Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Vampire Diaries: Ordinary People

Halloween special coming up later in the week (plus more Halloween goodness in store from Den of Geek and Billie Doux), but I'm getting in the mood early...

Yes, I have found a new vampire show, just in time for Halloween. It has a boring, broody vampire, a sexy, snarky vampire, a slightly dull, holier-than-thou heroine, some cheerleaders, a witch, a werewolf or two and some laboured metaphorical representations of real-world issues. BUT - the boring vampire is the blond and the sexy vampire is the brunette. It's a totally different world.

'Ordinary People' amused me because it hits so many of classic elements of pop cultural representations of archaeologists and archaeology. We have:

a high school history teacher who's an expert in Viking script and language*
...and who is able expertly to analyse an archaeological site just by wandering around with a torch for a day or two.
The cave paintings reveal a secret that's been kept for a thousand years
...but that, for some reason, the perpetrator decided to immortalise in a cave painting...
(in a cave vampires can't get into, but I'm not even going to worry about that)
...which everyone accepts as absolute truth without questioning it...
...because in pop culture, if someone says it, it might be a lie - but if they paint it on a wall it's true.
*this is because Alaric is Giles, but sexier and with more alcohol.

As well as these interesting misconceptions about how archaeology works, there were some historical howlers in here:

I don't what 'Viking script' this is meant to be, but I'm pretty sure the whole point of runes is that they have no curves, to make them easier to carve. There's no way 'R' or 'B' should look like that.

On the subject of 'Rebecca,' 'Esther,' 'Elijah' and 'Rebecca' are ancient Biblical names, i.e. Hebrew/Semitic names. No Viking would have those names. 'Mikael' and 'Niklaus' might sound more Germanic, but 'Micheal' and 'Nicholas' are anglicised versions of Greek names, so Vikings shouldn't be called that either. I've no idea what 'Kol' is meant to be. 'Finn' could actually be a Viking. Possibly. (They should have just called them all Eric and had done with it).

I don't think the Vikings went in for cave paintings.

I'm not even going near the Vikings-in-America thing - though Virginia seems a bit far south for that  particular theory.

Why would Vikings have English accents?!

(The Salvatores can't pronounce their own name either. It's Italian, it should be Sal-va-tor-AY!).

None of this really matters, as it's not that sort of show. This is a teen soap opera in which, oddly, the love interests do even more morally reprehensible things than anyone in True Blood and it's not here to be historically analysed. (I was chatting with Crazy Cris from over at Here, There and Everywhere the other day, and we were discussing whether or not this show kills off more main characters than Game of Thrones - but we had to stop because I'm still only at the beginning of A Dance with Dragons. We can pick it up again when I've finished A Song of Ice and Fire!).

The trouble is, I think Charlaine Harris has given me unreasonable expectations when it comes to historical accuracy in vampire fiction. Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series may be faintly ridiculous in many ways, but she always does her research and she writes her vampires with a real sense of the period they come from and of making them feel like genuinely old characters. She even had a quick guide to Latin pronunciation in one of her books. So I suppose I've come to expect a bit too much from my historical vampires.

Of course, I'm mostly just frustrated that, if the original vampires were Vikings, that means the show's never going to feature a Roman vampire and I won't get any more blog posts out of it!

No prizes for guessing why I decided to give this show a second chance.

The Vampire Diaries is cheesy and occasionally nonsensical but I'm enjoying it enormously, largely for the usual, obvious reasons. I also appreciate Damon and Alaric's love of whiskey - Damon Salvatore must be the only vampire on television who drinks more whiskey than he does blood. Which just makes him even more awesome. (By the way, the show is on Monday evenings over here at the moment, so please don't mention the latest episode in the comments until Tuesday!)


  1. When you've finished Dance of Dragons we should both put together a list of who dies in those books and this show and figure out where our tally diverges! But like I said, it's probably our difference of opinion as to who is a major character or not! ;o)

    Damon Salvatore is also the reason I gave this show a second (and third) chance, until I was hooked with the lot of them! The reason for the name mispronunciation has to do with a change from the books! (which, again, I insist: DO NOT READ!) In the books the Salvatores are from the Italian Renaissance!!! Katerina was (as here) a visitor to their family home who happened to be a vampire... I don't remember when they made it over to America and why Mystic Falls. In the series they're a "Founding Family" so after couple hundred years the pronunciation of the name would have become Anglicized (you should hear how A LOT of US family or city names are pronounced compared to they "should" be per their Spanish or French origin!) :p

    Rick and Damon, best drinking buddies ever! :D

    And hey, perhaps Bonnie will do some spells in Latin and that will give you another "in" for the blog! :o)

    I'm watching them in step with the US, so I don't know where you guys are at in the UK...

  2. That's a good point, Bonnie's spells are Latin! Just have to see if she does anything particularly interesting with it (I think I've run out of things to say on the general topic of 'spells are in Latin'!).

    We're only a few days behind the US - season 4 ep 3 will be on tomorrow evening.

    1. Good! I originally wrote "*sob* Rick!" in my comment but changed it as I wasn't sure if you'd passed that yet. (and yeah, I'd count him as a major character)

    2. I know! The first eps I saw after the pilot were the ones about EvilVampireRic and his death - so I've spent the whole thing thinking of him much the same way I think about Cedric Diggory, as this fabulous, sexy, doomed, tragic character!

  3. Actually the runes are passable. The R is a little funny and ought to be more triangular, but you could put that down to poor carving or something. The names, on the other hand, are inexcusable. Even Finn is a bit dubious. Sure there's a Frisian king in Beowulf, but my first reaction is that it's Irish. (At least it isn't Finn-Luca like half the boys under 8 here in Germany these days; it's an awful combination that drives me nuts.) Kol sounds like Coll, which I thought might be Welsh, but seems to only come from Lloyd Alexander. Couldn't they have just picked up an Icelandic phone book or something?

    1. Irish! That's where I've heard the name 'Finn.' Yep, none of them are remotely Viking. I think (not having caught up on all of the show yet) that they came up with the concept of original vampires first, gave them Hebrew names, probably intending to have an origin story relating to the Bible or at least to the ancient near east. Then they decided later that they needed them to come from Mystic Falls, making the only options Native Americans, Pilgrims (not early enough) or Vikings, and they went for Vikings. Except that doesn't really explain Klaus/Niklaus, unless they were actually aware that it's a Greek name, and/or wanted to name him after St Nicholas. I hope it's the latter, I like to think of Klaus as evil Father Christmas.

  4. I've avoided the series thus far out of an anti-Twilight reaction (same with True Blood), and I suspect, just from reading this, that I'd be completely lost if I jumped in and started watching it now!

    1. Yeah that's very true - I started with the end of season 3 and just went 'I have no idea what's going on but hey, sexy vampires!'

      I wouldn't suggest avoiding True Blood because of Twilight though - the two have almost nothing in common. Even the fact the male leads on both drink blood isn't much of a link (since Edward Cullen eats deer and the True Blood guys variously drink synthetic blood or people!). I would never tell someone to watch something that doesn't interest them, and if lots blood and sex (and often a female gaze) isn't your thing then do avoid True Blood - but don't avoid it because of Twilight. That'd be like avoiding Return of the Jedi because you don't like Care Bears.

      (Sorry, I got carried away - I got really annoyed last spring when magazine after magazine kept comparing The Hunger Games to Twilight when literally the only thing they have in common is that both happen to include a teen love triangle - otherwise they're totally different things!)


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