I’m midway through yet another rereading of Shaken, this time to make sure it’s pretty okay for those unfortunate few who are going to read beta read it for me. I read the first half of the book last night, after significantly editing the second half earlier yesterday afternoon. I spent a full eight hours working on it yesterday, and at least that much the day before.
Needless to say, I was ready for a break. My reward? The latest episode of The Vampire Diaries.
Quick disclaimer: I have never read the series of novels by L. J. Smith. Instead, I’m completely hooked on the CW television series. It’s like True Blood lite: all the sexual tension, but with less disturbing violence!
Anyway. For those of you who don’t know, the Salvatore brothers are Stefan and Damon Salvatore, the dreamy vampires who each capture in turn the heart of our main character, a teenage girl named Elena Gilbert.
HERE BE SPOILERS.
Stefan shows up in high school in the very first episode and pretty quickly catches Elena’s heart by virtue of his brooding semi-good looks and general charm. She realizes he’s a vampire, there’s drama, you know the drill. Soon after, Stefan’s sexy older brother, Damon, shows up, and more teen hijinks ensue.
Then things get complicated. Stefan goes evil, eventually, and Damon becomes our semi-nice character. Nowadays, they’re both fairly chaotic-neutral, and neither of them gets smooches with Elena.
That’s just the front story, if you will. In terms of back story, the two brothers were both turned into vampires by a woman named Katherine, who, by some freaky coincidence of genetics, looks exactly like Elena. They’re both “Gilbert doppelgangers,” whose magical powers I’ve long since lost track of. Both brothers loved Katherine, and she played them into becoming immortals.
Damon blamed Stefan, Stefan blamed Katherine, and the brothers spend the next century alternating between good and evil, and hating each other all the while. What a pickle.
So, we have several issues to discuss.
1. Both brothers love the same woman. This is pretty classic stuff in paranormal romances: the love triangle! Rarely, though, are the two male sides of the triangle brothers. This adds another layer to delight the amateur psychoanalyst in me.
The woman they love looks like their surrogate-mother into a new life, a woman who was also their lover. We’ll get to that in a minute. But why would two brothers love the same woman? How does that even work?
It’s pretty simple sibling rivalry: you have that toy, therefore I want it. I suppose Stefan gets credit for loving Elena first, but, as we now know, her resemblance to Katherine and super-doppelganger powers may have had something to do with that. He lies to Elena, deceives her, kidnaps her, but somehow never loses her love.
Poor Damon looks like the villain: he toys with Elena because Stefan loves her, and makes a move while Stefan is away. But he loves Elena on her own terms, without conflating her with vampire-Katherine. He jerks her around, though, confesses his love and then sleeps with someone else, and competes with Stefan for the award of “Who Can Lie to Elena the Most?”
They each have their reasons for loving our plucky heroine. (Okay, she’s not really that plucky. She’s broody, too.) So let’s look at why those reasons are really messed up.
2. That woman looks exactly like a woman who screwed them over around the time of the Civil War. The original woman turned them into vampires, giving them a symbolic second birth. While they may have originally had a good old-fashioned sibling rivalry over Katherine, what does it mean to love her great-great-great-descendant?
Are they competing over who Mommy loves most? Are they trying to get a fresh start with a girl who looks exactly like the woman who made them? Are they looking at Elena as a fresh, unsullied Katherine?
Either way it’s disturbing, making their so-called love for Elena still more twisted. They cannot love her completely on her own terms, because they have a past with her ancestress and a motive for keeping her around.
But why fight to hang onto her?
3. Each brother hates himself almost as much as he hates his brother. It’s the ultimate self-destructive act to love someone you can’t or shouldn’t have. Damon loves Elena at first because he can’t have her. Stefan loves her because she’s a fresh new Katherine.
Sure, it looks like they’re competing with each other for Elena’s affection, but they’re competing with themselves, too. At this point in the show, both brothers have pushed Elena away because they feel they’re not worthy. I could make another mother-love joke here, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
Why be happy when you can instead be depressed? That brooding, tortured look is oh-so-sexy.
Ultimately, it seems they should wash their hands of Elena, Mystic Falls, and the whole mess. It would be far healthier… but, of course, there’s so much more to it than just mental health.
What do you think, readers? Which brother would you pick for Elena? Why do the brothers love her so much? And why would anyone think Damon is attractive when Stefan is in the room?