Few TV shows inspire the kind of passion fans of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals frequently express on social media. Therefore, it's no surprise that when given the chance to quiz viewers with our new series "Ask the Fans," executive producer Julie Plec was most curious about the effects of "shipper fervor."
After combing through more than 600 emails (from close to 20 countries), we reported the most popular responses to that question — and her nine other queries — back to Plec. Read Part 1 of our conversation here. In Part 2 below, we discuss the fandom experience, favorite kisses, songs most associated with the shows, crossover ideas, the writers people would like to meet, and the best fan fiction.
JULIE PLEC ASKS: Does "shipper" fervor on social media ruin your fandom experience if things aren't going your way? Or if you're not a "shipper," does the whole idea of "shipping" drive you crazy?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: It's easy for those of us who see the hashtags that the TVD Family is so good at trending to assume that the primary goal of any shipper is to be loud enough to affect the direction of a show. We're happy to report then that the majority of people said their shipping experience is really about camaraderie. They love that they have found like-minded friends all over the world who are rooting for the same couple and experiencing similar emotions week to week. As Dilara Tayyare, a fan from Turkey, explained, "Knowing that far away from where you actually live there are people who you can talk to about why you love this couple, what makes them special for you, how much happiness they bring in your life when they're together or look at each other... This is awesome... I mean not everyone [at] my school cares about how Delena's holding hands in Episode 6x11 is similar to their 4x06 holding hands scene."
Australian fan "Gee" articulated a theory about why some shippers, who strongly identify with one or both characters in the couple they're championing, may become a little too invested: "People generally 'ship' because they see the relationship before them and subconsciously project their own desire for such a romance onto the dynamic building and manifesting before them," she wrote. "Hence, people perhaps take all things concerning their ship startlingly personally; the mentality is almost, 'you insult my ship, you're insulting me (and what I stand for).' And when people begin to blur the lines between fiction and reality too much, and the 'fervour' becomes aggressive and irrational — that's when it does ruin the fandom experience."
Those "cruel comments and gloating from other shippers," as described by Neda Mostafavi, can turn into more than a buzzkill. More than one fan equated it to Internet bullying. "It's not things like 'you suck.' It's 'Kill yourself' and death threats, and it shocks me," Tracy Lynn wrote. "I love the show as much as anyone else, but these things are being said because of fictional characters to REAL PEOPLE and it's ridiculous in my eyes. BUT, that being said... most of the people that I've met that are shippers are really happy... stubborn, but sweet people that just like an occasional bone to be thrown just so that we know we haven't been forgotten."
PLEC RESPONDS: I had a sneaking suspicion. A lot of people like to think about social media as a microcosmic representation of the world, but in reality, it's just a microcosmic representation of the most polarized ends of the world. Most people go through the day just reading and laughing and retweeting, and don't make it their mission to, like, hammer their point of view through on social media. If you took the top five percent off the yays and the nays, you'd end up with basically just a bunch of people who are like, "Oh, that's cool."
One of the reasons I asked the question is because I wanted to spark the conversation about how other people's behavior can actually ruin an experience for somebody. Obviously there's kind of a hate directed towards me, which goes with the job, and that's just something I have to deal with... Yeah, I've gotten some [death threats]. That happens in fits of emotional rage that I attribute to people who are young, and angry, and upset about a break-up on the show. People who I actually am concerned about their behavior and if they saw me on the street what they might do — that's one in a million. I actually reported one person, or tried to — I couldn't figure out how to report, but I made Twitter report them. The language was so hostile, and so disgusting, and very vivid. It was like getting a letter from a serial killer. Like, "You're going to die tonight."
There's a lot of nasty stuff directed towards the actors which, you know, hopefully they've built tough enough skins that they get past it for the first couple of seasons. But when you watch people attack each other not knowing if they're 13 or 15 or 40, you understand, If this hurts me this badly, and this is my job to deal with it, it's got to be hurting these kids or grown-ups, whatever they are. Malicious bullying is essentially what it is, so I think you hit it spot on.
I love hearing that about the camaraderie because to me, that's what it should be. It should be building a social community of people who enjoy the experience of watching something and it having a similar emotional impact on them. I've seen that in-person with a lot of the fans that I've met over the years in Atlanta and at Comic-Con and conventions. That camaraderie is massive. I just don't want people's experience on The Vampire Diaries as fans to have been ruined by a faction of bullying.
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: To answer Part 2 of Plec's question, even fans who are shippers can be driven crazy when shipping becomes the only topic of conversation. "If someone is discussing what the plot is going to be like in the next episode, then I really don't want to read comments about Delena or Stelena, and how one's supposedly better than the other," Hannah wrote. As Stephanie Perez said, "I get shipping, but I honestly don't get shipper wars. Buffy is my all time favorite show and the traditional ships were either Spuffy (Spike-Buffy) or Bangel (Buffy-Angel). I was neither. For as long as I live, I will be Bander (Buffy-Xander), but that didn't change how much I loved the show or make me send angry letters to Joss Whedon. That wasn't where he was going with his narrative, which is totally fine... When everything is #DELENARAINKISS (even on completely unrelated social media posts from actors or writers) or when shippers attack writers or Julie because they don't like that their favorite couple is fighting, it does make it hard to interact on any meaningful level. If you ever wanted to have a real conversation about a relationship on the show it usually devolves pretty quickly into shipper wars."
Jen Reese summed it up this way: "They don't call it 'shipping wars' for nothing! It's a battleground out there at the moment. I've joined in a few times, but the experience always turns negative and I end up feeling depressed about the show in general. It was easier to watch TVD for myself. Fandom is a better experience when I get involved in theorizing, analyzing events, and discussing character motivation [rather] than shipping."
PLEC RESPONDS: Yeah. Sometimes they don't look at the big picture. If there's not enough of their relationship in the episode, then they didn't like the episode — even though it may have been one of the better episodes of the show. [Laughs.] There's only one scene with whatever couple they're rooting for, so therefore it was a bad episode.
NOTE: To end this shipping discussion on something positive that everyone can support, here's a testimonial from Ontario's Brittney Hockley: "During Season 2 of TVD, I discovered live-tweeting and the community we have on here. I also discovered YouTube and videos about the show on there. This has led me to become an editor during that season, and after that I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, [be] a film editor. Now I am in grade 12 and have applied to many universities to study film production and this is all thanks to The Vampire Diaries." (Plec's response, "Oh, I love that!")
PLEC ASKS: What was your favorite kiss (or near-kiss)?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Just like when you ask TVD fans to name the moment that made them cry the hardest, asking them to choose just one kiss is nearly impossible. The responses were so varied, we could only report the most popular.
"Solemnlyswear d" covered two of the top choices: "It's a tie... there's the Damon/Elena kiss in 3x19 at the motel in Denver. Not only was the build-up absolutely amazing, but the scene itself was stunning. The music, the lighting, the sweeping shot, on top of the tense moment in the motel room before it, made for one of my favourite TVD moments. You could really feel Elena's walls breaking down before she finally let herself go. The other one is the Damon/Elena rain kiss. Another beautiful scene, not just in terms of the emotion and the meaning to their overall story, but in terms of music and scenery. I was weary of the sometimes overdone kiss in the rain, but TVD did it incredibly well. It felt like a moment frozen in time. Probably one of the most beautiful scenes in the whole series. It was also really great to see them so happy."
ABOUT THAT RAIN KISS: While the fans who campaigned for it were thrilled to finally see it, some others, like Sam Riley, thought it was an example of producers "favouring one part of the fandom and ignoring the rest."
PLEC RESPONDS: You know, it's funny, because you can argue it both ways. We knew in this series that Elena would begin with Stefan, and that at a certain point, circumstances would lead her into the arms of Damon. Whether that would be end game or not end game is not relevant. But the show was pitched, and sold, and marketed as a love triangle — so this just happens to be the chapter of that love triangle that is celebrating the side of the relationship where fans have a lot of desires about what they'd like to see that couple do. It was fun for us to be able to give them that moment to sort of say, "Hey, thank you for your passion, and thank you for your enthusiasm, and my God have you been begging for this for years. Look, we found a perfect, organic way to give it to you." That's fun for us as writers, because those are ways that social media is working for powers of good [laughs], where fans get excited about something and then get to see a result on television. It's when fans might think that their asks or their wants are controlling our story — then that's different. Because if we started doing that — which is hard to avoid, by the way, but we work really hard to avoid it — you're basically just writing your show off of social media focus groups which is, you know, a disaster.
* Another popular pick: Stefan and Elena's kiss before they made love in Episode 1x10. As Val from Germany wrote, "She sees his vampire face for the first time really, and he tries to hide, but she kisses him anyway, and when they part… guess what? His face is back to normal. The meaning of this moment is so beautiful."
PLEC RESPONDS: That's my favorite, when she's touching his face when he's got the vampire veins and she says, "I'm not afraid." When they kiss, he's exposed himself to her, and she stands right there and is OK with it. I love that moment.
* Also receiving a ton of endorsements was Klaus and Caroline's tryst in Episode 5x11.
Ashtyn Carvalho wrote, "Caroline likes to think she has complete control of the situation and seeing her give into her desires was wonderful. Also, Klaus just looked completely happy, like Caroline was the only thing that he could possibly want. Even without dialogue, I think everyone knew exactly what the characters were feeling — which is why I adore this scene. If anything, it makes me yearn for Klaus and Caroline to confront each other — to talk about what was truly going through their heads at that moment in time. (Was it just a one time thing, or was it something more?)"
Almost as frequently mentioned: Klaus giving Caroline a kiss on the cheek after graduation in the Season 4 finale. "You know it's real when the guy cares more about making the girl feel loved than making her feel lust. It's definitely one of the most genuine kisses in the series," Kayla C wrote. Antonia Granell agreed: "My favorite kiss was in the graduation scene, after Klaus told Caroline that he intended to be her last (love). Although it was just a kiss on the cheek, it felt right — organic even."
PLEC RESPONDS: For me, my favorite non-kiss is when Klaus heals Caroline on her birthday. They've only just met, but they have this moment that's so powerful and profound. They may as well have just started making out because you've instantly connected to them as a couple, even though they're sharing really what is their first moment together. I love moments like that — where you spark to a couple and realize, oh my God, this is something I want to see more of — almost as much as I love moments like the first kiss.
PLEC ASKS: If you could create a crossover storyline between The Originals and The Vampire Diaries, what would you want it to be?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: By far, the top of the wish list is seeing Caroline and Klaus reunite. Many fans think the impending death of her mother might be a way to make it happen, whether that would involve Klaus simply offering his condolences or Caroline flipping her humanity switch. Though fans are split on the latter (has that well been drained dry?), IAMPINKTEA has a juicy proposition: "With her mother's death proving to be the only thing Caroline is unable to handle, she turns off her humanity. Knowing her history with one particular Original, Enzo decides to take her to New Orleans in hopes that Klaus will be able to convince — or even compel — Caroline to turn her humanity back on. Klaus might refuse to compel her, since it does have to be her choice, but he too wishes she would turn her humanity back on... Plus, I don't think I'm the only one dying to see these two Brits battle it out for Care."
PLEC RESPONDS: I do know that there's an incredibly passionate and dedicated group of people who would really like to see Caroline find her way to New Orleans and/or vice versa. For me, it's interesting because the shows tonally are so different right now, and their voices are so different, that it's hard to see an organic crossover. But melding the two worlds is also something that we obviously always want to do and love to do, so in a way, I'm engaging in the conversation like I would with the writers: What would be fun to see?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Sixteen-year-old Kaitlin isn't the only one who thinks it'd be fun to see Klaus and Kai meet. "I would have Klaus come kick Kai's butt," she wrote. "Klaus would get Bonnie back for Caroline, and then we'd have an interesting love triangle between Klaus, Caroline, and Stefan. DELENA would pretend to be married while babysitting Hope while Klaus saves the world and kicks some a$$!" Rayna Stefanova of Bulgaria seconds it: "Jokes aside, I would love to see Klaus and Kai against each other... or work as a team. I'm not sure which one would be more interesting, but they are the best villains to ever be part of the show, so I think it's something definitely worth considering." ("I love it," Plec says.)
Many fans would like to see Bonnie (return from 1994) and head to New Orleans. ("Me too, that'd be cool," Plec says.) She could need help with Kai, or maybe the witches there need her. French fan Océane Razanatsimba has that all thought out: "Bonnie is kidnapped by the witches from NOLA because of the awesomeness of her Bennett Power. She is kept and tortured, her magical essence really amazing. They need her, the true QUEEN of witchcraft, to... you can insert any plot in it... but Bonnie doesn't want it and tries to escape, but it's really difficult. So Caroline, who loves her best friend, goes to NOLA with the two Salvatore brothers. Damon is worried about Bonnie, and Stefan wants to protect Caroline. So everyone is happy. Caroline becomes strong to protect her friend and have a chat with Klaus WHILE SHE IS ACTUALLY WITH STEFAN :D Damon and Elena have relationship problems while Elena sees Kol is alive. So Kol wants to avenge his own death, Damon has to make a choice between Bonnie and Elena the two of them in danger, etc. etc. ... Well the door is WIDE open."
Another desire: "I'd actually like to see... Damon/Stefan needing to team up with Klaus/Elijah for some reason," S.T.A. wrote. "I miss the camaraderie between the Original brothers and the Salvatores."
PLEC RESPONDS: If I were to put in my vote of something I'd like to see, it's that dynamic — the brothers and brothers having to deal with something crossing over both shows.
PLEC ASKS: What song do you most associate with The Vampire Diaries? And with The Originals?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: We told Plec we'd make sure everyone knew that she could identify the precise moment represented by every song we rattled off as top picks. (Can you?) Aside from Florence + the Machine's "Never Let Me Go" (the aforementioned motel kiss), there's:
* Ron Pope's "A Drop in the Ocean"
* Birdy's "Skinny Love"
* Sara Bareilles's "Gravity"
* Greg Laswell's "This Woman's Work"
* Ed Sheeran's "Give Me Love"
* The Fray's "Be Still"
PLEC RESPONDS: I loved "Be Still" when Alaric died. You know, I have so many that I love and weirdly enough, a lot of them are from Season 1. Like I love Jason Walker's "Down," which is the song that played when Stefan and Elena broke up for the first time on the front porch in "Lost Girls."
The song that I feel completely made a sequence — like the most haunting and powerful and emotional and iconic sequence probably of our whole series — is a Sigur Ros song that I can't even pronounce, Dauðalogn. It's the song that played over Elena in the car with her parents underwater, and basically that entire sequence of Alaric dying in Damon's arms and Elena dying and Stefan trying to rescue her. I heard that for the first time when they put it in, and it just chilled me to the bone. So even though it's not one of the kiss songs, it's the song that, like, if we had lost that — and we almost did — that sequence would not have been the same.
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: For The Originals, the top picks were:
* The Silent Comedy's "Bartholomew"
* Hurts' "Mercy"
* Mikky Ekko's "Smile"
PLEC RESPONDS: My favorite music placement is Augustine's "Walkabout," when Rebecca leaves New Orleans and she's driving down the expressway, and she just smiles.
The other one I loved is in "Always and Forever," when we introduce the characters on the boat and all of a sudden all the dead bodies. We're in the 18th century, but there's this great New York jazz/blues song ["Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings' "This Land Is Your Land"] that kicks in, and to me that perfectly represented the tone of the show musically, which is that we're both in period and in present day.
PLEC ASKS: Which writer (other than me) would you most like to meet and why?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: A lot of Vampire Diaries and Originals writers got shout-outs. Just some of the mentions: Michael Narducci is especially revered for penning "The Reckoning" ("When Klaus forced Stefan to turn off his humanity — it wasn't just a reboot for the character, but also for the show," Gee explained). Brian Young is popular because he's candid on Twitter and, as Deni Guerico said, fans want to "pick his brain on how he comes up with those Damon one-liners." (He also does those for Kai, Plec adds.) Rebecca Sonnenshine is a fan favorite for helping give life to the previously mentioned rain kiss. People love that Marguerite MacIntyre, who plays Sheriff Forbes, is also a writer. ("She's my muse," Plec says.) Many still want to sit down with Kevin Williamson (or, if you're Jordan Hall, "go to a Taylor Swift concert and fangirl/fanboy together"). Lisa Moore would like to have cocktails with Carina MacKenzie. "Based on her tweets, it seems we share the same views on a lot of things and it seems like she would be a good drinking buddy," she wrote.
Most in demand, however, is Vampire Diaries exec producer Caroline Dries. Fans like her character development and dialogue (like Klaus's killer graduation line to Caroline), but also, as Janine Dobrev put it, her enthusiasm. "She is hilarious and isn't afraid to say things straight up. I feel like she's rooting for Damon and Elena along with us! Her words about them don't go unappreciated at all. We love her!"
PLEC RESPONDS: The most hilarious thing is, most of our writers do not ship one couple over the other. They love the challenge and the fun of writing each couple individually, and when they lose the heart to write one couple, they find something else to get excited about in another couple. There are very few people involved that are like, "It's got to be Delena" or "It's got to be Stelena," myself included. I like writing about love. I like writing about the beginning of love, the end of love, and everything in between. It's not about servicing one relationship over the other, it's about just generally writing a love story. That's how I think most of the writers feel. It's funny, you get lots of grief on Twitter, "You only answer to Delena fans." "Why do you hate Stelena?" That's not true, by and large I would say, with 99 percent of our writers.
PLEC ASKS: In your opinion, who writes the best fan fiction?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Most people who responded don't read fan fiction, but some of those who do singled out TVD cast member Matt Davis (aka Ernesto Riley) — "No matter how inappropriate it might be," Jaymee Grant noted. ("That's hilarious. His Alaric/Elena fan fiction," Plec says, laughing. "He really does write good stuff. That's what's funny. It's dirty but it's funny.")
While a lot of names were mentioned (in the exact same order, from multiple email addresses, sneaky people!), some of those receiving multiple endorsements were goldnox, Hybridlovelies, EldestSalvatore, klaroline-heaven, and Beautiful1Disaster.
PLEC RESPONDS: I actually don't let myself read fan fiction for all the obvious reasons, but when this show is over and I no longer write on The Vampire Diaries and we've put it all to bed, I want to know the top five fan fiction writers that the fans believe are the best. Because I'm going to sit, and I'm going to read it all and I can't wait.
The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW. The Originals airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on The CW.