The ethical uncertainity, the conflict over eating and killing humans, never seems to extend to the ethics of slavery, however. In the novel and 1994 film Interview with the Vampire, Lestat de Lioncourt makes himself at home on Pointe du Lac Plantation, a Louisiana plantation owned by Louis de Pointe du Lac and his family. Together, they proceed to feed on and otherwise terrorize the enslaved Africans on the plantation.
Even as Louis struggles with the desire to eat humans, the one thing he never struggles with are the ethics of claiming you own another person. In Twilight, Jasper never reckons with what it means to have been a Confederate soldier and complicit in the atrocities committed in the name of fighting for states’ rights to enslave people of African descent. We never actually get any remorse or understanding in the present that these vampires realize that their pre-vampire lives were… not great. Louis’ guilt over killing people doesn’t make him compassionate, doesn’t make him free the Africans his family has enslaved (and that Lestat has been terrorizing). The only time that we get a taste of Jasper Hale’s past is in Eclipse, and it’s clear that he doesn’t become a “vegetarian” vampire because of the atrocities of the human war he’d taken part in, but because of the Southern vampire wars.
The Vampire Chronicles and the Twilight franchise aren’t the only forms of relatively modern vampire media that fail to engage with the fact that many of the vampires we know and love (or love to hate) were passive or active participants in the United States’ history of racist oppression. They also fail to engage with the fact that these vampires may be a “product of their time,” but that doesn’t explain or excuse their present behavior and how it may be impacted by those pasts.
Between the way that Bonnie Bennett’s actress Kat Graham was subject to antiblackness behind the scenes and from fandom and how characters of color continue to be written in canon and treated by fandom, it’s safe to say that The Vampire Diaries and its related shows and fandoms have a problem with race. One of the glaring issues is in the way that the already morally murky (or just plain evil) vampires that inhabit Mystic Falls, Virginia and New Orleans, Lousiana are linked with slavery in the past… and don’t treat Black characters very well in the present.
Damon Salvatore, one of the brotherly big bads in the early seasons of The Vampire Diaries, was a Confederate soldier. This was first revealed in the series’ sixth episode “Lost Girls” — one of many episodes that showcases the series’ obsession with Gone with the Wind — where Mystic Falls’ past comes to light. In the episode, we’re shown flashbacks of the Salvatore brothers’ past in the town, including Damon in a Confederate uniform while supposedly on leave from the army. In later seasons, it’s revealed that he left the army because he disagreed with their “cause,” but the series never actually goes into detail about what that cause is or attempts to show Damon making amends for participating in the war. Considering how, even now, people struggle to understand that the Confederacy was fighting for states’ rights to enslave people, the lack of clarity and growth leave Black viewers in particular feeling as if we can’t tell where Damon has changed. Additionally, the show actively dodges the real human impact of the Civil War with Elena doppelganger Katherine saying that Damon was simply “defending the South” in a flashback.