Change, Entertainment, Media, Racism, Rebel With A Cause, Shannon Jeanna, Television, Violence

The problematic treatment of People of Color on The Vampire Diaries

Disclaimer: this article contains spoilers of season 6 of The Vampire Diaries.

I know what you must be thinking. Vampires? Is that still a thing? Not really, no… However, one of CW’s hit shows The Vampire Diaries is still going – if not strong since like its 3rd season – pretty smoothly and has even been renewed for a 7th season! Now six years is a long time for a show to last, especially on the CW where most shows are lucky to even see a third season, and are considered incredible if they attain a fourth one. So love it or hate it, TVD seems to have established itself as a pretty solid show for the network, despite some very problematic issues having to do with race and rape culture. Why write about TVD you ask? Because I find interesting how the show, in its treatment of people of color and/or females, unintentionally and pretty accurately reveals the kind of society we live in. Now do not get me wrong, not everything about TVD sucks (no pun intended). In fact it is in my opinion a pretty good show with clever twists and turns and at times pretty awesome cliffhangers. So I must confess that yes: TVD is my guilty pleasure. Most of the characters are pretty compelling – except perhaps for its lead (sorry Elena, I never really liked you) – and as a whole there are a lot of good things that could be said about the show. In fact, I still have hope that Season 7 could be the best season yet if the writers took it upon themselves to address the different issues affecting their characters, storylines and by extension, their viewers. The reason I’ve chosen TVD as an example is because it is one of the shows I am most familiar with but I do find that a lot of these issues aren’t specific to TVD or the fantasy genre and unfortunately often apply to a number of other shows, be it the ever successful Game Of Thrones, classics like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and even comedy shows like Friends or Modern Family. I will not touch on the HUGE issue that is TVD’s promotion of rape culture since it has already been addressed very eloquently and thoroughly by others. I will tackle however the issue of racism, which I often find has a tendency of flying way too often under the radar.

  1. The mayonnaise diaries
The Vampire Diaries cast (season 6)

The Vampire Diaries cast (season 6)

Now my biggest issue with most shows is the very apparent lack of diversity. Taking the example of TVD, its ensemble cast comprises approximately 9 characters (depending on the season): Stefan, Damon, Elena, Caroline, Tyler, Matt, Jeremy, Alaric and Bonnie. Out of these characters, 8 are white (Tyler though played by a latino actor, Michael Trevino, is portrayed as a white character), and only one is black. That character is Bonnie Bennett; played by biracial actress Kat Graham. Doesn’t look good for representation now does it? In all fairness, there have been other recurring characters of color in the show: Pearl and Anna were Asian, Luka and his father, Bonnie’s parents, and Jamie, are all African American, but all of those characters have had very little storyline and were all killed off or sent away at some point. That leaves us with Bonnie. The only person of color in that whole town situated in Virginia (arguably a very racially diverse state in real life). Therefore, Bonnie bears the burden of representation not only for black viewers but for all minorities (Asian, latino, etc. alike), while white people who watch the show have at least NINE DIFFERENT CHARACTERS to represent them, all having very different personalities and aspirations! Mind you, I haven’t even counted the recurring white characters like Katherine, Jenna, Sheriff Forbes, Enzo, etc. !

  1. Tokenism and asexuality
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Bonnie and Jeremy

We could cut the show some slack and think to ourselves, “well, even if there is very little diversity, maybe Bonnie at least gets some good storylines!” WRONG! Bonnie Bennett is probably one of the most poorly treated characters in TV history. She is the ultimate token black girl/magical negro. She is always put in a position of servitude and is ultimately a walking-talking plot device. If you watch seasons 1 through 5, Bonnie gets very little screen time, and the little she does get is only to cast spells, not because it is what she wants to do, but because she is asked, or mostly ordered or threatened into by her white friends and enemies. Bonnie is always the loophole: when the plot requires it, she is brought out of the shadows, and just as soon, shoved right back in. No questions asked. She has had no character development whatsoever, and in a show that lives and thrives based on its “ships”, Bonnie has only really ever been involved with one guy, that is Jeremy, her best friend’s human little brother. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with that but, when the white girls get to exclusively date guys that score high on the show’s Richter scale of hotness, aka older dangerous, unpredictable, (over)protective vampire/werewolf/hybrid guys, that’s when it gets unfair. Please let me emphasize that by no means am I saying that the criteria mentioned here is what anyone should look for in a mate, rather I am just discussing these “qualities” within the context of the show which keeps romanticizing them and painting such men as desirable. Love or hate younger predictable human Jeremy, even that relationship is made to be mind-numbingly boring and stale because all Bonnie and Jeremy are ever allowed to talk about is Elena, the lead white girl, in order to advance the plot. So Bonnie’s love life isn’t even about her, but is rather a means to an end, robbing her once again of all agency in her own narrative. On the other hand, Elena and Caroline – the two white girls – have hot guys fighting over them and worshiping the ground they walk on.

Stefan and Damon spend the major part of the series fighting over Elena's affections

Stefan and Damon spend the major part of the series fighting over Elena’s affections

Elena, who dated Matt, has been the center of a never ending love triangle involving Stefan and Damon the two hottest vampires in town, and has had some romantic vibes going on with Elijah, an original vampire. She has had the pleasure of being at the receiving end of countless romantic speeches and gestures. Now one could consider such treatment legitimate given the fact that Elena is the lead, but when you compare Bonnie’s treatment with that of Caroline, another supporting character, the difference in treatment is rather striking. Unlike Bonnie, Caroline is never really part of the A plot, yet she gets a real storyline allowing her to laugh, cry, lash out, and have a squadron of love interests lining up at her doorstep. Caroline has therefore had romantic entanglements with Damon, Matt, Tyler, Klaus, and Stefan.

Klaus and Tyler fought over Caroline

Klaus and Tyler fought over Caroline

Even Katherine, merely a recurring character, has been sought after by Stefan, Damon, Trevor, Mason, Elijah and Klaus; and Bonnie, well, she just has Jeremy a guy who cheated on her with Anna, his ex-girlfriend turned ghost, at one point even stating that “he always loved her [Anna]” by then completely rejecting his relationship with Bonnie and the importance it could have had for him.

Bonnie, like a lot of WOC on our screens, is made to be asexual and her looks are constantly downplayed so that her female co-stars may shine brighter. bonnie cloth
bonniehair bad

Bonnie-Caroline-and-ElenaAs a result she’s afforded the worst clothes, the worst hair, the worst makeup and whenever the storyline calls for formal events (balls, weddings, etc.) – that require characters to wear pretty dresses or smart tuxedos, and often are crucial in building romantic connections and by extension character development – Bonnie is often and very conveniently MIA.

Where's Bonnie?

Where’s Bonnie?

Now, in no way does this mean that in order for a female character to be compelling or relevant, she needs to have a love interest, but in a show that values its characters’ love lives above everything else the way TVD is infamous for, it is very telling that the girl of color gets little to nothing in that department.

I find that studying the whole “shipping” phenomenon that comes with these YA shows and movies is very interesting and telling in the treatment of characters of color and by extension POC in our society.

Elena, Caroline and... oops, not Bonnie.

Elena, Caroline and… oops, not Bonnie.

If we look at Bonnie, it is rather scary how quick the writers are in shutting down ships that involve her and just how violent and hateful the fandom can react to said ships. First off we have Klonnie. Pretty early on, fans began to ship Bonnie with Klaus, the new big bad villain in town. Bonnie was THE character who’d had the most showdowns with Klaus and the only one who could match him in power and strength, making for an interesting dynamic and great potential for something romantic to happen somewhere along the line.

Klaus and Bonnie

Klaus and Bonnie

The Klonnie fan base grew so much that it began to gain the showrunners, cast and media’s attention. Just as soon though, the idea of Klonnie was conveniently shut down and Klaroline (Klaus and Caroline) was made canon instead although it made very little sense in comparison. Another big ship was Kennett (Bonnie and Kol) which was shut down immediately by showrunner Julie Plec.

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But it is okay for Elena and Caroline to date murderous vampires and for Bonnie to date instead her kinda sorta half-brother Jamie? Okay…

And finally there’s Bamon (Bonnie and Damon). Though this ship has existed since the very beginning of the show, it has been getting a lot of attention lately due to the many scenes and relationship development Bonnie and Damon have had in the latest season.

"The Last Dance" - Ian Somerhalder as Damon Salvatore and Katerina Graham as Bonnie in THE VAMPIRE DIARIES on The CW. Photo: Annette Brown/The CW ©2011 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

“The Last Dance” – Ian Somerhalder as Damon Salvatore and Katerina Graham as Bonnie in THE VAMPIRE DIARIES on The CW.
Photo: Annette Brown/The CW
©2011 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

And for once, even the media seems to be hopping on the bandwagon, excited about the prospect of Bamon happening romantically in season 7. However the writers have remained painfully silent about it for years now, and the reactions of some of the fandom has ranged from patronizing comments, to ridicule, to hate and even death threats. Now why is it so difficult for people to understand or even want Bonnie, a black woman, to be with Damon, yet are so quick to root for Steroline (Stefan and Caroline)? Very little people had opinions about Beremy (Bonnie and Jeremy) because it didn’t make any waves. Nobody really cared because Jeremy wasn’t sought after the way Damon is. In being with Jeremy, Bonnie wasn’t a threat to Elena or Caroline. That unspoken rule that she was somehow subservent to them wasn’t breached by her being with Jeremy. Everyone is fine with Bonnie as long as she is seen and not heard. Jeremy isn’t as appealing as Damon because Elena would never want to be with him being as he’s her little brother and Caroline has never even laid eyes on him. But if Bonnie was to be with Damon it would change dynamics completely. It would force the writers to really put her on the map, not as Elena or Caroline’s friend/servant, not as the magical negro, but as her own self worthy of being loved by a character so important and sought after, and that is an idea that a society bathed in white supremacy and white privilege cannot fathom. Ask yourself why Bamon still remains such a delicate subject and so unthinkable to some despite the fact that – unlike Steroline and a lot of other ships – it even has basis in the original book series? Why is it that so many people find it so easy to ship book Bamon when Bonnie is described as a white redhead, but just can’t manage to open their minds to the potential of show Bamon when Bonnie is played by a WOC? Because the society we live in teaches us not to want such things, worse it teaches us to feel disgusted by it and to always prefer whiteness over everything else whether it makes sense or not. Whether it’s right or not.

tvd-elena-bonnie-2

Moreover, all Bonnie’s relationships (friendship and romance) are one-sided. Over and over again she is made to sacrifice herself for her friends and boyfriend without even blinking. None of her selfless deeds owe her any kind of recognition as the hero that she is, as opposed to Elena whose very scarce sacrifices owe her unending praise, most of the time undeserved. Bonnie is made to be the automatic sacrificial lamb which has heavily contributed in making her well-being, dreams, desires and entire life seem less valuable than that of the rest of the characters. Viewers are made to see Bonnie as disposable, so much that the rare times she is actually made to take a stand, her character invariably finds herself at the receiving end of unfathomable hate from the fandom.

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Unfortunately, these kind of hateful comments seem to have doubled ever since season 6; when Bonnie was finally given more of a purpose and agency to put herself first which was long overdue and has been for a lot of critics the most refreshing part of what has otherwhise become a pretty repetitive show.

  1. Negationism

Another thing grossly and specifically wrong with TVD is its appalling silence about slavery. In the show’s first season, the year 1864 is of significant importance and is mentioned repeatedly. It is the year when two of the leads on the show, Stefan and Damon fall in love with evil Katherine and are subsequently turned into vampires. There are a lot of flashbacks to 1864 made to set up the characters’ backstories. In a few of those flashbacks, Emily Bennett, Bonnie’s ancestor, and a WOC, is seen and even mentioned as being Katherine’s “hand maiden”. Let’s be clear, though this is fiction, there have been some mentions of real life historical facts. For example, it is said that Damon Salvatore fought for the confederacy; and there even is a scene set up during which he returns home after having deserted, sporting a confederate army uniform. So while there are vampires and witches in this fictional town, it is still set in historical 1864 Virginia, therefore Emily Bennett wouldn’t have been anything else but a SLAVE.

Emily Bennett

Emily Bennett

Yet it was conveniently decided to gloss over that clearly uncomfortable fact, by calling her instead a “hand maiden”. That is disgusting not to mention completely unnecessary. Katherine is known to be one of the most evil characters on that show. She strings guys along, pretends to be dead to lure in her prey, manipulates, lies and kills. It would therefore stand to reason that she wouldn’t have had much of a problem being a slave owner, so if anything, calling Emily Bennett what she probably was – which is a slave – wouldn’t have changed Katherine’s character in the slightest, but in fact could have even brought more depth to her character and Emily’s, yet the writers conveniently chose to ignore that fact.

"Lost Girls" - Paul Wesley as Stefan and Ian Somerhalder as Damon in THE VAMPIRE DIARIES on The CW. Photo: Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2009 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

“Lost Girls” – Paul Wesley as Stefan and Ian Somerhalder as Damon in THE VAMPIRE DIARIES on The CW.
Photo: Bob Mahoney/The CW
©2009 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Even worse, in Mystic Falls, the fictional town of Virginia where the story is based, tons of events are held celebrating the founding families. We see Elena, Stefan, Damon and Caroline happily attend the founders’ ball, and even play dress-up in 19th century attire at a founders’ parade. Bonnie obviously wasn’t at the ball nor did she dress-up for the parade – not because it would have been disturbingly wrong, but it probably had something more to do with the fact that she is banned from wearing pretty dresses, but I digress.

Instead, she was made to snap pictures, watch the parade and wave happily as her friends celebrated the lives of people who owned her ancestors. Talk about inappropriate!

Tyler wearing a confederate army uniform

Tyler wearing a confederate army uniform alongside Bonnie

  1. Black lives don’t matter

Another issue I have with this show is how quick and easy it is for people of color to die. To give you an idea, here is a list of all the characters of color that have been killed off without it triggering any grief or sense of loss for the characters and the viewers: Pearl (Asian), Harper (black), Luka and his father (black), Conor (black), random black guy eaten by Caroline, Jesse (black), Ivy (Asian), Qetsiyah (played by an Indian actress but supposed to be black). Versus the characters’ deaths that were met with some kind of emotional pain by at least one character: Jenna (white), Vicki (white), Grams (black), Tyler’s father (white), Tyler’s mother (white), Anna (Asian), Lexi (white), Isobel (white), John (white), Luke (white), Rose (white), Andie (white), Elena (white), Nadia (white), Katherine (white, her death is made a big deal out of though everyone hates her), Jeremy (white), Bonnie (black, not sure if I should count her in because she was dead for 3 months and none of her friends even noticed…), Damon (white), Sheriff Forbes (white).

But what is probably most telling about how little the lives of characters of color matter on this show, is when we compare Bonnie and Caroline losing their fathers. Bonnie and Caroline are both part of the main cast, yet though Bonnie has been part of the main plot even more so than Caroline, she isn’t given parents and a home or even just as much as a bedroom until season 4 (after fans kept demanding it from the writers).

Caroline and her mother

Caroline and her mother

Caroline on the other hand who has never really been part of the main plot, was given a home, a room and a very present mother pretty much since the pilot. Caroline’s estranged father was then introduced briefly back in season 2 before being killed off, while Bonnie’s father who was supposed to have been living with her all along was only introduced in season 4 to be killed off right away! But this isn’t even what is most problematic here, what remains most disturbing is how differently the deaths of both fathers were handled. Caroline’s father dies with vampire blood in his system. His hate for vampires was so strong that he made a conscious decision to die instead of completing the transition. Caroline sat by him as he breathed his last breath and was left to grieve, as her sense of loss was addressed in an entire episode. On the other hand, Bonnie who was a ghost at the time (don’t ask), watched her father’s throat being slit open by a maniacal killer and couldn’t so much as hold his hand as he laid dying. We see her scream and cry in horror through a camera shot that lasted all and all probably a couple seconds and… that’s it. Everyone moves on!

Bonnie and her father

Bonnie and her father

None of her friends are ever made to mention what happened and Bonnie doesn’t either. She just lights a candle in remembrance of her father a season later, without her trauma and grief to ever be addressed or even mentioned. What’s more, later on in season 6, Caroline’s mother dies of cancer and that’s enough to make her turn off her humanity and be at the center stage of a few episodes, while Bonnie once again gets nothing.

Why does this matter? Because if a show for teenagers is able to dehumanize people of color in a way that nobody or very little people seem to question, it tells us something really scary about our society and our level of tolerance for racism. It tells us why black people are so easily brutalized by police all over the US be it a man murdered over a routine traffic stop or a 14 year old girl being assaulted by a police officer, it tells us why a man can get pushed off a metro carriage in France for being black, why 147 Kenyan students can be murdered by terrorists in general indifference, why thousands of migrants can drown in the Mediterranean without anyone batting an eyelash, or why doing away with the confederate flag was even a subject of debate. TVD – and an appalling number of mainstream shows – is a construct of a society that oozes systemic racism and white supremacy. White people watch TV and internalize those toxic ideas to such extent that POC become irrelevant, worthless and invisible to them. POC watch, and if they’re not alert enough, begin to hate themselves and subconsciously apply the rules of colorism to their own communities. When we’re not in front of our TVs, we’re being fed those ideas by the Internet, by the movies, by commercials, magazines, and the very people around us. That is why it is so important to speak up whenever we come across such destructive attitudes and narratives. Simply ignoring them will not do. We are not overreacting, we are not being paranoid in standing up for what is right, whether it is walking through Ferguson with our hands up or tweeting network executives about the racism in their shows which contributes to poison impressionable teenaged minds. We can all make a change in our own little way. No issue is unimportant. I may not change the world by writing this article, but I will cause at least one person out there to question things and that in itself is a victory. Silence is complacency.

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29 thoughts on “The problematic treatment of People of Color on The Vampire Diaries

  1. Your Meta about Bonnie and her unfair treatment on TVD was amazing. It was very much on point. I think while I could recognize some of the broad strokes of how her character was forced to take a back seat, You made me realize how rampant it was on the show. Some of the things that you mentioned about the treatment of POC characters didnot even register with me , until you actually did.

    I am a WOC and I always found Bonnie annoying as hell. It wasn’t a racial thing , but I guess just because she wasn’t a well -developed character on the show, I wasn’t invested in her. I too started treating her as a plot device, a deus -ex-machina for the other “Important” characters to get out of a sticky situation. I never liked ELena either but for completely different reasons.

    The reason I wasn’t Invested in Bonnie was because the show runners never gave her a decent storyline. I did however enjoy her S-6 Storyline, But I think Your Meta opened my eyes to a lot of things I had Ignored earlier on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laine says:

    It’s time to awaken all. Racism is more alive than ever. And the reality of Bonnie Bennet is an example of how blacks are still seen in our society. We need to change that.
    TVD should more respect Bonnie Bennett. A female character that deserves much more development, it is incredible. The TV and the media need to urgently change the reality of the female and black characters. Start treats them as essential and worthy part. The fandom TVD and among others, has made a mess today’s youth, and this can not continue. Congratulations for text, incredible as crucial points that JP and his team need to read and reflect and change. Sorry my English I am Brazilian.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderfully well written article. I thought this show had potential in the first few episodes of season one, when Bonnie had a grandmother who loved her and we saw her home and she had a strong point of view. But after Sheila died, it seemed that Bonnie died with her and was replaced by a plot device with ugly clothes. Season 6 was one of the strongest seasons for Bonnie and really gave Kat Graham to shine. She played off the new character, Kai, very well and all signs were there for a romance between the two of them, and a chance for Bonnie to finally have a powerful, dangerous and overprotective man wrapped around her finger. But instead, Kai was killed off after a series of retcons and plot holes, and Bonnie’s life was tied to Elena’s in the most degrading way possible. In one fell blow, the producers killed off two possible romantic storylines that could have done wonders for Bonnie’s character with Kai by his death, and with Damon by making sure that Bonnie “owed” her life to Elena. In other words, the showrunners punished Bonnie’s actress, Kat Graham for Nina Dobrev’s decision to leave the show and created a scenario where the audience will anticipate Bonnie’s death until the end of the series.

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  4. Dan says:

    I agree with 100%. Caroline Dries also produced smallville and melrose place. Both shows lacked diversity. I like VP. However I am very disappointed in the lack of diversity and obvious unfair treatment of Bonnie’s character. I was happy to see this article.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Polemica: Racismo em The Vampire Diaries ? - Diarios de Um Vampiro Brasil :: Notícias, fotos, vídeos e muito mais.....

  6. SC says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more for all of these points. What’s most frightening is that so many don’t see it. So desensitized and indoctrinated, they’ll fight you about it, telling you you’re imagining things. That because other white characters receive poor treatment, too, that mistreating the only black character on the show for 7 seasons isn’t racism. Such blame shifting.

    This season, the writers have made Bamon almost all together undesirable, if for no other reason than because of the sleepy beauty plot they have with Damon making “witty” comments about Bonnie dying so he can be with Elena. Uche Okechukwu’s comment described it perfectly.

    But I hope you eventually update this in regards to BonKai and Bonenzo. BonKai had so much chemistry it set their scenes on fire, and currently there’s word that Bonnie may end up with Enzo. It might be a nice change to see, considering how loyal Enzo has been shown to be, the fact that he has no strong loyalty to the main characters of mystic falls and could be the first to put Bonnie first and not cheat on her. Here’s to hoping.

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  7. Marie says:

    Thank you for your blog entry! If waited so long for someone to write down what i was thinking all along. As a person of color myself i always found it weird that they killed off all the oder characters who weren’t white. Moreover Bonnie gets treated like shit. they take everything away from her (family, lovers and even her freedom when they put her in the prison world where she got shot,beaten and left behind).
    thanks again for caring and sharing!

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  8. Lady C says:

    There was so much potential for Bonnie to soar after S6, but they tease at Bamon only to give the fans Bonenzo.

    There is no rhyme or reason for Bonnie to be with Enzo. The writers have made it very clear that Enzo is in love with Lily Salvatore. Enzo is so enamored with Lily that he actually fought a duel with Lily’s LI, who is an older Vampire.

    Everytime Plec and Dries are asked about Bamon, they don’t hestitate to tell her fans, it ain’t gonna happen. That is one SL the two of them never waiver on. Bonnie will never get Damon-Freaking-Salvatore.

    Now that Damon has literally stated that Bonnie is his family, I can just see the Delena Stan’s calling any relationship between Bonnie and Damon, other than friendship, incest.

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  9. Omg .I’m so glad I found your site. I have been watching a lot of television over holidays and there are actually some shows like Netflix Jessica Jones that show racial/gender mashups and great genre acting and production values aren’t impossible. However on cable tv, specifically CW,MTV, ABCFam- networks aimed at 18-34 demo I see constant struggle for authentic characters of color. Even in a world as far reaching as Game of Thrones and dystopian shows where humanity supposedly cling together in the shadow of zombiehordes..its #struggle.
    Thank You so much. I am inspired to sound off and look forward to reading more from you

    Like

  10. Abigail says:

    Wow. Thanks for the article. It describes everything i’d been thinking. Bonnie is one of my favourite characters and it frustrated me to see how she is being treated in TVD. In season 2 and 3 I was shipping Klaus and Bonnie. I was really hoping something would happen there but it didn’t. I was disappointed….. now I’m shipping Bamon and its seems like that ain’t gonna happen either. In the back of my mind I would always think: “Is it because she’s black?” So unfair!
    I feel like your article really brought out a few strong points! Support you 100%

    Like

  11. My God! You’ve said everything I’ve been thinking. Can I also mention how nearly every black person of consequence is light-skinned, has light eyes, or both? And that only these people are cast as attractive? Can I mention the fact that Damon browbeats Bonnie in the season 6, making jokes about her competence and her intelligence for several episodes, even though she defies his expectations? It was really annoying to watch.
    It’s as if, because the writers cannot kill off their one remnant of diversity, they make sure to punish her for being alive (for a very obvious example, the pain she endured while becoming the anchor)?
    I had never realized that Bonnie had not been present at any of the formal events. But now that you’ve said it, I get to think about what that means– the fact that I didn’t notice, and that fact that the show was written that way.
    Thank you for writing this.

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  13. I just watched the episode in which Caroline becomes a vampire. The first two characters she attacks (she actually kills the second one) are both black, and apart from Bonnie they’re literally the only people of colour in the episode (I say ‘episode’ to stay on the safe side, but I can’t actually recall the previous time a PoC character had a line on this show and I’m mostly binge-watching it). I just – it’s so glaringly obvious, and so clearly wrong, and so easy to fix. Compelling non-white characters who aren’t killed off in the same episode in which they’re introduced, how freaking hard can it be?

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  14. Ises says:

    You’ve brilliantly addressed the black representation in the media problem that angers my soul. Thank you for writing this article. More importantly, thank you for being you.

    Like

  15. Debra says:

    I agree with all of your viewpoints! Your article is well written and profoundly thought provoking.
    I just wanted to add that I believe the whole season 6 storyline of Bonnie Bennett and Damon Salvatore (The other side) can also be attributed to one white character (Ian Somerhalder) for staunchly supporting Kat Graham and promoting the idea of a more compelling storyline for her. I think he deserves more credit for singly-handedly going to bat for his co-star.

    Liked by 1 person

    • GracefullySpeaking says:

      I agree. I watched them together off set and he seems to have a sense of appreciation and respect for her as a colleague. I definitely think he was one of her supporters. I really like Ian Somerhalder.

      Like

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  17. I absolutely agree! You made excellent points. TVD is my favorite show, yet I never liked how they treated Bonnie and other black characters. I am a white female but I noticed! Especially considering how amazing and important Bonnie is and how interesting her story could be. There is definitely some racial weirdness going on here and it’s embarrassing to watch. Even when she meets others like her (Luka and his father), she’s not allowed to become close with them. Her romances are ridiculously unimpressive. There is something very painful to me about Bonnie and her doormat persona. Many of us have been that girl/guy in our social circle or birth family only to find ourselves realizing our own servitude! I guess fashion I can sort of forgive because they were going for the Earthy tone (since witches are connected to earth and nature) and I know a lot of young people in the spiritual community who dress like that. (In actuality her clothes are from stores like Free People, which I love, and which are quite expensive for a teen budget!) She is not supposed to look posh and polished, and she wouldn’t want to be. She’s also not from a founding family like Elena and Caroline, who are basically the wealthiest girls. Lets not forget Vicki Donovan was treated like white trash because she was from a poorer family. Matt Donovan is constantly getting disrespected too. So I do think some Bonnie issues have simply to do with socioeconomic status, also her own extreme humility. Until Season 7 where she changes! Interestingly TVD centers on the wealthiest people in Mystic Falls and those are the ones who are “important”.

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  18. LanaB says:

    Yes a thousand times yes. TVD is my guilty pleasure show. I watch it mostly because of Bonnie, but I always feel like the writers secretly hate her. It’s like Kat Graham was used as a diversity hire to gain POC views, now writers don’t know what to do with her. They rarely include her in anything monumental or emotionally moving unless she is using her power to serve others’ needs and usually she is either talked or forced into it. Notice how other characters don’t seem to care about how Bonnie feels whether she’s happy, sad, or angry. Sometimes they are downright rude to her or ignore her existence completely. I was looking forward to season 6. The amount of chemistry Bonnie had with Kai and Damon was on the verge of something big. Damon was finally opening up to Bonnie and showed he cared for her. But with Kai…his character was border-line obsessed with Bonnie. They had some hot love-hate scenes going on. That would have made for an interesting romance. I thought they would surely hook up. But nooooo, the writers suck! I thought I was the only one that noticed this reoccurring theme, TG I’m not alone. When KatG leaves, I’m out.

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  19. This is so well written. TVD is one of my all time favorite shows. But, I’ve always thought they needed so much more diversity. When they do have African American characters they either die or are evil. As an African American woman sometimes I feel bad that I enjoy it so much.
    Conner: Hunter who died
    Bonnie’s Mom: left her
    Bonnie’s Dad: killed
    Marcel: literally a former slave of Klaus
    Beau: no dialogue – a mute who is later killed

    I mean honestly I’m surprised more ppl haven’t talked about this

    Like

  20. I was thinking the exact same sentiments as this article. Ever since Bonnie gained her catastrophic powers in the early seasons, the writers made sure to only use her as a plot device. Then to add insult to injury they remind us that she’s only important when it involves Elena. She is literally treated like crap, I can recall so many cringe worthy insults that were made to Bonnie from Damon, Matt, Enzo, & Caroline (& these people are suppose to be considered as her friends!) Funny because when they introduced us to Kai, him and Bonnie stole the show in season 6. When the writers saw that Chris Wood was capable of being an attractive charming leading male, notice how Julie Plec shut the Bonkai ship down. Meanwhile Kai had an obsession with Bonnie that could possibly lead to a romance. I think they didn’t expect the actors to be so good together, it blew up in the writers faces (that really made me angry). They don’t want Bonnie to out shine the white girls (Elena & Caroline). Most importantly they don’t want Bonnie to be seen as sexually desirable and worthy as a woman/love interest. Even the two lesbian Heretics got a proper love story and they’re not even lead characters! What pissed me off the most is how the writers contradicted themselves with Bamon & Bonkai. Bonkai had dangerously fantastic chemistry, they could have stole the show because they both had so much in common. Both bad ass witches, Kai could have easily turned Bonnie dark because she has all the reason to hate the world. She’s been treated horribly, used & abandoned by friends and family, & died to sacrifice herself for friends that don’t actually care about her (more than once). Yes Bonnie deserves to turn villain on their asses! They robbed Kai of his redemption because it would involve him becoming more like Damon & Stefan. Therefore, he would actually care about Bonnie because he had emotions. We saw this in the episodes where he tried to apologize to Bonnie. Its obvious he already liked her in his own sick & demented way. Another contradiction, Bonnie’s own ex-boyfriend Jeremy wasn’t even faithful to her even though he supposedly cared about her so much. JP constantly has to remind the fandom that Bonnie will always be second-best. I hate that so much. This actually inspired me to write a Bonkai fan fiction, I just had to do Bonnie some justice. Yes I think JP & the writers are subconsciously racist!

    Liked by 1 person

    • GracefullySpeaking says:

      I thought Bonnie and Jeremy were the absolute worst romance on Vampire Diaries. Kai and Enzo were attractive. They definitely deprived Bonnie of a good storyline and romance that would had made the show epic. Bonnie actually saved the show after Elena left so imagine what she could had did early on.

      Like

  21. cinders says:

    That was very well organised. I never fully thought it through…

    I always used to balance it out with a sort of gratitude “Well, at least there’s a POC in the story. If they were racist, they’d just have cast a red-haired girl with a scottish accent.

    But you can spin it another way, that they were “forced to add some diversity to the show” and really came to resent it. I mean, effing *Black Sails* managed to do a decent black woman, in a ship with a main lead. And this is a period drama set in a time with actual colonialism and slavery. It is not hard at all.

    Even if you are racist, you’d make a better effort to not appear so incredibly racist, wouldn’t you?

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  22. Sasha says:

    I could not agree more! As much as I love TVD, the role of Bonnie Bennett has always been developed into being a puppet for her friends! She has never truly been happy never! This was such an eye opener thank you for this beautifully written article. We need to take a stand

    Liked by 1 person

  23. GracefullySpeaking says:

    Thank you so much for this post. This post was awesome. I like Bonnie but as some of the other readers stated the lack of character development and her storyline made her less appealing to watch. Like others I never thought of it as systematic racism as you point out it is very real in television and even in children’s television programming. I am glad that they decided to bump her up to female lead but it took some getting use to due to the prior seasons of non development. I love that they gave her a love interest with Enzo and he’s pretty hot. You are right in the book Bonnie and Damon had something romantic going on so it had been a great plot twist to introduce that in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed the series, and I am glad they gave Bonnie her roses before the series end. Thank you for this post.

    Like

  24. Mary says:

    really great article. you put everything i ever thought into words and then some. so happy that other people agree and as a woc i made the choice to stop watching and supporting vampire diaries and cw all together because it seems like they do this often and on purpose

    Like

  25. Obviously, this response comes after the end of the series, but of course, it’s just as relevant as ever. I could only imagine the tea if this had been posted after season 8. It’s like every time the writers saw a critique this well rounded, they doubled down on their racism. It’s ridiculous, and although it’s not as blatant in The Originals, it’s just as goddamn prevalent. I wonder if anyone in production is even a PoC?

    Like

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