Damon, Elena, Stefan - the question of narratives

Oct 08, 2011 15:26

This entry is based on a comment I posted in an episode discussion hosted by ever-neutral. It's some sort of an intellectual experiment ― I'm bored, my literature classes are not as good as I expected them to be, my TVD discussions on a forum are mostly dying, so I've been entertaining myself with creating this interpretation. I'm well aware that it's not the only possible way of looking at the show, and it certainly leaves out some aspects, but, well. If I wanted to include everything, I'd have to write a book ;).

Spoilers up to TVD 3x04. Huge thanks to le-mru and ever-neutral for giving me some new ideas :D.

Damon is deeply rooted in Romantic narratives (aka he is the Bella Swan ― thank you for this mental image, ever-neutral...). He started out believing that he should do anything for the woman he loves, ended up dying for her, and then spent 145 years waiting for her. According to his understanding, the world is based on extreme reactions: when he loves, he'd sacrifice just anything, when he suffers, he feels that it's reason enough to do do impulsive, evil things (this is desperation - it's not ok morally, but, according to the rules of his narrative, it's appropriate). When he finds out that Katherine was never in the tomb, his reaction is still within the boundaries of his narrative - he starts drinking (well, drinking MORE) and sort of steps back into the role of a villain (i.e. his dealings with Rick). Since he is attracted to Elena anyway, he simply switches the lady and doesn't change a bit - he still does whatever it takes to make his lady happy. When Damon starts becoming a good guy in late s1, he doesn't do it against his basic instinct, because his basic instinct is to make Elena happy and to win her love. His narrative breaks in 2x01, with Katherine telling him that what they had was never real (try to imagine Giaour finding out that Leila never loved him; it would be absurd), and Elena telling him that he won't have her no matter how hard he tries. Something like that cannot happen to a romantic character; it's against all the rules, it crushes his narrative into pieces. So from the beginning of s2 Damon gets a new narrative; a postmodern one. It's ambigious and eclectic and highly personalized; pragmatic to some extent (he is the guy who makes the hard choices without blinking), but also hedonistic (he often does things just because he feels like doing them), realistic (he refuses to pretend that he could be a reformed vampire) and many more. His narrative is still a bit shaky; as you see, it's even difficult to define. Damon's new narrative is still under construction.

With Stefan it's pretty easy: he is Manicheic. He believes in good and evil that don't mesh, and when he is on one side, he cannot be at the other.

Elena is a girl brought up in late 20th century culture, and her narrative is love narrative (different from Damon's Romantic; hers is more of "Amor vincit omnia" sort). Love, for her, is some sort of power that can influence people. If they are broken, love can fix them. To oversimplify - Elena believes that if she kisses a frog, it will turn into a prince.

Up to the end of s2 Elena and Stefan reinforce each other's narratives; he keeps telling her that he does it all for her and to be with her (= her love changes him), and she keeps him on the side of the forces of good (= there is good and there is evil and nothing in between). In s1 the narratives of the main trio are in correspondence: even though Elena marks Damon as evil, she can comprehend his narrative and recognize his reasons (although she doesn't justify them). Stefan and Damon obviously understand each other, and spend most of their time questioning each other's lifestyles ;).

Enter s2.

Stefan and Elena do not notice Damon's change of narrative; whatsmore, his new narrative is absolutely incomprehensible for them, especially for Elena (we don't know that much about Stefan). S2 is constant tension; it's Elena trying to manipulate Damon in ways that would've worked in his old narrative, but are absurd within the current one (ever-neutral gave me a good example once: when Elena gives Damon a lofty pep talk in 2x12, it results in him going out and killing somebody). Damon doesn't hide his new narrative from Stefan and Elena, because TVD is not metafiction, hence Damon is not aware of even having a narrative ;). They just don't notice that something has changed, because, even though the change is so fundamental for Damon, it's quite subtle when you look from the outside (his motivations change completely, but until now it didn't lead to big changes in behavior).

Enter s3.

Stefan is killing again, and he does it for the love of Elena. That would be their narratives dying a horrible and slow death: Stefan is doing evil things for right reasons (you can't have that in manicheism, you're either good or bad), mainly because he loves Elena and wants to protect her (Elena's love has just lead to something ultimately horrible). They haven't faced it yet, because things are happening too fast and they are just trying to keep a facade for the time being, but the damage is done, and now it's just a matter of time. Simultaniously, we've just had Elena having a moment of recognision about Damon: the tension from s2 is broken and now she starts seeing that she has no power over Damon, at least not in a sense she thought she had. So, basically, by mid s3 we'll have two characters who have lost any idea as to what are the rules their worlds function by + a character who has already built some set of rules, but it doesn't help, because his rules lead to destruction and disorder anyway.

Now, many Damon/Elena shippers reacted badly to s2 change of narrative (note: I'm not talking about the people who didn't like Damon's s2 arc, because they aren't ok with the way the show dealt, or rather didn't deal with the abuse of women; that's different kind of critisizm, and, even though I mostly agree with it, I don't want to discuss it right now). Ironically, it turns out that 21st century audience is quite conservative and doesn't like stepping out of certain conventions. I'd say they want to keep some sort of decorum (in a sense that they want Damon to have one, consistent narrative; they cannot accept the switch of narratives), although I doubt they explain it like that. The same audience will probably react badly to Stefan's and Elena's arcs in s3. Change of narrative is stepping out of comfort zone.

I'm sorry if I don't answer to your comments right away; I have a family event to attend, and I'll be back online tommorow.

damon omg damon, fandom: the vampire diaries, elena gilbert is amazing

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