In a fairly inoffensive, if silly, roundtable discussion post on AfterElton about The CW’s brilliant, The Vampire Diaries, this jumped out at me:
There’s yet to be much of a gay presence on the show. (Sorry folks, Caroline’s deceased Dad doesn’t cut it). Do you think a gay vamp making all sorts of snappy one-liners about the pretty boys in Mystic Falls would be a good thing?
Robyn Ross: I love that the show often blissfully ignores race, ethnicity, etc. because these kids have a lot more to worry about than those kinds of social issues. But sexual orientation (and sex in general) is such a huge part of the show that I think taking on a handsome gay vampire could add a lot to the mix. And let’s be honest, the banter between him and Damon would be priceless.
Because race and ethnicity are “social issues” one has to “worry about?” Wait…what?
Race and ethnicity should be central to creating character, particularly if you’re going to have a diverse cast, as The Vampire Diaries does. And so this is the one area of the show that drives me fucking crazy.
Bonnie, one of the all-powerful Bennett witches
I mean, this is a show that is set in Virginia, with frequent flashbacks to antebellum South and constant celebrations of antebellum Southern culture that conspicuously sidesteps the fact that that period was defined by American chattel slavery. This is a show that nearly always casts black actors to play witches but provides no mythological reason for this even though it’s clear that the producers are consciously deciding to always. every. single. time. cast a black actor as a witch.
Not even for the Bennett witches, who are central to the show’s mythology.
But here’s the thing? The vampire Katherine Pierce, who is also central to the show’s mythology played by lead actress Nina Dobrev, is Bulgarian because Dobrev is Bulgarian and speaks the language fluently.
The show’s producers are aware enough of Dobrev’s ethnicity to not only reference it in the show, but also make use of it (via Dobrev speaking the language in flashbacks), but there can be no indication in the show at all that the black actors are playing black characters with history, ethnicity and perspective.
In other words, race and ethnicity aren’t ignored, blissfully or otherwise. Just blackness.