Why we need you Veronica Mars!

July 15, 2009

Veronica Mars has got to be one of my favourite shows of all time.  No seriously, it’s funny, witty, smart, progressive.  Women are technologically savvy, the privilege of white rich kids are exposed (well sort of…), and it generally has progressive commentary.  Watch this video for the things I loved about the show and also the more problematic elements… and keep watching because I included some hilarious and entertaining clips from the show.

ps.  Steer clear of season three, my love for the show ended during the last episode of season 2.

Check out other great blogs and commentary about Veronica Mars:

  • Great commentary and analysis by The Hathor Legacy “Veronica Mars: Grade is Not the Verb I’d Choose” and also commentary about sexual violence in the show written in three parts entitled “Rape in Veronica Mars” read here: Part 1Part 2Part 3.  Many of the situations they write about are in the third season of VM, which I will comment more about in another video.
  • Reactions about the third season of Veronica Mars from “Across the Pond” –  “Et Tu Veronica Mars
  • This article at Other Magazine talks about Veronica Mars and Dr. Who trying to emulate the strong empowered female character that we so many fans loved about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Also check out this wonderful vid by Keewick which exposes some of the sexual violence issues in Veronica Mars.

**Update: You can now see my clip review about how the writers used wit and humour to talk about gender and class in Veronica Mars over at Critical Commons.

** This video is available to be translated into other languages by volunteers like you.  Please visit the subtitling page on Universal Subs and click TRANSLATE to get started.

Transcript

I love veronica mars I think it’s an absolutely brilliant show.  It only had a short run of three seasons and only two of which were actually watchable.  The third season has sort of been written off as a fluke, there were a lot of problems with it but I’ll save that for another video, that said you should go out immediately and bit torrent, pirate rent buy, whatever you have to do to watch Veronica Mars because it will totally be worth it.

It’s a show about a teenage detective she actually learned the tricks of the trade from her father who is a private detective and she often solves problems at school, she even solves crimes that the local sheriff’s department are unable to solve.  The show is actually really funny, it’s got great wit, great humour and I would actually compare it to Joss Whedon’s writing in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and maybe even say its a little bit better?  Joss Whedon did a cameo during Season 2 because he thought the show was so good.  and so did Courtney from the Dandy Warhols and Kevin Smith.

One of the things that drew me in immediately to the show was how technologically savvy Veronica Mars is.  It’s a pretty rare representation to have young women shown as super knowledgeable about all different technologies, so you see her often using computers and having a really good understanding of how they work.  She’s also and excellent photographer, printers, scanners all that sort of stuff.  She also has a lot of different spy gadgets, so she can take apart an iPod and put in a hidden camera that can take a photo every five seconds for example or track people through GPS or put recording devices in cars.  There is also another teenage woman at Veronica’s school named Mac, who is also super tech savvy, Veronica met up with her because she needed some help with the computer systems at school and Mac knew everything about them so throughout the television series she is constantly going to Mac asking her for help on how to break into wifi networks, and how to create websites and hack into different things and they work together as pair on various projects.

Very little violence is used on the show to solve problems  but it’s not a world without violence so it kind of comes in two forms on the show.  The first is really awkward and clumsy, so you’ll have two teenage boys beating each other up and throwing punches and kind of missing but it’s not like they’re trained in martial arts they’re just really awkward.  The second way shows how horrific and egregious  violence actually is.  It makes your stomach kind of turn as you are watching the show.  I think that these characteristics and representations of violence on Veronica Mars really helps to show us how violence is used on other shows to solve problems, how easy it is to write violence as a solution as opposed to coming up with really creative ways to deal with different problems.

Veronica Mars Clip Season 1 Episode 14: Mars vs. Mars
Veronica: Well she’s giving a statement at the sheriff’s department tomorrow, I’ll drop by and see if she’s up for a chat
Logan: Well I’ll go with you
Veronica: Actually despite popular opinion you really can’t beat the truth out of someone

Instead of using violence Veronica gets really creative and cleaver with the way that she solves her cases.  At the resolution of each show the viewer is left with this sense of poetic justice. An example of this poetic justice is when Veronica kind of gets back at her boyfriend Troy who she finds out later on that he was kind of scamming her the whole time.

Veronica Mars Clip Season 1 Episode 5: You Think You Know Someone
Shauna: Troy what’s with this girl calling me? You gave her my number?
Troy: oh whoa what girl?
Shauna: Some girl named Veronica
Troy: You didn’t tell her you’d be seeing me did you?
Shauna: She caught me off guard, what was I suppos– (phone clicks)
Veronica Voice Over: Sorry we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, just wanted to wish you luck at your new school and leave you something to remember me by.  It took me awhile to figure out where you stashed the steroids but there was only one place where you were alone right?  In case you were wondering the former contents of the package are somewhere between my toilet and the pacific ocean.  Say hi to Shauna for me, she sounds like a keeper
Troy: Damnit!

The show is of course not without its faults, it has some problematic portrayals of racism and classism, but it does actually acknowledge those things and talks about them throughout the show, this is in comparison to most mainstream television shows that don’t even really acknowledge that racism or classism exist.  I think that even though it talks about it in a sort of problematic way, just having that on our television screens is just a step towards making out television programs more anti racist more anti classist.  When I first started watching the show we were introduced to the local Latino biker gang and I was really fearful that the writers were going to feed into the very racist stereotypes, which they kind of did.  But the writers also took the main leader of the gang and sort of humanized him, really showed a bit of his back story and made the audience sympathetic and made a really complex character.  There are also other moments in the show where the writers gave us really subtle and interesting and also humourous ways of exposing racism that you don’t often think about, and you almost never see that on TV.

Veronica Mars Clip Season 2 Episode 13: Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough
Vice Principal: We’re gonna have to start searching the lockers… immediately.
Madison: Wanna save yourself some time start with hers, we all saw her, lurking around.
Jackie: Lurking? Ah you mean standing while Black?

Sexual Violence is a reoccurring theme throughout all three seasons of the show. I think that for the most part, the writers did a really really terrible job of dealing with rape and abuse and because of that I’m going to dedicate a whole other video blog to it because I think that it really needs to be exposed just how important it is to deal with sexual violence in a healthy manner on television.  Overall I really really like the show, I would highly recommend season one and two, I think that there is a lot of really great things about it as far as the complexity of characters, it’s entertaining and witty, it’s really fun to watch.  Veronica’s relationship with her father is totally worth watching because they are really funny but its also this mutual love and respect they have for one another and there is a lot of really progressive values that the show offers and I think that is fairly rare to see on TV.  That said, I’m going to leave you with this clip that I think is wonderfully subtle.

Veronica Mars Clip Season 1 Episode 5: You Think You Know Someone
Keith Mars: Wow that’s some cake
Veronica Mars: Isn’t it though
Keith Mars: I love it.  Ever notice how everything you make tends to lean a little to the left
Veronica Mars: I do that on purpose
Keith Mars laugh
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9 Responses to “Why we need you Veronica Mars!”

  1. I really like your analysis of the show and after watching all three seasons (per your request!) I agree that the first two are much better than the last. I’m interested to see what you have to say about season 3, and I’ll save my criticisms for that post. (Post another soon!)

    A few nights ago I turned on the TV to a show called “Numbers” (“Num3ers”?) and was devastated to see a show full of white male FBI agents, a token black male, AND a token hot-bod female oozing with sympathy and emotion and sex appeal. All the cool gadgets and mathematical analysis and savvy problem-solving were jobs for the men, and all I could think about was how well-equipped Veronica Mars was on her show, and how mainstream TV could use more role models like her.

    As for sexual violence in seasons 1 & 2, I think Veronica’s character dealt with rape in a way that was real, honest, and well-developed. Though I’m still trying to wrap my mind around her choice to get back together with Duncan, and I’ve never really figured out why she ever chose Logan, I’d say that her victimization in general was depicted fairly accurately.

  2. Thanks for this good post. I really love this tv show. Can’t wait for the another episode ! Keep up the awesome work with this :)

  3. I love the show.. but I’m sorry.
    It’s very typical anti-hispanic-Mexican.
    Sorry, she’s friends with a Mexican thug.
    Every Mexican character is a loser or a thug.
    I love the feminism in the show–
    Very much in line with Buffy-feminism but in trying to be “true” to some version of California– it’s disgustingly anti-Mexican.

    Anita Reply:

    Yes, you are right, it is a very typical portrayal of Latino men however, I do think, compared to most other “thugs” on television they do attempt to humanize him, even if just a little.

  4. Hey,
    really nice blog on Veronica Mars. I totally agree with you that the first two season are way better than the third. The portrayal of sexual violence is difficult in (the third season of) Veronica Mars and i really hated the image or portrayal of feminsts they draw in that season. But still Veronica Mars is one of the really few series that talks about sexual violence and rape in society and as a problem of society. I mean sexual violence and rape are mostly not a topic in society or television nor the victims of it are spoken about in society, nothing that gets proper public recognition… so even if the portrayal in VM is difficult I think at least its still good that a whole season engages in portraying the thread of sexual violence maybe helping in opening up spaces to talk about those taboo-topics.

    But still, visibility is not enough when the portrayal is not emancipative and characters are following the norms of society…

  5. I agree with her notes on how the show represented rape. I sick feel sick to my stomach when I recall how *SPOILER ALERT! DON'T READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU PLAN TO WATCH THE SERIES! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!* Veronica's rape and the revelation of what happened that night was just tied up in sparkly ribbon and set aside. I was in disbelief, I tell you!

  6. You promised a separate post about rape and sexual violence in the series.
    Did I miss it?

    Anita Reply:

    I did promise one and sadly haven’t made it… but in the Straw Feminist video I deal a little bit with the problems in Season 3.

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