Veronica Mars is kind of my favorite fictional human. She's whip-smart, electric, hilarious, and, under the work of Kristen Bell, executive producer Rob Thomas, and the Veronica Mars writing staff, incredibly full of complexities. Many critical looks into Veronica Mars — the character and the show — have compared her to Buffy Summers, and for good reason. But while Veronica and Buffy have a lot in common — tiny blondes with a tendency of smashing those who underestimate them into the ground — Veronica is a fantastic character in her own right. One who deserves to go down in the annals of history as a seminal one in the history of females in television.
It should be noted that Veronica Mars wasn't (and in the upcoming film revival probably will continue not to be) the cuddly type of feminist — she was the smash the patriarchy/burn down the abusers type of feminist. In fact, that's what made her so great: not everything Veronica did fit into the textbook hallmarks of what being a classic feminist is about — she tore down a fellow woman (or ten) in her time, and even in ways that the audience wasn't meant to be on board with.
But that's the thing — how many human beings in this world actually fit perfectly into every tenant that every feminist has for feminism? Tina Fey doesn't even fit into that box all day, every day. To fit into that box would be impossible — we're all humans who fuck up sometimes.
And Veronica Mars is the perfect example of an imperfect feminist. She gets mean, but she also gets brave, witty, and smarter than almost anyone. She's loyal, pissed off, romantic, loving, sexually timid and sexually bold, distrusting, caught up in the past and dreamy of the future. She may be fictional but she is never, not even for a moment, not human. The depiction of those flaws — alongside the depiction of her truly harrowing badassery — is what makes her so important. Here's just some of what we love about her:
Constantly, constantly smarter than you.
She's a good civilian.
And a loving friend.
She's not afraid to express her feelings when life gets crappy.
And her life gets really, really crappy. Veronica Mars has been lauded as giving one of the most "real" depictions of rape and its effects ever to appear on television.
Veronica is a rape survivor. Drugged at a party, she is placed unconscious in a guest bedroom where she is raped by an acquaintance. She wakes up the next morning with no memory of the night, but with an absolute certainty that she has been sexually assaulted. When she goes to the local sheriff to report it, he literally looks her straight in the eye and accuses her of making it up. When she returns to school, her fellow students slut-shame her because of that night. It's a storyline that perfectly encapsulated the horrors of rape culture.
This isn't the most important aspect of Veronica's character and it's valuable to remember that it does not define her — far from it. She won't let it, and neither will we.
But, as is true with many women who go through such a thing, the experience is central to how she moves forward with her life. The Atlantic's Arielle Duhaime-Ross wrote something eye-catching about this storyline in the show:
Unlike most televised rape accounts, Veronica was no damsel in distress waiting to be rescued. She had agency and was given a voice that went deeper and was more honest than any of its predecessors. [...] Needless to say, the teenager ends up developing a keen distrust of the men around her, affecting all her future relationships throughout the show. But despite getting laughed out of the police chief's office when she comes forward about her ordeal, Veronica never loses sight of the fact that she is not to blame for her rape—and neither do the show's viewers, who are treated to a dramatic story-line that is both realistic and empowering. For fans and haters alike, Veronica Mars remains the only American television series that successfully depicts the long-term effects of this type of sexual violence.
Veronica also makes every effort to maintain her agency when it comes to her experience going forward — always justice-oriented, she never once shies away from calling out the men in her life who, despite not being rapists themselves, did play tangential roles in the events that happened that night.
In fact, there are multiple points in which the evidence makes Veronica think that the men she loves/cares about were her assailant — (spoiler alert) they weren't, but it's a crime show, so we momentarily think they might have been. And she calls them out on it every time, to fierce results.
And can we talk about that scene where she defends a bullied girl at her school?
When people around her needed help, they go to her.
From complete strangers who had heard of her abilities, her friends, and her enemies, everyone knew that if they needed help with whatever crisis was taking over their lives at that moment, Veronica was the one to turn to.
Best of all: She was flawed.
This, out of all of these reasons, is my favorite. Because for everything that Veronica did that was amazing, she was written to be just as flawed, broken, confused, and lonely as any of us normal folk.
Veronica wasn't warm and fuzzy, she was defensive and easy to anger — often overly so. She sought revenge as a way of dealing with her issues, and she pushed away people who were trying to love her. She was a teenage girl who had been through hell and who was finding herself in the midst of even more of it, and Kristen Bell and Rob Thomas and everyone else behind Veronica Mars weren't ever afraid to let Veronica look scared when it made sense for a person in her situation to be terrified.
And that, in the end, is what makes her so great, and what makes her such an iconic character. It's also what gave the public the willpower to fund her Kickstarter faster than any Kickstarter had ever been kicked. Veronica Mars was brought back by force, like a blazing feminist phoenix out of her own ashes.
And it's no surprise. Veronica embodies all the key ingredients to an amazing female character. Because if Veronica had been a dude, her characterization still would have been noteworthy, and her (or his) struggle still would have hit at so many very human buttons — but at the same time, it's really, really important that she wasn't.
Veronica Mars is a trailblazing feminist icon, a champion of the noir genre, and just in general someone I would always, always want on my team (and someone I would be terrified of pissing off). As her return to us in movie form looms closer, it's important that we remember all the ways in which Veronica made a mark. Images: Tumblr, The CW