I’ve had this post brewing for a while now. You see, inevitably in a show, especially a supernatural show, criticism is going to fall on the lead character. And because this lead always has to live through danger (being the lead), that criticism can usually get pretty harsh. Let me correct that. This happens to FEMALE leads. Because I’m wracking my brain right now and I’m having a hard time remembering shows where the male main characters got the same level of criticism. I still remember the days when Buffy was airing live. Everyone sings the praises of Buffy now but believe me, there were plenty of days when trying to find someone on her side was like finding a needle in a haystack. But let’s focus on Elena. Even this week, many recappers barely touched on the disgustingly controlling and chauvinistic attitude of Damon and Stefan Salvatore (flipping a coin to decide who gets the girl is despicable) but there were plenty of shots at Elena for apparently trying to make everything about her.
Now I’m certainly not saying I’m perfect at being on Elena’s cheer squad. I’m not. I get frustrated with Elena too. I noted in this week’s SBH reaction post that I think Elena needs to take ownership of the fact that her actions keep her friends and family involved in her life. Yes, they have to acknowledge that they make their own choices but the people who love you don’t leave you. So as long as Elena’s choosing to stay in Mystic Falls and have a life involving the supernatural, she is, though inadvertently, putting her loved ones in danger. I want some acknowledgment of that. I don’t need Elena to be guilt ridden about it. Acknowledge, accept, move on.
I was going to follow that comment with the issue of Elena’s “magical golden vagina”. Oh I joke about this one a lot. However as I think about it, I’m going to do my best to stop that. See, when it comes to the guys who are interested in her, we have a bunch of vampires who are intertwined with doppelgangers in ways we haven’t even begun to explore. @CindyMcLennan did an amazing job of getting into this in an older recap of hers. So while I don’t doubt genuine feelings, I think there is something deeper pulling the Salvatores towards love for Elena. (I feel like there is a filthy joke there somewhere and I’m missing it). And of course Elijah’s affection for Elena is explained by this as well. That led me to say okay but what about everyone else always jumping to save Elena? Where’s the reversal? But it’s right there. Elena works just as hard to save the people she cares about. She’ll martyr herself, stab a knife in her gut, throw herself in front of a stake and walk into a house of bloodthirsty vampires to save the people she loves. This isn’t a girl who says you save me and I’ll wish you well. She fights with everything she has for the people she loves.
This week’s episode, “All My Children” brought with it even more criticism of Elena, especially when she came to Caroline’s to see Bonnie after Abby was turned. I heard a number of comments about Elena making it all about her. But how exactly? Elena found out that one of her best friends was hurting and came to see what she could do. If it was supposed to be about Bonnie’s pain, not Elena’s concern, then Bonnie could get off her ass, come to the door and MAKE IT ABOUT HER. Two days ago Bonnie didn’t give a shit about Abby and now she’s blaming Elena for this? Bullshit. And just for a moment, let’s go further on that one. Elena also gets told that Bonnie was hurt because she was trying to help Elena. Really? Really?! *It’s time for REALLY with Melissa*. Really Bonnie? You were trying to help Elena by meeting with an all powerful thousand year old witch who had already tried to kill Elena (and more of you) a few weeks ago? And really? You were trying to help your friend when you freely chose to let this same witch channel the ancestral power of your entire family line? Really?! You walked up to Esther, said sure, suck my power away for a spell that I don’t even know the full effects of, but that’s Elena’s fault? Really?! And finally, you decide that the woman who abandoned you with no explanation and who has the personality of a dead fish, is the person you love and so you can’t go to the door and explain to Elena that you’re hurt by yourself? You have to stick Caroline in the middle? REALLY?! Shut up, Bonnie.
I’m honestly at a loss ya’ll. I have no way to explain how it is that Elena trying to comfort a friend, a friend who walked into the entire mess in the first place, yet somehow it’s her fault. Truly, I’m baffled. Let’s go a little deeper for a moment though. After all, Elena is the doppelganger and chooses to date vampires so she is putting herself at risk. And as I mentioned above, that puts her friends at risk. But here to, Bonnie doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Bonnie was born a witch. And not just any witch, a Bennett witch who’s lineage can be traced right back to the Originals and the first Petrova. Caroline has a right to be pissed at her friends for screwing her over. The Forbes (as far as we know) don’t have any such history. Hell Caroline can blame her entire vampire existence on Bonnie. SOMETHING SHE’S NEVER DONE DESPITE BONNIE BEING A BITCH TO HER. Even when Elena & Bonnie were born, their parents had already set things in motion. We’ve learned that they knew Elena was the doppelganger (there’s a reveal I want answers to) and it was Abby, Bonnie’s own mother, who entombed Mikael. Neither Bonnie nor Elena ever really had a choice in this. The supernatural was always going to find them. ALWAYS.
This is already getting on in length but I’m afraid I’m just getting started. Like I said, I had some severe issues with the “All My Children” episode on a number of levels. But I’ve had this Elena defense in the works for a while. So let’s talk about some of the main issues people bring up. I’ve already covered the magical doppelganger appeal so we can ignore that one. There’s the people always get hurt trying to help Elena argument, so I’ll look at whether we can say Elena’s suffered as well. (I don’t know how people can ask that question, in all honesty). There’s the Elena makes stupid plans and is an idiot idea. We have the issue where she’s supposedly stringing on both Salvatores. If I missed any issues, I’m sorry but I feel like that’s enough to get started with.
First up, how has Elena suffered compared to her friends? In the case of Elena’s friends, I’m going to use Bonnie, Caroline, Tyler, Matt & Jeremy. The other supernatural people own their actions, as do the adults in the town. Even Alaric is quite adamant that he makes his decisions on his own. Okay so Jeremy has lost both his parents, two girlfriends and his aunt in about a year and a half. Two years if we’re being insanely generous with the time line. He’s also been killed a couple times, treated like a blood bag by Katherine and learned how to chop off a hybrid’s head. He also learned how to be a cheating dick but that was all Jeremy. Caroline has lost her father and become a vampire. She was compelled, abused and essentially raped by Damon for several months, she was kidnapped to be used in a sacrifice ritual and then her boyfriend tried to kill her. She was shot in the face, kidnapped and tortured by werewolves. Her parents have both hated her at different times and her father tortured her in a dungeon. Tyler learned he had a werewolf gene, was manipulated into turning into a werewolf, lost his father and uncle, was turned into a hybrid, learned he had no free will of his own and thus few friends. His ex-girlfriend died and the other isn’t exactly thrilled with him since he nearly killed her dad and nearly killed her. Bonnie lost her grandmother, was cheated on by her boyfriend, nearly killed by Damon and I won’t even count the Klaus “battle” because Bonnie faked the whole thing. So that’s Elena’s friends. Clearly, life hasn’t been easy.
Let’s move to Elena now. How’s her life been? Well she starts by losing both of her parents. She then gets to see a couple people die in front of her. She sleeps with her vampire boyfriend for the first time only to discover that she looks exactly like his ex-girlfriend, the love of his life. She’s kidnapped a total of 6 times so far in the series (if my memory is correct). She finds out her biological parents are a psychotic vampire ex-wife of her history teacher and good friend and the uncle she’s always hated. That uncle/dad gives up his life to save her just as they were beginning to find a relationship. Her mother kidnaps her and sets herself on fire in front of Elena. Her brother was killed. Her aunt was killed. She kills her newest guardian to save him. She sends her brother away to keep him safe, leaving her alone. She offers herself as a sacrifice to save her friends. She stabs herself with a knife to protect her friends. Her boyfriend becomes a bloodthirsty killer, attacking her friends and then kidnapping her and threatening to throw her off a bridge and turn her into a vampire. She’s attacked by an original vampire then a ghost tries to kill her. She was killed in a ritual sacrifice. Call me crazy, but I’m thinking Elena’s got some serious balls just to get out of bed in the morning. Elena is constantly suffering and a damn lot of that isn’t from any decisions she’s made. It’s from the adults in her life completely fucking her over.
Next up is whether or not Elena’s plans ever work. Let’s see, she learned that a centuries old, all-powerful vampire was coming after her and would use her friends in a sacrifice ritual so she left town and offered herself separately, in an attempt to keep her friends safe. Which was working just fine until Damon showed up and screwed it up. Now I’m not saying a death wish is a good thing, but Elena’s plan made sense based on her knowledge of the situation and was working. She’s also resourceful as hell when put in danger. Elena runs to caves where no vampires are allowed, finds the sunlight, daggers Original vampires and breaks chairs into stakes to face down other vampires. There’s also that time she stabbed a vampire with a pencil like a badass. She slips away to the masquerade after everyone’s tried to shut her out of a plan, which turns out to be a good thing since she was linked to Katherine in the first place. Her plan with Elijah is to make a deal to keep her loved ones safe no matter what they do to him. Which Elijah agrees to and does. She cuts deals with original vampires, manipulating them so that she’s not completely screwed over. Do her plans always work? Hell no. But I find it hard to find the time where they don’t work because of Elena. She’s not the one screwing it up.
Is Elena stringing along both Salvatore brothers? Though I think this particular problem stems more from the question of is Elena stringing along Damon. Well Elena started dating a cute guy named Stefan who turned out to be a vampire. She was hit on in creepy ways by his older brother, who she kept telling to take a hike. Then Elena found out that she was the exact twin of the boys past love, Katherine. Still, she and Stefan worked out their issues. Season one continued with Elena and Stefan together and happy. She began to become friends with Damon and he started to fall for her. Season two established Elena as firmly dating Stefan, as she told Damon in no uncertain terms that she would always choose Stefan. While there were a lot of struggles, Damon and Elena held a tenuous friendship that through various circumstances grew stronger, though Elena never showed any signs of reciprocating his affections. Stefan and Elena broke up as Elena needed a semblance of normalcy in her life but she soon discovered that she was fucked on that front regardless of her boyfriend choices. For the remainder of the second season, Elena and Stefan were together, while Damon’s love grew. Elena did acknowledge Damon’s feelings but she was very clear about her love for Stefan. Then Stefan sacrificed his own life to save his brother and left as a ripper with Klaus.
I think this is where people find things start getting tricky. Over the last season, Elena and Damon have grown much closer. She trusts him, not just in a fight but in day to day life. And she has developed feelings for him. I feel like that was evident when she told Stefan that she kissed Damon. It wasn’t just about taking ownership of her actions, it was taking ownership of her emotions. Elena knows herself well enough to know that she wouldn’t just kiss Damon for the hell of it. There are feelings to deal with. Yet, Elena’s actions haven’t implied in any way that she’s moved on past Stefan. She’s spent most of the third season fighting to get Stefan back. Not always back to her but back to himself. She’s fought to get him to find his humanity and overcome the bloodlust, to be a better man. And I feel like Damon’s been overlooking that. Or trying to overlook it. I think he hears Elena say that they’ll have to let Stefan go, but he ignores the fact that her actions are completely different. Elena’s not over Stefan and to be honest, why would she be? They never had a true breakup or a real fight. Stefan left in a sacrificial way. That doesn’t give a girl closure. Another issue that Damon likes to bring up is that he’s not going to be Stefan. Elena’s never asked him to be. What she’s made clear is that there are acceptable ways to behave around her and there are unacceptable ways. And lashing out because he’s pissed off isn’t acceptable. Now Damon’s getting a bit smarter and lashing out in very pointed ways but he still reacts emotionally. And yes, Elena takes him to task a bit more than necessary but my bigger issue is that he lets her. Sorry Damon but if you want to call Elena a tease, you have to stop bending over backwards to do whatever she asks.
There are issues to be dealt with in the triangle that’s certain. Issues that I could go into with a different post. But in this case, I don’t agree with the idea that Elena’s been stringing either of the boys, but especially Damon, along. Her actions and words have shown a developing love for Damon but a true love for Stefan. That could change down the road of course. But where we are now is not a Katherine situation. I just can’t see justification for Elena stringing along the boys. And I think she’s still learning how to fully differentiate her relationship with Damon from that with Stefan. Give the girl time. She’s only 18 after all.
So because this is now 4 pages long and I want to get back to writing my Originals story, which makes me so much happier, let’s wrap this up. As you can see by the rest of the post, I’m a pretty big fan of Elena. I think she’s strong, compassionate and tough, more so than anyone gives her credit for. So maybe the next time we start to yell at Elena, let’s take some time to consider all she’s been through and just how far she’s come.