Bye Bye Bonnie: The De-Evolution of TVD’s Bonnie Bennett Prt.1
(Bonnie's first appearance, season 1 episode 1, on TVD in 2009.)
The world breathed a huge sigh because the show aired for eight long seasons. But fans of Bonnie Sheila Bennett (Katerina Graham) had been holding their breath much longer for a very different reason.
It seemed Mystic Falls wasn’t an inviting place for the only WoC in the cast. And over the years, I realized it wasn’t welcome for viewers like me either. 8 seasons later, TVD managed to fail Bonnie gloriously in ways that will be discussed in depth during part 2 of this installment.
The series finale revealed the pint-sized beauty to be happy-ish and alive but just barely. A truly underwhelming ending to an arduous journey for both the character and her fans.
This week I spoke with graphic artist/writer Nisha Nair, who has made her unique contribution to the Bonnie fan community or fandom since she discovered the show. Her breathtaking art and engaging fiction often out shined their original show canon inspirations in both creativity and attention to detail.
TVD didn’t highlight Bonnie at all after sidelining and abusing her character for years. The woman was kidnapped, brainwashed, cheated on, killed multiple times, abandoned twice and was the only surviving Bennett family member left at the series end. All of this before she turned 26!
Show writers had a real opportunity to make lasting change in TV stereotypes for WoC when Bonnie, an originally white character, was cast as Black. Nair candidly spoke on how they dropped the ball throughout Bonnie’s journey.
“The writing for Bonnie has at various times fallen very neatly into almost every demeaning, racist trope you could name: she was inhumanly stoic, which allowed the narrative to dismiss her grief and pain; for most of the series she was undesired relative to her white counterparts.”
Truer words were never spoken. Caroline, Damon, Stefan, Elena and even Matt had multiple long-term suitors but not Bonnie. Her only love was found in s7 and promptly murdered in s8.
This character never caught a break, never smiled for more than a moment and was never allowed to flourish to her full potential.
Kadeen Griffith’s 2014 article titled The Vampire Diaries Killed Off Bonnie Bennett but Why Doesn’t Anyone Care sang the song of many disillusioned fans after Bonnie’s arguably most heartbreaking death in s4.
“I stopped caring a long time ago. But let's all stop trying to pin the blame on Bonnie and just admit that The Vampire Diaries just never quite knew what to do with her character.”
As a woman of color who identified with her, I can say that each time I saw her mistreatment onscreen and every single tear she shed, it felt as if I were watching myself being mistreated. And it was terrible to watch and be helpless to save Bonnie.
TVD writers’ attempt at mind-blowing finales always left Bennett blown apart in the seams of the plot and her fans forced to pick up shattered pieces of hope.
Nair said,“It’s true that a writer's goal is to affect emotion in their audience, that shock and pain have their place in a good story. But sometimes the hurt that the audience feels isn't an accomplishment. Sometimes it's just a reflection of the world we live in where maybe they didn't need one more reminder that they're viewed as unworthy of many basic dignities. Sometimes it's just hurt.”
As a fan, I agree so much my spirit is sore in all the places that Bonnie deserved better. Everywhere.
She appeared in 139 episodes and I’ve seen each one. But if you’d like to watch Bonnie’s de-evolution for yourself, here’s advice from me. Don’t. It will only make you sad.
But Nair’s sage words to potential viewers are much different.
“Question everything.” She said. “It’s easy to get swept up in the twists and turns of plot but always try to watch with a more critical eye.There is much to enjoy in this show, but don't allow that to blind you to the very real issues it has as well.”
“Also, find your niche in fandom!” She beamed. “The stories we tell and the art we create for one another are oftentimes more vibrant and demonstrate greater care for all of these characters, especially Bonnie.”
Artwork by Nisha Nair
Special Thanks to Nisha Nair
Check out Nisha’s blog