Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Love Letter to Stefan Salvatore

I love a dark, brooding vampire. Actually, they are sort of a weakness of mine. It’s not impossible to relate to someone regretful of past misdeeds, reconciled to be alone because of them. Someone who wants something and even after getting it doesn’t believe they truly deserve it. It’s not hard to imagine hating the monster inside yourself regardless of who is responsible for it being there in the first place. For me, it’s easy to have both empathy and sympathy for the blood sucker that prefers to sit alone in the dark and feel sorry for himself.

However, I believe I may have found the vampire I have an even bigger weakness for. The love crazy badass with a hero complex.

I know I’m not the only one who sees it. Stefan Salvatore has changed. Gone is the 162 year old sad sack who hated himself almost as much as he hated what he was. Though caring and kind, the Stefan of Season 1 spent the majority of his time brooding, apologizing and reacting to what was going on around him, making one mistake after another.

Perhaps if he didn’t hate himself so much, he’d have been able to avoid all of the lies and omissions he became so famous for in Season 1. What if he’d have been upfront with Elena from the start? “So here’s the thing. I’m a vampire. No worries though. I’m not gonna touch your blood or anyone else’s as I am a connoisseur of forest animals. However, you should know that when I rescued you from the ravine your parents car drove into I noticed right away that you looked like my crazy as hell, vampire ex girlfriend so I had to make sure you weren’t her. Oh, also, I have a brother who is REALLY mad at me. He may cause problems. But hey, we both like journaling. I think we should hang out.”

How hard was that?

Though if we’ve learned anything from The Vampire Diaries it’s that nothing is ever easy and when it is, it usually cannot be trusted. The fact of the matter is, he chose the hard way and for at least 20 episodes he lied to everyone, including himself.

You can’t really blame him though. He carried with him the weight of 145 years of killing by both himself and his brother and even after making a conscience decision to be the better vampire, to fight against the monster inside of him, he could not love himself, try as he might. He has a long history of being a people pleaser, of hiding who he really is in order to be what he feels people think he ought to be. All with the hopes of receiving anything resembling affection and approval. Something he did not seem to get much of from the father he once worshipped. Which leads me to ask the question: is there anyone in Mystic Falls without Daddy Issues?

I like to think that this search for approval, for love, was Stefan’s motivation while getting close to Elena. Though he knows the vampire within could reduce anyone to a bag of bones, letting his heart be vulnerable is an entirely different game. A lesson that we now know, was a gift from his very best friend.

Imagine this: you’re hanging out in the woods, nom noming on a squirrel and you hear this terrible noise coming from the road. You go see what it is and turns out you are needed to do some life saving. Only, the life you save has the same face as the crazy as hell vampire ex girlfriend who last time you saw was heading to her fiery death. FRAK! You gotta make sure it isn’t her. She did a lot of very not nice things! And as you follow her around, stalking her from the shadows, you realize that it’s not her at all. In fact, this girl is exactly the opposite of the monster who made you. And you love her.

What to do about that. (See lies and omissions, noted above).

However, somewhere between the last big lie (about his human blood habit) and the return of his crazy as hell ex, something in Stefan changed.

I do not believe that he has been able to forgive himself for past deeds, for making Damon what he is. But I do believe that Stefan has learned to accept what he is. To accept that while there is a monster inside of him, there is also a man trying to do good, a man deserving love. Though I’m not sure he gets much of the credit for this. Stefan didn’t learn to love himself all on his own. Elena taught him how.

Okay, maybe she didn’t teach him, so much as she helped him see that he was a person worthy of love. It has been said: “You must love yourself before you love another.” We all know, it could have gone the other way too. Certainly his fear of her rejection is what made him decide to lie to Elena in the first place and no doubt her initial reaction of horror and revulsion to his true nature helped reiterate his feelings of inadequacy. She, of course, got over it. Following her lead, Stefan got over it too. After a lot of work on her part, after conflicts with Damon, rogue vampire attacks, unearthed family secrets and a super scary human blood addiction Elena was finally able to convince Stefan that her love was no passing crush, that he was worthy of being loved with more fervor and devoutness than a teenage girl should be capable of.

Season 2 Stefan has seen what Elena sees and has found himself worthy. He has not only accepted that he is deserving of love, but that he has the ability of properly returning it. Without lies, without doubt, without holding back. Stefan has found that he can be himself. Even when being himself means using his inner monster to get what he needs (see friendly interactions with Uncle John in The Return for example). And because he is who he is, what he needs is almost always what is best for those he loves.

Never is this more evident than with his friendship with Caroline. From the first ragged breaths he helps her make, hoping to control the vampire bloodlust (Brave New World), to the exasperated facepalm he exhibits when she proves unwilling to disclose Elena’s location in Katerina. In Daddy Issues he risks his life to save hers. And once it is saved, he gives her just what she needs. A slumber party with her girlfriends. Is there anyone else who would have thought of such an amazing gift? With Caroline he is patient and kind. Instructive without judgment. Stefan has found a friend in Caroline as much as she has found one in him. He opens himself up to her. He reveals to her a bit of what he was like as a human (something I don’t think he’s even discussed with Elena) and when Caroline is at one of her lowest points, after hurting Matt, he is heart crushingly honest with her:

Caroline: “I shouldn’t be with him should I? Not if there’s any danger.”
Stefan: “I’m the last person to make that kind of decision for you. I mean, if I followed my own advice I would have walked away from Elena a long time ago.”
Caroline: “Do you ever think you should have?”
Stefan: “I know I should have. I just can’t.”

After being tortured for hours, Caroline can fool some, but she can’t fool Stefan. He knows she needs her friends. He knows her and feels all of her pain. It almost seems as if he is giving her just what he wishes he had when he first had the monster put into him. Sadly, it feels like ages since Stefan has been able to honestly confess his feelings for Elena to someone other than himself. With Caroline he divulges secrets, sentiments and emotions with an eagerness that makes you feel how much he misses having a friend. He’s not the only one who sees a bit of Lexi in Caroline and that makes my heart smile. And cry.

Though without Caroline in his life this season, he hasn’t been completely alone. To say his relationship with Damon has evolved would be a tiny bit of an understatement. It’s impossible to say who gets the credit for this. And though they are back to throwing each other through walls as they did in the Pilot, I do believe that the level of loathing and torment they once had between them has lessened considerably. Regardless of where it started, Stefan’s approach to him has certainly changed. Defending what Damon did to Jeremy? Trusting him with Elena’s safety? It can’t be easy to befriend a brother who’s in love with your girlfriend and has a tendency to act before thinking. And while I believe they work quite well together, even when jabbing each other about forest animals and sorority girls, their opposite stances on Elena and the sacrifice could prove to be their best fight yet. Best in the way that I believe Elena could benefit from having one brother on each side of the respect vs. control fence. That is, of course, if Damon can keep from mucking it up.

Something else new for Stefan? He’s connecting the dots. When things seem off, or when a situation requires a bit more than burying his head in the sand (as he did for much of Season 1) he rises to the challenge. He is going out to find answers, putting together plans of attack. And when necessary, letting Damon do the evil chores that seem to make him so happy. Most importantly, he’s stood up to Katherine. Every single time. I firmly believe that for a lesser man, a lesser Stefan, it would be all to easy to fall back under her spell. Not this Stefan. Not only does he refrain from giving her what she wants but he has the guts to remind her every chance he gets what a mega bitch he thinks she is.

It’s quite amazing what not hating oneself can accomplish.

A still self loathing Stefan would have tried again to leave Elena behind, forgetting his love and believing that all of the bad would follow closely behind him as he made his way out of Mystic Falls. This new self respecting Stefan stands his ground, fighting for what he wants. Going so far as to fabricate arguments with Elena to keep Katherine at bay and then for reals arguing with her when he thinks drinking human blood would be the best course of action to keep everyone safe. And when she concedes? Season 1 Stefan would NEVER ever in a million years have agreed to drink her blood. Even a tiny bit of it. Especially not on a regular basis. That is just way too much of a vampire type thing to do. He has convinced her that her life is worth fighting for and I don’t believe the brooder of old would have been capable of such loving persuasion.

And though I feel like Elena has had such an amazing impact on the greatness he has become, I could not have been happier in “Crying Wolf” when Stefan finally released his feelings on her choice to die. In one true stand of faith, he expressed not only his feelings about her disregard for life but his feelings on his own existence. He is at peace with the 162 years he has lived and feels they are much easier to sacrifice than Elena’s very few. His anger shows just how much he values her life above his own. I honestly believe that by sharing his bloody dark past in The Dinner Party, he hoped to prove how much more worth her life has over his.

I’ve heard the suggestion many times that Stefan has been nothing but bad news for Elena and that she’d have been much better off if he’d never come to Mystic Falls. Well maybe not “never” otherwise she’d be dead. But certainly the argument could be made against him getting so involved in her life. Or could have been made in Season 1. Knowing what we know now about Elena’s Doppelganger status it’s hard to say if she’d have been safer without Stefan’s presence in her life, and if that is what led Katherine to her. Though given who her sweetheart of a biological mother is, I doubt she’d have been safe for long and I’d have to challenge anyone to disagree with me about the importance of having him in her life because of that.

It’s been a long, hard struggle for Stefan to get where he is now, 41 episodes in. For every step forward, at least one step back. But our new Stefan has shown us darker blacks and brighter whites combining to create previously unseen shades of grey. The future promises only more of what we’ve grown to love the most about him. Our badass with a hero complex a Hero Hairdo, and very sharp fangs.

2 comments:

  1. beautiful article about stefan. damon is my favorite character but i honestly dont think people give stefan enough credit! he is one hell of a character and paul wesley, oh my, don't even get me started on his acting. in my honest opinion, he is the best actor on the show. truly underrated just like his character is!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Woman I am in love. I really have barely any comments because you summed up my love for Stefan so brilliantly.

    This- "I do not believe that he has been able to forgive himself for past deeds, for making Damon what he is. But I do believe that Stefan has learned to accept what he is. To accept that while there is a monster inside of him, there is also a man trying to do good, a man deserving love. " however, is absolutely fantastic. I think you did a brilliant job summing up Stefan and his appeal.

    ReplyDelete