Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Vampire Diaries, Season 7, Episode 10: Hell is Other People

So our vampires have been stabbed by the hell dagger and transported to their personal hells. For Damon that means an American civil war setting. For me it means trying to make sense of Vampire Diaries plot lines. I’m suffering more. We also know that Stefan is terrible at sending reassuring letters to family in conflict. War zone AND Stefan angst, it’s possible Damon does suffer more.

His civil war dream quickly turns into Groundhog Day meets Inception as he confronts one of the big bad naughty things from his past (killing deserters and people sheltering them during the Civil War in the name of going to his angsting brother (a fate even worse than civil war America). Of course, Damon is a Confederate so he’s quickly to have a scene where it’s clear he totally doesn’t agree with the war because these shows/books always want the aesthetic of the Civil War south while also trying to make sure their protagonists aren’t pro-slavery.

Damon decides the key to getting out of this hell realm is to re-do the day until he succeeds in getting to see Stefan without reliving the massacre he caused in his past (since the deserter slaughter is an actual memory of his). This comes with numerous incidents of him being apparently freed from the hell realm by Bonnie (and each time Bonnie is clearly struggling and hurting herself to try and get him out and Damon is equally uncaring – what a surprise) only to find out it’s just another chapter in the hell realm before resetting the civil war day. Damon struggles repeatedly to try and find a way, resetting the whole event several times but it has to be said for a terrible Hell dimension, Damon isn’t really suffering – frustrated and annoyed by not suffering

Which is why his mother, the dead Lilly keeps appearing to try and encourage some more angst and we even get an inset of Julian describing the pain he suffered. Possibly in the real world we see the whole gang around Damon, still imprisoned. Stefan is free and he explains the trick to escaping: you have to accept the suffering. It is a hell realm after all, you have to feel and be tormented not constantly fight it: Damon isn’t suffering so they can’t get him out.

This calls for several more rounds of Damon failing to find a way out despite more creativity (and losing his olde worlde accent) and repeatedly being bombarded by Lilly until he finally succumbs to his inner mummy issues. Yes, Damon apologises to Lilly, he cries that he was mean to her rather than trying to make amends and tell her how he felt. He’s super sad that he wasn’t nicer to her on her death bed and vocalises the many times she left him and how that made him feel. Oh Damon is the saddest of sad pandas

And I’m not a fan. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Damon viewed his mother as complicit (at least as a passive partner) in the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father. Since then Lilly has either abandoned her children or just added to their pain, especially Damon. Damon DOES NOT OWE Lilly forgiveness or comfort. Damon does not have an obligation to be nice to her or to forgive her. Damon has a right to his legitimate anger and pain. Damon is not wrong or cruel to not want to forgive.

But this whole thing becomes about his guilt towards her, his regret and having to say he’s sorry to her. The cult of forgiveness we have in society is toxic and cruel to abuse victims who are constantly pressured to forgive, who are viewed as being morally wrong if they don’t embrace the penitent (or not so penitent – did Lilly ever apologise to Damon?) abuser. We sell the dubious notion that forgiveness is good for the victim despite it serving to centre the feelings of the abuser: this whole storyline just adds to that

Of course I don’t think he’s free – because Damon, after sobbing all brokenly over his mother, arrives in the real world to find the whole gang around. He then flips out, still in full mummy issues mode, and kills everyone. Stefan, Caroline, Bonnie et al – all dead by his hands

No way this is real. We’re still in the hell dimension

Does it say something that this hell dimension looks pretty heavenly to me?