Romanticised Abuse: Damon and Caroline - THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, books, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Start posting whenever you want.
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simply one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.
- This is not only about romanticised abusive relationships. It is about romanticised sexual assault, rape, and harassment, as well.
- Please consider the following statement a trigger warning: this blog series explores and draws attention to themes/incidents of abuse in fiction. I will discuss sexual assault, abusive relationships, and rape. I will infrequently explore those topics in depth as the fictional example requires it. Please read on with care. These subjects could be triggering.

The Vampire Diaries could cover quite a few posts in this blog series. I've been intimidated to even start addressing the show's romanticised abuse because there is just so much to talk about. It's also hard to isolate those incidents into individual posts - the alternative is a colossal single post, which is way, way too hard.

But this stuff does need to be said. Now that I'm watching the TV series for the second time, I don't want to put it off any longer. It's too disturbing to ignore.

This particular post is about Damon Salvatore's mistreatment of Caroline Forbes.

The Incidents:

The whole issue first unfolds in Season 1. Vampire Damon Salvatore turns up in the Pilot to wreck havoc in his younger brother's (Stefan's) life, and consequently, his brother's relationship with a human girl (Elena). From his first appearance, Damon's represented as the "bad boy": he's hot, mysterious, devil-may-care, and with his biting wit and snarky comments he's entertaining to watch. He's here to cause trouble and have fun. He also doesn't care whom he hurts. At the same time, he's also hot enough and funny enough to make the viewer fall for him. You hate him, but you love him. That's certainly the writers' intention. Isn't that how most bad boys are written?

Enter Caroline Forbes, Elena's close friend. Unlike Damon who's hot and entertaining enough to make viewers like him, Caroline's character is portrayed negatively from the very start. She's starved for attention, insecure, neurotic, and jealous of Elena and Stefan's relationship. Apparently, she's an air-headed mean girl. We aren't supposed to like her, at least not yet.
Caroline first notices Damon when he's hanging around town, and is taken in by his mysterious aura and dangerous good looks. Damon, seeing an opportunity, responds to her flirting and later that night, they end up in her bedroom. They're making out on her bed, semi naked, when Damon shows his true colours and reveals he's a vampire. Caroline screams as he lunges to bite her.

The next morning, she wakes up, scared and shaken and utterly confused by the blood on her pillow. She has no memory of the night before because Damon compelled her to forget; there's such a thing as compulsion, which vampires can use to control their victim. It's mind control.
Caroline also notices the blood on her neck, where Damon bit her. She's horrified. She tries creeping towards the door, but Damon wakes up just as she's about to flee. She screams at him to get away from her, even hits him with a lamp, but he advances on her whilst ignoring her screams. (Watch the scene HERE. Warning for sexual content & violence.)

The same morning, Caroline shows up at cheerleading practise. There's a scarf around her neck to hide the bites, and she's cool and carefree and even kisses Damon before getting out of his car. At a dinner at Elena's house later that week, Stefan confronts Damon about his treatment of Caroline but Damon waves it off, saying about humans in general: "they're mine for the taking."

Damon continues to use Caroline throughout the season. He gets her to run errands for him, on one occasion compels her to wear a certain dress, and compels her not to tell anyone about his secret or how he's been treating her; essentially, that she's his personal blood bag. When she fails to carry through on one particular assignment, he calls her "stupid, shallow, and useless." When in another scene Caroline asks Damon, "are you going to kill me?", he answers "Mm hm. Just not yet." 
It's an abusive relationship, and Caroline is helpless to do anything about it.

In a later episode, Elena notices the scars on Caroline's neck and the bruises on her body. Caroline is extremely defensive, snaps at Elena, and hastily hides her wounds. She acts like the victim of abuse she is. She's scared, embarrassed, and blames herself. It's made worse by the fact she doesn't even remember what Damon's done to her, because he's used his vampiric compulsion. Caroline is confused and terrified with no idea of what or who to believe, and it is horrifying to watch.

Abuse & Rape:

Compulsion is not consent. It's the opposite of consent. It's mind control, and it's taking away a person's right to make decisions. The whole time Damon was with Caroline, he compelled her. He compelled her to be agreeable, to be obedient, to let him feed off of her, and there is absolutely no way she would have slept with him had she known who and what he really was - that much is clear when he first reveals his vampire identity to her. You can see that from her reaction - it's obvious.

But...that's rape. Abuse, certainly, but it's also rape. There's the fact that she wakes up that first morning in different underwear compared to the night before (when Damon first bit her), and they continue to sleep together while she's with him and under his compulsion. THAT IS NOT CONSENT! He raped her. He just compelled her to forget about it. In one scene, Caroline tries to protest against the situation with "I'm done being your little slave girl. You seriously hurt me..." but Damon just compels her to stop talking and be agreeable. It's revolting.

There's another scene in season 1, episode 5, that gives clear evidence for their abusive relationship. In the scene Damon is trapped in the Salvatore dungeon, and gets Caroline to release him. Caroline, baffled by the situation, is confused and disoriented. They then have this conversation:

Damon: Caroline, help me. Caroline. Help me.
Caroline: Damon? Damon? Damon? Oh, my god! What is this? How did I know that you were here? Damon: Because I wanted you to. Very, very badly. Let me out of here. Please.
Caroline: You bit me.
Damon: You liked it. Remember? 
Caroline: Why do I keep remembering the same things, but in different ways? 
Damon: You remember what I want you to remember. And now that the vervain has passed out of your system, you won't remember what you're about to do.
Caroline: What am I about to do?
Damon: You're gonna open the door. You're gonna open the door.

Watching that scene, I just wanted to cry. I've underlined the lines that stand out, and I hope it's obvious just how horrific they are: Damon makes her doubt herself, he turns the blame back on her, and it's clear that he's messed with Caroline's memories to distort her perception of the situation. It's utterly deplorable. I don't think I've ever hated a male character more.

In season 2, Caroline becomes a vampire herself. As a result, she's no longer susceptible to compulsion and her memories come back. Her first move is to confront Damon. She tells him that she remembers how he treated her and that "you abused me." He simply responds, "You can't remember," because he expects the compulsion to still be in effect.

After that, she doesn't have a leg to stand on when it comes to Damon. Everyone else is soon enamoured by him and willing to pass off his bad behaviour as "it's just Damon. It's who he is." The only time Caroline's trauma comes up again is in season 4 when she's talking with Bonnie and Elena. Elena confesses to them that she slept with Damon, and Caroline's immediate - and understandable - reaction is one of anger and horror. Elena is defensive, and throws the situation back in Caroline's face by reminding her that she slept with Damon many years ago. Honestly, as someone who saw Caroline's pain first hand, who saw the scars and bites and bruises, Elena should have darn well known better. She even has the audacity to ask Caroline: "So what was it that made you jump right into bed with him just as soon as you met him?"
The whole sequence of scenes paints Caroline as the one at fault, and she even apologises to Elena later on. It's disgusting, because Caroline is not the villain here!

You could argue that Elena's deflecting (since she feels guilty about what happened between her and Damon) or you could say she's automatically on Damon's side because of the sire bond between them. But whatever the subtext, the result is atrocious: the writers shame Caroline for speaking against Damon, and they instantly minimise the abuse she suffered. In many ways, it's a gross and poorly written scene.

Romanticised Abuse:

Damon is the anti-hero of the show. He eventually "redeems" himself by falling in love with Elena, not killing any of the other beloved main characters, and #Delena becomes canon. Meanwhile, his behaviour in season 1 is completely dismissed. He never even apologises to Caroline. He's now the beloved hero of the show, an extremely popular and entertaining character, and essential to the story. He's moved on, he's changed, and we have to love him now. His mistakes are all in the past, and apparently, he never gets punished because that was all Post-Hero-Damon. He was the villain back then; we can brush his crimes aside, right? And when he does slip up, it's "just Damon", right? It's who he is, right? We must accept that and live with that. Right?

Wrong. A guy doesn't get to use the excuse of "I was a different person then", while the person he hurt will always be the person he hurt: abused, raped, and scarred for life. Just because he might have moved on, does not mean she can or that we should. You aren't allowed to simply get away with those crimes, nor should TV shows romanticise the perpetrator and show that it's "all good" because he eventually improves his behaviour. That's messed up! That's not holding villains accountable. That's telling people that rape and abuse is excusable if you "promise never to do it again." That's what happens when you throw in a heavy, serious topic or incident and prioritise the perpetrator.
When is that ever okay?

No part of this story should be about trying to redeem Damon. It should be about what he did to Caroline and how he should be made to pay for the crimes he's committed. It should also be about the effect the abuse had on her, and how she's dealing with it.

Unfortunately, the writers prioritise Damon. They ignore the horrific abuse Caroline suffered to further develop and romanticise a rapist and abuser. It disgusts me. 

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