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Humanity is a Light Switch
Vampire Diaries is a vampire show that takes morality in a new creepy direction that was not explored by Twilight. To the show's credit, VD shows vampires at their worst; killing indiscriminately, brainwashing others to do their bidding or into mindless sex toys, acting in general like hedonistic monsters. The problem is the story tries to repackage them into loving, caring, boyfriends creating a warped environment where evil is forgotten or forgiven way too easily.

A large problem of the show is that it has a Kitchen Morality Sink, it just doesn't want to admit it. Nowhere is this more clear when the crux of humanity is represented by Elena, an indecisive and selectively oblivious girl with a liking for two murderous boyfriends. One of her love interests, Damon rapes and attempts to murder her friend, Caroline and later (temporarily)kills her brother. Yet she still clings to him in a sort of Tsundere type fashion, even hypocritically forgiving him when all of the harm he has done is to her friends. But don't worry, Bonnie gets back at her by falling for a sociopath that physically and mentally tortures Elena and her two love interests with gusto. Bear in mind these girls remain friends throughout all seasons of the show. Guilt by association does not exist in VD's world.

The show flimsily tries to explain the cruelty by saying that vampires can turn off their humanity. Moving aside from the inherent stupidity of reducing the complex workings and perceptions of the human psyche to on/off, the show isn't clear of how this works. Damon and Klaus are pragmatically evil yet capable of emotion, kind to their respective love interests but cruel to everyone else. Whereas, Stefan and vampire Elena turn into blood guzzling machines devoid of sanity or empathy, who need to flip their switches back to think in any higher manner.

This show wouldn't be so bad if it didn't lack the spine to be more grey. Andie, for example is Damon's brainwashed plaything for the first few seasons but Damon is never called out on it or shows remorse for his actions. Instead she is conveniently killed off by Stefan and forgotten about thereafter. Later vampire Elena tries to snack on Bonnie. Bonnie chalks this up to her turned off humanity and is killed off only a few episodes later.

The show presents the good guys as evil as the bad, but won't acknowledge it.
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Actually pretty good
When I first heard about The Vampire Diaries, I expected it to be just like any other teen drama, and decided to watch just because I wanted to see how bad it really was. It completely changed the expectations I had in mind, and I was hooked. I watched the first season in a week, and caught up with the rest pretty quickly. Overall, the plot is good, there aren't many continuity errors, and the acting is surprisingly pleasant. One of the only things that bug me about the show is Paul Wesley's (Stefan) awful, cringe-worthy acting. He always has the same "brooding" face and never changes expression. This was even successfully lampshaded by Caroline. Another thing that's bothers me is that sometimes they drag out some storylines for too long.

Overall, it is a show worth watching.
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Overrated. I know, right?
So, The Vampire Diaries is this massive sleeper hit, as most of you know. Word on the street is that they dressed it up as a tawdry CW drama, but this show's got legs; every episode is critical to the season-long arc, and actions have consequences™.

I actually like Stefan. Paul Wesley (Smallville) is a capable actor, and a worthy successor to the Angel / Louis / Edward mantle. On the other hand, Damon (Spike / Lestat / Jacob) really got on my nerves. Chalk it up to Ian Somerhalder's acting or poor direction, or the popularity of lone wolf snarkers on TV. Characters like Damon are never serious. The only purpose for being there is to appear 'hip' and meta for the audience. Whenever Damon glances away and wiggles his eyebrows to suggest depth, I get embarrassed for Somerhalder and want him to disappear and stop sucking out all the drama.

The rest of the cast is solid, especially Alaric (who would've made a great Stefan, but oh well). I'm not wild about Klaus as a villain, for various reasons (lack of motive, zero menace, Flat Character, punch-bowl lips).

Not to be snarky, but I think our first impression of Vampire Diaries was correct. After all, don't all soap operas have ongoing arcs and melodramatic twists? From what (admittedly little) I've seen, the series is boilerplate CW and has little to offer in the way of plot that hasn't been cribbed from Buffy, Tru Blood, or similar works. This is by no means a condemnation; it is what it is.
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