Fangirl Fridays: Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars is smarter than you. Veronica Mars will ALWAYS be smarter than you.

So. Uh. Earlier this week, I made a stupid joke about Gossip Girl (which is seriously even more ridiculous than it was when it started, and no, I don’t really know how that’s possible). And then freaking Kristen Freaking Bell retweeted me. And then my Twitter feed blew up. I don’t know what effect that’s had on the blog, if any – I definitely haven’t noticed the kind of spike I got when Leigh Alexander retweeted my post on Sex, Gender and D&D – but, well, I’ve been meaning to write about Veronica Mars anyway, and what better time to do it, right?

As I was putting together this post in my head, I couldn’t help remembering some of the initial chatter surrounding the show. See, back in the day, I was a pretty big Smallville fan. (Yeah. That worked out well for me. On the plus side, the show did lead to a truly awesome tabletop RPG.) And, being a fan, I followed this site called KryptonSite. When Veronica Mars was announced, man, you could have cut the snark with a knife. Smallville’s breakout character had been Chloe Sullivan, a cute, snarky blonde teen reporter and conspiracy theorist played by Allison Mack, and here the UPN – which was, at the time, the WB’s direct competitor, though they would later merge the networks into the CW – was creating a show about a cute, snarky blonde teen detective. (I realize I’m using the word snark a lot. I’m talking about Veronica Mars here, so it’s hard not to.) In retrospect, okay, the sass directed at UPN was kind of ridiculous. It was pretty coincidental, and honestly, as much as I love Chloe Sullivan (and she was really the only reason to watch the show…even Erica Durance‘s Lois Lane couldn’t quite compare), Veronica could kick her ass six ways from Sunday. Even KryptonSite came around and created NeptuneSite. But forgive us our trespasses. In those days, all we had were basic premises and publicity photos of Kristen Bell looking spunky and adorable. We had no idea what we were in for.

This was my haircut for like three years running. It did not look as good on me as it does on her.

What we were in for, as it turned out, was a fresh, intelligently written detective series with powerful noir sensibilities transplanted into modern-day Southern California. It was a show about the haves and the have-nots (with Veronica and her dad – formerly the sheriff, recalled after he crossed the wrong people – firmly on the side of the have-nots), about the corruption at the heart of a seeming paradise, about teenagers who had to grow up and face reality way too fast (and the teenagers, and adults, who never really grew up at all). But above all else, it was a show about a girl who lost her best friend, who lost her mother and her social status and everything that had previously defined her, and could have given up, could have given in, but didn’t. Instead, she stood up and pushed back. She refused to accept the bullshit that rained down on her, and she ended up making a difference to a lot of people. Faced with the choice to change or die, she decided to go with change.

Let’s back up and discuss the basic premise of the show: just a year before the premiere, Veronica had it all. Maybe her family couldn’t match the wealth and influence her peers enjoyed, but she was very much part of the in crowd. She was dating the son of the man who first brought incredible wealth to the town of Neptune, California (populated mainly by the insanely rich and the people who work for the insanely rich), she was best friends with that man’s daughter, her mother was a celebrated prom queen from Neptune’s past and her dad was the county sheriff. And then, in a heartbeat, it all changed. Veronica’s best friend, Lilly Kane, was murdered, violently and viciously. Sheriff Mars began to suspect that the Kane family was responsible – at the very least, they seemed to be trying to cover up some of the circumstances of their daughter’s demise. The Kanes, of course, reacted with outrage, and the town’s most influential families threw themselves firmly behind them. Sheriff Mars was recalled, the Mars family had to move out of their long-time home, and Veronica’s mother chose to abandon them entirely. Though Veronica tried to keep going as she had been, her relationship with Lilly’s brother Duncan soon came to an end, and she rapidly became a social pariah. In the end, Veronica was drugged and raped in the course of her last attempt to hang with the social elite (at least for a while), and the new sheriff refused to even investigate the crime.

Like I said: she could have given up at that point. And everything that had happened to her clearly continued to cause her pain, years down the line. But she came back fighting. She embraced her outcast status and, over time, began helping other people in her position, other people who had nowhere to turn. And she did so with style, sass and, yes, snark. She also did so with profound intelligence and a very healthy sense of self-confidence. There were a lot of great characters on the show, and it was, for the most part, very smartly written…but Veronica herself is the number one reason to watch.

I...what? WHAT? THEY SCANNED KRISTEN BELL FOR THIS MINI-BUST. HOW COULD THEY SCREW UP THIS BADLY?!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Veronica Mars was no exception. The series was always something of a cult phenomenon. Though it routinely got rave reviews, it just didn’t capture the audience UPN/the CW wanted, and after a third season that suffered greatly from both Veronica’s transition to college (always a difficult step for shows centered on teenagers) and a lot of misguided executive meddling (including the truly inexplicable decision to slow down the show’s kickass theme song and throw in a really dorky teen drama title sequence), the series was cancelled. There was talk of skipping the show ahead to focus on Veronica’s future career with the FBI or continuing the story through comic books, but none of that ended up happening. And while there continues to be talk of a Veronica Mars movie, and Kristen Bell herself is on record as supporting the idea, so far that seems to be a pipe dream, too.

Honestly, maybe that’s for the best. Yes, I am a huge fan of Veronica Mars. I don’t think we really have an equivalent to Firefly‘s Browncoats (Marshmallows?…), but I’m totally there. I absolutely think everyone should watch this show. And if Veronica ever came back to us, in a movie or a series chronicling her time in the FBI or a comic book or anything, I would totally be there. But did the show really die too soon? I have to admit that I’m not sure. The major plotlines were pretty much resolved. There weren’t a lot of unanswered questions left. Anything else might feel forced.

No, I’m mainly pissed that the show never really got the merchandising it deserved. There was talk of action figures, but aside from some trading cards and a truly awful Veronica Mars mini-bust…there’s not a whole lot left of the show, physically. The DVD sets, of course, but that’s about it. I really want Veronica to join Tali’Zorah and Cassie Sandsmark and Claudia Donovan on my shelf of awesome, but short of modifying an Elle action figure, I don’t think I can actually make that happen. Aside from that, I’m fine with the material we’ve already got. I don’t really need more.

…oh, who am I kidding. If Kristen Bell ever actually gets to inhabit Veronica Mars again, I’ll be watching. What they say about Veronica is true for me, too. I’m a marshmallow.

Veronica Mars is currently available on Netflix Instant and TheWB.com. You can also buy the DVDs. Pick your poison – but do give the show a try. I heartily recommend it.

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