Confession time: When I decided to watch and then write a piece about the first season of Veronica Mars as part of my internship at TWoP, I told the editors that I had never before seen the show. But I had -- just once.
I was around 15 years old when the pilot premiered, and if I remember correctly, I watched it on the night it did. Here's the premise -- and seriously, no spoiler alerts needed; the following is all recounted in the very first episode. Veronica is a high school student in Neptune, California. As we start out, her entire life is in shambles. Veronica's sheriff dad has wrongly accused a man named Jake Kane of murdering his daughter, Lily Kane (Lily was also Veronica's best friend). The problem? Jake Kane essentially runs Neptune -- his company employs just about everyone in the town and he is incredibly well liked. So not only has Veronica lost her best friend, but because of her dad's mistake, she also loses her boyfriend (Jake Kane's son), all of her friends and her mother, who leaves town out of embarrassment. Her dad is soon out of work and they have to move into a rather...unwelcoming apartment complex. And oh yeah, during all of the Jake Kane chaos, Veronica was raped at a party and doesn't know by whom. So the season commences -- Veronica now assists her dad as a private detective, and she spends the season solving the mystery of Lily's murder, her mother's departure and her rapist's identity.
It's three mysteries wrapped into one season, with a kick-ass, mystery-solving heroine, so how could I have had enough of it after just one episode? I loved it this second time around -- what went wrong back then?
Well, here's the thing -- and it's the most admirable and difficult thing about the show, and about Veronica -- she's not a victim. All of the aforementioned happens before the show starts, but the Veronica we meet is not broken. She's a hardened smart-ass instead. She's got an answer for everything, and she's very rarely sad about Lily or her mom -- she just wants answers (and sometimes revenge). So she doesn't dwell on the tragedies that have happened to her; she makes huge moves to figure them out instead. She demands respect from people and she has very little patience for those she deems unworthy (many of whom are people she used to hang out with).
When I was 15, I wasn't looking to watch a show about a strong, intimidating girl -- I couldn't relate to her. I wasn't like her, and I'm not sure many teenagers are. Whether you were a tough teenager or not, even little things affect you so much you can barely breathe. If someone looks at you the wrong way in the cafeteria, you obsess over it for the rest of the day. Veronica was raped and is just out for blood. Watching her made me uncomfortable -- what high school girl doesn't care that her friends abandoned her? All these awful things had happened to her, but she was okay. I didn't understand that. I much preferred Marissa and Summer on The O.C., who obsessed over boys and appearance and parental drama (much to my parents' chagrin).
But if I had stuck with the show, I would have seen that Veronica was not at all a one-dimensional. She's actually quite delicate at points. The good thing about the show, however -- what really makes it -- is that it's aware of how ridiculously strong Veronica is, and it rewards her for it. But in being aware of her strength, it makes sure to remind the audience that she's not the norm, and her out-for-blood mentality isn't always good. It's almost as if it's suggesting that I should be as strong as Veronica, but it's okay to be hurt, too -- which I think is the best possible message I could have gotten out of a show then or now. In high school, it's easy to either give the world the finger and pretend things don't affect you (like Veronica) or feel like everything affects you and just end up wanting to cry all the time. The balance is tricky, and what Veronica Mars is brilliant at is acknowledging just how tricky. When a popular girl-turned-loser asks Veronica how she deals with newfound outcast status, Veronica says "You get tough. You get even." The girl responds, "The getting even part? You may want to rethink that one." When Veronica breaks up with her first boyfriend on the show, he tells her that she was just looking to find a personality flaw in him. And when that same popular girl tells Veronica that no one comes up to her because "people are afraid of you," Veronica says that it means "something is working." The popular girl just smiles. Even Veronica acknowledges that she is "not programmed to forgive and forget." We're reminded that being as hard-hearted as Veronica -- as difficult to please and as critical -- isn't always a good thing. Sometimes we've just got to swallow our pride and hurt. Which, I should mention, Veronica eventually does.
So it's no surprise that if I could put a flashing sign on this piece that said HAVE YOUR TEENAGE DAUGHTERS WATCH THIS SHOW, I would. They should see how strong they can be. Veronica doesn't forgive people when they don't deserve forgiveness (which young people tend to do) and she moves on from what holds her down (which young people often don't do). There's a lesson there.
But I'm more than aware that the last thing a teenager wants to learn is how to be a better one. That's why I didn't watch -- I didn't want to hear it. But that being said, if a teenage girl (or guy) could pick up on 10 percent of Veronica Mars' message, they'd be better off. Not only is Veronica tough, but she has a good relationship with her dad, takes her job seriously and is unapologetic about who she is. The messages are perfect for teens, yes, but they work for any age. Do I wish I had stuck with the show when I was younger? Absolutely. But it's better late than never.
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