The Vampire Diaries: Bonnie Bennett’s #BlackGirlMagic Deserved Better

#BlackGirlMagic
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Kat Graham. Photo: Vagueonthehow/Wikimedia Commons 

#BlackGirlMagic is a social movement created and coined by activist, CaShawn Thompson. The term began picking up steam in 2013, most notably on social media, as it perfectly encapsulated what many Black women hadn’t seen or felt on a larger scale--valued. 

 

This validation did not come by way of outsiders looking in and determining our worth, but rather it came from ourselves, and as a way to uplift the other Black girls and women around us. In its essence, #BlackGirlMagic speaks to the beauty, resilience, and the “magic” that Black women have, despite the dominant narrative saying that we do not possess qualities that make us deserving of basic human rights—case in point Breonna Taylor. 

 

It’s no wonder why we can look to Black characters who have literal magic, like Bonnie Bennett of The Vampire Diaries, and see her own resilience and strength. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about what her characterization truly meant within the show, and how it further pushed the narrative that, still in society, Black women aren’t equally valued amongst their white counterparts. There’s no amount of magic could have protected Bonnie from that. 

 

Bonnie Bennett, played by the illustrious Kat Graham, was the only main Black character throughout the entire eight-season run of The Vampire Diaries. She was the show’s main introductory point to the world of witchcraft when Bonnie discovers that she’s a witch, and that witchcraft has been something that runs in her family. Initially afraid to use her abilities, Bonnie inevitably gets roped into the problems of her best friend, Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), a white girl, when she’s asked to use her abilities to keep Elena’s doppelgänger from hurting her. 

 

For much of the series, that is what ends up being Bonnie’s role. Whenever a witch was needed, Bonnie was at the beck and call of her white friends, and more often than not, it always came at her own expense. At the beginning of the series, it’s already noted that Bonnie had very little family and lived with her Grams (Jasmine Guy), so when her Grams is forced into Bonnie’s white friends’ drama, inevitably killing her, Bonnie is literally left with no one. She is forced to face the world on her own, and instead of the show having her friends support her after the huge sacrifice she just made on Elena’s behalf, they have Bonnie disappear for a few episodes, only to return and pretend as if nothing had happened. Bonnie is expected to pick herself up and keep running along with the program, a familiar feeling that many Black women are accustomed to. 

 

Further along in the series, the show attempts, poorly, to give Bonnie a love interest and it happens to be Elena’s little brother, Jeremy Gilbert (Steven R. McQueen). What starts out as an innocent romance turns into yet another self-sacrificing scenario for Bonnie. At the end of Season 4, Jermey dies and Bonnie spends all her time and energy trying to figure out a way to bring him back. Instead of having her properly grieve and move on, Bonnie was now tasked with having to fix the mistakes of another person, at her own expense. She ultimately sacrifices herself so that Jeremy can return to the world of the living, while she, in turn, remains on “the other side” which is a place that the supernatural go when they are unable to find peace in death. Bonnie literally kills herself so that Jeremy can live. This is a glaring example of a Black life, when put up against a white life, not being valued to the same degree. This is why we have the Black Lives Matter movement. 

 

In the final two seasons of the show, Bonnie is finally given a real story arc that showcases her strength and growth as a character. Dobrev left the show at the end of season six, and it seemed like the main focus of the story was now going to center around Bonnie, and her other friend, Caroline Forbes (Candice King). What that made for was some of the most entertaining storytelling TVD h as ever done after lulls in Seasons 5 & 6, since the show no longer revolved around Elena Gilbert and her inability to solve her own problems. Bonnie laughed, she cried, and she struggled to find her place in a world where she now had the freedom to do so. She was even given a proper love interest with bad-boy vampire, Enzo St. John (Michael Malarkey), where for the first time another character showed Bonnie a level of care and respect that she hadn’t previously experienced. Enzo actually loved her, and he always protected her. Not to mention, Bonnie found a real friendship with Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder). Just when Bonnie is finally having these experiences that her white counterparts had from day one, Enzo unexpectedly dies, once again leaving her all alone. Her story doesn’t end in peace, it ends in pain and she’s left to pick back up the pieces. There isn’t a spell to fix that. 

 

In looking at the everyday experiences of Black women, I’d say that Bonnie’s story doesn’t fall too far from reality. Black women are expected to uphold entire pillars of communities and support those around them, at the expense of themselves. We are undervalued at our jobs, in our personal relationships, and in this world. For far too long, Black women have been excluded from larger portions of the dominant society because of the sociopolitical institutions that target us at the intersections of race and gender. 

 

We are #BlackGirlMagic, because despite what everyone else’s expectations are, still, we rise. This world needs to learn how to be more compassionate and empathetic towards Black women, as The Vampire Diaries should have been towards Bonnie. They didn’t deserve her #BlackGirlMagic. There also needs to be a reshifting of policies and institutions that deem our lives invaluable. We know our worth, it’s time the world learned ours. 

 

#BlackGirlMagic 

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