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Things Only Adults Notice In The Vampire Diaries

Vampire TV shows are the bread and butter of adolescence. The '90s had Buffy, the early 2000s had The Vampire Diaries, and current teenagers have the Vampire Diaries spinoff, Legacies. But what used to seem swoon-worthy when you were younger tends to become pretty cringeworthy once you're old enough to realize that hundred-year-old vampires dating teenagers isn't exactly the height of consent, and homicidal behavior isn't really cute. Mystic Falls seems like the ideal small town until you take a closer look at its history and what goes on behind the scenes. And no, we're not just talking about the vampire infestation. 

Rooted in all of Elena's love triangle drama with Stefan and Damon Salvatore is a rich tapestry of history and seamlessly woven town and character backstory. Yet in between the cravats and the corsets come darker elements of the show that only adults notice. Did you catch these scary, steamy, and sinister Vampire Diaries details when you were younger? 

Elena is severely depressed

Elena Gilbert didn't exactly have much luck in the life and death department, even before she got embroiled in vampire drama. After surviving the car crash that kills her parents, Elena loses interest in many of her friends, hobbies like cheerleading, and even the town events she used to relish. Her former status as queen bee, which she enjoyed alongside Caroline, is all but forgotten.

In the pilot, Elena writes in her diary, "I must have said 'I'm fine, thanks,' at least 37 times. And I didn't mean it once. But no one noticed." She also notes, "I thought that I could smile, and nod my way through it — pretend like it would all be okay." Both statements are deeply troubling cries for help that no one seems to notice, despite how overt and textbook they are. The series plays Elena's behavior off as simple grief, but it goes deeper than that — for months. A younger viewer might not catch this, but an adult absolutely will.

Elena uses the threat of a therapist to get her rebelling (and equally depressed) brother in line, but truthfully, they both need counseling — which isn't something to be ashamed of. Especially given the show's young audience, a non-stigmatized therapy arc could have been game-changing, and both characters certainly could have used it. When you feel like you need to seek out a vampire relationship to feel alive, there's probably something deeper going on.

Stefan is essentially a predatory, elderly stalker

Out of the two Salvatore brothers, the series paints Stefan as the "nice guy," but he's just as shady as his brother Damon. Stefan seeks Elena out immediately after enrolling in Mystic Falls High. Little does she know, she looks like the clone of his crazy ex (vampire) girlfriend Katherine from 1864. As it turns out, Stefan is the one who saved Elena when her parents splashed to their deaths off the Wickery Bridge. Since Stefan is never one to step down from an obsession, he basically stalks Elena and charms her into dating him. Never mind the fact that she's 17 and he's, um, 161 when they meet.

Ancient vampires trying (and inevitably failing) to stay away from their teen paramours is off-putting enough to adult viewers. But Stefan is so much worse: He stalks her in the night and barely attempts to stop himself from bringing her into his dangerous, supernatural world. Neglecting to tell Elena that she looks like "a dead ringer for Katherine" is the icing on the cake, making it miles creepier.

Even when she tries to break things off, he's pushy and refuses to accept it. He's not shy about his predatory nature, either. At one point, Stefan says, "We're predators, Elena. We hunt, we stalk, it's often as exciting as the kill." From the mouths of vamps (who probably shouldn't be dating teenagers).

Damon was on the wrong side of the Civil War

"Nobody likes to talk about the old slave days," Carol Lockwood says about Mystic Falls. Neither does the show, apparently.

Damon and Stefan lived (as humans) during the Civil War: The series' flashback sequences occur one year after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, which freed slaves (on paper). Damon wears a Confederate uniform during multiple flashbacks, but the series gives little context to what he was fighting for. Middle and high school history classes tend to gloss over the horrors of the Confederacy, which was comprised of 11 states that seceded from the Union. In the simplest of terms, the Confederacy wanted to preserve the institution of slavery, thereby maintaining white supremacy. That's the horrific "cause" Damon fought for in 1864 before becoming a vampire.

The series neglects to address the reality of the Confederacy during on-screen history classes, and it shows. Countless young teens thirst for Damon in his uniform, but its connotations are sinister. Damon clarifies that his dad forced him into enlisting, but when Katherine mentions that he was "defending the South" in a flashback, the explanation never goes further. Sure, Damon admits he disagrees with the Confederacy when he defends his choice to leave. The arc is even his own personal hell dimension later in the series. But he never clarifies why, and that's a problem adult viewers notice.

The parents and guardians take a hiatus from parenting

The lack of parenting in Mystic Falls seems like a dream when you're younger. But when you watch The Vampire Diaries as an adult, the situation seems less than ideal. How many teenagers would have survived the series if their parents or guardians paid a little more attention to what their kids are getting up to? Sure, the town is small, and "nothing ever happens." Yet most of the founding families are well aware of the town's vampire problem. You'd think after the third or fourth "animal attack," they might start to care a bit more.

Parents are seldom, if ever, shown in the series. And when they are? They aren't concerned with their kids staying out all night, spending nights at their significant others', getting drunk and high, or missing an absurd amount of school — which the kids never seem to get in much trouble for. Heck, Caroline's mom is the sheriff, and her daughter basically gets assaulted by a vampire because she couldn't be bothered to tell her the truth about what goes bump in the night (or just slip some vampire-repelling vervain into her morning coffee). She even shoots Jeremy in a vampire battle! Meanwhile, we don't even see Bonnie's dad on-screen until season four, and Tyler's mom is too busy planning parties to notice that her kid killed someone and triggered a werewolf curse. Do better, Mystic Falls parents.

Is Alaric actually the Gilberts' legal guardian?

While some Mystic Falls parents are physically absent from their kids' lives, Elena and Jeremy's guardians just can't seem to stay alive. Following their parents' loss, the Gilbert siblings' young Aunt Jenna steps in as their guardian, but she doesn't even last a year in the role. After Klaus turns Jenna into a vampire, he kills her in a sacrificial ritual. Just another Tuesday in Mystic Falls. 

The Gilberts' next guardian situation is dicey at best. Alaric, history teacher extraordinaire, and Jenna's boyfriend, takes on the deathly role of the teenagers' guardian, moving into their house directly after Jenna's death. There's no way a teacher can legally move into his students' home with no official measures taken to apply for guardianship (which usually takes a while). Since he's in on the town's mystical secret, the vampire hunter continues drinking and going out all night (and slaying vampires) at the Gilberts' house.

While it's never fully addressed in the show, if Alaric did officially receive guardianship over the Gilberts, a caseworker would be closely monitoring the situation. In fact, it's weird that there isn't a caseworker popping up when Jenna can't get a handle on Jeremy's drug use and school absences. Without official measures, Elena (almost 18) would have had to apply for emancipation and custody of her 16-year-old brother, or they would have gone into foster care. Mystic Falls is a weird place, but that doesn't change how childcare works.

Mystic Falls was built on stolen Native American land

Before the New World was even "discovered," and far before Mystic Falls was a blip on the radar, a Viking family called the Mikaelsons completely took over local Native land. The Native American werewolves living in the area were kind enough to offer the Norwegian family refuge, but, of course, they took advantage. Through flashback sequences of the original vampire family, also called the Originals, we discover that the Mikaelsons were well-warned to stay inside during the full moon. The Natives even sheltered them underground. Yet Klaus, being the impulsive middle child, just had to take his little brother Henrik into the woods to glimpse the wolves — leading to Henrik's death.

Esther, their mother, turned her remaining family into the Original vampires. Unable and unwilling to control their bloodlust, the Originals slaughtered almost the entire village in the name of vengeance for a death they caused themselves. Despite the way the show frames the story, Esther's son's death is not the fault of the Native Americans who offered them shelter, but of her reckless son, who was old enough to know better.

Sadly, the descendants of the few surviving villagers had to see their homeland taken over once again when the wealthy founding families moved in and called the area Mystic Falls almost a thousand years later. The show glosses over this, demonizes the Native werewolves, and whitewashes the area's history.

Damon's behavior isn't romantic

Damon might as well be Ted Bundy at the start of the show, but characters (and fans) forget his murder and assault the minute he does one seemingly decent thing. While it's true that Damon has some of the most significant character development in the series, his selective kindness toward Elena doesn't counteract the fact that he's an unapologetic serial killer who slaughters for fun.

Sure, he seems to care for Elena, even towards the beginning of the series when he wipes her brother's memory and saves her from a car crash. The show paints these moments as romantic and desirable, but the "I can change the bad boy" shtick is a really damaging message to send to a young audience. One minute, Damon will step in to save the day when Stefan abandons Elena at the Miss Mystic Falls pageant. The very next moment, he'll threaten her friends or snap her brother's neck without a second thought.

The sweet things Damon does for Elena give young viewers the impression that your significant other can be terrible to other people, and even you, sometimes, as long as they make cutesy grand gestures to make up for it. It doesn't help that these moments usually make Elena forgive him. Adult viewers notice this for what it is: A toxic sign of abuse. Kids, don't try this at home — leave it for the on-screen couples.

Mystic Falls is elitist

Mystic Falls could win an award for the most historically-obsessed town in TV history — but that history isn't always something to brag about. Steeped in elitism, Mystic Falls throws an event for the founding families just about every week. While they keep the rest of the townspeople at risk and in the dark, the founding families keep anyone else from serving on the Council that's supposed to protect the town from vampires. They don't do a bang-up job of that.

According to Caroline, a member of the Forbes founding family, when it comes to events like Miss Mystic Falls, they usually only allow one non-founding family member to partake, "for optics" — but they never win. Additionally, Mrs. Lockwood looks down on Tyler's "low class" girlfriend, Vicki. Adults fans, however, know that Vicki has a right to be vocally angry at Tyler when he hides her from his parents out of shame. Again, check your classism at the door, founding families.

The show portrays town events in a glamorously whimsical light, without ever addressing how messed up it is that they're still this classist over a hundred years after the town's founding. And that's not even counting the fact that there were already people living in the area a thousand years before Mystic Falls was "founded." The founding families attained their status through slavery and the murder of prominent vampires, and laud their theft over "lesser" families a hundred years later.

It's weird that the founding family kids co-mingle

It's hard to believe that there aren't more families with mixed genealogy in a town like Mystic Falls. The series only mentions fewer than a dozen founding families in the show, after all – some of them had to have shacked up with people from outside their elite circle and had kids by now. Right?

This observation gets worst the more you think about it. The founders' kids are constantly dating each other. As a result, it would make sense for there to be instances of different founding family members having kids together, making them all distantly related over time. Throughout flashbacks of Mystic Falls history, we see the elite date the elite. Yet all of the way up through current times, we still see them dating only each other. Is someone dating their distant cousin? Or even their not-so-distant cousin? Or have none of the founding families actually had kids together? It's a mystery. But it's one adult fans know we might not want the answer to.

Stefan and Damon treat Elena like a child

There's nothing quite like a pair of 160-year-old vampire brothers treating their teenage love interest like a child. Damon and Stefan continually talk down to and make decisions for Elena, treating her like an unruly kid and highlighting how creepy their age difference is. You really shouldn't infantilize someone you sleep with, but the brothers regularly force Elena to stay out of fights they don't want her embroiled in.

Listen, you just cant be an age-old vampire dating a human teenager and expect her to stand on the sidelines of all the supernatural nonsense you get her involved with. At one point, Damon says he's going to pick her up and carry her away from sacrificing herself to save her family and friends. Sorry, Damon, but that's her choice. Then, when she tries to see Stefan when he's locked in a magical tomb with his homicidal ex, Damon physically holds her arms up and won't let her go until she stops fighting him.

Stefan allows her to make her own choices some of the time, but he still just carts her away from a situation if he feels like it. You're either equal partners with your significant other, or you break up: It's not the 1800s anymore. Elena isn't a damsel the boys can order around like their property.

Damon roofies women with his mind

Using your magical vampire powers to make women do your bidding is no different than using other methods, like drugs or alcohol. Damon compels a swarm of women to hook up with him while he feeds on them, wholly taking away their consent and autonomy. This happens with Caroline at the beginning of the series, when she's only 17. In addition to controlling her and using her as a human blood bag, he sexually assaults her. Teens might not grasp the horror of this, but adults absolutely do.

We don't see how far they go, but it's pretty clear that Damon is a serial rapist, based on how many women he compels into sexual situations. No one can consent to anything when they're mind-whammied every five minutes, creating gaps in their memory and more questions than answers. While Damon gets lightly called out on this in the show, no one seems to bring up the fact that this isn't Damon just using women as his playthings — it's sexual assault, often rape, and it's disgusting.

Even Caroline downplays the severity of what happens when she becomes a vampire and gets all of her missing memories back. Damon continues this behavior with a reporter, even after he stops killing people and supposedly becomes a better person. The worst part is that he never seems to feel all that bad about it, and Elena doesn't do much to intervene, either.