Details about the past life of one Miss Veronica Mars have been revealed, and fans will be thrown for a loop. In a recent Entertainment Weekly video, Kristen Bell shared the original Veronica Mars book proposal in a dramatic reading, which spoiler alert, doesn't actually feature Veronica Mars. Rob Thomas' original dry run of writing a neo-noir sounds like a completely different story — and that's largely because it stars a 17-year-old dude named Keith solving mysteries in Texas.
I'll give you a minute to let your brain unscramble. This book proposal reportedly follows the adventures of a Keith Mars, not to be confused with Veronica Mars' father. This very-much-a-boy private eye is holding fort at Mars Investigations while his dear old detective dad is on assignment, and he begins to reveal that his father is a little less than perfect. He has a friend named Reginald (what?) and a socialite love interest named Greta Cobb (OK) and that's about it. It's a very far departure from our girl Veronica, and several miles away from her story... literally, because the setting is Austin.
And for all the large changes between this and the final project, the choice of switching up person and place is essential to what makes Veronica Mars what it is. To begin with, making Veronica a girl was a brilliant move in genre subversion. With this Keith as a teen sleuth, this pretty much becomes Brick. More than that, though, having a girl at the forefront let VM have a very feminist subtext. She's a pixie-sized badass going up against creeps like Detective Lamb and Vinnie Van Lowe on the regular, proving at every corner that she's sharper than they are. And yet she's vulnerable under her military-inspired jackets, as she's trying to fight through the mystery of her rape. Veronica's status as a sexual assault survivor is certainly not the dark-and-tortured past we're used to seeing from an noir P.I.
In short, that switch was key. Having a female sleuth is refreshing, it's inspiring, and it's something different than "like Humphrey Bogart, but younger."
Also, let's talk about how Austin would've been a hard-sell for this neo-noir. Apparently Keith is matriculating at "Austin’s wealthiest suburban high school" Westlake High, and there are plenty of "well-heeled classmates" attending there with him. OK, fine. I'm sure there are rich, suburban pockets of the city. Personally I don't really know, because the only thing I know about Austin is that every year a flock of my Brooklyn musician friends abandon me to go there and play SXSW. It feels kind of like a random choice for anyone who isn't deeply familiar to it.
Point being, the fictional setting of Neptune is essential to what makes Veronica Mars great, and sort of true to the noir genre. First of all, Neptune being a fictional city allows it to have its own written personality, a little universe that isn't defined by reality. On the other hand, Neptune located as a Southern California town allows people to make ties to Los Angeles, and more specifically, Hollywood; it feels believable that Neptune could be a home to movie stars, and subsequently a bunch of spoiled rich kids. Likewise, with those LA ties, it also feels realistic that there would be a seedier, grittier side of the town to create the class war so heavily featured in these mysteries. Neptune's Ode-To-LA-without-being-LA thing works, and honors the city that churned out all those black-and-white classics about private eyes.
This only scratches the surface of the diverging tales between Veronica and her phantom brother Keith, but ultimately, I'm glad Thomas kept the seed of this idea alive. You can read the whole Veronica Mars proposal over at Entertainment Weekly's site, and watch K. Bell's amused reaction to reading about Mars 1.0.