Battle of the Shows: Buffy The Vampire Slayer vs. The Vampire Diaries

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Ever since the publication of Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1897, people have been fascinated with tales of vampires, undead creatures who drink the blood of the living.

Tales fell in and out of vogue throughout literary history, crazes reigniting with the publications of books by Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer.

In television, two shows that come to mind when one thinks vampires; cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer and popular teen drama, The Vampire Diaries.

tvd buffy split

Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered in 1997 and focused on a peppy blonde high school girl who also happened to be a vampire slayer.

The Vampire Diaries premiered in 2009 and centered on two vampire brothers who loved the same girl ... and her doppelganger. 

These shows varied, both being the product of their time but, which is the superior vampire show? 

Slayer Blood - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 21

Our TV Fanatics Paul DailLy and Leora Waltuch sat down to discuss how the shows differ and to prove why Buffy the Vampire Slayer of The Vampire Diaries is the superior vampire show.

Leora: Why do you feel The Vampire Diaries is superior to Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Paul: Both shows are different in their own right, and they each brought fresh and exciting dynamics to vampire dramas.

However, I think The Vampire Diaries brought many aspects of the lore to life in a better way.

The Vampire Diaries, at least the first few seasons, kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Those initial seasons were consistently good, and while it fell off in the later seasons, it was still a cut above the other supernatural shows.

Paul Wesley Promo Image - The Vampire Diaries

Buffy, for me, at least, started much slower and hit its groove further into its run. 

How about you with Buffy? 

Leora: I do agree that Buffy had a slower start. The Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 1 was definitely campier. But they were able to build on that, and by Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 14, they had something very deep going for them.

Buffy was always about empowerment and conquering the difficult realities of life through the lens of the supernatural.

The Vampire Diaries seemed to center around two things:

Ian Somerhalder as Damon

One was the love triangle, two brothers who love the same girl and the dynamic that creates. That became a problem when Elena left the show.

It also meant the show was more about shipping than anything else, and you would always have this one conflict that never got resolved.

The second theme was relatively original. Instead of the vampires being the bad guys, they were going to be the guys you are rooting for.

As the show evolved, though, and as more of the characters became vampires, the vampires crossed lines, and it became clear that the vampires were, in fact, the bad guys.

While rooting for the villain is an interesting concept, and I applaud the attempt, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

The Talk - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 17

We want to sympathize with the bad guys, but we want to relate to and root for the good guys. Of course, it isn't always that black and white.

When Buffy began, the lines drawn were very black and white. Vampires were always bad. You could almost forgive them for their behavior because it was just their nature to be evil. They couldn't help it.

So you killed them, and you moved on, as opposed to on The Vampire Diaries, where vampires are more like junkies who occasionally choose to be evil and heartless because it is easier and because they can.

Things didn't stay black and white for Buffy though. We had Angel, the exception to the 'all vampires are evil,' rule.

We had the way Spike and Dru cared for each other. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 7 was particularly poignant about the lack of black and white in the world.

Angel's Cure - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 17

And as the show evolved, we saw that all the characters, good and bad, were multi-layered.

But the monsters they fought were meant as a metaphor for the struggles people face every day, and sometimes you just need to be able to punch those struggles in the face and defeat them without them having some moral high ground. 

Buffy straddled the line between black and white and gray and did so beautifully. And while ships existed, and many were quite epic, they were never the point of Buffy.

This was a show about people, especially women, and teenagers, and losers, and outsiders overcoming struggles.

Paul: I definitely agree about the lines on Buffy being black and white. That's one of the great things that sets the two shows apart. 

His Soul - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

However, I don't agree about The Vampire Diaries only being about a love triangle. There were some great themes on the show but, the most recurring was loss.

The jumping-off point was a teenager who lost her parents, and her life was upended by the arrival of a mysterious vampire.

I may be in the minority, but I think the final two seasons of The Vampire Diaries proved that the show was more about the bond between the two brothers than anything else.

Even when they hated each other, they were drawn back together, and the final scene will always stick with me because it was them reuniting in the afterlife.

They fought like crazy over the affections of Elena and Katherine but still managed to let the past be the past.

Nina Dobrev Promo Image - The Vampire Diaries

Leora: I agree that the bond between the brothers was at the center of the show, but that's what made the love triangle so tragic. Because it isn't just a love triangle, it's a love triangle between two brothers.

Now, I haven't seen The Vampire Diaries Season 8 yet, but there were definitely earlier instances that proved the importance of the relationship, like how Stefan reacted on The Vampire Diaries Season 6 when Damon and Bonnie were trapped in that 1990s hell-world.

Loss played its role in both shows, but I would argue that it had more impact on Buffy. In The Vampire Diaries, most of the characters came back from the dead two, three, four times.

I swear Bonnie was resurrected seven or eight times. Death stopped meaning anything and that really soured me on the show.

Fake Weakling - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 15

On Buffy, there was a lot of loss. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 2 had Xander forced to stake one of his two best friends since childhood; I think you can draw a line between his black and white hatred of all vampires, including Spike, to that experience. 

When Jenny died on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 17, the audience realized that even a regular could be killed off, and the death meant something because it stuck. 

Joyce's death was like losing a mom for the audience. It was such a natural, human thing that had nothing to do with vampires and that Buffy couldn't fight, even with all her powers.

The Vampire Diaries did something similar with Caroline's mom, and no question it was moving, but Buffy did it better, I think. Plus, they did it first. There were often times when it felt lie The Vampire Diaries was copying something from Buffy. 

Vampire Patrol - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 12

Of course, when Buffy died, they had to bring her back. However, they did it in a way that had such intense ramifications.

All of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6 was about the characters coming back from Buffy's death and resurrection on an emotional level. This was particularly true of Buffy herself, and Willow, who had crossed a line in resurrecting her friend.

Then the Big Bad of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 7 was only able to surface and be a threat to the world at large because the slayer had died and come back.

Meanwhile, the loss of Tara was devastating to fans and characters alike. It also led to the conclusion of Willow's arc the whole season, which defined her path moving forward.

Loss was a big part of Buffy, but they kept the significant losses to a lower number, so they actually meant something.

Candice Accola Promo Image - The Vampire Diaries

It wasn't everybody dies and comes back or becomes a vampire all the time like on the Vampire Diaries. Then there were Elena's parents who we never met and weren't even her birth parents, and then there was Aunt Jenna, who nobody ever talked about again. 

The Vampire Diaries may have included loss, but they did it a disservice more often than not. 

How do you feel about the way both shows handled loss and death?

Paul: You know what, I agree about Buffy handling loss better. 

The Vampire Diaries started to go off the rails the moment they brought characters back, and while I think they could have closed The Other Side sooner to prevent dead characters returning, some deaths did stick.

Candice Accola Promo Pic

I feel like some deaths allowed characters to do things they wouldn't normally do. For instance, you had Caroline going entirely off the rails, introducing us to a whole new side of her. 

The loss of Buffy was raw and emotional because there was a greater sense of finality because characters generally didn't pop back up from the dead.

However, my biggest gripe with Buffy was the way she was killed off at the end of Season 5.

She was always going to return, and given that she had already died before, I would have much rathered that type of development to happen in the series finale.

Joyce's death was one of the most gut-wrenching on TV. That being said, the Vampire Diaries delivered more shock value when it killed people off. For example, Kai killing the entire Gemini Coven at Jo and Alaric's wedding.

Love Online - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I know it isn't all about shock value, but that episode propelled the story forward in an emotional way, what with Elena being put in a magical coma, and Alaric being forced to face up to the fact that he couldn't save his family.

Leora: I mean, in a lot of those cases, you're dealing with behind-the-scenes stuff. 

Elena had to go into a magical coma because the actress wanted to leave the series if memory serves.

Buffy's death on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5 Episode 22 nearly was the series finale. I think they thought it might be at the time because the network had canceled the show.

Luckily, it was then picked up by another network. Still, you can see in the writing how it was set up like an end. 

Willow's Crush - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 8

Sometimes I think it would have been better if it ended there. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6 is my favorite season, and I'd hate to live in a world without it, but most of the characters were better off at the end of Season 5 than they were at the end of the series.

Namely, the Willow/Tara and Anya/Xander of it all. We could just imagine it all worked out for them. Wouldn't be fair to the others, I suppose.

I agree that what Kai did at the wedding was a big deal. Jo died  (more or less), and Carolina ended up with the twins, which is how Legacies is a thing now.

I haven't seen it yet, but it looks like a great show, even if they did have to kill off Hope's parents and Elijah to make it happen.

But Kai was a good villain, one of the better ones they had, and the actor did a great job with the role. I would have liked them to explore his mental/emotional state more. Maybe they do in Legacies.

wodd legacies

Speaking of, both shows had spin-off(s) that continued on the universe. I haven't really seen The Originals or Legacies, though I want to, and I've heard good things.

Angel I have seen, and it is so different than Buffy, yet so good. It says something about the shows that they were able to continue on in other shows like that.

Paul: I would say The Originals is to The Vampire Diaries what Angel was to Buffy; darker and edgier.

Leora: Good to know.

As for Buffy having died before, I never really counted her first death. It meant something obviously, because of Kendra/Faith, but I feel like if you can be brought back by medical means, that's not a resurrection.

Buffy Dies - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 12

That's just science. I mean, she was only dead for a minute.

Also, one of the things with Buffy versus Angel was a difference in the gender of the lead. I'm not sure that applies as much to The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.

I guess Elena was lead on The Vampire Diaries, but so were the brothers and, as you pointed out, they were the constant relationship we saw go through ups and downs. Elena was even written out, and the show kept going.

Now, you say The Vampire Diaries isn't about a love triangle, but there was one front and center with Stefan/Elena/Damon and some say it mirrors Angel/Buffy/Spike.

Personally, I've never felt that Angel/Buffy/Spike was technically a love triangle, but I'd love your thoughts on the dynamics of that and how they compare before I go into my reasons. After all, shipping isn't everything, but it sure as heck ain't nothing.

Broken Doll - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 8

Paul: I think with Buffy and Angel in particular, they had their time, and Buffy and Spike happened while she and Angel were apart.

The slow burn of Buffy and Spike's relationship was one of the better aspects of Buffy in my book. I would have appreciated it more if Angel and Spike were not adversaries, I think.

I wouldn't say it mirrors the Damon/Elena/Stefan because of the whole doppelganger thing.

I think it comes down to the two times the shows aired. Social media was barely a thing when Buffy aired, but there was still a legion of fans worldwide.

It broke out in a way most shows could not, and one thing that sticks with me is Sarah Michelle Gellar saying in an interview that people looked down on it in her social circle because it was a midseason replacement.

Spike Breaks Down - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Vampire Diaries, however, was coming off the success of Twilight, and people were looking for the next big vampire romance.

In some way, The Vampire Diaries played into that early on, but when we were introduced to the wider mythology, and the bigger picture, it became less about that.

Leora: Fair enough. Always fun to learn the history and context of a show.

I agree that Spuffy and Bangle were two separate things at two separate times.

That's sort of what I meant about it not being a love triangle. It was never a choice because by the time Spike was a possibility for Buffy, Angel was out of the picture.

Brave Enough To Admit It - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 8

As for the rivalry, that was there from Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2, at which point, I don't think Spuffy was even a thought in Joss Whedon's mind.

It came before Buffy was on the table. If one is good and one is evil, or they're both evil, or they're both good, there was always this complicated relationship between them.

In a way, that is what is most similar to The Vampire Diaries about the dynamic because there is something close, and complicated, and almost familial about Spike and Angel's relationship, though you see it more on Angel Season 5 than any other time.

Now, what about each show's HBIC; the horrible popular girl who becomes deep and a fan favorite? Is Caroline Forbes for you, or Cordelia Chase?

Paul: Cordelia versus Caroline is a tough one. On the one hand, Cordelia was consistent throughout her time on Buffy, but I would say her final arc was handled terribly on Angel.

Out of His League - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 1

Caroline, on the other hand, had a consistent arc and was always growing as a character. On The Vampire Diaries, she found herself in a lot of troubling situations and managed to come out the other side stronger. But, much like Cordelia, she was ruined on a spin-off of the show she originated from.

Leora: Caroline was a surprise at the beginning of The Vampire Diaries because I was expecting her to be like Cordelia or all the other horrible, popular cliches, but she was actually a really loyal friend.

There was an episode early on, The Vampire Diaries Season 1 Episode 9, where Caroline didn't even know about magic but she had a seance with Bonnie and Elena because Bonnie was upset about Emily's ghost haunting her.

We saw Caroline as having more depth than I would have expected even from The Vampire Diaries Season 1 Episode 1, and she grew to be more likable than the lead.

I can't say much about what the spin-offs did to her character because I haven't seen them, but I did read your post about why she needs to be killed off on Legacies.

Candice Accola Promotional Image

Cordelia's development was a more slow progression. In the beginning, she seemed truly horrible and not at all sympathetic, but she grew over time. I really liked her arc in Angel Seasons 1-3, but the later seasons really screwed with her and screwed her over. Even the actress admitted that.

I guess Cordelia was more of a bitch than Caroline ever was. I found it really interesting that the thing that really developed Caroline's character and allowed her to grow was turning into a vampire on The Vampire Diaries Season 2 Episode 1.

The thing is, on Buffy, Cordelia wasn't so much Buffy's friend as a mirror of who she used to be before she became The Slayer. She was in the group, but she also wasn't. She wasn't a member of the core four. She didn't really stand on her own until Angel.

I think if we're just talking about the character and their development in the original series, I prefer Caroline. However, if we're including evolution on both shows, its a much closer race.

Cordelia wasn't supposed to overshadow Buffy on her own show, and she never did. I don't know if Caroline was supposed to overshadow Elena or not, but she definitely did.

Klaus, Tyler and Caroline

The ships also tell a tale. In both cases, the guy who had the 'epic love' with the main girl developed a slow, unexpected, friends to more than relationship with these Queens Cs.

Both women had great development. I concede that Caroline was probably my favorite thing about The Vampire Diaries.

I don't know that The Vampire Diaries ever addressed social issues the way Buffy did, such as suicide attempts, gun violence, and sexuality.

That being said, what was groundbreaking and earth shatterings in the early 2000s is a little behind the times and the movement now. Do you think there was anything particularly, for lack of a better term, 'woke' about The Vampire Diaries?

Paul: Honestly, for as much as I loved The Vampire Diaries, I wouldn't say it was 'woke.' It was more about the gang grappling with the latest big bad and all their minions.

Michael Trevino Promo Picture

Buffy, I think, was definitely ahead of its time in addressing social issues. What The Vampire Diaries did address was just par for the course with teen dramas at the time.

I don't think there were any shows on the air at the time of Buffy that addressed these important issues, and I think that was part of the attraction for a lot of fans.

Leora: You talked before about vampire mythos a bit.

I don't think either show did bats. The Vampire Diaries seemed to be implying something with crows and fog in the beginning that they never really followed up on.

Both burn in the sun, though the rings everybody seemed to have on The Vampire Diaries kind of took away from that, but it was an interesting take.

tvd 806

I remember vampires could eat garlic on The Vampire Diaries and, I don't remember if they have reflections.

And of course, the lore on where vampires come from is very different.

Do you think either is more true to classic tales, or if not, do you think it brought something to the table that was new and better?

Paul: I definitely think Buffy was truer to those classic tales.

The Vampire Diaries seemed to want to do something different with the genre, so it allowed them to eat like humans, and  I found that fascinating because it was not what I expected.

Matt Davis Promo Image - The Vampire Diaries

I even loved the whole vervain thing. I think, given that The Vampire Diaries premiered after the market had become saturated, it did well to set itself apart, and some things worked better.

But deep down, the two shows came out at different times, so I would say both did as well as each other on that front.

Leora: Let's talk about villains.

So vampire Diaries had Kai, Katherine, and Klaus. All their villains who started with the letter K were great. The rest don't stand out in my memory so much.

Buffy started off with the campiest villain ever in the master, but that gave them something to work up to, and when season two brought us Angelous, they really delivered.

Rise of the Master - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 1

I love sadistic villains, and Angelous was an artist. Plus, it tugged on the heartstrings with the drama of him being the evil alter-ego of Buffy's old flame.

Some of their villains, later on, were more humorous than scary, like The Mayor, or Glory, or the trio, but they were powerful enough. Adam was laughable.

And of course, the best villains were when they took a character we knew and made them evil, like with Angel of Willow. I also thought The First was pretty good.

It was sort of what I imagined The Source in Charmed would be like, and then they took off his hood. He was a big let down.

But one show at a time.

Watch Your Back - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Episode 1

Anyway, The First was pretty iconic, and Caleb was a bastard. I felt like even if not all the villains were scary, most were memorable, and they provided for fights with ever-increasing stakes without having to fall back on the resurrection issue we discussed The Vampire Diaries having.

I also remember reading someone say something about how Warren was a really good villain because he is exactly the type of villain that exists in the real world.

People and guns. It's a big issue, and as the special feature on The Buffy Season 6 DVD says, life was the big bad for that season.

You'll have to refresh my memory on the non-K Vampire Diary villains, but the fact that most were forgettable to me says something.

I think I read somewhere that they could never really top Klaus, and they spent too long trying. All though Klaus did lack depth until the spin-off.

Joseph Morgan Promotional Pic

Katherine was awesome and having her played by the same actress as Elena made a big difference. It goes back to what you said about the show focusing on brothers and what tore them apart and put them back together.

Paul: I have to agree about the Klaus, Katherine, and Kai. The three of them were the best, for sure.

The other villains struggled to break out and prove they were forces to be reckoned with. What was fascinating, however, was the way The Vampire Diaries Season 5 flatlined because of Silas and Markos -- two of the worst villains on TV, like ever.

But the writers took note and introduced Kai the following year, and it was perfect to bring Katherine back as the final villain. For her flaws, there was progression, but all bets were off when she got some semblance of power.

If I look at Buffy, none of those villains stick out to me as much as Klaus, Katherine, and Kai. The First Evil wasn't scary the first time, but the second, it was, because it could legitimately tear the world apart.

Katherine on Season 5

However, most of the villains were too sappy for me to care about. I think my biggest issue was that they tried to the villain of the week, and it became difficult to top some of the earlier ones.

Leora: I remember Silas now that you bring him up, but I do not remember Markos at all. it was nice to finally have some explanation for the whole doppelganger thing, which was original to the show and not at all from the books.

I wonder if they had planned that explanation from the beginning or if they just pulled it out of their you know where.

I can concede that, excluding Angelous, The Vampire Diaries had better villains.

Maybe it wasn't so much about villains for Buffy. They were focusing on the battle on a more metaphorical level and the development of the characters.

Angelus Returns - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 17

It wasn't about whom they were fighting, it was about them, why they were fighting, what they were fighting for, how the fight affected them year after year.

Despite better villains overall, I stand by Buffy as the better show. It had all the important things that I look for in a show, and I wanted to watch again and again, which I just can't say is true about The Vampire Diaries.

While The Vampire Diaries definitely had some things to offer the genre as well as some truly memorable characters, I stand by my assessment that Buffy is the superior show.

It highlighted life and death, love and loss, strength and weakness, good, evil, and everything in between.

It had strong characters to admire and relate to, and its mythos is now taught in theology courses at some universities. All Hail Buffy The Vampire Slayer, She Saved The Genre A Lot!

TVD Cheers

Paul: I do think both shows were going for something different with villains, and maybe that's another thing that helps set them apart. 

I can't deny that TVD towered above Buffy in those earlier seasons. The villains were better fleshed out, and each brought something new and exciting to the series, and that made it more worthwhile to watch for me.

I agree that Buffy saved the genre back then, but I stand by my assessment that The Vampire Diaries is the best.

Both shows did a lot for the genre, but I can't deny that TVD towered above Buffy in those earlier seasons. The villains were better fleshed out, and each brought something new and exciting to the series.

What do you think TV Fanatics? Which is the superior show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or The Vampire Diaries?

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Leora W is a staff writer for TV Fanatic..

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 17 Quotes

Buffy: It's so weird. Every time something like this happens, my first instinct is still to run to Angel. I can't believe it's the same person. He's completely different from the guy that I knew.
Willow: Well, sort of, except...
Buffy: Except what?
Willow: You're still the only thing he thinks about.

Giles: In my years as...Watcher...I've buried too many people. But Jenny was the first I've loved.
Buffy: I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't kill him for you...for her...when I had the chance. I wasn't ready. But I think I finally am.