I don’t truly ship characters. Don’t get me wrong, I have my favorite pairings, my fantasy pairings and my that will never work in a million circles of hell pairings. But as an avid TV lover, I’ve learned over the years that television has a knack for ripping apart a couple I thought I liked, only to put together one I enjoy just as much or more. I’ve also found that if I let myself have favorites, but remember that I’m not the one writing the show, I can find reasons to justify and even enjoy any couple. So imagine my surprise when in one scene (okay two counting the bracelet), I found myself falling head over heels for a couple that I had only joked about previously. But even more surprising was the way so many others in fandom reacted. Most of my friends, like me, have our wish fulfillment couples but we take things as they come. Yet if you were to watch twitter Thursday night, you could see that we were all swept up in a new ship. And the truly odd part was that none of us quite knew how to explain it. I certainly didn’t. I knew it was sweet and sort of hot and on some deeper level I was madly in love and at the same time I kept yelling at myself, “this is fictional! You are not making sense!”. So I’ve been trying to figure out just what it is about the Klaus/Caroline development that has us all so twitterpated.
I want to be clear that I know this is one episode in. It’s the Vampire Diaries. Anything can change between commercial breaks so I am not foolish enough to think that Klaus isn’t still plotting over ways to use Caroline to his advantage or to think that Caroline has fallen for Klaus or that the writers won’t rip the rug out from under me next week. Still, the powers that be have said Klaus is getting a love interest, Caroline is single (and perfect, may she live forever) and pictures of upcoming episodes seem to hint at this, whatever “this” is, continuing.
I’ve heard a few of the arguments against Klaus and Caroline as a couple, though I think most can be easily dismissed. There’s the “Caroline reminds Klaus of Rebekah so it is just incest” school of thought. I’d remind you first that just because Caroline is blonde and badass does not make her Rebekah and second that if we’re going off similarities the Salvatores & Petrovas have a lot more to worry about. Also, Rebekah may know how to read Klaus but he still doesn’t open up to her.
Another fairly popular opinion is that Caroline interested in Klaus is like if she started wanting to date Damon. Let’s break down what Klaus has done to Caroline vs what Damon’s done to Caroline (I’m talking done directly to her, not to her friends as that’s the next topic). Without ever speaking to her, Klaus had his hybrids kidnap Caroline to kill her for the sacrifice. That’s it. He didn’t even go after her when she got away. So Klaus has tried to kill Caroline once. Before he knew her. Damon, who had at least talked with Caroline and was getting to know her as a person; compelled her, abused her, tried to kill her on not one, not two but multiple occasions, threatened to kill her mother, tried to kill her father, beat Caroline up again and mocks her at every turn. Sorry but those two men are not the same where Caroline is concerned.
Finally, I’ve heard the “well Klaus has hurt so many of Caroline’s friends that she’d be betraying them all by liking Klaus”. I’ve also heard that even if Caroline just became friends with Klaus (nothing romantic), the same issues apply. So let’s get into that one by once again involving Damon. (And this is not to bash Damon but for the sake of an argument, he works better than trying to discuss every character). Elena likes Damon. Let’s assume Caroline will like Klaus. Klaus turned Tyler into a hybrid, killed Jenna, tried to kill Bonnie, killed Elena (sort of), had a hybrid run down Alaric (via Jeremy), compelled Stefan to be a ripper and causes general mayhem. Damon turned Vicki into a vampire, tried to kill Caroline, threatened to kill Elena/turn her, killed Jeremy, killed Alaric, nearly killed Bonnie, opened a tomb of vampires into the town and causes general mayhem.
The idea that because someone has done bad things in a story about vampires, he/she can’t be liked by anther character doesn’t work. @katelinnea actually had a great blog post about this called The Problem of Chuck Bass. She notes that “There are girls who say they want to date Chuck or Damon, and that’s disturbing, but it’s completely possible to like them as characters without liking them as people.” And I think that brings us to an angle we have to remember about characters dating each other on this show, especially as the show progresses. These aren’t innocent people. We aren’t talking about an innocent person choosing to date a serial killer in our world. You don’t have to like every one (I certainly don’t) but there’s a level of recognition that the world of the show is dictated by different rules than our world. It wouldn’t make sense to think of Klaus as a catch in our world. But in Mystic Falls, killing people starts to get a bit relative.
So why did this pairing affect me (and so many others in the TVD fandom) so strongly? I have a theory. (It could be bunnies). And my theory doesn’t involve Klaus nearly as much as it involves Caroline. In fact, I would argue that if the actions were the same, you could put nearly any male character with Caroline and we would be swooning the same way. Though Klaus does have that accent and delightful way of saying sweetheart.
I noted in my part of the reaction post over at The Salvatore Boarding House the following: “There’s that moment where Klaus is just saying his normal cultish spiel about how she’s free and Caroline looks at him and says “I’m dying” and Candice puts all the weight of the world in her eyes in that moment. It’s genius. She’s not commenting on the fact that she’s dying because of Tyler’s bite. She’s saying she’s dying, and has been, ever since Katherine turned her and that she’s been telling herself it will get better but she’s never believed it and tonight on her birthday it all came to a head. And it’s like she made this peace with her life ending in the next couple days because she believes it ended months ago. And Klaus just looks at her and sees all of it. It felt like he just went ‘what have you been told that you think your life is over and that you aren’t worth anything. How could anyone have possibly let you believe that your life wasn’t worth anything. Let me tell you how magical you are and how genuinely beautiful you are.'”
I’ll backtrack a bit to say that I identify so much with Caroline. And I do so in unexpected ways. If you listen to fans say what character’s death could get them to stop watching, 9 times out of 10, the answer is Caroline. (Assuming you’re aware that Damon, Stefan and Elena aren’t going anywhere). Something about Caroline speaks to me and until last Thursday, I wasn’t sure what that was. I certainly wasn’t popular in high school, in fact very much the opposite. I’m not that cheerful or fought over by boys or really any of the things that seem to make up Caroline. Then I watched “Our Town”. And I realized that I identify with Caroline because she dreams and she hurts and she keeps part of herself hidden because no one ever told her she could have the world. I do that last one. In this world of social media it can seem easy to know someone but there’s a lot I don’t share. Hell there are aspects of my life that my best friends over the last couple decades don’t know. I have one friend, just one, who knows all of my deepest secrets. And he knows them in part because he was there and in part because he always seems to know exactly what I can’t say. Caroline has, especially since she’s become a vampire, been about pulling herself up by the bootstraps and making the best of situations. And I’ve been begging for a moment where Caroline sees that the best isn’t happening, her life just sucks. In “Our Town” we did. We see a depressed Caroline who no longer has teenage distractions and is faced with the reality of her eternal existence. Her friends want to celebrate birthdays and Caroline is pointing out that she’s not the same girl and I think there was a hint of Caroline not knowing exactly what she wants. I get that. Oh I so get that.
There are so many times when I don’t know what I’m feeling or what I want but what I really need is for someone to get me without explanation. That’s what Klaus did for Caroline. He didn’t hear her “I’m dying” response as a sarcastic retort. He knew what she meant and he knew that no one had told her about all the good things this new life could offer. And so he painted a picture of a world so magical and so beautiful that Caroline finally believed. She believed that this glimmer in her heart that knew things had to change and that high school couldn’t be everything was right.
I’m certain that’s why I (and many of you) fell so hard for this ship. We all know what it’s like to have dreams or fears that we can’t quite voice. And I think on some level, we all hope that someone will understand us. Not always romantically (though that’s a perk) but just that someone out there will understand what it is we don’t know how to say. Caroline represents each of us but Klaus represented that someone. He saw the real Caroline. In the end, aren’t we all hoping someone will see who we really are?