Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Case 5: Veronica Mars

When teen soap meets crime drama, which side carries the day? Or does it matter?

Behind the Assumption: A whip-smart, clever detective noir with a twist, and a monster appealing lead, beleaguered by low ratings.

Previous Experience: I often read the name, the concept, knew it was acclaimed, low-rated, and starred Kristen Bell, and knew the loose structure—teenage PI Veronica Mars, daughter of her town’s disgraced former Sheriff, investigates the murder of her BFF, Lily Kane.

Results: Kristen Bell has made her desire to return to the role of Veronica no secret, and I not only see why, I’m a fervent supporter—Veronica Mars is a rich, awesome character in a vivid world. She is, quite possibly, the baddest ass to appear in these musings, a foiler of baddies many times her size and stature, who relies on little more than her tenacity and vast intelligence, equipped with seemingly untouchable emotional fortitude, always there at the end to greet her utterly outmatched adversary with a cute, smug smile. Her bad-assness is so boundless, it apparently transcended her reality and came to effect ours, improbably earning her show 3 seasons. Though the first is obviously the best, I loved them all, and would have kept on watching.
            The world she occupies is one that’s worthy of her powers. Neptune, California has some dark undercurrents, used to make some tough points about young adulthood at the dawn of the 21st century. Nancy Drew jokes may pop up, but very little in Veronica’s world is cute like a fake ghost or a secret passage behind a grandfather clock. She regularly locks horns with fraud, the class divide, drugs and their dealers, serial rape, and murder. As with Avatar, this dark streak of maturity shocked and impressed me. All too often shows set in high-school feel like they were written by people who attended John Hughes High. The schools created in Veronica Mars, and the problems rampant within them, feel legitimate and modern. Neptune High is awash in privileged excess, impoverished resentment, casual misogyny, cruel pranks, catty rumor, humiliation, alienation, and fear. This show understands that the problems of modern youth aren’t the bitch gang snapping on last season’s clothes to your face, but spreading sexual rumors behind your back.
            I previously mentioned that Lost fans made Lost fun. I wish the same were true of Veronica Mars, but sadly it’s not. Maybe the smaller fan-base lends strength to more shippery sorts, but they’re all over VM and for such devoted folks, they seem to have missed the point badly. In some circles, Veronica becomes “a bitch” near the end—suspiciously right around the time she (justly) dumps her immensely popular boyfriend. Leaving aside the fact that her bitchiness is a large percentage of her coolness, it’s my view that if your favorite character isn’t Veronica, and your second favorite isn’t her also bad-ass dad Keith, you are watching the show wrong. Third is arguable—I tend to vacillate between Weevil and Wallace.
            Not that she’d much care. Sometimes young heroines get fetishized in their sufferings—we’re supposed to pity them and want to protect them from the big bad world, no matter how many superpowers they might have. Pity and protection are utterly useless to Veronica, she has no need for them. She gets hurt, to be sure, she gets upset, she is vulnerable, but she is never weak. When she gets wounded, she gets pissed. She gets awesome.

Least Sexy Moment: “A Trip to the Dentist”.

All-Stars Shoe Sighting: Frequently worn by Veronica herself.

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