While The Originals (a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries) definitely romanticizes violence, it also discusses the disastrous consequences it can have on the different aspects of our lives. Ultimately, a show about blood-sucking vampires is bound to have extreme violence. And as the audience, we are not really outraged or disgusted by it, but usually, enjoy the brutality as entertainment. We all engage in appreciating the callous parts of various shows, and The Originals does not deserve all the blame for glorifying violence because the larger issue is in the industry itself. However, there does come a time when characters — either perpetrating the violence or being victim to it — need to address the deeper toll it takes on their mental health, community, and the world. And The Originals shows those other aspects of violence beautifully.
One of the core romantic relationships is between Hayley and Elijah (their ship name is #Haylijah). After waiting for three seasons, fans were ecstatic when in the current fourth season their relationship became official. Both Hayley and Elijah have faced violence and inherently will do whatever is necessary to protect their families. But this current season is brilliantly exploring how fundamentally wrong it is to justify all means (their violence) by an end goal (protecting their families). Hurting whomever they please and being swift and thoughtless to everyone around them has major consequences. And with Hayley’s child in the mix of it all, those consequences become much more dire and terrifying.
#Haylijah’s storyline recently took a turn after Elijah’s death and Hayley had to save him by entering into his mind troubled. The Man Behind the Red Door, a metaphor for all the terrible deeds Elijah has committed, violently attacked Hayley. After Elijah was saved, instead of forgiving him, Hayley backed away and began to rethink their relationship. Hayley concluded she was miserable repeating the same broken, brutal cycle, realizing that she couldn’t rely on Elijah to stop his violence, because he was just too sporadic. The one she loved was now the one attacking her too.
The Originals surely could have written the script with Hayley running back into Elijah’s arms and forgiving him because “it’s all okay,” but they didn’t… they kept it real. They gave her agency and taught a message to us viewers that we shouldn’t be staying in problematic, abusive relationships. And furthermore, in our heated political climate, portraying her choice with dignity means everything. The Originals added another voice to the conversation about abusive relationships and violence against women, hopefully teaching its audience that this type of extreme violence isn’t okay. It directly showed the importance of advocating for ourselves and how it is completely within our right to end relationships when we feel unsafe. Some fans obviously haven’t been too happy that #Haylijah has ended after three seasons were spent cultivating the romance. However, it is an underlying problem that as fans of any show we ship characters in unhealthy and unsafe relationships.
Women in entertainment ought to be portrayed as individuals who stand up for their mental and physical safety. We should be seeing more and more examples of characters leaving toxic relationships. Even though they have invested time and energy into the relationship, it doesn’t mean that they owe anything to their partners (and audiences have to be taught that). The Originals conveyed to us that Hayley’s feelings were valid, and showed us how we should have the same agency she did in leaving the violence. And as a viewer, I couldn’t be happier that there is such positive message in such a dark show like The Originals.