Vampire Diaries: Friday Night Bites

“If you want to live a normal, happy human life, then I want that for you.”

This is the football episode. The required football episode. Even Glee has one. But football episodes aren’t ever just about men in codpieces throwing balls around and slapping one another on the butt. They’re also about models of friendship and relationships: here, Elena and Bonnie, Tyler and Matt, and Stefan and Damon, the self-described loner with a penchant for crosswords. Above all, this episode details the havoc that supernatural beings cause for traditional forms of relationships.

Elena returned to cheerleading, which helps us figure out she’s one of the popular girls (just in case that was a concern). She also attempted to more fully engage her girl-friendships—Bonnie and Caroline, specifically. Their connections, though, were troubled by both the Salvatore brothers. Bonnie worries that Stefan isn’t right for Elena, and Damon’s interactions with Caroline, who is nicely recovered from her bite, have turned her into sort of a bitch.

Tyler and Matt are part of a team—the aforementioned codpiece bromance team. They’ve had their differences, usually about girls, but Stefan starts to throw the team dynamic off. Damon makes it even worse on the night of the game, and Tyler’s as-yet-unexplained aggression puts strain on the relationship and on Jeremy’s relationship with Vicki.

Damon plays with Stefan and Elena, mostly by being damn sexy while doing the dishes. He also convinces Elena to drop the cheerleading squad. All the work that Damon puts into trying to ruin Stefan and Elena, though, Elena inadvertently throws it back in his face with some direct sympathy.

There’s a school of literary criticism that describes exactly what’s happening here: queer theory. It’s based on the idea that gay or “queer” characters in a text throw everything else off, and it explores how and why that happens. Recent developments in the field have expanded the definition of “queer” to include anyone who exhibits non-normative behaviors—night-owls, for instance, inhabit “queer time.” (I felt a huge sense of identification when I read about queer time. That so perfectly explains my life’s schedule and how much it freaks everyone out.)

Damon and Stefan queer the traditional, football-playing, cheerleading relationships of high school. They throw everything off, and people have to find new ways of relating to each other in the wake of the changes that both vampires make to everyone’s normative behaviors. Elena’s friendships, in particular, will suffer because of both Damon and Stefan.

Even Tyler, who I suspect suffers from werewolfism (poor troglodyte), takes male aggression out of the realm of acceptability (football) and moves it into the realm of animalistic predation: he really wants to hurt Stefan at practice, and he really wants to hurt Jeremy in the parking lot. But (assuming I’m right about the werewolf thing), Tyler being a werewolf even queers the story for Damon: the pure animal-ness of his anger is not what Damon was bargaining for.

When Stefan tries to convince Damon that he’s actually just like everyone (normal, boring, lonely), Damon responds by killing the history teacher. It’s a blatant refusal to participate in normative morality, but it’s also welcome. That teacher deserved it. He was awful.

This episode is okay—but you know it can’t be too exciting if I spend most of the review theorizing instead of emoting. Here’s what happened if you want to skip it:

Bonnie feels deathly cold when she touches Stefan, and she continues to feel uncomfortable about Stefan’s relationship with Elena. Elena tries to get them all to be friends, but it backfires.

Tyler and Jeremy fight about Vicki.

Damon kills the history teacher to make Stefan angry and prove his own inhumanity.

This is the first episode that didn’t start with a killing: instead, it showed us the aftermath of Damon and Caroline, which started as sex and ended as rape, compulsion, and abuse. Instead of ending with Damon biting a single girl, it ended with him touching Elena on the cheek, which marks his return to normative relationships and humanity. But, just like with all the previous bite-scenes, it also shows that he’s willing to violate traditional barriers (like arteries and bedroom-privacy) to get what he wants. Elena’s honesty is bringing him back to humanity—the question is, can he learn to love without causing harm?

Bites:

• Elena: “There’s more to me than gloomy graveyard girl.” Reminds me of: “She-who- hangs-out- in-cemeteries-a-lot?” (Buffy 4.11: Doomed. I think.)

• Caroline: “I got the other brother.” This says so much about Caroline.

• Damon: [reading Stefan’s diary] “Very Emerson, the way you reveal your soul with so many adjectives.”

• Damon: “I can learn to be a non-living, living person.” Reminds me of: “I have an un-life, you know!” (Buffy 3.8: Lover’s Walk)

• Stefan: “Salem witches are heroic examples of individualism and non-conformity.” Or of mass hallucinations and mob mentality.

• Stefan: “They are people, Damon. She is not a puppet. She doesn’t exist for your amusement, for you to feed on whenever you want to.”
Damon: “Sure she does.”

• Damon: “I’m sorry if I’ve made you uncomfortable. That wasn’t my intention.”
Elena: “Yes it was. Otherwise you wouldn’t put an alternate meaning behind everything you say.” Zing!


And Pieces. Well, one piece:


• I love it every time they put Damon in the kitchen. It's pornography for straight women.

Two and a half out of four salad tongs.

(Screencap courtesy of vampire-diaries.net. Thanks!)

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I liked your review better than the episode, Josie. VD is still making me yawn a bit. Although I perked up when Damon ate the history teacher. And I absolutely did get the Buffy vibe.

So -- still hanging in. It helps knowing that it's going to get better, and crazy, and renewed.

Lisa said...

i got hooked on the show by the halloween episode which is probably episode 8. hang in there, billie!

Mikey6oy said...

Just watching for the first time, based on everybody's raving and promises of great things. I defintely see the potential and am enjoying it much more after your previous review which highlighted how the show is a kind of post-modern reference of the classic 90's TV traditions. That and because the boys are getting more topless and stuff. My shallowness will carry me until I'm hooked.

ChrisB said...

The redeeming grace of this episode is the beginnings of the Damon/Elena relationship.

Right from the beginning, he can't leave her alone and there is something about him that she finds oddly compelling (no pun intended). He tries to be his usual snarky self; she calls him on it. He tries to piss her off; she responds with compassion.

This is one of one my favourite duos on television right now. Heat, heat, heat!

Docnaz said...

My 14 year old daughter has me watch this with her. ( I bribe her into watching things I want by watching this) . A few episodes on from this one has Damon dancing shirtless. Good enough to get me to go back and read the reviews. Thanks for the reviews.