Spoiler Alert: This post contains general spoilers for the original Vampire Diaries books and entire television show, one major spoiler for the Season 3 finale and the end of Book 3, The Fury.

The Vampire Diaries originally started out (in September 1991, making it 22 years old — old enough to legally drink and make numerous questionable life decisions) as a four-book series by L.J. Smith. When the CW announced that TVD would be coming to a small screen near you in 2009, my inner thirteen-year-old danced with glee. Finally, all my teen dreams were coming true – the bitchy blonde ice queen of Fell’s Church, Virginia was going to be brought to life! Except that it became immediately obvious that TV!Elena was more of a mild-mannered doormat instead of an ice queen with a sacred, sworn duty to ensnare the hot new student. Four seasons into the television show, the characters and story lines share some similarities, but for the most part, it’s another beast entirely. (All apologies to Tyler. Too soon?)

Ever since the first season, I have been wondering who would win in an Elena Gilbert Deathmatch – in the first season, it was hands-down book!Elena, but after four seasons, can TV!Elena hold a candle to her counterpart?

In this extremely fair and definitely-unbiased-by-years-of-L.J. Smith-fandom deathmatch, we will judge The Elenas in several categories: Tragic Backstory, High School Persona, Fashion Choices, Defending Friends & Vanquishing Enemies, and finally, Diary Upkeep.

Tragic Backstory

When the story opens, book!Elena’s parents both died in a car accident about four years prior – leaving her and her four or five year old sister, Margaret, in the care of their sweet but naïve Aunt Judith. Aunt Judith is approximately the same age as the Gilbert parents, with a nice boyfriend named Robert who tries to parent the headstrong book!Elena a bit more than she’d prefer. Elena still misses her parents, enough that she visits the cemetery when she feels lost, but her grief has diminished enough to replace angst with high school social-climbing, traipsing around Europe, and dating boys under the time-honored Catch and Release program.

In season one, TV!Elena’s parents also died in a car accident – but just four months prior, so everything is still painfully fresh. Unlike book!Elena, TV!Elena has a teenage brother Jeremy (keeper of some Hot Arms, we will learn later) and a young aunt, Jenna, who is still in grad school and has no idea how to parent. When we meet her, Elena is still a cheerleader (like her mother was), still participates in the Miss Mystic Falls pageant (like her mother did), and does a little parenting of her own, since Jeremy prefers to drown his sorrows in herbal substances. Throughout the series, TV!Elena has moments of quiet strength, but for several seasons, she is constantly being rescued by one of the Salvatores and wringing her hands over The Katherine Problem. (Incidentally, TV!Katherine is similar to Book!Elena in personality, at least initially.)

Winner: Book!Elena has had more time to grieve, thus more time to protect herself in an icy veneer, and she retains a stubborn strength throughout the entire series. After all, we just have to look at page 3 to see that the girl is fierce: “It was all so completely ridiculous. Since when had she, Elena Gilbert, been scared of meeting people? Since when had she been scared of anything?” TV!Elena, understandably, is still shellshocked when we meet her, and it takes her several seasons before she’s capable of anything resembling viciousness. This is a deathmatch, though, and book!Elena would eat TV!Elena for breakfast in her well-appointed Civil War-era home (while wearing a red silk kimono, and no, I’m not making that up).

High School Persona

Book!Elena is a bit of a mean girl (with a soft chewy center, much to Damon’s delight), but while single-minded, stubborn, and occasionally snide, she doesn’t quite qualify for the Regina George Crown of Cruelty (that honor goes to book!Caroline, who is a diary-stealing, gold-lamé-ensconced mean girl to the max). Book!Elena does not hesitate to use people for her purpose (in fact, she makes Bonnie and Meredith take a blood oath that they will help her snare Stefan), but her cruelty is a byproduct of her laser focus on getting what—or who—she wants. If you’re helpful, she might let you sit at her cafeteria table – noblesse oblige! She’s bored by these silly high school boys, and it’s time to get herself a cultured Italian man. A man…who is still in American high school? Oh well, details, he drives a Porsche 911 Turbo and he’s built, so, kindly get out of the way before Steamroller Gilbert flattens you. From The Awakening:

“Uh oh. Elena’s got that look again. The hunting look.”

“Short-Dark-and-Handsome had better be careful.”

TV!Elena, as we mentioned earlier, is gorgeous and popular, but with a distinctly nicer side (again, however, Caroline plays the role of frenemy foil for quite some time). She doesn’t go after Stefan the way book!Elena does – instead, they’re drawn to each other. People like TV!Elena rather than fear her, but you also get the sense that she’s a victim of life’s woes for quite awhile. Instead of being a force to be reckoned with, she needs to be rescued. As the series goes on, she stands up for herself more – especially to the devastatingly gorgeous Damon, and tells her drug-infused brother to pull it together – but you don’t really get the sense of focus that book!Elena gives off. (Book!Elena is the subject of a couple of rescues herself, but nowhere near the amount TV!Elena garners. Just look here.) All bets are off in Season 4, but it takes TV!Elena a long time and countless tragedies to get mad – by that time, her icy blonde counterpart would have stomped all over her.

Winner: Book!Elena again! This is a girl who knows how to get what she wants. I’m pretty sure that if you stuck her and TV!Elena in a cage, and dangled a Salvatore-shaped carrot outside, book!Elena would flatten TV!Elena like a pancake to get her man. (Or men. Book!Elena finds herself equally drawn to older, darker Damon. As you do.) 

Fashion Choices

I could cut the books some slack, being written in the early 90s and all, but no. This is the series that gave us Elena’s kimono, apricot hair ribbons, dresses like “crystallized violets,” and Bonnie wearing a dress that makes her look like “…a shimmering party favor in pink taffeta and black sequins.” (Come to think of it, that sounds like a Betsey Johnson ensemble. Perhaps I was too quick to judge?)

The first time 17-year-old book!Elena dresses for school, she wears “a pale rose top and white linen shorts combo that made her look like a raspberry sundae,” finished off with a deep rose hair ribbon. Always a great idea to look edible around vampires. Or just teenage boys in general.

Sure, she could look like Mollie King, but let’s be real. This was the early 90s, the time that gave us acid-washed high rise jeans, hats with big sunflowers on them, and LA Gear. TV!Elena, on the other hand, while not exactly edgy, almost always looks fresh, classic, and like a real teenager when she goes to school. Er, when she bothers to go to school. 

Plus, although book!Elena has an Italian Renaissance-era gown custom-made for a Halloween dance, TV!Elena wins, hands-down, for this dress alone. It’s as sparkly as Edward Cullen and yet it works.

Winner: TV!Elena. Book!Elena is going to seriously regret her yearbook photos in 20 years, if the fashion police haven’t incarcerated her for eternal life. The only way she’ll win this portion of the deathmatch is if TV!Elena flings herself off Wickery Bridge after her retinas are burned out. 

Defending Friends & Vanquishing Enemies

Out of all the categories, this is where the Elenas are most similar. Both can be utterly selfish and caught up in their own drama, but in the end, they are fiercely loyal and protective of their friends and family, willing to lay down their lives if it helps save others. TV!Elena makes Stefan save Matt over her (although why she doesn’t unbuckle her seatbelt and follow them, I will never understand, and yes, I am a total killjoy).

Book!Elena saves Stefan and Damon from Katherine without regard to her own life – she flings herself into the sunlight, atop Katherine, without wearing her daylight ring. As she lies dying, once Katherine is really and thoroughly dead, she exhorts the brothers to take care of each other, and is comforted by the knowledge that her friends will be safe now. (This is a theme we see in the show, too – Elena and the Salvatores occasionally seem to acknowledge that the brothers’ love for each other is greater/more important than their love for her.)

Winner: It’s a draw. It’s no secret that I think TV!Elena is insanely whiny, but there’s no doubt that she’d do anything in her power to protect her friends and family. Similarly, book!Elena transforms from a single-minded, selfish ice queen to a self-sacrificing friend over the course of three books. TV!Elena hasn’t really vanquished any of our favorite antagonists (mostly just innocent victims), but Season 4 shows that she has a little life left in her yet. In a cage match, just threaten a sibling and these two will maul each other to death in order to save them.

Diary Upkeep

Book!Elena keeps a diary even when she is living in a barn. Sure, it’s full of gems like “It was as if he were a thousand miles away, and his eyes…there was so much pain in his eyes I could hardly stand it,” but the girl shows a level of commitment that is unparalleled by her TV counterpart. 

TV!Elena…well, frankly, I’m not sure why they’re even calling it The Vampire Diaries at this point – the last time I recall seeing anyone write in an actual diary (or give a voiceover) was in Season Two. A scientific Google Image Search for “Elena Gilbert writing in her diary” yields four distinct screencaps.

Winner: Book!Elena, obviously. She’ll kill TV!Elena with flowery prose about her loooooooooove for Stefan (or lust for Damon, either way), but I’m pretty sure we all wrote things like, “And there are little things that shouldn’t matter, but they bother me. Like why Stefan still wears Katherine’s ring around his neck, even though I know he loves me.” (Girl, I know. You’ve got to respect a person’s past, but that crap just doesn’t fly. Time and place, Salvatore, time and place.)


Book!Elena is pretty badass, 22 years later—but TV!Elena is showing some major potential. With her newly acquired vampire powers, she is finally in a position to actually defend herself from the trouble she attracts – and hopefully she’ll also continue to tell Damon to stick his desire for her to be human where the sun don’t shine. Because we know book!Elena would never put up with that crap.

What do you think? Who would win in a cage match? Who do you like better as a person, and as a character? Do you think the books have stood the test of time? Do you think TV!Elena will be any less whiny this season? Or will Katherine take on that mantle?