The Vampire Diaries: How Katherine Pierce Overshadowed Elena Gilbert

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Chances are, if you watched The Vampire Diaries, you had a strong opinion on the show's protagonist, Elena Gilbert. 

You might have loved her, or you might have hated her, but there weren't too many viewers who fell in between. 

If you're the latter, know you're not alone.

Essentially every character on the show preferred Elena over her doppelganger, Katherine Pierce. When first watching the series at a young age, as I did, you can't help but agree. Elena is good, and Katherine is bad. Plain and simple.

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But every time you rewatch a show, you learn something new about it. And when you rewatch as an adult, you start to see it in an entirely new light. One thing that stood out, in particular, is how well rounded of a character Katherine is in comparison to Elena.

While Katherine openly admits to her selfish tendencies, Elena hides behind her own personal code of conduct.

What's that they say about the devil you know being better than the angel you don't?

The first thing we have to do is break apart the unrealistic idolization that almost every human, or supernatural creature, has for Elena. 

elena 2

Sure, she gives out giant hugs and tries to martyr herself instead of putting up a fight, but does that make her the saint everyone believes she is?

Yes, Elena has lost an insane amount of people. Yes, it's terrible and we feel for her. But why is Elena the show's victim when everyone else has suffered just as much loss as her, if not more? Especially when their suffering was, more often than not, because of her?

You could use the excuse that she's a young girl trying to get through the grief all day long, but both Caroline and Bonnie are in the exact same boat. The only real difference is that they didn't have two Salvatore brothers ready to lay down their lives to keep them out of mortal peril. 

It seems as if every person on Earth was in love with Elena, and the most infuriating part is that we can't figure out why. 

elena and stefan

Being in love with Katherine Pierce is more believable, for reasons I'll later get to, but what is it that draws people to her doppelganger?

Elena Gilbert isn't a nice person. At all. You could say she's self-sacrificial, but nice? Not even a little bit. 

All Elena does is spit out insults and hold her friends to the standards she created. It's hard to watch all these fantastic characters fall at the feet of someone who treats them so poorly. 

For the most part, Elena believes she can do no wrong. Because she's a "good" person, she'll decide if something is morally acceptable or not. 

elena 3

Don't believe me? Take The Vampire Diaries Season 2 Episode 3, for example. After Damon killed Jeremy, which is a whole other debacle, Elena decided to cut Damon out of her life. 

When someone tries to kill your brother, it's understandable to get out of the friendship. So, it should've ended there, right? Wrong. 

Elena needed Damon's help, so she manipulated him into thinking she'd forgive him if he did what she asked. Funnily enough, Elena had just preached to Damon moments beforehand that "friends don't manipulate friends."

Elena: And the answer to your question, about our friendship, is yes. You have lost me forever.
Damon: But you knew that already didn't you? You used me today.
Elena: You had information about Katherine that I needed to know.
Damon: I thought friends don't manipulate friends. You and Katherine have a lot more in common than just your looks.

On top of the way she consistently uses Damon's feelings for her to get what she wants, she treats him like a person with no real emotions. Does she even need to feel bad about the way she uses Damon? Elena doesn't think so. 

elena and damon

We all know that Elena can treat Damon however she wants, and she knows it too. Even though she won't openly admit it, as is the case with most of her faults, Elena takes advantage of his love for her.

Let's not forget the time she told Damon he was a liability for finally feeling all the emotions she begged him to feel for the first two seasons. 

Unsurprisingly, she didn't even offer an apology. Instead, she made it very clear that his feelings were insignificant, and her problems were much more important. 

Elena: Hey, I called you ten times last night. We need to talk.
Damon: Sorry, I've been busy.
Elena: If you're mad at me, Damon, you need to get over it.
Damon: Oh, I'm over it.

Of course, this isn't to say that Damon's a good person, but it's to say that Elena isn't either. And it would be much less of a pressing issue if the show wasn't built around Elena's warped view of right and wrong.  

elena and damon 2

If you wanted to twist it and say that Damon deserves the way Elena treats him, despite her constantly telling him to "be the better man," then let's look at how she treats Caroline. 

After turning off her emotions, Elena tried to kill a good portion of her friends, Caroline included. Caroline put her life at risk to try and bring Elena back, despite how difficult it was proving to be. Elena wasn't herself, but after coming out of it, an apology felt like a good starting point.

However, Elena didn't think that was necessary with Caroline, either. 

Caroline: Well, what about when you said, and I quote, "You're a repulsive block-sucking control freak monster"? Did you really mean those things?
Elena: If you're waiting for an apology then you're not going to get one. I can't let myself feel bad, because if I feel bad, then I feel everything.

Sorry if it's too upsetting for you to admit you did something wrong, Elena, but imagine how upsetting it must have been for Caroline when you tried to kill her.

elena and caroline

Starting on The Vampire Diaries Season 1 Episode 1, Elena and Bonnie treated Caroline more like an annoying little sister than a friend. While Bonnie grew out of it relatively quickly, it almost seemed as if Elena enjoyed keeping Caroline on the outside. 

Caroline: Who's Emily?
Bonnie: The ghost.
Caroline: Oh, the ghost has a name now?
Elena: Caroline, please.
Caroline: Okay, what's going on? Why am I not a part of this conversation? You guys do this to me all the time!

Her mother-like tendencies towards Caroline were often condescending, rather than nurturing. 

But it's Elena's relationship with Bonnie that truly exemplifies how badly Elena treated her so-called "friends." At first, the series made it appear as if Bonnie was Elena's ride or die.

That was proved untrue when she fell for the Salvatore brothers. 

elena and bonnie

Elena claims to be Bonnie's best friend, but episodes go by without the two ever interacting. If anything, Caroline was better friends with both of them. The only time Elena ever called Bonnie after the first season or two, was when she needed a witch to solve her problems. 

Bonnie loves Elena and would do anything for her, despite Elena being the source of most of her misery.

You could argue that Elena has no control over the things people do to keep her safe, but Elena does have control over how she treats her BFF. 

Bonnie had been dead for months, and Elena was so busy with Damon, she didn't even notice that something wasn't right. Shouldn't you know your best friend in the world better than that?

bonnie 1

Then again, it might be a little hard considering that Elena only ever talked to her for supernatural-related reasons. 

When Elena finally decides to go looking for Bonnie, it's not because she's worried, but because she needs her own personal witch to come and clean up her mess. 

All in all, these examples were simply proof that Elena isn't the nice person the show paints her out to be. And there are plenty more where that came from. 

But to take it one step further, there are also a variety of things that make Elena just as bad, if not worse, than most of the villains on the show. It's especially ironic given that Elena crucifies Katherine for acts that Elena isn't above doing herself. 

katherine

When watching a vampire show, what's more fun? A crazy, selfish, hilarious vampire who will do whatever it takes to survive? Or a hypocrite who constantly gives lectures about what's right and wrong? 

If this was The Good Place, none of these characters would be gaining entry. Sorry, but you're all murderers.

Because vampires are predatory in nature, it's much more entertaining to watch a vampire who tries not to let their humanity in, than one who kills and makes excuses for themselves. 

Katherine Pierce is ruthless. When her life is on the line, she'll sacrifice whoever is necessary to survive. 

Stefan: They were your friends. They were your family. And you just sold them out.
Katherine: Without blinking.

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Katherine isn't trustworthy, and she doesn't claim to be. She makes it clear that her survival comes before anything and anyone. Which, when you think about it, isn't too crazy of a notion. 

She's a vampire who doesn't want to die. Is it really all that shocking? 

Unlike Elena, Katherine didn't have someone to teach her Vampire 101. She killed herself to survive, and was forced to learn the ins and outs of vampirism on her own. No wonder she didn't have self-control. 

We all saw what Stefan was like before he had a teacher and it wasn't pretty. 

ripper stefan

To stop Elena from becoming a vampire, everyone put their lives on the line. Her biological father even died to keep her human, when they both could have lived if she was willing to accept her fate.

Even after Elena was turned, everyone went out of their way to stop the transformation with her encouragement. Which, as we know, is impossible. 

Why didn't anyone try to find a way out for Caroline? Or Bonnie's mom? Why is it only important when it's happening to Elena?

Because of her inability to accept the truth, yet again, Elena almost died for real. 

elena 1

Katherine often calls Elena out for her selfish behavior, and it's difficult not to cheer when someone finally gives Elena some cold hard truth. Katherine isn't afraid to tell it like it is, and she doesn't sugarcoat things. It's a compelling trait that many of the TVD villains have in common. 

You have everything. And it's not because you're a good little girl who deserves happiness.

Katherine

In the last few minutes of The Vampire Diaries Season 4 Episode 14, Katherine outsmarted everyone, yet again, and stole the cure from right under their noses. 

She killed Jeremy to free the cure from Silas' iron grip, and took off before anyone else even knew she was there. 

Katherine is often called a monster, but Jeremy's death is what the characters deemed as one of her most monstrous acts. 

jeremy

But no one, including Elena herself, thought Elena was a monster for the measures she took to get the cure for her own selfish reasons. 

While Katherine needed the cure to barter for her life, Elena simply didn't want to be a vampire anymore. Because she couldn't handle all the downsides of vampirism, she hatched a plan to kill Kol, an original. 

Not only was Kol someone's brother, but his death caused hundreds of thousands of vampires to die along with him. A fact Elena was well aware of. 

So, why is Katherine persecuted for killing one person for the cure, while Elena is allowed to kill a fifth of the vampire population?

elena 4

It's simple. It only counts as a crime if it negatively affects Elena Gilbert.

Anyone else sensing some favoritism?

Amongst a series about a girl everyone makes excuses for, Katherine Pierce, the villain turned antagonist, is the true show-stopper. 

Elena was still surrounded by friends and family after her parents' car accident, but Katherine lost every single person she cared about in a single night. And who could forget how her child was ripped out of her arms only seconds after giving birth?

I survived childbirth, the death of my entire family, and five-hundred years of running from an immortal hybrid. You can understand why I'm a little upset that I'm on the verge of being defeated by a sinus infection!

Katherine

katherine 3

Katherine lived a life in which loving too much could lead to death. Her family's slaughter was proof of that. 

Therefore, she did her best not to let herself get attached. If it came down to sacrificing a friend, she made sure she was perfectly willing to do so. 

Katherine: Klaus made me call Jenna to lure her out. There was nothing I could do. I didn't have a choice.
Damon: That's why I gave you the vervain, so you had a choice.
Katherine: It was her or me, I chose her.
Damon: I helped you, you owed me. Now when Klaus dies, you're going to walk out of here without a scratch, and Elena's aunt dies. Somehow you're the only one that wins, how'd that happen?
Katherine: I didn't let love get in the way.
Damon: Enjoy an eternity alone, Katherine.

There's no excuse for Katherine's selfishness, and there shouldn't be. Katherine Pierce is who she is, take it or leave it.

On rare occasions, pieces of Katherine's humanity slip through the cracks, and while they don't make her a good person, they make her an excellent character. 

statherine

Katherine knows the consequences of loving too much, but for some reason, she can't help but care. 

Rather than being free of Klaus, the vampire she spent her entire life running from, Katherine chose to help Stefan save Damon's life. 

Humanity is a vampire's greatest weakness. No matter how easy it is to turn it off, it keeps trying to fight its way back in.

Katherine

Why would Katherine save them in this instance and sacrifice them in others? Who knows?

Maybe, there's rare occasions where a piece of her humanity shakes loose before she can stop it. 

katherine 4

Katherine's character isn't inconsistent. It's unpredictable. And what's better than a character who never ceases to surprise you?

A character who doesn't fight their very nature, but tries, and fails, to fight the good inside them. 

Elena's attitude, hypocrisy, and the pedestal the show places her on, created a main character that was nothing less than exhausting. Rather than pushing the series forward, she held every character back. 

There are times where it was hard to root for either Salvatore in the love triangle, because they deserved better than the way Elena treated them. Damon and Stefan were at their best when they were focused on each other, rather than letting their love for Elena divide them. 

salvatore brothers

Katherine was one of the most incredible characters to come out of The Vampire Diaries, and she didn't need a love triangle to tell her story for her.

Despite appearing far less often than we'd hoped, Katherine overshadowed Elena in every way possible.

We'd like to give a special shoutout to Nina Dobrev for managing to play two characters who look exactly the same, but are so incredibly different. 

What do you think, TVD Fanatics? Do you agree with our opinion? 

Let us know in the comments section down below! 

And don't forget, if you haven't seen the series, you can watch The Vampire Diaries online right here at TV Fanatic. 

Rachel Foertsch is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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