An Important Note
This review was published during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes of 2023. The work being reviewed would not be possible without the labor of writers and actors. We support the writers and unions that protect the creatives of our favorite projects. We stand in solidarity with them.
Intro and Disclaimer
A spin-off of The Vampire Diaries, which I also despise, The Originals managed to avoid some of the more melodramatic teen drama elements of its predecessor series, but amplified other ones that began there. Once again, the lore established here was very strong, particularly when it came to the magic and its many rules, functions, and types. Acting performances were usually very strong, though in some cases often a bit too strong and bordering hammy *cough cough Klaus*. Whereas romantic love seemed to be the main theme of Vampire Diaries, this series focused primarily on the themes of family, legacy, and heritage.
But the show had racist implications, overtones, and undertones. We again buried gays, but at least here there were a lot more and they (even the men) got to be more intimate with each other. There were also massive plot holes and continuity errors. However, in this article, I want to focus mostly on the messed up racial dynamics and situations that took place that many in the fandom choose to explain away or ignore.
Just like with my Vampire Diaries article, this is not an exhaustive list of everything wrong with The Originals. We would be here for days if I did that.
An Exceptionally Overpowered White Family
The Mikaelson Family is the original family of vampires and the progenitors of all vampires in the Vampire Diaries universe. They have existed for about one thousand years. They are mostly Vikings. As vampires grow stronger with age, they are physically the strongest vampires in existence, those still around anyway. The Original vampires are immune to the conventional means of killing vampires. Only wood from a White Oak tree can kill them. Klaus destroyed all traces of White Oak, so nothing can kill them now. That is until the series finale, that is.
Extremely overpowered, the Mikaelson Family has given into baser instincts and fucked up the lives of countless people, making various enemies. They also often wonder why so many people hate them. Why should people be sorry that some immortal assholes with superpowers slaughtered the people they loved for food, kicks, or sheer boredom?
The Mikaelsons being unkillable, namely, Klaus, makes them boring and lowers the stakes considerably. Most times antagonists merely cause them pain, inconvenience them, or go after people they care about who can die. People who love to bitch and moan about Jean Grey or Wonder Woman being overpowered should meet these jerks.
The Marcel Problem
The Originals established that Klaus adopted a young biracial slave, whom he named Marcellus (better known as Marcel). Marcel had been the son of a slave master who had r*ped a slave, leading to his conception. The boy’s biological father didn’t acknowledge him because he was Black. Klaus adopted the boy, raised him, and later turned him into a vampire when he became an adult. Marcel stayed with Klaus and his siblings until the Mikaelsons fled from the return of their father Mikael hellbent on eradicating all vampires, but them in particular.
Marcel stayed behind in New Orleans and eventually managed to take over the area and become king. Klaus, now free from fleeing from his father returned to see what Marcel accomplished. Klaus for some reason decided not to be proud of his son and his accomplishments and decided he needed to be king and take everything away from Marcel. The series sees Klaus, Elijah, and other Mikaelsons going against Marcel. They kill his friends and subordinates. They treat him like shit despite the fact that they raised him from childhood. Even worse, Klaus’ biological child takes precedence over Marcel and the narrative frequently ignores the fact that Marcel is Klaus’ son in many ways including his romantic relationship with his adoptive aunt Rebekah. But more on those later.
Hayley is Family, But Not Marcel
While the Mikaelsons closed ranks on Marcel, they welcomed Hayley with open arms. All because she and Klaus hooked up one time during The Vampire Diaries prior to the spin-off and the writers decided a vampire/werewolf hybrid (but still a vampire as he is undead) should be able to procreate (very Twilight of them). Elijah, in particular, falls in love with Hayley when he realizes that her child with his brother might finally redeem him. Ew. She gave them Hope (pun intended) and thus she’s cool.
Elijah Only Values Whiteness and Blood Relation
Elijah only saw value in Marcel because he thought the boy (and later man) might be the key to redeeming Klaus. Marcel couldn’t redeem Klaus because Klaus is a fucking bloodthirsty psychopath and nothing will change that. It was never Marcel’s job or purpose to redeem a man several lifetimes older than him. Nevertheless, Elijah felt Marcel’s only purpose in existence was null and void. He said to Marcel in a later season “you are not wanted, needed, or welcome.” Sounds about alt-white.
Great White Hope
Much like Renessme from Twilight, this character should not exist. Normally, I despise people who complain about women characters being “too strong”, but since Hope is the embodiment of the worst family ever, I am complaining here too. She is the first “tribrid” in existence: a powerful witch and granddaughter of the “original witch” Esther (who wasn’t even the first witch, but whatever), daughter of the original hybrid Klaus, and daughter of Hayley’s royal werewolf bloodline.
The real reason I can’t stand Hope and exclusively refer to her as ‘Great White Hope’ is because she is considered by the narrative, the fandom, and most of the characters outside of Klaus to be Klaus’ only child. She is of the right blood. Also, she is white. This not only elevates her importance based on the fact that she is biological but also the right color (or lack thereof). Her biology also grants her obnoxious god-like power. Meanwhile, most of the Mikaelson family refuse to even acknowledge Marcel as Klaus’ son on the basis of biology. This is already fucked up because adoption matters, but implicitly his race also discounts it.
Marcel and Rebekah… As a Couple
Marcel and Rebekah having a sexual and romantic relationship was the first sign that the narrative didn’t truly consider Marcel Klaus’ son. It moreso seemed to regard him as a ward. However, at multiple points, Klaus explains to Elijah, Hayley, and others that he saw Marcel as his son. Rebekah and the others clearly didn’t agree. Plus somehow Rebekah must’ve never seen Marcel as her nephew despite helping raise him from a young age. At best, Marcel’s race and lack of blood relation meant she simply never considered him family to her, which would be horrible enough. At worst, she saw him as family when he was young, but once he was older and hot, she didn’t anymore. That would feel a lot like grooming…
I have to note that Klaus strongly opposed Marcel and Rebekah being together, but it was played/implied more as ‘you, Negro, are not worthy of my white sister’ and Klaus being angry with Marcel for overstepping, rather than Klaus feeling as though this is incest and/or grooming.
Either way, the show sometimes reinforced Marcel as Klaus’ son through occasional dialogue from Klaus himself, meanwhile they carried on with Rebekah and Marcel as a couple. They married. Disgusting.
Elijah’s Disposable Ethnic Love Interests
Elijah has had several love interests spanning The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. Of his white love interests, there was Tatia, Katherine Pierce, Elena Gilbert, and Hayley Marshall-Kenner. All of them, some more than others, were given the kind of attention, care, focus, and gravitas of any major Vampire Diaries or The Originals love.
However, his Black and ethnic love interests didn’t get the je ne sais quoi the white ones got. He got over Celeste quickly, maybe because she was evil (but so was Katherine). He did mourn Gia for a few episodes when she died, but he got over it. Meanwhile, Cami died and Klaus never fully forgot or got over her. Aya had very valid reasons for wanting to be free of him and his sire line. He forgot her too.
Keelin, Freya, and the Stockholm Syndrome Romance From Hell
Sometimes the ends don’t justify the means. Freya and her family kidnapped this doctor. They put a device over her mouth while she was tied up. All while she was played by a Black actress. The writers either somehow didn’t know the racial implications of a Black person being held captive with advice forcibly put over their mouth. It was giving dog-muzzle. But who cares? Keelin fell for Freya, and vice versa, anyway! Plus another important queer couple comes about!
I can’t decide if this twisted, fucked up “romance” is better or worse than simply burying the gays…
Black Witches Literally Used for Their Bodies and Talents…
Just when I thought The Vampire Diaries slaughtering Black and ethnic characters left and right and having Bonnie be the Magical Negro (while also slaughtering her from time to time) was bad, we get this shit. Maybe the writers thought that because not all of the witches possessed by formerly-deceased Mikaelsons were Black, we should ignore the ones that were. But I refuse.
Sure Kol possessed a white boy witch, and Lenore wasn’t Esther’s only host, but this shit is still racist and fucked up. White vampires (or spirits, rather) possessing and literally using Black bodies as meat puppets, human shields (as, if the host dies, it doesn’t necessarily kill the spirit, they can get a new host), and using their natural talents for their own. White vampires (except Esther who was herself a witch) using the magic of these Black witches is literally magical or supernatural cultural appropriation. The Originals established that much of the magic of the witches is ancestral. Do these Black witches not have Black ancestors..?
Aside from Vincent, who goes on to be a series regular and a fascinating character in his own right, the other possessed witches simply get killed off and the spirits largely get their original bodies back.
There are a lot of problems with this show despite some interesting concepts and solid performances. This and Vampire Diaries have extensive problems when it comes to race. With Julie Plec as the showrunner of both series, it comes as no surprise.
The writers have often claimed to have colorblind casting and views, but the moment they made Marcel a slave who was also the product of r*pe, they made it about race. When it comes to created characters, nothing happens by accident or “naturally”. This is curated work, and curated work is created by choices.
In speaking of choices, there will not be an article about the third series of this universe, Legacies. The reason is simply that I sat through two series by people I hate and dealt with racism and plot holes and terrible popular ships already. I choose not to watch a show starring Great White Hope and her adventures. Even I have my limits.