So what I’m getting from Netflix (or is that Quixster?? what-ever) now is The Vampire Diaries. It’s one of those things I’m taking in because it’s popular and I want to know why, because it’s aimed at an audience that overlaps my target audience. It’s not a bad show, but I find it’s one that I have to make myself pay attention to a lot of the time, and of course I find myself making constant comparisons between it and Buffy.
One of the things that really struck me from season one is how eager these characters were to fall into bed with each other, and how the creators of the show didn’t seem to have any problem showing that to teens at all. I was watching this at a time when I was really gnashing my teeth trying to figure out the level of sensuality I was going to put into Heroes ‘Til Curfew. And we’re not even up to actual sex in my series, partly because I really believe that girls should save it as long as they can manage it because, face it, you’re never going to get as much foreplay again in your whole life as in that period when you’re putting off going all the way.
But since The Vampire Diaries girls are in fiction, they’ll probably always get great foreplay, so it doesn’t matter how easily they fall into bed. It was just that, like I said, I kept comparing to Buffy and remembering what a BIG DEAL it was, what a buzz there was around Buffy and Angel consummating their relationship, and this just seemed so commonplace, all these years later.
I remember that it was when I was making the transition from high school to college, around the same time that the 90210 kids were, that I really started to recognize that the actors who play TV teens are actually much older. (And yet, as you know, I was still shocked to learn how old Tom Welling really is.) Besides all the drama Shannon Daugherty always had going in the entertainment news, I can remember watching the show in the dorm and someone talking about the actual ages of some of the actors and how it kind of blew my mind a bit.
So what I’ve been thinking about lately, is that it’s one thing for older actors to play teens, but it’s a whole other thing for the characters to be running around, acting like adults. Now that I’m in season two, Elena and Stephan are going away to the lakehouse for a romantic weekend. Cool! But wait, they’re not sneaking out the window, she’s not getting her friends to cover for her with her guardian. Nope, she and Stephan grab her bags and are like, Okay, we’re headed to the lakehouse for a romantic weekend! And Aunt Jenna’s all, Okay, have a great time!
Um, what? Because I’m left sitting here on my couch going, Young lady, did you forget how old you are? High school girls don’t get to go off alone with their boyfriends for romantic weekends! You get your ass upstairs and unpack that bag right now!
So thanks, Vampire Diaries, for making me feel like someone’s really old mom. Awesome.
But WTF? BtVS was always very much grounded in where Buffy was in life. She wasn’t conveniently orphaned and given some conveniently negligent, too young, too much trying to be cool guardian. She had a mom who caused complications in her life as a superhero. She got in trouble when she had to miss school for supernatural reasons. She actually did school work and had some concern about her grades (again, because she had a parent). She was always trying to find her way, to continue on her normal path of growing up even though nothing about her life was normal. She expressed that best near the end of the series when she told Angel,
“Okay, I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking. I’m not finished becoming whoever the hell it is I’m gonna turn out to be. I make it through this, and the next thing, and the next thing, and maybe one day I turn around and realize I’m ready. I’m cookies. And then, you know, if I want someone to eat— [eyes go wide as she catches herself] or enjoy warm, delicious cookie me, then…that’s fine. That’ll be then. When I’m done.”
That was really summing up something that was so much a part of the series: Buffy baking. I don’t get that in tVD. I often don’t see that transition from child to adult playing a part in shaping the characters and their reactions to problems that come up in the show. The teens interact with the adults almost as if there’s no difference in status at all. School seems like a set and a backdrop, but not something that really matters in their plans.
I guess what I’m thinking is that, while there’s a certain amount of cool factor and wish fulfillment in having teen characters do adult things, teens really aren’t just adults with tighter skin. When you forget that, when you forget their unique challenges, you lose something.
So what do you think? Am I just annoyed because Elena’s behaving like an idiot martyr in season two and everyone’s falling all over themselves to take care of her? Or can you think of other fictions which support my theory that writing teens like adults doesn’t work so great?