carries her out when she can't walk any more), and then he gets trapped in an emotional situation he never wanted to get into.

Damon is a terrible caretaker. No, but really. He can't take care of a plant. His MO is to do something harmful, and then leave the consequences for others to deal with (that's what he does the entire s2 - he can make all life and death decisions because it's STEFAN who will have to deal with emotional consequences; Damon doesn't even go near Elena's trauma. This changes in s3). So being locked in one room with suffering, shaking, traumatized Elena who has just been bitten by Stefan, and then used by Klaus - it's Damon's little, private hell (imagine how much worse it's gonna get in s4, with Elena in transition). He gives her a drink, and offers to compel her, and gives her back her necklace, desperately tries to do ANYTHING with his hands. He is too restless to deal with a situation like that, and, on top of that, openly facing this kind of victimization is too close to his own vulnerability. He doesn't want to understand this part of Elena. He doesn't want to know about this part of Elena. And yet this is the part he gets, because, somehow, he's always there to pick up the pieces and carry her out of the wreck. Hates every second of it. Does it anyway. Will do it again. Fuck him. Life-ruiner.

#here endeth the emotional vomit... for about five minutes

3. This is how I show my love

Probably the most controversial part. If you're not comfortable with reading about abusive relationships, you might want to skip this section.

Truth to be told, I don't want to like this aspect of Damon/Elena. Unbelievable as it might seem, I don't actually enjoy pain and misery. I don't go around yelling: “ABUSE, YAY!”. Except I can't take my eyes off the abusive aspect of Damon/Elena.

There are love stories in which everything is as it should be, and then there's this mess where no simple answer can be given. I can't simply dismiss D/E as wrong and abusive, because it touches a problem that's too important for me to wave off. Damon/Elena is not a story of a good girl who fell in love with a monster. It's a story about how monsters are made.

When Damon breaks Jeremy's neck in 2x01, the whole story is shown from his POV. The camera follows him from the moment he kisses Katherine in 1x22, and everything happens on screen - his confession, his emotions, his disappointment, his pain. What Katherine does to him is completely undeserved (she's probably the only character in the show he has never hurt - at least in 1x22-2x01, she is), and so inexplicably cruel. I can see how Damon came from kissing “Elena” to breaking her brother's neck the very next day, I can understand every single detail of his motivations, I can follow the entire chain of events, and then Damon snaps... and I can't excuse it.

I'm not blind. I can see that Damon is a terrible person. Not in a romantic, “how charming” way. He actually is a murderer and a rapist, no matter how adorable his squirrel face is. And it scares the shit out of me that I actually can understand why he kills an innocent boy. His story makes me understand why he does it. If so, does it mean that I'm capable of equally horrible things?

I've seen people judging Elena (or even laughing at her) for not holding Damon responsible, for forgiving him too soon. I can understand why some people find it wrong and disturbing. It probably is. But I understand why Elena refuses to be Damon's judge.

Elena understands Damon better than she would like to understand. This is what she notices in s1:

I really think that Damon believes that everything he's done, every move that he's made, he's done for love. It's twisted, but kind of sad.
TVD 1x13, Children of the Damned

She doesn't cuddle a serial killer. She doesn't look for excuses for him. She hates what he does. But it would be hypocritical of her to pose herself as his judge. She's done terrible things because of love (violated Jeremy's mind to protect him, TWICE, made Jenna vulnerable by keeping the truth from her - of course, objectively, it doesn't compare to Damon's rich and colorful history of 150 years of being an abuser, but Elena can totally relate to it on an irrational level) She understands his motivations, and it scares the shit out of her. If she can understand where Damon comes from, does it mean that she's capable of equally horrible things as he is?

And this is the crux of the abusive aspect of Damon/Elena. It's not there so that I could experience pure (and fictional) horror. It's not there to make sure I've noticed that Damon is a terrible person (thank you, Captain Obvious). It's there to constantly pose questions. What is the origin of abuse? Who can become the abuser? Why do people do terrible things? Could I do something like that?

And then an answer comes. In the end of s2 Damon forces Elena to drink his blood and almost turns her into a vampire against her will. She forgives him ridiculously soon (though, to be fair, she would've taken longer if she didn't think he was dying). John died to save Elena from becoming a vampire, and Jenna died because she wasn't given sufficient help and protection against Klaus. Elena lost her guardian, and she lost her biological father, and now her brother is the only family she's left. It hurts. It fucking hurts. She would do anything to take it back, to save John, and Jenna, and her parents. ANYTHING. She stands at the graves of four people she loved and she got killed, and she would do anything to not have lost them. She can't bear this loss. She can't lose them.

Sounds familiar, huh?

Damon/Elena is not a story about a good girl who falls in love with a monster, saves him and makes him turn into a beautiful prince. It's a story about a good girl who discovers that monsters are, in fact, essentially human, and she is constantly one step away from becoming a monster herself. She is capable of terrible things. She's been victimized in so many ways. You know what does it make her? A PERFECT potential abuser (which doesn't mean that she will undoubtedly become one; she might as well not).

And the show takes it even a step further. Elena is growing up, and she's losing her teenage idealism. Small things start happening. Asking Damon to compel Jeremy. Emotional blackmail. Not caring about Stefan's nameless victims. Back-stabbing. Is this Elena becoming a murdering psychopath, or is it just Elena becoming an adult? What does it all say about her? And what does it say about me?

Not a very comforting love story, and it certainly doesn't make me feel better about myself, but here it is. This is how they show their love. No flowers, no romantic gestures, no great speeches, no epic sacrifices. This.

How do I show mine?

note to self: less talk, meta, ostateczne upodlenie, fictional vampires ruin my life, straszna straszna miazga, yes i'm always like that, elena gilbert is amazing, damon omg damon, fandom: the vampire diaries, i'm twelve just like my ship, how unfortunate, too many emotions, i hate everybody

Previous post Next post