By: Kristen Carter

Now that The Vampire Diaries has ended, I have some time to reflect on what it means to me.

I saw the trailer and was immediately captivated. It reminded me of Twilight because of the palpable teenage angst, and the two lead actors looked similar to Bella and Edward. Looking back, I can see why it was so important to me. I grew with the characters. When I began the series, I was the same age as the main character, and it ended with her as a twenty-something trying to figure life out.

The Vampire Diaries had many flaws, but its biggest flaw was that Bonnie Bennett never got her due. From the very beginning, the series wronged her. In the earlier seasons of The Vampire Diaries, we never got to see Bonnie’s home life, her interactions with her parents, or what she did outside of being a gofer for Elena Gilbert.

In the first season, Bonnie discovered her magic and tried to figure out where she belonged in the supernatural world. Because she had trouble controlling her magic, she went to her Grams for guidance. Their relationship was powerful and loving, and it could have been a crucial part of her characterization, except the show killed her before she could do any mentoring. Following her grandmother’s death, Bonnie vanished from the series for a few episodes only to return as a character in touch with her magic. It was an empowering set of scenes and gave me hope that Bonnie would take her place as one of the series’ stars.

Unfortunately, by the second season, there was a reversal on Bonnie’s empowerment. She got bullied and pushed around by vampires while simultaneously being reduced to a lackey for Elena. Mostly everything she went through in the series—including the death of her grandmother–was to help Elena. Throughout the season, we saw Bonnie preparing to fight an Original, Klaus Mikaelson. Before we could see that happen, Bonnie admitted to Jeremy that she was willing to die if it meant she could save Elena and Mystic Falls. At that moment, Bonnie descended from being a best friend to being a magical negro. She cared for everyone else but herself and didn’t have an ounce of self-preservation. The show reinforced a dangerous narrative, one in which Bonnie existed to help Elena and one where she would gladly die for her. In the episode “The Last Dance,” Bonnie “dies” and yet her death centered around Elena.

Throughout the series, that narrative continued, and Bonnie kept lending a helping hand to her “friends.” In the third season, we had our first visit from Grams ghost. Although she died, she was still determined to help Bonnie. Those moments felt far, and few because we didn’t get to see Grams as much as I hoped we would. Then we met another member of the Bennett family, Abby Bennett Wilson. We finally met Bonnie’s absentee mother who left when she was five years old. Despite that revelation, it felt cheapened by the fact that Bonnie only decided to search for her, so that she could help her friends kill Klaus.

A disgusting pattern emerged, and it illustrated that Bonnie couldn’t have anything for herself, not even her magic. Everything up to that point had benefited Elena Gilbert or another white character. As a young Black woman, I held out hope that things would change for the better. To see someone as powerful as Bonnie Bennett, a witch who could fight Klaus Mikaelson, reduced to being her best friend’s servant hurt immensely and I wondered if they were ever going to show someone doing the same for her.

In a small way, the fourth season took a departure from the status quo. Bonnie started to experiment with dark magic. Initially, it was done to help Elena avoid transitioning from a human to a vampire, and Bonnie somewhat flipped the script on the other characters. The story arc illustrated a lot of issues we didn’t know Bonnie had. While fans were dying for Bonnie to get a mentor, it seemed like our prayers finally had been answered. However, it left a lot to be desired. It seemed like Bonnie was so desperate for a mentor that she accepted the first person that came along and said all the right things. We later learned that Shane was using Bonnie to revive his long dead wife. She trusted him, and he used her, just like everyone else in her life.

Furthermore, Bonnie felt slighted by her father when he told her that she needed help. She assured him that she could use her gifts to protect the town. Later, Bonnie renounced the spirits and was fed up with being tied to them. Once again, she went above and beyond to help Elena and Jeremy–even though her mother and father came together to help cleanse her of Expression. Because Bonnie decided to help Elena (and Jeremy by extension), she suffered the consequences. She tried and succeeded in bringing Jeremy back from the dead, but not without a price. She exhausted herself and paid the ultimate price–with her life.

Sadly, Bonnie’s second death wasn’t about her either; it was about how the loss would affect her friends. She attended her graduation as a corporeal ghost and decided not to tell anyone because she didn’t want them to know that she was dead. She asked Jeremy to lie and tell the others that she went to stay with her mother for the summer. Even in death, Bonnie was willing to focus on her friend’s feelings and well-being instead of her own. She said that she would be okay because she had Grams and the other witches. She was just happy that Jeremy was alive and well.

Her story arc in the fourth season gave us some insight into the mind of Bonnie Bennett. Bonnie believed and saw herself as the protector of Mystic Falls. She seemed slighted when her father wanted to implement more rules so that he could better protect Mystic Falls. Also, Bonnie didn’t place much value on her life. I felt as though she connected her self-worth to what she could do for her friends and that explained why she was always game to help them, even though they never reciprocated on the same level.

Fortunately, the charade didn’t last too long. By the fifth season, the Mystic Falls gang became aware that Bonnie was dead and they decided to hold a memorial. On the surface, it seemed touching, however, if you went deeper, it was all about the others and how they felt when it should have been about Bonnie. They reflected on their memories of Bonnie Bennett, and she gave them a few heartfelt words about how it wasn’t their fault.

The Mystic Falls gang found a way to bring Bonnie back from the dead but not without a price. We got to see Bonnie attend college, though we have no idea what she was interested in or majored in, unlike Elena and Caroline. In addition to seeing Bonnie go through college, we also witness her suffering in a way we hadn’t seen before. Because Bonnie can’t come back from the dead without consequences, we later found out what it means to be the anchor. As the anchor to the Other Side, when supernatural creatures die, they have to go through Bonnie. For years, we had seen Bonnie suffer in many ways, but none as painful as that. It seemed like Bonnie had to let supernatural creatures pass every day. Initially, she told no one but Jeremy, and he showed concern, whereas her friends didn’t. At that point, she accepted it and decided it was manageable because at least she was alive.

Later in the season, we learned that the Other Side was imploding on itself. With that hanging over her head, the gang assigned Bonnie game plan duties. Damon hounded and threatened her as if it wasn’t her life on the line too. Which further demonstrated the pressure they placed upon Bonnie Bennett. In addition to being the only woman of color in the series, they made her the magic negro, protector of the gang and Mystic Falls.

The sixth season quickly picked off where the last season left, and we learned that Bonnie and Damon were alive but located in a mysterious dimension. Luckily season six gave us something new by pairing Bonnie and Damon together.

Bonnie’s biggest story arc was escaping the 1994 prison world. Her relationship with Damon grew and deepened, and we saw a dynamic that we haven’t seen in a long time. Unfortunately, this was also the same season where Bonnie unwillingly had her life tethered to Elena’s. While Elena was in a magically induced coma, a la Sleeping Beauty, she would only awaken when Bonnie died and stayed dead.

With Elena out of the picture, Bonnie was allowed to be front and center in season seven. The flash-forwards revealed that Bonnie and Enzo were a couple. She briefly became a huntress and then a magicless human. During that period, the show tried to sell us on Bonnie and Enzo’s love, but it didn’t feel real because there was no buildup. We never got to see what Bonnie saw in Enzo. However, that was the first relationship in which we kind of get to see Bonnie be sexual. Before, they often portrayed Bonnie as a desexualized young woman while Elena and Caroline got to be in control of their sexuality. Although she was with Jeremy, it felt more like a puppy love situation, and that may stem from the two-year age gap between them.

I felt as though the writers put her in last minute relationships that nobody cared about because the writers never made us care (except Jeremy). And if anyone was ever interested in Bonnie, in the end, they were only using her for their own devices (see her relationships with Ben, Luka, and Shane). The Bonnie/Jeremy relationship introduced in the second season was supposed to mark a new path for Bonnie, but it didn’t.

In the final season, we see Bonnie, Caroline, and Stefan doing everything they could do to get Damon and Enzo back. However, only Bonnie cared for Enzo, so she figured out that she had to fight for him. Throughout the final season, everything that Bonnie did was for someone else (except Enzo). It wasn’t until Enzo died that Bonnie’s magic resurfaced. From that point on she was determined to find a way to bring Enzo back to life. And if she couldn’t do it, she would gladly die to be with him.

In the series finale, Bonnie protected Mystic Falls from Katherine and the hell fire she wanted to unleash on the town. And her ancestors joined in to help Bonnie complete the task. Even in death, her ancestors were still protecting Mystic Falls. Once more the show drove home the narrative that Bonnie Bennett’s sole purpose on the series was to help and serve the white characters around her even if it was detrimental to her or her family. It’s extremely problematic because she was the only woman of color on the show that was there day in and day out.

As a result, she never was treated the same as Elena or Caroline. We never got to see what her home life was like or the full extent of her dynamic with her parents. We didn’t get to see her dress up and attend the same events Elena and Caroline attended–such as the Mikaelson’s Ball or participate in Miss Mystic Falls pageant–even though young ladies who aren’t a part of the founding families are allowed to participate. From the beginning, they desexualized her, and no one desired her like Elena or Caroline. The show waited entirely too long to present her with people who cared for her as she cared for them. I found Bonnie Bennett’s treatment telling. Especially, when you compare Bonnie’s treatment to that of her peers, Elena and Caroline.

I believe The Vampire Diaries could have fixed their problem with Bonnie Bennett during the fourth season. I know some say it should happen sooner, but I will quickly explain. I think that season four would have been the perfect season for them to course correct because it was also the same season in which she began to experiment with dark magic. She was fed up with all the pressure everyone put on her–including the spirits. I honestly believe that would have been a perfect time, the series showed the audience that there were a few cracks in her armor and that Bonnie wasn’t as strong and composed as we were led to believe.

The series could have shown her interests outside of her friends. Or what career path she was interested in since she was headed off to college. Especially, since college is a time when many young adults find themselves and learn that who they were in high school isn’t necessarily who they are going to be forever. Honestly, I imagined Bonnie taking over Grams former position, Occult Studies, at Whitmore College. I would have liked to see Bonnie teach the next generation. However, I don’t hate the open ending they gave her because at least she’s alive and living life to the fullest. She kept her promise to Enzo, and my version of the future can still happen.

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  • Paulo Saka

    Yes to everything in the post. GOD YES!!!

  • My opinion

    In the books Bonnie was white and had red hair. And still was treated like crap. If you’re not ELENA then you are nothing in the books and TV show. So though in the show Bonnie is black don’t take it as an attack on the race.

    • jplec1234

      it is a race thing when the only main poc is treaded like crap over and over again. The “magical negro trope” is a thing. Look it up. The vampire used to this.

    • ChrissyD

      I have read L.J.Smiths books (ghost writers excluded) and Bonnie is not treated like crap. The group consist of Damon, Stefan, Bonnie, Elena, Meredith, Aleric and Matt. Secondary characters are Caroline, Taylor, and the family members of the group. Bonnie is a loved character in the book. Not only that, both herself and Elena are written as being the two girls that Damon is in love with….. Damon dies saving Bonnie in Midnight, so she was very much cherished.

  • bonnie121

    I’ve been saying this since day one. It’s nice to see that other people feel this way.

  • Aria

    Those poor suffering black people… Take a good look around, people, and you will see just as much suffering that has nothing to do with the colour of skin. Nations are annihilated for oil, for money, for power… There has been the Armenian genicide by the Turks, the Holocost by the Germans, hundreds of thousands of Natives were terrorized by Europeans on every vergin land, Americans killed each other profusely during the Civil war, millions of Russians were killed by Stalin, Indians by the English, tens of millions Chinese by Mao Dzedun, Syria is bombed to the ground and you still rant against “white” power. It leaves an impression that slavery has been the most prominent period of your past. There is so much injustice in your ancestors’ land. Children die of hunger while some of the richest people in the world are your “brothers”. What happened to you was grave indeed, but you are only deepening the racial differences “crying wolf” on every occasion. Grow up and take responsibilities for your own fate. Stop blaming others for your misfortunes and flaunting your skin tone under the world’s nose. Honestly, you are getting redundant and tiresome…You can’t change the past, try to change the future. How many black volunteers can you currently count fighting death and desease in Africa? When white doctors sacrifice their lives on that suffering continent, you live yours comfortably on theirs without a grain of gratitude…On the contrary, you are eagerly waiting for an incident to attack your neighbors and that my friends is racism…

    • TE

      Troll much?

    • ChrissyD

      So why do you think the writers had only the two white girls up there when it was supposed to be about three of them being friends? Caroline and Elena were dressed up beautifully, while Bonnie was not included. You don’t have to be black to see what is staring you in the face?. You don’t have to be black to work out the differences between Caroline, Bonnie and Elena. You don’t have to be black to work out that there is not one black writer on the TVD team. And if you go back to the books, Elena and Bonnie were the closest in regards to friendship and Caroline not really part of the gang. This is not reflected on the show. And by the way, do you know with 100% certainty just how many black doctors and nurses are on the front line in Africa along with the white doctors that the media show? Do you know how many black volunteers there are that don’t get mentioned by the news media? Do you know how many black people around the world that have contributed to causes? If you are not in control of the facts of just who is doing what, just how much of it the media tells you then it is best to keep quite.

      • Heya

        Agree with most of this. Exept the part “You don’t have to be black to work out that there is not one black writer on the TVD team” is actually wrong. For example: Alan McElroy, Tanya E. Hamilton, Shukree Hassan Tilghman (and as Director for example Rob Hardy).

  • TE

    So… you stopped reading at the beginning? Then why bother comment if you clearly have no idea what she said and what points she was making? Careful, your trolling is showing.

  • Novemberlights

    Brilliant analysis and I agree so much. Bonnie deserved so much better. If only this series could get a do-over — though I can’t imagine someone else playing Bonnie than Kat Graham. Then again, one TVD series was enough. Yes, Bonnie’s familial relationships were very poorly explored & developed. She got barely any storylines of her own and it bothered me to no end that they used her as deux machina when they needed and then tucked her away. Bonnie also was strangely missing from balls where I believe virtually all main characters attended… She said at one point that she’s putting herself first, then the writers knocked their heads on something and forgot about it.

    I gotta ask, you didn’t reference Kai and Bonnie/Kai dynamic. Kai was all about Bonnie, there was a long buildup, tension, attraction, pull/push… Their contrasting characteristics played wonderfully off each other and we just saw a taste with no pay up which was *bogus*. Her character could’ve developed in all kinds of different ways with that relationship. Kai, despite being an enemy, actually appeared to put Bonnie first in some ways compared to other characters because of his focus on her. And finally a character was pursuing her, unabashedly, and *only* her like she deserved. So much wasted potential with this relationship. Still (clearly) bitter about this and how her character was treated.

    Yes, race is absolutely a factor in how this character was treated.

    • Luv

      Your right about Bonnie relationship with Kai. It could have been so much more. I thought that when the character of Kai had change, and started showing remores, and showing more emotions . I thought for sure that they were changing the character so he can be a potential love interest for Bonnie. One minute Kai nearly died trying to get Bonnie back,and trying to help Elena and Damon, the next they lock him up in the prison world again. 😔

      The chemistry between Bonnie and Kai was amazing. I felt they could have written him a different way.

      • Kurenai24

        Kai and Bonnie were suppose to be a thing, but Julie Plec doesn’t like Bonnie and doesn’t want Bonnie in good beneficial relationships, so she made sure she signed Chris Wood up as lead for her already canceled new show.

        Chris Wood and Kat Graham confirmed what I said at cons so yeah.

        Also Julie Plec also admitted she wanted Bonnie to stay dead in season 5 or something like that.

  • Luv

    I agree 100 percent with the article. The only thing i don’t agree with was Bonnie relationship with Jeremy. To me it always seem like Jeremy was with Bonnie out of gratitude. Like he was only with her because she saved his sister. Think about it, we never seen Jeremy do anything romantic for Bonnie, nor has he ever celebrite her birthday . When Bonnie was trapped in the prison world Jeremy didn’t even bother to stick around to see if she made it out. At least Enzo would not have rest until she got back safe.

    Bonnie is the only one of the girls who never been rescue.(beside in season 1, when Stefan rescue her and Elena)

  • Marilyn

    My friend and I always complained how terrible Bonnie was treated throughout the series. From her love life to the crappy wigs they would have her wearing like their budget was that tight that Bonnie couldn’t have a decent hairstyle. Just connecting with Bonnie’s character by the final season we would always imagine her just being tired of living for everyone else and never being able to find her happy ending. I really like her relationship with Enzo because finally it was something somewhat long term and I didn’t feel like she was desperate like when she dated her bff baby brother. Overall I loved Bonnie’s character because she was someone I could relate to, but I just wish she was represented a lot better.

  • Zlata Mery

    I missed something obviously. All I know is Bonnie was so busy manipulating things the way she wanted them that she caused Caroline to be turned. I always thought that Stephan, Damon and Elena were the lead characters and the rest were supporting. Obviously things really changed once Elena left. I also felt that Bonnie was constantly making bad choices and this was a character trait. Bonnie was also very powerful. I was heartbroken for her at the end but I havent seen the last 3 episodes so am hoping she gets the happiness she deserves. When all is said and done though they were all killers.

    • ChrissyD

      You must have been watching an entirely different show if you thought that Bonnie was manipulating things. The show was made up of main characters and main regulars. The main cast were Ian, Nina, Paul, Kat, Steven, Candice, Trevino, Zach, Matt Davis and much later MM. They also had in order of call sheet which was Nina, Paul, Kat, Candice, Trevino, Zach, Matt and MM. After Nina left the main cast was Paul, Ian, Kat, Candice, main regulars Matt Davis, Zach and MM.

  • All the yes! Bonnie, in my opinion, was by far the most powerful character and I could never understand why she was subject to being bullied by some vamps. She was treated so poorly, never got anything she wanted because she so sleflessly put others first and omg when she lost Enzo I was so mad. I wish I wish I wish for a Bonnie spin off.

  • ford explore

    I agree. And feel the same way about Pete Ross from Smallville and the Haitian from Heroes.

  • yes yes and yes..also she had chem with every actor. Bonnie and Kol, Bonnie and Kai had untapped potential , Bonnie going to new Orleans to meet Marcel and Vincent should have happened..we also never really saw my Lucy Bennett again, another waste

  • I found Bonnie to be the most likeable and complex female on the show. I would have loved to have seen her character developed further and given a more central role. It would have helped to balance out Elena’s sweetness and Caroline’s neurosis.

    • Heya

      Totally agree with that! There were lot of guys in the show, so ok if they are not all “main characters”, but they were only 3 main girls and for me Bonnie was as main as Caroline. When Nina left, then, Bonnie and Caroline should have been main as equal. And in the end I was a little bit confuse with Elena’s personality but Caroline & Bonnie had clear personalities and they were kind of opposite so yes, the potential in Bonnie-Caroline friendship was huge. I was a little bit disapointed because Bonnie was a good friend while Caroline was very busy with her new family and had less time for Bonnie. And Bonnie has always been there for Caroline, even in 1×01 when Caroline was well, you know…

      • I would have liked to have seen Bonnie’s witchcraft further developed.

  • Lacey Sheridan

    Yes, Bonnie was the token black on the show, and her friendship with the other, white characters never felt realistic; I’ve never seen a group of friends where all were white with only one black person. Nor did it seem real that Bonnie’s being black was never referenced. But she wasn’t one of the stars, and much like Matt and Jeremy, her role was never as fully developed. However, she was powerful and had some amazing wins, and Elena was willing to sleep for sixty years rather than have Bonnie die to release her. Even Damon, who was crazy for Elena and no great respecter of people, cared enough about Bonnie not to sacrifice her for Elena. It’s worth noting that a character such as a black Bonnie Bennett would never have been on TV at all thirty years ago. Baby steps…

  • Lweary

    If im being honest, I dont think the things that happened to Bonnie was because of a race thing. I hate that everything has to be a “race” thing.

    Yes, i do wish that they would have done right by Bonnie. I was hoping that she would get her happy ending w/ Enzo. I actually loved their relationship. N although i had a soft spot for Stephen, it all went out the window when he killed Enzo. He brought her a lot of happiness n vice versa.

    N let’s b honest, Bonnie was not the only one that was not done right by. Matt got a damn bench named after him….. a bench …. WOW. He had been through so much ,n jus about all of his friends let him down. He ends up loosing his fiance n there was nothing said about him ever finding love r getting engaged to someone.

    But, i say all that to say, Bonnie did what she did becuz she was caring. There are many people who would go above n beyond for those they love, neglecting themselves in the process. Bonnie’s character was a real character. She did the things that her character would do.

    It’s not all about race. Could she have had a better ending???? YES!!! I would have loved for her n Enzo the get married n have babies, but it didnt happen, sadly.

  • Imane Assi

    Bonnie never died for Elena, never.And Bonnie was selfless?So was Elena. She sacrificed a lot too

    • Heya

      She died or lost someone she loved for save others including Elena and always (at least indirectly) for Elena (for her brother Jeremy or Elena’s vampires boyfriends). And after all her sacrifices (and in the contrary of Caroline or Elena when someone she loves die, there is no funeral (???!)), yes she’s alive, at least, and Elena can have her happy end but Bonnie is the one who fight for save everyone/ Mystic Falls again. Of course it’s not the fault of Elena, but Bonnie is the true heroïn of this show in the epic sense.

      • Imane Assi

        Elena died 3 times on the show saving others,Elena lost EVERYONE, no Bonnie never died for Elena.Bonnie is the one who fights to save everyone?I suppose the others are just sitting around watching her right?Try again.No doubt that Bonnie fights but she’s not the one or the only one to do it. Elena, and to some extend the brothers, Matt,… do it too.You don’t like the way they didn’t focus enough on Bonnie’s life, I get it but to claim that she’s the true heroine of this show is a joke.She’s a witch, has powers so yes she can do stuff others can’t.That’s it.

        • Kasia

          And who Elena saved??

          • Imane Assi

            Oh let’s see;

            Elena goes with klaus to save all her loved ones from getting hurt

            Elena giving herself over to the hybrids to save Caroline.

            Elena along with Damon sacrifice themselves to bring back their loved ones

            Elena wants to trade herself in exchange for the hostages

            Elena chooses Matt’s life over her own and dies

            Goes into a house full of vengeful vampires to save stefan

            Elena Jumps into fire to save Damon

            And these are just a few examples

          • Kasia

            thank you 🙂

          • Imane Assi

            I’m not dismissing anything. You Elena haters on the other hand dismiss everything she did for others, all her sacrifices, her pain, her losses and claim that she’s useless, whiny, selfish….

          • Kasia

            If I don’t praise Elena I must be hater? So you are Bonnie hater?? I don’t dismiss anything Elena did, I even think she tried to do something important. The thing is she was useless (everytime she wanted to do something, she caused more troubles), whiny and selfish. And trust me I’m not saying that because I’m Elena hater.

          • Imane Assi

            Yes a hater, making up lies to trash her and prop Bonnie. That simple

          • Kasia

            I don’t trash Elena Gilbert – the writers did it 🙂

          • Imane Assi

            The writers?They created a great character.The one thing they did wrong with Elena was having her “fall ‘for the man who tried to kill her brother, used one of her best friends as bloodbag and killed one of her friends.Delena should have been nothing but a temporary affair.But they sure didn’t ‘trash’ her like you claim.Delena was character assassination for Elena but didn’t keep her from being the same compassionate, caring and selfless person she was.

        • Kasia

          Bonnie Bennett was the heroine, meanwhile Elena was useless, most of her decisions brought more troubles. Bonnie was witch but Elena had 2 vampires who were willingly to sacrifice everyone to save Elena’s life, then Elena was a vampire and still she was the same dumb girl. This article wasn’t about who is better or worse, but about how were treated white girls and how was treated black girl.

          • Imane Assi

            You seriously need to watch again but since you don’t want to stfu.Only in your racist delusional mind .You’re just pissed off because Bonnie wasn’t the heroine or the lead.Get over it

          • Kasia

            I’m not pissed, but apparently you are. Which means I’m right 🙂

          • Imane Assi

            Pissed about what since the whole show proves me right?

    • Kasia

      Everything bad happened to Bonnie was because of Elena or for Elena. And as much as I understand your love for Elena, I don’t undetstand how can you be so ignorant?

      • Imane Assi

        That’s a huge lie. Maybe you need to watch again

        • Kasia

          I don’t have to watch it again and I don’t even want to anymore 🙂 And it is not lie, you know that 🙂

          • Imane Assi

            Of course it’s a huge lie