It’s been a while since there were vampires round here. Too long.
I’ve been watching the first season of The Vampire Diaries, and despite my initial thoughts that it was essentially One Tree Hill-with-fangs (which, to be fair, it sort of was for the first 3 episodes) I’m almost up to the end and you know what? I’m really enjoying it.
Much of this, I suspect, is down to the character of Damon. He’s fabulous: snarky and spiky and many other things that make me intensely jealous I didn’t write him.
The show interested me enough to make me go and pick up the first two books in the series: something I hadn’t really been inclined to do before. This was less down to a crushing need to read another vampire-based YA book and more to do with my being curious how the story had fared in the adaptation process.
It’s quite surprising just how many points have changed: whole character backstories, appearances, ages, relationships… even the name of the town. The great plus that I seem to have seen, though, is the shift in focus from the high school to the town itself, involving a much wider spread of the population. I know that True Blood, for instance, has made some huge changes to the Sookie Stackhouse books as Charlaine Harris wrote them (unsurprising, given it’s Alan Ball who came up with the TV version) but these are an altogether different kettle of fish…. blood… fish blood. Whatever.
In the case of the Vampire Diaries, I can’t help but wonder now I’ve read it, how many of these decisions were taken post-Twilight. The scene in the book where the two protagonists (Elena and Stefan) meet for the first time is uncannily like the Bella-and-Edward-biology-lab scene. And Stefan certainly has his share of Edwardisms… years before Edward came along (The first in the Vampire Diaries series was published in 1991, then reissued in 2007 after Twilight appeared in 2005). The televised version of Elena is certainly a better role-model for young women than Bella: no moping, no mooching, no jumping off cliffs because her boyfriend bailed…(so far). She surrounds herself with equally strong young women, and generally comes across as a positive, empowered female character. I’m yet to be convinced by the book version, the self-proclaimed queen of the school who has never found a boy she couldn’t wind round her finger and who declares she’s going to have Stefan even if it kills them both. Umm.
Maybe the shift in focus from school to town in the TV show isn’t just about setting it apart from the “Other Vampires”, and more about opening up the audience demographic. After all: I’m 30. I did the whole school (and even college) thing back with Buffy. I don’t need to do it again. It just goes to remind me that yes, I am getting older and that no, I’m still not immortal. Oh, and yes: those teenage years in school were just as vile as I remember them.
Tell you what, though: Meyer may well be the new queen vamp, but she’s yet to come up with anyone as fun as Damon.