When Will Vampire Diaries Co-Creator Julie Plec Acknowledge the Horrible Treatment of Bonnie Bennett?
Julie Plec is an American television producer, writer, and director known for The Vampire Diaries and its spinoff shows, The Originals and Legacies. Plec is working on on a new vampire product, an adaptation of the book series Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (a series I absolutely read as a teenager) for NBC’s Peacock streaming service. Playing the show’s lead, Rose Hathaway, is Sisi Stringer (Mortal Kombat). With a Black woman leading her upcoming series, it is as good a time as any to discuss Julie Plec’s track record on Black characters, especially Bonnie Bennett.
Kat Graham played Bonnie Bennett on The Vampire Diaries, a character that was a descendent of powerful Black witches. The Vampire Diaries took place in the South, in the fictional Mystic Falls, Virginia—a change from the book which made Damon Salvatore, one of our male vampire leads, a soldier who fought for the Confederacy, something that is never really dealt with on the show.
Katherine Pierce is introduced in the series during flashbacks, and her servant, Emily Bennett, is Bonnie’s ancestor. They call Emily a servant, but it is very clear that is their way of avoiding the issue of slavery—an issue they created.
Emily would be the first of many Black witches forced into Magical Negro positions for the majority of the white cast. Bonnie would constantly be gone for episodes, show up to help the white characters, and then be gone again.
Her relationships, familial and romantic, would be the least explored through the course of the series, save for her enemies-to-friends relationship with Damon.
On The Originals, the spinoff series that focused on the ancient vampire family the Mikaelsons, it is established that Klaus Mikaelson adopted a Black son named Marcel, who was born enslaved to a Black mother and white slave-owning father.
While this is part of his backstory, the racial dynamics of that and his relationship as the upstart to his adoptive father is never understood. The fact that his adoptive family never fully accepts him, except when he bends the knee, is treated as vampire politics as usual—ignoring the racial discrimination that is very much the glaring subtext of this dynamic.
It is a level of incompetent racial writing that I wouldn’t expect of someone who has been creating for so many shows. Yet, it has been something that Plec did so blatantly and without correction, despite fans of color discussing this.
But then again, Black fans were never really appreciated in the fandom.
Do I think Julie Plec is racist? I have no idea. What I can say is that her work has contained a bias that Black fans have loudly and consistently called out for years. Her treatment of Bonnie on The Vampire Diaries and the writing around Marcel in The Originals were gross.
While Legacies has a diverse cast, the fact that she is behind it at all stopped me from watching it for years. Even when I gave in and started watching it during a flight, the whole time I was on edge because of my relationship with her series and its treatment of Black people.
I don’t see her casting a Black lead and think “wow, she’s changed” because I have yet to see her actually address the issues that Black fandom has brought up. Even recently, when she brought up why Bonnie and Damon even ended up together, she said, “Bonnie and Damon had a thing in the books. We had sort of always said, ‘We don’t buy a romantic connection between Bonnie and Damon because Damon’s just done too many terrible things and Bonnie just has more integrity than that,’ but we wanted to service that relationship in the canon a little bit.”
Beyond the fact that this explanation essentially says that Elena Gilbert is a bad person of low moral character for marrying (and having children with) Damon, it ignores why people were interested in Bamon. Not only was it in the books and the actors/characters had great chemistry, but Bonnie was also never given a top-tier love interest in the series that she deserved.
Meanwhile, Caroline could date every lead man in the cast. It reeked of bias, and on a CW show where having a love interest of merit impacts your relationship to the plot, it relegated Bonnie to a second-stringer. Her biggest relationship happened offscreen during a three-year time skip!
Before anyone starts, I don’t want to “cancel” Julie Plec, but these complaints of racism about her writing, especially for Bonnie, are frankly not new and have been a part of her legacy for over a decade of working in this franchise. It is something that needs to be addressed, especially since she’s been called out enough times to speak on it.
(via Deadline, image: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for The Environmental Media Association)
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]