Tag Archives: The Vampire Diaries

Race + Television–The Vampire Diaries 4.20: “The Originals”

Promo shot for The Originals. Via the CW.

Last week The Vampire Diaries (TVD) aired Episode 20, ”The Originals,” a “backdoor pilot“ for a spin-off series coming this Fall of the same name, which will (finally) remove the Original Family of Klaus, Rebekkah, and Elijah from Mystic Falls, VA, and send them even further south to New Orleans. I know, I know–at this point we need more Southern vampires on television like we need another summer superhero movie. But here’s the surprising thing: If TVD showrunner Julie Plec weren’t also in charge of this show? It could be very, very good.

There hasn’t been much to be excited about this season, so this was a game-changer and it was more than just a change of scenery (TVD has had a lot of that this year). Admittedly, you can’t go wrong in erasing the ridiculous part of the plot where the 1000+-year-old vampires have to pretend to be teenagers, fitting in with small-town Virginia life. The new chosen city for the show isn’t overly inspired; New Orleans is hardly original when it comes to vampire storytelling, but with it comes an instant change to the mood and tone of the show.

“The Originals” steps back from the teenage shenanigans of TVD, and thank goodness for that. This is show about family–the family you’re born into vs. the family you make for yourself. With that, plus the introduced cast members, there’s some serious potential here.

The problem is it is Plec’s show–and a lot of the potential it has won’t ever see the light of day.

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Black People Review Girls (2.2): Dear Joe, Nothing Happened

By Kendra James

Lena Dunham (L) and Donald Glover from HBO’s “Girls.” Image via The Hollywood Reporter.

Dear Joe,

I watched the season premiere of Girls last week deciding that–after a good hour or so of snark directed in Dunham’s direction on Twitter– I’d pretend I didn’t know any of the drama swirling around the show. Why? Well, I only made it four episodes into Season One of Girls, less because of my offended sensibilities and more because I was just bored. The show bored me–and before you say anything, my addiction to Showtime and FX hour-longs proves that I’m capable of enjoying TV without vampires, werewolves, and witches, okay?

Anyway, I was bored with last season but I was willing to make a concession: given how I felt about the show’s…well, everything…was I really going to judge it fairly? Probably not. So Season 2 was going to get the benefit of the doubt.

And the first two episodes have!

But, Joe, I’m still bored.
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The Racialicious Entertainment Roundup: Nov. 10-22

By Arturo R. García, Joseph Lamour, and Kendra James

You might notice a slight title change this week as we change the format of the weekly roundup ever so slightly. Instead of just television, we’ll expanding into the broader definition of entertainment–music, movies, theatre, and TV. Because sometimes you just need a place to devote a paragraph or two to Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Or maybe that’s just Kendra.)

Psy, Hammer Style: At some point you had to wonder not only when the “Gangnam Style” craze would be put to bed, but whether Psy himself, who accidentally horsey-stepped his way into YouTube history, would get the last word on his meme like Rick Astley did three Thanksgiving Day Parades ago. And then this happened at the American Music Awards last Sunday:


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Why The Vampire Diaries’ Treatment of Bonnie Bennett–And Her Fans–Bites

By Guest Contributors Kendra James and Jordan St. John

It was a rough few days last month for The Vampire Diaries executive producer Julie Plec and actor Matt Davis, and probably rougher still for actress Kat Graham, who plays Bonnie Bennett. Starting with Davis’ dismissive response concerning a recently deceased fan after her battle with cancer, the day only got worse when Plec got into it with a fan after being asked why the writers can’t give Bonnie a love interest who isn’t her step-brother.

Adressing her comments to “certain Bonnie fans,” Plec responded on Twitter:

Fandom never takes well to being talked down to by creators and, while this was bad enough, Davis insisted on having the last word, via his own Twitter. Picture Plec as Elena, and Davis as, well, Alaric … or any of the other men who consistently come rushing to her aid short of reason and with half a plan. The result was just about as successful as anything that would have played out on the show.

And then when it was speculated that Bonnie’s treatment on the show might stem from her status as a POC, Davis–once again half cocked–fired back:

Kat Graham is of Black and Jewish descent, as Davis so kindly reminded fans while completely missing the point of the argument. His wild insensitivity and ignorant–if not blatantly racist–comments prompted some fans to call for a boycott of watching the show’s March 22 episode live or through DVR recordings. Not to have the show cancelled, mind you, but to show through a dip in the ratings that the fans would not tolerate this sort of treatment from the show’s writers and actors.

With that in mind, your resident Racialicious TVD obsessees, Jordan and Kendra, sat down for a short chat on how this exchange colored our view of the episode and Bonnie Bennett.

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Table For Two: Kendra And Jordan Break Down The Vampire Diaries

By Guest Contributors Kendra James and Jordan St. John

Never seen The Vampire Diaries? Here’s a synopsis (with spoilers). There’s Elena (Nina Dobrev) the “average” popular orphan girl in Mystic Falls, VA. Caroline ( Candice Accola) her blond haired, blue eyed cheerleading frenemy and Bonnie (Kat Graham) her requisite black best friend and side kick. Elena also happens to be the spitting image of a vampire, Katherine, who loved Damon and Stefan Salvatore (brothers played by Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley) in the same town during the Civil War. Come 2009 the brothers return to Mystic Falls, only to both fall in love with Elena – a plot that makes just as much sense now as it did when TVD actually debuted as a book series in the early 1990s. But hey, let’s go with it.

Elena fell in love with Stefan during the show’s first season, but now things are heating up between her and Damon. It’s a crazy ride of a show but one of the most fascinating things is its strange dance with race. Set in the current south but with self-professed ties to the Civil War era and more recently precolonial America, as Dr. Sayantani DasGupta wrote for Racialicious last year, the show sometimes doesn’t know what to do with pesky issues like racism and slavery. As the show’s third season resumes this week, let’s look back at the racial implications and issues of the residents of Mystic Falls since the Season 2 finale.

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You choose — triggering, tokenism or erasure

By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, cross-posted from What Tami Said

I asked my blogging friends to weigh in on a question that is only a little facetious: In your consumption of media, which is better–to be triggered, to be a token or to be erased?

Let me explain.

During the hiatus of HBO’s True Blood, Renee, Paul and I have been exploring other representations of the urban fantasy genre–from book series to the teen angsty CW show Vampire Diaries. In doing so, we have confirmed what we already suspected: That is that the genre is notoriously bad at characterizations that are not of the white, straight, male variety. (Making it much like, y’know, every other genre.)

One sentiment that has come up again and again–mostly after suffering some appalling portrayal of people of color or the GLBT community in some book–is “Y’know, I’d rather [insert author’s name here] would just quit writing about [insert marginalized group here].”

For me, this frustration is usually borne of being othered and disrespected, when I simply aimed to be entertained by a trashy novel or TV show. I dipped into Charlaine Harris’ Aurora Teagarden series, hoping to enjoy the books as I enjoy the TV series based on Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. Instead, I got a bunch of thinly-written, triggering stories where all women (but the protagonist) are routinely judged harshly and women like me (black women) are alternately sassy or angry or dead or running from the law, and blackness or Jewishness or gayness or any other “ness” that is not small-town and conservative and Southern and Anglo and Christian is to be frowned at or remarked upon or, best, hidden. And so, instead of enjoying a cozy mystery in my downtime, I wound up feeling uncomfortable and marginalized.

It is times like these when I find myself thinking that it would have been better if black women were absent from the narrative altogether. Sometimes there is comfort in erasure. I mean, even a blandly-drawn token black character, like Bonnie on Vampire Diaries, can be intrusive to my experience. Because I look at her presence in a show that genuflects to the antebellum South and plantation-owning families, while at the same time not mentioning the black community that must still exist in the town, and suspect she is a black-culture-free cypher added simply to be inclusive.

When I, a black woman, am consuming media created by mostly non-black writers, dealing with erasure is sometimes easier that dealing with how a book or film or TV show reflects the dominant culture’s biased views about me.

Media, at its best, is a powerful tool that can change the way groups are perceived by the masses. But media is too rarely at its best. So…

Are bad, biased or token portrayals better than no portrayal at all?

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White Vamps, Black Witches: Race Politics and Vampire Pop Culture

By Guest Contributor Dr. Sayantani DasGupta, cross-posted from Stories Are Good Medicine

Ok, so I’m watching a Vampire Diaries marathon on the CW and…

Stop laughing. No, I mean it…stop.

I am a YA WRITER I was doing RESEARCH on, er, stuff that teens like. Like vampires, and high school drama, and, er, kissing, and stuff. RESEARCH, I tell you.
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