I wasn’t a fan of Veronica Mars, mostly because I didn’t watch it, but that was only until about a month ago. With the upcoming movie right around the corner, and a modicome of poking and prodding from my dear roommate, I sat down and marathoned my way through the dramas of Neptune High and its attendees. I can say now that I am not a fan of Veronica Mars, the titular character. Don’t worry about getting your shock and awe out of the way now, there will be more reasons to want to stop reading this article as you continue on (please, continue on).
Imagine my delight when I started watching the show and was introduced to this incredibly intelligent, pithy, yet slightly damaged female character that was still independent, studious and cautious. I was delighted, indeed! It seemed to me that there was a lead female character on a TV show that I was going to be able to relate to on an adult level (even though she was a high school student – there is a lot of suspension of disbelief that goes into watching Veronica Mars).
I was wrong.
The character of Veronica that you meet in season one is not the character that you watch cast a pointless vote and walk away in the rain. Granted, over three seasons characters grow and change and evolve. My issue is that Veronica seemed to regress. The arcs of the characters around her evolved and progressed into something more than what they were introduced as. This is how I expect the evolution of a character to be but it is not what I experienced in regards to V.
Warning: Here there be spoilers.
You learn relatively quickly that our feisty V has been shunned by her peers, was raped, and has a witty rapport with everyone she meets. You also learn that she isn’t fearless, though a little reckless, and while she’s a bit broken (what with the knowledge of her rape and all) she’s still level headed and rational. She’s on a mission to sort out what happened to her and what happened to her friend. All while helping solve crimes brought to her attention mostly by other high school students – who, I might add, are all apparently millionaires attending a public school with kids from the other side of the tracks that are gang leaders or criminial masterminds (see, suspension of disbelief). Side Note: I am completely aware that I am boiling the show down and this isn’t doing it justice, but this piece isn’t about the show, it’s about the character.
Anyway, I liked this character. I was behind her. I wanted her to know what happened and I rooted for her to solve crimes and make friends with the local gang. And she did! Season one ended and I was happy to click play on my magic box for season two. With the knowledge that her rape wasn’t a rape and that her boyfriend wasn’t her brother (oh yeah, there was that little gem) we move into the next season with an uplifted Veronic. A Veronica that is ready to add socializing to her repertoire, and sex.
Here comes the sex, boys and girls.
And enter the irrational, stereotypical, looney girlfriend freakouts.
I literally rolled my eyes and huffed at the TV when V went mental for the first time. All of a sudden we’re introduced to an element of her character that didn’t exist before. There was no build up to it. There was no reason for it. It was just there and it was jarring. For me anyway. I had become accustomed to hanging out with Veronica for an hour at a time, enjoying her banter, her strong-willed nature and her even-keeled ‘thinking before reacting’ reactions to whatever came her way. But no, it started to appear to me that everything that made Veronica Veronica was slipping away due to the insertion (heh, insertion) of sex.
This pisses me off. I know that stereotypes start somewhere in truth but I honestly don’t want to see a female character change so drastically (for the worse, in my opinion) because of the introduction of voluntary* sex. I don’t feel like sex should be a trigger for irrationality in any character, let alone a strong female one. I slogged through though. Hoping that I just missed some character beats and that the old V would return to me, able to be all she was before, plus sexual.
I was wrong. By mid-season the boyfriend-not-brother has been removed and there were throwbacks to the old Veronica while she was sans-sex. Then a new boyfriend comes along, and behold, the irrationality continues on – because, sex. This show made my head hurt from all of my eye rolling. Mid-season two saw me enjoying Veronica less and less and looking forward to the other characters’ screen time even more. I was witnessing what I considered a regression of a character. There are some plot points that definitely leave room for understanding, not the least of which is the fact that she was indeed raped (which is fucking awful), leaving her to re-cope.
By the end of season three I felt like I had very little use for Veronica. I was more invested in Logan’s arc or Mac’s arc. Hell, even Wallace, who happened to get lost in the generic friend and jock zone, was more interesting to watch than V.
Now, I do understand there is SO MUCH MORE that goes into her character development. She is never happy. Not truly. And she is broken. But I was introduced to this character that was dealing with these things. If the fact that she wasn’t dealing with them at all was hidden somewhere in the mix, it was so subtle that I couldn’t see it with a magnifying glass. Maybe watching it weekly would have helped; the gap between episodes allowing my brain to process the problems and accept what was happening as natural instead of jarring. But, I didn’t watch the show that way.
A part of me wants to blame the actress for not helping me to empathize with her, but really, I think it’s just poor female character writing. I don’t know for certain that the writer knew how to deal with the issues they presented with the character they created, and rather than write it out and make it work, they returned to every female character trope on TV (intentional or not, this is what I saw). Don’t get me wrong, I think writing characters is hard in general. Writing a female character that is going to be the lead in a show that is more film-noir than crime of the week can’t be easy. I get all of that and I respect it and I don’t envy the job of having to do it (especially when someone like me watches and points a finger).
I think what irritates me most of all is the disconnect between who Veronica Mars is presented as and what she evolves into. There was nothing in her character set up to tell me that she was, or could be, so irrational and uneven. I wasn’t looking for, or forward, to that change up – no matter what circumstances arose. I had a whole season to get to know this person and they changed on a whim (of voluntary sex – which is doubly annoying). I sat down and thought about other female leads that I thought were well done. I couldn’t think of many, though I did think of Buffy. I hate to be the geek that points to Joss Whedon for all points, but in this case it’s the only place I could look to.
Buffy comes out the gate swinging as a crazy high school girl. She’s level headed when she has to be, but there is no mistake that she’s built with irrationality and girl-tropes that make me cringe. When she starts having sex it’s no surprise that she’s jealous and crazy. Her transitions aren’t jarring and they don’t come from out of left field. Maybe this is a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand Buffy is predictable and more like a caricature of a “girl” than Veronica is – bad thing, really. On the other hand Buffy’s character progression is actually progression. As she gets older and grows up her actions and reactions are suited to her knowledge and situation – good thing. There isn’t anything jarring about Buffy’s character change ups.
Either way, I love Veronica Mars but I’m not a fan of Veronica Mars.
*I’m noting VOLUNTARY sex here because she’s not dealing with her rape/non-rape/rape anymore. Maybe that’s the real issue. Maybe sex for this character is so damning that she loses who she is when it’s involved, even on a voluntary basis. I’m also noting VOLUNTARY sex because it seems to be the go to trigger for “bitches be crazy” in shows that aren’t quite sure what to do with female characters who have sex – AND LIKE IT.