Well, let me try to elucidate for you.
I am a long-time horror genre/gothic genre fan and I have spent much of my life obsessed with consuming every single type of medium related to those two things.
In college, along with my other studies and obsessions, I studied gothic horror and the creation of the genre as a result/way of dealing of mass PTSD (it began with German Expression post-WWI and tellingly the imagery used in early films such as Nosferatu (1922) and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) give off some freakishly pre-WWII holocaust propaganda imagery despite being filmed two decades prior to the start of the war).
Horror did not of course begin with German Expressionism, but the film industry as we know it today did. Horror is the result of the incomprehensible, the monsters of the mind, the beauty within that fear. It has exists for eons in myths and legends of the most ancient and wise cultures.
I am also a proud feminist. Much of the horror genre is reactionary to socio-political climates in certain parts of the world— for instance, why do you think slasher films became so popular in the 1970s? Films that tell the stories of petrified young women fleeing the pursuit of violent murderous men who presumably want to kill/rape them? — This was the era of the Women’s Liberation movement. I argue the subset of slasher films came into being as an expression of that time period. The most base fears of the mass population.
Horror also serves to free. It is important to note that not all “horrible” and terrifying things are worthy of terror — for instance, the imagery used in the early Frankenstein films (1931) of the burning windmill and the mob chasing the Monster were not part of Mary Shelley’s novel. They were instituted by film makers who lived during the time of mob lynchings of African Americans and burning crosses in the yards of terrified descendants of slaves. They were equating Frankenstein to the “otherness” of black Americans and the horrifying actions of those who oppressed them. In this case, ignorance is the real monster.
Frankenstein was originally a commentary on many things— the darkness of man (wasn’t Victor Frankenstein the true “monster” of the novel?), the pursuit of knowledge which is damned by the Biblical verses, and the idea that man could create a NEW WORLD of his own apart from religion with science — but the question remained: would he be worthy of it? Would he be ready to embrace his own faults along with his strengths? The novel suggests, no.
Horror also has not only served to open discourse onto the ravages of war and slavery, but also poverty, gay rights and women’s rights. Gay rights were thrown into light after the peace and love 60’s movement’s exclusion of the topic and became popular in the 70s as Alien Imagery — an “Other” that would force all people to unite as one against it. To accept each other as equal despite their differences. David Bowie took this and created his famous Ziggy Stardust persona— a bisexual alien who loved and respected all lovers equally.
Women’s rights come into play with vampires. The novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu predates Dracula by 25 years, published in 1872, and tells the story of a girl who discovers her sexuality through a lesbian vampire named Carmilla. The origins of vampires is extremely debatable, but vampiric beings have often been used to show the juxtaposition between the wealthy aristocratic elite (why do you think Dracula talks with the haughty tone and now his derivative Klaus has a British accent?) and the poverty stricken peasants they feed off of (“drink the blood” from).
However, through time the VAMPIRE has become a symbol of women’s sexuality, it’s expression, it’s empowerment and it’s truth.
Even today vampire stories are marketed towards women, up until modern incarnations of the myth vampires were always and only show feeding on women, giving them orgasmic-like reactions to the sexual expression and freedom. It was always a man feeding on a woman. A man “GIFTING” sexual feelings to a woman. This is important to note.
I can think of many examples of feminism in horror starting with The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)– the Bride screams in utmost horror when presented to the man (Frankenstein’s Monster) she was “made” for. She has no lines in the film except for the utterly terrifying screams – she is voiceless apart from her base fear and rejection of him.
There are the 70s slasher films I previously mentioned, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is an example of an outspoken woman’s mind being blamed for the desolation of small-town life, The Hunger made in 1963 also explores lesbian vampires, modern vampire creations such as NBC’s Dracula puts female sexual pleasure in the limelight, and Twilight along with the The Vampire Diaries has exposed (debatable how successfully) the idea that modern women are currently in a terrible vice—do they chose the person that makes them feel good, or the one they “should” choose? Do they choose the life that makes them feel good and happy or do they “settle down” and have a family? Can you be a working career woman and have a home life?
Then, we come to the mother of ALL horror stories and you’ll see my point clearly: the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone. I argue Hades and Persephone are derivative of ancient Buddhist notions of yin/yang or at least the Western World’s most exact equivalent. It is a myth that symbolizes the unknown – embracing the unknown, the darkness within, and using it alongside the light within to live a whole and healed life.
The myth tells the story of Hades, god of the underworld, and how he fell in love with the goddess of harvest, Persephone. She was picking flowers and it was one of the only times Hades ever rose to the surface from the depths of hell – to see her in her astounding light.
Hades was instantly smitten with her (sound familiar?) and kidnapped her and dragged her to the underworld where though she initially hated him, she came to love him honestly, intensely, and wholeheartedly.
Persephone’s mother begged Hades to allow Persephone to return to the living world, and he conceded – getting his “wife” four pomegranate seeds to eat before she left. In ancient Greece eating the fruit offered by one’s captor symbolized that the person would have to return to that captor. Therefore, Persephone was allowed to leave but had to return to Hades for four months every year.
She becomes not only goddess of light/harvest, but goddess of the underworld. And Hades is not only god of the underworld, but husband of the light.
As the world ages and history lengthens and people study the past and use it to better the future, art grows and changes and myths evolve. In the Klaus-Caroline horror story of Hades and Persephone, Caroline chooses to eat the pomegranate seeds (3x11 “I don’t want to die” – the seeds being Klaus’ blood, she becomes a monster by her own CHOICE, decides to live as one, and from then on must live in his Kingdom of the Dead). Caroline is the progressive Persephone, the Anti Virgin Mary trope.
The Anti Virgin Mary is the female character who is essentially “useless” to the Patriarchal King of the Old World (Klaus) under the patriarchal society’s interpretation and expectations of women. Caroline is a woman who is barren, valued for her intelligence and thoughtfulness rather than her beauty, constantly under-appreciated against the canonized and saintly Elena who can do-no-wrong, often makes mistakes and is judged and called out for them, takes responsibility for her shortcomings and mistakes, is intelligent enough to self-evaluate and grow, is a sexually positive character and independent with multiple partners, strong enough bodily to never need a man to defend her, and despite her barren womb she REMAINS maternal as if to suggest the motherly trait is not linked to the need to create children – the expectation of the patriarchal society.
An example of the Virgin Mary trope would be Hayley – a woman whose written purpose was to create a child for a man, she is allowed to be only as strong as is acceptable in male company (she is always in danger, like Elena, and often saved by a man), she has no discernible plot outside of mothering the Patriarchal King’s child, she is uneducated, dependent on the men in her life for protection, valued only for and mocked for her beauty (“she was exquisite”).
In this understanding of Klaus’ character as symbolic of the Patriarchal Model since he is over 1000 years old – we’ll say Klaus represents the old world interpretation of vampires, that of the man bestowing sexual awakening unto the women—Klaus should despise Caroline and fall in love with Hayley.
BUT HE DOESN’T. And this is why I say they are the modern-day progression of the Hades/Persephone myth, and the vampire myth in general. Caroline chooses to stay in the Underworld. Klaus chooses the woman who only benefits him by the nature of her EQUALITY, her equal but opposite power, the woman who replaces the image of his hated mother in his head. He values her because she is a person, she is his equal, she can defeat him.
In 4x18 we got a literal image of the Old World Patriarchal King (Klaus) on his knees in front of the 21st century woman (Caroline). She is always-crowned, like him. She is the natural born Queen and he recognizes that as the King who achieved his position by slaughter and ruin. For so has she—she has struggled through his world (Klaus literally created/sired almost every vampire and the vampiric world) where everything is against her and mastered it. She could start her own country — she doesn’t need his.
So basically—TO ME why I love Klaus and Caroline is because they are the embodiment of my two favorite things: the old classic horror villain (Klaus) and the power of feminism to usurp the precedents of history (Caroline).
It is only possible with these two – Caroline and Klaus, because of the unique (and let’s face it probably accidental) way in which their journey was written. Not with Klaus and any female on TO, not with Caroline and Tyler or Stefan or any new suitor. She had to be a vampire first without him turning her, 3x11 had to happen how it did, S4 had to go on in the way it did with the Silas parallels. It is the fated way it was written that KLAUS AND CAROLINE express all I have written above.
I, like you, thought they had no chemistry and didn’t ship it until season 4. I thought they were going to ruin my classic horror villain (by making him fall in love ugh – and that horrid Delena redemption arc) and my beautiful 21st century queen of femininity (by making her stoop to the Beauty & the Beast serve-the-man trope).
But they didn’t. They executed it flawlessly and S4 was amazing storytelling for Klaroline and for the horror genre. LOVE does not make a person less evil or less of a villain or less of a horror symbol – love can be just as complicated and dark and virulent as anything else. The notion that love belittles, demeans, or weakens is a falsehood perpetuated by what I see as patriarchal fear of the possibilities of allowing “emotional femininity” into one’s life. I love how Klaus does not fear that with Caroline, for all of the reasons mentioned above.
Love is nothing short of war.
Only bad writing can make it into Delena – good writing could turn Klaus (and Caroline) into classic horror symbols alongside Frankenstein and the Bride, the Wolfman, etc.
That is what Klaus and Caroline symbolize and why I like them.