The Gothic Romance of The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries
Image: CW via IMDB

Paranormal romance series rose in popularity from 2005 to 2010 because of the immense popularity of the Twilight series. After the success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, entertainment studios scrambled to secure rights to other vampire-centric romance series, like HBO’s True Blood and CW’s The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries television series, produced by Warner Brothers from 2009 to 2017, was based on the popular book series by L.J. Smith. Originally written in the early 1990s, the series told the dark, gothic tale of a human teenage girl torn between two vampire brothers. 

The Show Inverts Typical Love Triangle Tropes

The CW series took the basic characters, structure, and setting of the original book series, but added new twists. For example, In the show Elena Gilbert has a high-school age brother named Jeremy, who becomes a vampire hunter. In the book series, Elena has a baby sister named Margaret. 

The central narrative focuses on the love triangle between human teen Elena (Nina Dobrev) and vampire brothers Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder). Stefan and Damon were humans who lived in Mystic Falls in 1864, before transitioning into vampires. Stefan represents the good side of the vampire spectrum, as a reformed killer who survives on animal blood. Bad boy Damon kills and feeds without conscience or consequence. 

Elena’s romance with Stefan is explored in the show’s first three seasons, while Damon is an antagonist in their relationship. These first two seasons position Stefan as a hero and Damon as a villain, highlighting them as foils and rivals. Elena and Damon’s romantic relationship begins in season four and continues through Dobrev’s exit from the show in season seven. 

The love triangle between Elena, Stefan, and Damon is further complicated by the show’s backstory. Katherine, the vampire who sired Stefan and Damon, enters the narrative in season two. Katherine is Elena’s doppelgänger, and they look exactly alike, which further complicates the love triangle. Dobrev portrayed both Katherine and Elena on the show, skillfully taking on the two distinct and iconic roles. 

The central narrative of a human caught between two vampires inverts once Katherine arrives in season two. The 19th-century triangle shows vampire Katherine manipulating the affections of the human Salvatore brothers. The present-day love triangle shows a human Elena caught between the undead Salvatore brothers. In both narratives, Wesley and Somerhalder play their characters so emphatically and convincingly that there is no clear winner for Elena’s affection.

The Vampire Diaries has the Hallmarks of Classic Gothic Romances

The Vampire Diaries has the hallmarks of a classic gothic romance. Mystic Falls has a spooky, atmospheric setting. The town’s long, complicated history and genealogy provide opportunities to explore different plotlines. Scenes are frequently set in the spooky, foreboding forest. Many of the homes are old, gothic mansions. The Salvatore Boarding House and Lockwood Mansion are prominent, spooky settings on the show. Setting plays an important role in the narrative since vampires must be invited into a home in order to enter it.  

A gothic romance also heavily features Byronic heroes and a damsel in distress. Stefan and Damon have features of classic Byronic heroes. They have magnetic charm, yet a mysterious, brooding demeanour that sets them apart. Elena takes on the damsel role, often needing to be rescued from the various troubles she finds herself in. As the series progresses, Elena takes on a more active role and often ends up saving Stefan and Damon from various threats.

Supernatural elements are prominent in a gothic romance. Throughout its eight-season run, The Vampire Diaries’ plot included vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, and sirens. Each of these supernatural creatures had powers that wreaked havoc on the characters and provided obstacles to the love triangle in the central narrative. 

The ominous setting, supernatural elements, and compelling characters make The Vampire Diaries stand out as a modern gothic romance.   

Also Read: What We Do In The Shadows & Unusual Vampires

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Posted by
Danielle Cappolla

Danielle Cappolla is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher based in New Jersey. She has a B.A. in English from Fordham University and an M.S. in Education and Special Education from Touro College. When she’s not writing, you can find her swapping TV theories with her family and friends over dinner. You can follow her work at https://daniellecappolla.contently.com/.