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Bonnie Bennett and the Portrayal of Black Women in Fantasy

[Spoiler Alert: This article will contain spoilers for all 8 seasons of The Vampire Diaries]


“The Vampire Diaries” (TVD) is an American drama series that aired on the CW from 2009 to 2017. The show follows a girl named Elena as she is thrust into the supernatural world after beginning a relationship with a vampire named Stefan. Over the course of eight seasons, the central cast fights off a wide variety of supernatural threats as they try to keep their loved ones and the town of Mystic Falls safe from harm. 

Whether intentional or not, “The Vampire Diaries” created painfully strict guidelines in the context of race and supernatural identity. For the first couple of seasons of “TVD”, the only witches we see are Black, and the only Black supernatural creatures are witches. In “The Vampire Diaries” world, witches are somehow both the most and least powerful supernatural beings. They are often played as a trump card of sorts, every powerful vampire having a witch on their side to achieve their goals. In fact, every vampire who has the ability to walk in the sunlight has required the assistance of a witch at some point or another. The witches are supposedly known for staying out of vampire business; we see that even the most average of witches have the ability to take down the other supernaturals, and yet somehow the witches are so easily manipulated into doing the vampires’ dirty work. Witches in this world are either feared or manipulated and when the vast majority of witches are Black women (and the vast majority of Black women are witches), the message this implies is painfully clear. The Black women who maintain their autonomy are something to be afraid of, and they only become people of value when they’re subservient to their (often) white counterparts.

This is especially true for Bonnie Bennett, the only prominent Black woman on the entire show. Not only is she the singular Black person of the show’s main cast, but she’s also the only character of color as well. Bonnie is a descendent of a long line of powerful witches and often the solution for any major problem the group has. Anyone who has watched the show knows that Bonnie seems to constantly sacrifice herself for the sake of others. She loses her grandmother while trying to save the others, her mom is forcefully turned into a vampire to save the others, she loses her magic multiple times as the witches punish her for helping the others, and she dies (twice) while trying to save the others. And yet, we never see the others sacrifice themselves for Bonnie. The closest we get is Damon choosing to “let” Bonnie live out her life instead of killing her simply to get Elena back. 

In terms of character development, Bonnie’s personal life is portrayed as one of the least relevant to the show. Most of Bonnie’s boyfriends are temporary side characters who leave after a few episodes, and neither of her long term relationships are with any of the show’s “leading men.” First Bonnie dates Elena’s younger brother Jeremy (and she is the only character to date someone younger), and they have very few moments when they’re actually allowed to be happy. Either Jeremy is (temporarily) dead or Bonnie is (also temporarily) dead, or some other obstacle appears, until the actor who plays Jeremy eventually leaves the show, leaving Bonnie alone. Bonnie’s other significant partner, Enzo, is only introduced during the fifth season, and the relationship is given no build-up. In season seven, their relationship begins suddenly when we see them together in a flash-forward scene and are briefly given context later on. On-screen, the relationship itself is short-lived, as Enzo is killed off about a season later. And while romantic relationships are in no way required for a character’s development, “TVD” is a show almost entirely focused around relationships, and for Bonnie’s to be underdeveloped is nearly impossible to ignore. 

While several characters on “The Vampire Diaries” have a less-than-happy ending, Bonnie’s ending is probably the most frustrating of all. We see this character who has already lost so much sacrifice herself yet again to save everyone, dying in the process. Her storyline cannot be separated from the fact that she is a Black woman because it is a storyline we have seen so many times before. We see Black women organize massive social change only to be ignored by the same people they’ve given everything to try and protect. Black women are essentially nonexistent in romance movies and novels, and their personal lives are never as important as their non-Black counterparts. Bonnie Bennett deserved a happy ending. Black women deserve happy endings, and happy beginnings, and everything in between.

Taelor Daugherty

Agnes Scott '22

Taelor Daugherty is an English Literature-Creative Writing major at Agnes Scott College. She plans either go into media-related journalism or into the film and television industry as a screenwriter.
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