Why My Guilty Pleasure Is Keeping Me Sane

I have a secret that has caused others to laugh at me or give me the side-eye. I have struggled with the reality of this secret for a while, but I finally feel no shame. And I am finally prepared to share this secret with the world:

I love “The Vampire Diaries” on The CW.

If you can get past the melodrama, the unrealistic attractiveness of literally every person on the show, and the unsteady acting, you can appreciate this show for what it is: a soap opera where nearly every character can (and will) rip someone’s heart straight from their body. How twisted and awesome is that?

This show has all the staples of a classic soap. At the heart of the show is a love triangle involving two overly competitive brothers. Evil twins not only exist but are also an integral piece of the show’s lore. I have lost track of how many times I thought a character was truly dead only for them to be brought back a few episodes later. I mean, the town they live in is called “Mystic Falls.” How much more soap opera-ish can you get?

But the catch is that nearly every character in the show is a supernatural being. These ridiculously gorgeous “teens” (The use of my quotes is twofold. First, many characters are several centuries old, but stuck in immortal teenage bodies. Second, the actors are in their mid-to-late twenties.) don’t just have interpersonal issues, they have “holy crap evil warlocks are bringing hell on earth and the world is ending” issues. That ups the stakes of the narrative a bit.

The supernatural elements act as a means to guide the story to emotional high points. Then, once they’re at the precipice of whatever heightened emotion they choose to explore, the characters are able to express these emotions in extreme ways, which can be incredibly cathartic as a viewer. Elena feels happy? Well, she’s gonna do an unassisted keg stand using her freaky vampire acrobatics and then do circus tricks on a motorcycle. Bonnie feels scared and is experiencing nightmares? She’s gonna accidentally use her magic to set her couch on fire.

It’s exhilarating to watch these emotions portrayed in such a visceral way. These characters have the means to give the overwhelming emotions we all experience their proper due. And it’s just plain satisfying to watch. In the real world, the emotions are no less overwhelming, but society isn’t kind to extreme displays of affection, heartbreak, or joy. No one wants to make a spectacle of themselves.

So, in a time where I can think of little else besides my emotions, it is entirely refreshing to be able to revel in the absolutely wacky ways these vampires, werewolves, witches, and hybrids express themselves. I welcome their melodrama. I appreciate the catharsis. Despite the corniness of the dialogue and the stigma surrounding the supernatural romance genre, it helps to watch a character in whom you’ve invested go through difficult trials, fight to the limits of their remarkable abilities, and dust themselves off afterward. Even when Bonnie allowed herself to be brainwashed in order to get over the loss of Jeremy, even when Stefan fell off the wagon of morality, their friends were there to pick them back up in the end, ready to bounce to the next moment of emotion. That’s what gives me the most hope. In soap operas, the emotions come and go in a cycle. You’re sad? Hold on; it will change. You’re angry? Hold on; it will change. You’re bursting with unbelievable happiness? Hold on; it will change.

And I urge you – in times of trouble, whenever you are holding on through an emotional change – to hold your guilty pleasures close. The stories that you are afraid to admit you enjoy – the really nerdy ones or the incredibly sappy ones – are often the ones that give you the most comfort and catharsis.  

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find out if Bonnie’s amnesia is going to fade or if Tyler will ever be allowed to return to Mystic Falls.

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