By MeiLi Smith
A couple weeks ago we talked about a few of the upcoming teen series and the impact these shows may or may not have on teens regarding attitudes towards personal appearance, drinking, sexual activity, and healthy relationships. This week we are going to dig in a little deeper as the fall series premier of Vampire Diaries debuted last Thursday. Vampire Diaries happened to be one of my favorite shows when I was in high school—it’s still one of my favorites; however, I wanted to make sure that it was still popular amongst teens. So I did a Google search on the most popular teen shows. Every search resulted with Vampire Diaries at the top of the list for the most popular teen dramas. Apparently, I’m not completely out of the loop.
When I say I want to “dig in a little deeper” on the season premier of Vampire Diaries, I really just want to take a look at the messages that are being portrayed to teens. I also want to take a look at how teens might interpret said messages, specifically the messages regarding sex. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the show, Vampire Diaries is a teen drama about vampires, and everything else supernatural including: wolves, witches, ghosts, you name it. Basically, it’s a more intense version of Twilight and a less intense version of True Blood. There’s still all of that vampire lovin’ but it’s also pretty brutal in the violence department.
First, let’s begin by giving you a break down of what happened in this first episode. Most of the main characters had just graduated from high school and are all returning from their summer breaks to attend college, work, and/or fight evil supernatural people. The episode then proceeds to a typical Vampire Diaries chaotic mess of drama. Which usually consists of everyone trying to help save everyone else, but alas the episode ends with some crazy evil vampire trying to ruin all of humanity with no hope in sight. If you want to get a more in-depth look at this episode, you can watch the trailer here:
Okay, so now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s really sink our teeth in. See what I just did there? Like I said, the episode begins with all of the main characters returning from their last summer break from high school and it opens up with a brief excerpt of each character’s summer, most of which consisted of sex—lots of it. Not only did it seem like the only thing these characters did during the summer was have sex, but again (like I mentioned in my last blog post) there were no parents to be found. These freshly graduated high school students don’t even have to be excited about college because they’ve been living an adult/parent-free life for most of their adolescence.
Vampire Diaries also lacks any type of couple that isn’t of the straight variety. This heteronormative depiction of teen relationships leaves no room for homosexuals or questioning teens to place themselves in a “typical” high school/college experience. And I mean sexually, because there’s nothing typical about being a teenage vampire. Even though the opening scene did have two girls kissing and on the verge of having sex, it was only shown because it was a threesome with another guy. This just demonstrates the idea that homosexual activity, or lesbian activity, can only be done if it is in the pleasure of a male.
The idea of sexual activity is nothing to be ashamed of, but when teen shows like Vampire Diaries are glamorizing (heterosexual) hyper sexuality without the context of what a healthy sex life looks like, it can be extremely misleading for teenagers. Vampire Diaries is known for it’s promiscuity, and the sexual activity that it often shows is extremely aggressive, however it’s taken for “passionate”. This interpretation of sexuality can also be harmful for teens, because not only is it showcasing a very limited view of what sexuality is but it’s highlighting sexually aggressive behaviors which may or may not be what a certain individual prefers. Unfortunately though, without the context of a healthy sex life and healthy sex communication, it’s easy to internalize the sexual images like the ones in Vampire Diaries as what is “normal” and acceptable in sex.
The other thing that I wanted to touch on briefly is the beauty ideals that are portrayed within this show. These characters aren’t only attractive, they’re drop-dead gorgeous. It’s not just one of the characters, it’s every single one. So what message does that send to teens? That in order to even have sex you must be beautiful too? The idea of beauty is not one that we are unfamiliar with, but it’s important to keep in mind when the few shows that are geared towards teens have freakishly beautiful characters. How might this impact the way they view themselves? Not to mention, these characters look much older than just the age of 18. It’s no wonder why I see seventh grade girls trying to look like they’re 20.
The main point that I wanted to get across in this blog was to highlight the representation of sex and how that can be harmful to teens without the proper dialogue to back it up. I’m not saying that I think teens should simply abstain from sex, because I don’t. I do think, however, that teens should only engage in sexual activity if they’re ready. And if teens are getting their sexual preferences based off of shows like Vampire Diaries, then I also think that they should have the knowledge to know and understand the difference between TV sex and real-life sex before they make those decisions.
XOXO – Gossip Girl