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The Vampire Diaries -- Why Damon Is A Better Character Than Stefan
I've seen many Stefan fans complaining because Ian Somerhalder who plays Damon on The Vampire Diaries is always getting nominated for things while Paul Wesley who plays Stefan doesn't get that many nods. I haven't said the reason I think that's happening, because I'm sure they'd vehemently disagree. But I think the reason is Damon is just a better character than Stefan is.
I've pointed out to many Stefan fans, who refuse to admit it's the truth, that's there's a real inequality to the way the writers write the Stefan character and the way they write the Damon character. In short, what Stefan can get away with without even a slap on the wrist, Damon can't.
An example of that was when Damon forced his blood down Elena's throat in 2.20 so she wouldn't die when Klaus sacrificed her on his blood alter and in 3.11 when Stefan shoved blood down Elena's throat and threatened to drive her off the same bridge she and her parents had driven off that has caused her parents death to make sure Klaus couldn't use her to make any more of his hybrids. Damon had to be dying to get forgiven for what he did, but Elena forgave Stefan two seconds later when he said he lost her when he left town. He even left her stranded on the spot her parents died and nobody said boo to him about what he did.
While that type of writing may be great if you're a Stefan fan that can't stand anyone saying anything bad about your boy or for anyone to treat him badly, it isn't the way to create a great character. Watching a character suffer the consequences for their actions helps the character to grow and evolve. It makes the character deeper and richer. It makes a character become three-dimensional and real. Stefan getting a free pass for his actions and never called on them has kept him a one dimensional character.
The Boys Pasts As Humans
It's hard to say who Stefan was as a human. He's pretty nondescript. It doesn't help for a lot of the 1864 flashbacks he was under mind control. He seemed to love Damon, but by his own present-day admission he didn't care if it hurt Damon him going to the dance with Katherine, all he cared was having what he wanted. He had no problem betraying Damon: he did it when he didn't care Damon wanted to go to the dance with Katherine or breaking his promise to Damon not to go to their father about Katherine being a vampire. He knew how Giuseppe felt about vampires, but he thought because he was in love with one, that would change Giuseppe's mind about them. It suggests he was used to his father giving him what he wanted and he was more than a bit spoiled. And keeping in his father's good graces seemed to be more important to him than saving the life of the woman he claimed to love. When his father demanded Stefan go get the men who would take Katherine away to her death, he did it. And when Damon vowed to never forgive Stefan for breaking his word to him, Stefan offered to help Damon save Katherine to get back into Damon's good graces. But the question is would Stefan had even tried to save Katherine on his own? Damon would have, but would Stefan?
Damon, on the other hand, is more clearly defined. He's someone who loves deeply and passionately and there isn't much he won't do for love. He deserted the army for love. He even decided to become a vampire for love. And when Katherine was being taken away he tried to stop them, even to having a face-off with his father.
After they were killed by Giuseppe for trying to save Katherine, Damon was so devastated by her death he was refusing to complete his transformation into becoming a vampire. While Stefan really didn't seem all that upset about Katherine's death. Just like he didn't seem to feel all that awful about killing his father and feeding on him. He also brought a girl in front of Damon and opened a vein so Damon would feed on her not because he didn't want Damon to die, but by his own admission because he didn't want to be alone.
The Boys Lives As Vampires
As a vampire, Stefan liked blood a little too much. To the point when he feeds on someone he ends up cutting their heads off. It's how he got the moniker The Ripper. But they've never really done an in-depth exploration of just why Stefan is a ripper. Supposedly, becoming a vampire amplifies what was always there inside you as a human. So that suggests there was something in human Stefan's personality that made him become a ripper as a vampire. And that's one fact that has been brushed over as in the most recent Salvatore Brothers Flashback the show tried to say Damon was to blame for him becoming The Ripper. If the show did an honest exploration of why Stefan really became a ripper it could give the character some much-needed development and depth, but it might also tarnish the golden boy gleam the show insists Stefan has.
Damon deserted Stefan when Lexi appeared on the scene and he could no longer tolerate Stefan's reckless blood-sucking ways. Damon spent the next forty-some years being faithful to Katherine. Then he met up with a vampire named Sage that encouraged him to embraced the pleasurable side of being a vampire. But all through that he never forgot Katherine or ever stopped loving her. When he finally came back to Mystic Falls he was determined to find a way to rescue Katherine from the tomb so they could be reunited and live out their vampire lives together. Only when he did open the tomb he found out it had all been a lie, and Katherine had been alive all those years he'd been missing her and trying to find a way to rescue her, and she'd never come to him, once. When Damon was finally reunited with Katherine she told him she never loved him and it was always Stefan.
As vampire back-stories go, Damon's is better. We watched him doing anything he had to to open that tomb and save Katherine only to watch his devastation when he discovered it had all been a lie and Katherine was alive and well and off living the life while he'd been loving her all those years. Then we watched Damon further devastated when Katherine told him to his face that he basically wasted 145 years of his life loving someone who didn't love him back. That he died for someone who didn't love him back. That he gave up his human existence and became a vampire for someone who never even loved him. And that's the type of a story that endears a character to the viewing audience.
Which brings us to...
Always Being The Chosen One Doesn't Endear You To The Audience
Neither does having people falling at your feet telling you how wonderful you are. It began with Emily Bennett declaring that Stefan's curse was to have a pure heart. How is that even a curse? And how can you say someone who has done the things Stefan has [killing his father, slaughtering countless people] be called having a pure heart. Emily, however, didn't have any sweet words for Damon about how he was cursed with a pure heart. Her words to Damon were to lie to him that Katherine was trapped in the tomb and wring a promise from him to protect her precious family line. Then when it came time to deliver on her promise to help open the tomb, she double-crossed Damon.
Lexi was the next Stefan groupie to show up on the scene. She just had one glance at him and dedicated her life helping him kick his blood habit. While she treated Damon like he was something that crawled out from under a rock, always putting him down the same way Stefan loves to, when all Damon ever did to her was to ask her to look after his brother. Damon ended up killing her and she wanted to know why when it happened. Damon should have answered, "For being a total bitch to me when I never did a damn thing to you."
Damon even had the pleasure of being rejected by the Doppelganger twins, Katherine and Elena, in one episode saying the same thing to him, "It'll never be you, it'll always be Stefan." Always being the one who is chosen and the one who is loved doesn't endear you to the audience. Watching a character suffer losses helps to endear you to the audience. It's a big part of the reason a great portion of the audience isn't endeared to Stefan.
To be honest, Stefan has always come off to me as a rather cold fish whose emotions just don't run that deep. A remark Katherine made about herself in regards to the brothers, kind of fits the brothers to a tee. Damon is the brother who loves too deeply, while Stefan is the brother that doesn't love deeply enough. He had a choice between saving the woman he loved or doing what someone told him to do that could cost said woman her life, and he opted to go with what someone told him to do. His father told him to get the men that would take Katherine away to her presumable death and he did it. And Elena told Stefan to save Matt and leave her behind in the car where she would drown and he did what she told him to do.
While Damon has a great love in Katherine, despite what the show claims about Elena being Stefan's great love, it really doesn't come off as that. And that's yet another problem with Stefan's character. The show sells Stefan as being so in love with Elena, but his actions don't back up what the show is trying to sell.
The Good Brother
Stefan has actually introduced himself like that on a few occasions, like when he introduced himself to Mason Lockwood. Unfortunately, his actions don't match his claims. While Damon seems to be the one person Stefan actually has some kind of deep emotions for, the only time you can tell he actually loves Damon is when Damon's life is in danger. Otherwise, pretty much every word out of his mouth to Damon is an insult. He seems to get immense pleasure in putting Damon down and making him feel like he's nothing compared to Stefan.
Again, this is an area where a greater exploration on why Stefan behaves that way to Damon is warranted. There's been a few petty comments Stefan has made to others that suggests that he may feel inferior to Damon and the only way he can feel superior is by making Damon feel inferior. And again, the writers probably will never do it because it would tarnish the image they're trying to sell Stefan as. Which is a pity, as it could add some much needed depth to the Stefan character.
Bottom line is Damon is a more popular and more loved character because the writers have done an honest exploration of his character. They don't feel the need for Damon to always come out on top or to be the one who gets chosen and it's endeared Damon to the hearts of the audience. A recent story described Damon as the heart and soul of the show and he is, because no other character on the show gets put through the emotional wringer the way Damon does.
The rigid guidelines, for lack of a better word, that this show has put down when writing for Stefan, is what holds him back from being a truly great character in his own right. And it's why he isn't as good of a character as Damon is and why he isn't as popular.