April 6-7, 2024
We can all see a little bit of ourselves in anti-heroes, in the times we’d rather act selfishly than for any ‘greater good’ or create a hard exterior in order to protect ourselves, and a character who embodies these traits expertly is The Vampire Diaries’ Damon Salvatore, played by Supa-Star Ian Somerhalder.
Damon’s introduction, greeting his brother Stefan with the very same words the series would ultimately end on, clad in black, with his sadistic attitude and quotable one-liners, gave us absolutely no reason to trust him, or believe that there was any room left for love or humanity in his heart, so why did we stay so invested in his arc?
The main reason, beyond our natural curiosity, and his powerful, chiselled jawline, was empathy. Sure, we were still rooting for Stefan, given that he’s the protagonist, but beyond that, our brains were telling us that Damon was a Rubik’s Cube of complexity, and our brains love to unravel a puzzle.
Through the perspective of Elena, we got a better look into Damon’s character. Despite years of abuse from his father, being toyed with by Katherine, his brother Stefan, and even his own mother, Elena was the one who saw some potential for humanity in him.
No scene makes this clearer than the confrontation between Katherine and Damon in episode one of season two. Even after everything she’s put him through, he wants so badly to be the one who gets chosen, that he’s willing to put all of their history behind him.
A lot of people will be able to relate to Damon’s struggle, always searching for his own self-worth in other people. This is what makes the redemption arc of Damon’s character so satisfying, and why we sympathise with him.
Ultimately though, despite Damon’s actions coming from a place of love, he still draws the short straw in the show. For every moment he gets that truly shows his humanity, he’ll get two more that show we were right not to trust him at first.
But really, that’s part of what makes the anti-hero so exciting, the unpredictable. Heroes are boring, anti-heroes keep you on your toes! You never know if they’re friend or foe, or whether they’re gonna turn around at any moment to stab our hero in the back!
But in the end, we love Damon because he defied our expectations, because he proved he had a conscience and a human side, and he proved it through his actions. The strength and compassion it took for him to sacrifice himself to save not only Mystic Falls, but his brother too, a character he should have no love for, who we don’t expect Damon to fight for. And he did it without hesitation, and not because he’s the hero who has to, because he’s the anti-hero who chose to, and that, is way cooler.