I watch your shows, The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl, regularly. In each series there has been many instances when the actions of the characters Damon and Chuck have been questionable, but in the recent episodes of each series they have clearly crossed a line.
Both of these characters have strayed into dangerous territory regarding their love interests, Elena and Blair. There is precedent in each show (particularly in Damon’s case) of mistreatment in relation to women, but this seems to have delineated into outright abuse.
I understand that it is endemic for both Damon and Chuck to be intense characters. They provide a “dark” contrast to the “light” love interests of Stefan, Nate and Dan. But this Byronic side of their nature has manifested itself into a type of selfish love of Elena and Blair that is unhealthy and damaging to everyone it touches.
In the Vampire Diaries it’s been said that “Everything Damon’s done, he’s done it for love.” While this may be true, it has also been said on the show that “love is only real when it is reciprocated”. As Elena does not (visibly or vocally) reciprocate Damon’s feelings, and has more than once discouraged him from pursuing her, it can be argued that his actions, which are propelled by his love for Elena, are selfish. This came into clear light in the latest episode, when Damon forced Elena to drink his blood, ignoring her protests and struggles.
Similarly, the relationship between Blair and Chuck on Gossip Girl has often been described as “volatile”. As is common in the show, emotional manipulation and schemes have always been a part of their relationship, and in this way the characters are equally depraved. However, in the latest episode a line was again crossed, when a drunken Chuck forced himself on Blair, and when she protested, ran his hand through a glass pane, injuring her.
I do not have an objection to storylines involving abuse in television shows. A physical abuse storyline was handled well in the first season of Army Wives, and your own 90210 handled a rape plotline with considerable delicacy earlier this year. What worries me is that Damon and Chuck’s actions will not be identified as abuse.
Abuse is defined as “intimidation or manipulation of another person or an intrusion into another’s psyche; the purpose is to control another person.” This is clearly the purpose of Damon, who wishes to control Elena by forcing her to drink vampire blood, and it is also the intention of Chuck, who doesn’t want to relinquish emotional control over Blair. However, from what I have seen of these shows, and what I have read reguarding episodes to come, it is clear that these actions will be brushed aside as typical of their characters.
The sheer physicality of these scenes is disturbing enough. But when you consider the subtext of Damon and Chuck’s actions – that they retain the power, and that they will do what they want with Elena and Blair with no regard to objections or outright denial – is, to be frank, disgusting.
You’re obviously aware that your core demographic is preteen and teenage girls, many of which watch these shows religiously. The turn that these relationships have taken are not healthy and should not be promoted to this group as true love. Both of these characters have descended to a place where they act without any thought or consideration for the other half of their relationship, which is also defined as abuse. Not only are these shows labelling this type of behaviour as socially acceptable, you’re actually promoting it.
Having your characters act this way is doing nothing for the quality of your shows, and furthermore is casting more negative light on female empowerment and male/female relationships. It’s a frame of mind that first took hold with the Brontes, was fetishised by Twilight, and has become part and parcel with your television shows, and female teen culture as a whole.
The fact is, you are romanticising abuse. And judging by past handling of this type of situation in both GG and TVD, I’m sure that Damon and Chuck will end up being forgiven, without it ever being addressed that they have plainly violated the rights of Elena and Blair. This isn’t something that should be happening in modern culture, especially when it is aimed at young girls.