Don’t fight your abuser. Don’t try to help others fight their abuser. He will just strip everything and everyone you love from you and leave you with nothing but a life of constantly looking over your shoulder. And then he will take your girlfriend and have sex with her. YOU LOSE. YOU SHOULD HAVE STAYED BEATEN AND QUIET.
And because I know how WRONG that message is, how in real life WHAT REALLY HAPPENS IF YOU STAY BEATEN IS THAT THE ABUSER EVENTUALLY KILLS YOU, I have to write about how this arc relates to me personally. Because after seeing it constructed so triumphantly, so realistically, to have its ending be complete failure is more than just a sad or sour note. It makes me want to scream.
I didn’t expect to like Tyler Lockwood when I started watching TVD, nonetheless identify with him. He started out as a would-be date rapist, a guy who “can’t ever back down from a fight”. It wasn’t until we see his dad hitting him in 1x18 that we realize there is another factor in his behaviour. And I still didn’t like him, it was just an “aw, sucks to be him.” Until we see this scene in 2x01:
And from that point I was a Tyler fan. (And a Trevino fan- look at the play of emotions across his face. That is amazing acting.). Because as a long-term abuse victim myself, I got it. I understood exactly all those conflicted emotions that he feels, how he’s partly sad but he’s actually just so unbelievably relieved. How odd it feels, suddenly walking around without the constant fear of stepping out of line. How ashamed you feel about being a victim. And how scary and freeing it is to finally be able to express how much you hate this person who you are supposed to love, because they were supposed to love you.
The scary thing with being an abuse victim is: we usually end up becoming abusers ourselves. It’s how we’ve been taught to interact with people; it’s how we approach those in our power. And you realize when you look back at his interactions with Jeremy and Vicki in season 1 that Tyler was becoming his dad; he was perpetuating the abusive cycle he was caught in.
And it is so, so hard to break that cycle. It takes self-awareness, and requires you to take constant responsibility for your words and actions, especially in the privacy of your home when nobody is watching. You have to remind yourself that you can’t just blame somebody when something goes wrong and lash out at them to make yourself feel better. This may seem normal to you, but it’s not to one of us. It’s a huge change in mind set, and it takes constant effort to have it guide your actions instead of the instinctive lash out. You have to take a beat and calm down and think of how to acceptably express yourself when you’re upset. And in 2x01, we see Tyler take the first step to break out of the abusive cycle.
He decides to change himself, he is self-aware. And from then on, we see a very different Tyler emerging: we see the respectfulness in his interactions with people, even when he doesn’t like what they are saying. Look at how he talks with his mom in 2x03- he looks all judgey when she is worried about “the family being liable if anything happens on their property" (rather than being worried that somebody will get hurt), but he just nods and agrees. Same as when Mason drives by and asks him to take the party elsewhere, when he gets flat out rejected by Amy Bradley. We see him apologize when he yells at Caroline during his transformation in 2x11, when he is in horrible pain. Even then he knows lashing out is not excusable. And what’s cool is that this storyline of him exorcising his inner demons –the abusive cycle-- is paralleled with his learning to deal with becoming an actual monster –a werewolf.
It’s a step by step process and he backslides –watch him push Caroline against her car when he realizes she lied to him in 2x13—and then watch him shake himself and walk off to calm down. He also backslides in 4x06, throwing that glass against the wall. And I loved how that reflects reality because one is never really free of the abuse cycle. Those inner demons never leave; we just get better practiced at dealing with them. I know. I’ve screamed at my kids when they make a horrible mess while I was busy looking at something on the computer. That is emotional abuse, and I apologize and own up that it was ME in the wrong and try to do better the next time. (What a mess! FML Why do they always- NO. We can just clean it up. Calm down.) Nobody is perfect, but I’m well aware that I have it in me to be much worse than “not perfect”. What’s awesome about Tyler is how well he seems to have learned to control his words and actions- even fighting with Caroline in 4x09 he never yells or says anything disrespectful even when she tells him flat out that his plan is idiotic. And he didn't stop when he wrestled himself free from Klaus's sire bond, from his abuser- he also helped the other enslaved hybrids free themselves in season 4.
And yet look at how Tyler’s arc ends- with him losing the last person who loves him and his home to Klaus, who has abused him (and Caroline) horribly, who killed him, his mom and his pack. Who forced him to bite Caroline. A man who treats him and his pack like slaves, who delights in degrading him and lording his power over him. Which might appear to be just a temporary setback on a story arc to future triumph, but since articles suggest that this is Trevino’s exit from the series, and that Klaus is leaving for a show centered on him, we know it’s not.
This is a completely offensive ending to a character arc about breaking out of the abusive cycle. How is this the same show as the brilliance of season 2? How is this creative integrity?
Honestly, I can’t bear to watch the show anymore, despite the re-emergence of Katherine, hands down the best villain on the show. All I want to say is:
SHAME ON YOU TVD FOR SENDING THE WRONG MESSAGE, NOT ONLY TO ABUSE VICTIMS, BUT TO EVERYONE IN THE AUDIENCE. We all deserved better.