Unsurprising for a show about a teenage investigator who thrives off bringing private details to the forefront, Veronica Mars was never private about sex. While some shows aimed at the same audience may have preferred to keep sex as hidden away as an illicit rendezvous in the Camelot Motel (one of Neptune's finest and sleaziest), Veronica Mars was incredibly honest and forthcoming about the subject. One of the greatest things about how Veronica Mars portrayed sex was that it was willing to make the act an everyday part of its teen characters lives without it becoming a sanctimonious after-school special. The show approached sex with complexity, intelligence, and truth — in a way that felt truly groundbreaking.
The character of Lilly Kane in Season 1 of Veronica Mars was perhaps audiences' greatest introduction to that fact. Young, beautiful, and lascivious, flashbacks of Neptune's murdered golden girl revealed her to be a teenager proud of her sexuality — and unafraid to flaunt it.
Though the twists of Season 1 revealed that Lilly was killed by her much older lover, Aaron Echolls, not once does the show portray her murder as punishment for her sexuality. Instead, as teased throughout the season with Aaron's insufferable behavior, her murder is attributed to the toxicity of male entitlement. Quite rightfully, Lilly's sexuality wasn't portrayed as the problem. Aaron's desire — use and brutal disposal of it — was.
The trope of the attractive dead girl as an entry point for a mystery has been seen in TV shows such as Twin Peaks, True Detective, and The Killing. And in all of these shows the investigations revealed all manner of salacious, sexual scandal in the girl's past, presented with shock and often shame, removing the victim's agency and almost blaming her for her own murder.
But Veronica Mars completely overstepped this tired trope by showing Veronica already aware of Lilly's sexual appetites. She was actually in awe of her for it, as opposed to being disappointed or concerned. Impressively, Veronica is shown becoming more sexually confident following Lilly's death. As such, Lilly's murder, thankfully, was never presented as an exercise in young, female morality.
Throughout the three seasons of the show (and, hell, the movie too), Veronica is given agency over her sexuality and her desires in a way that's truly liberating to see. And while her sexual activities are certainly more patient and responsible than Lilly's were, they're still portrayed with the rampant enthusiasm that many teenage girls enjoy with their conquests in high school. (That scene were Logan and Veronica make out in the girls bathroom? Yowza.)
In this way, Veronica Mars continually opened up an honest dialogue regarding teen sex. Whether it was portraying the importance of getting a regular sexual health checkup (in the episode in which Veronica discovers she's contracted chlamydia), or the absolute thrill of having sex with someone for the first time (as shown with both Veronica and Duncan, and Veronica and Logan), the show perfectly presented the absolute positives, negatives, and sometimes uncomfortable realities of being sexually active.
And there was no way that the show did this better than in Veronica Mars' searingly honest portrayal of sexual assault. Starting from the pilot episode, in which we're shown Veronica dealing with being raped at a party, and receiving a cruel lack of interest when she tries to report it to police, Veronica Mars continued to tackle issues concerning sexual assault, and abuse, right up until its final season.
As a sexual assault survivor, I continue to take strength from the multi-faceted way that Veronica Mars explored the aftermath of rape. Though the show never touched upon related sexual assault issues such as PTSD or major depressive disorder (although, as Psychologist, Dr. Janina Scarlet mentioned in an article regarding the psychology of Veronica Mars for The Mary Sue: "Not everyone who experiences trauma ends up developing PTSD,") it did powerfully suggest that survivors shouldn't be defined by their experience, or their consequent trauma concerning it.
Veronica doesn't allow her assault to define or infringe upon her sexuality or enjoyment of the act. Later, in Season 3, we also see how a sexual assault affects Veronica's best friend, Mac, as she struggles with trust issues, and is hesitant to simply talk to, never mind sleep with, any guys that she meets. However, with Veronica's advice and encouragement, Mac manages to recover from her trauma, and goes on to enjoy a healthy sexual relationship with Max. In a truly victorious episode she even ends up staying in bed with him for days, subsisting off the greatest of diets: Sex and pizza.
Notably, the show repeatedly served up reminders that consensual sex should be celebrated and enjoyed. And unlike other crime shows, Veronica Mars never portrayed female sexuality as being dangerous or shameful, like a loaded secret packed away in Lilly's air vent for safety.
Instead, Veronica Mars, which is available to stream on go90 now, promoted the idea that women should be given proud ownership of their sexuality, free of shame, and without any threat of danger attached to it. So please, make like Mac and Veronica, find yourself a honey, and by goodness, make out with them in the bathroom, and subsist off nothing but orgasms and pizza. As Veronica Mars assured us all, it's ours for the taking.