Confessions of a Male ‘Veronica Mars’ Fan
You may have heard there’s a fan-funded movie coming out today based on a canceled TV show called ‘Veronica Mars.’ It stars Kristin Bell as a Nancy Drew type — a girl detective, if you will. Sounds perfect for fans of ‘Twilight’ and ‘Gossip Girl’ … which is a shame, because if you believe that, you’ve got it all wrong.
Male fans shouldn’t be insecure about loving the show, because the above description couldn’t be less accurate. But when faced with describing the joys of Mars to other men, phrases like “girl detective” will probably have them sunk from the start.
Most people only offer a very brief window of time to be verbally sold on a new show, and while it’s not difficult bringing guy friends on board with nutshell descriptions like “science teacher turned meth manufacturer” or “serial killer who only murders murderers,” ‘VM’ is a little more complicated.
If you’re a fan of ‘Veronica Mars,’ which ran for three seasons on the UPN and then on the CW between 2004 and 2007, you want the movie (which is opening in select theaters today) to be a success – especially if you were one of the fans (or would that be suckers?) who chipped in on Kickstarter to help finance the green-light from Warner Bros.
"Naturally you’d want to share the joy of this historic fan success story, but that can be problematic for the male ‘Mars’ fan."
Naturally you’d want to share the joy of this historic fan success story, but that can be problematic for the male ‘Mars’ fan. No one is easily sold on the show’s concept, but it’s significantly more difficult to sell it to guys without fumbling. If faced with explaining the show’s basic conceit, one might accidentally give the impression it’s ‘Nancy Drew’ crossed with ‘Harriet the Spy’ by way of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’
Who the hell’s going to watch that?
In short, Veronica is a high-school (college in the third season) girl who compulsively amuses herself with two-bit mysteries like dog-napping cases for her peers, while simultaneously investigating – and solving – murder mysteries, rape crimes and corporate cover-ups. She uses the skills and resources she’s picked from her ex-Sheriff/PI pop. She also happens to be a bit of a self-serving bitch with a smart mouth that regularly antagonizes the inept local police.
We’ll avoid referencing the show’s romantic subplots because we’re trying for a wide-appeal, asexual pitch here, and romance will have some people tuning out right away. Instead, recruit new fans using these points as tools:
Accentuate the noir. This especially will impress your pretentious film-school friends. By design, ‘VM’ is dripping with all the basic noir elements: double-crosses, dirty cops, moody, shadow-heavy cinematography, criminal informants, terse dark humor, snappy dialogue and a morally ambiguous central character. And murrrrrderrrrrr. This show doesn’t pull punches when stepping into some dark places. For example, season one’s story arcs include the mysteries of who killed Veronica’s best friend and who drugged and raped Veronica at a party.
It’s an adult show … despite the adolescent fiction trappings. There’s lots of sex talk, and it’s usually far more cynical than romantic. There are also dozens of slipped-by double entendres, which seem to rely on network censors being asleep at the wheel.
It’s a revenge show. This is one of the show’s top selling points. Who doesn’t enjoy watching the bad guy get his – especially in the most publicly humiliating way possible? Veronica is fueled not only by a strong sense of justice for the underdog; she’s also an instrument of icy revenge. When mysteries get solved it means there are bad guys going down. This includes killers, pedos, thieves, blue-collar criminals and rapists. We’re not talking last-half-hour-of-‘Hostel’ style revenge, but it’s usually punishing and indiscreet. Veronica’s vengeful side is also her dark side; there aren’t too many heroes who lie and manipulate innocents quite like Veronica Mars.
"Who doesn’t enjoy watching the bad guy get his – especially in the most publicly humiliating way possible?"
It’s about class warfare. Veronica was one of the popular kids in her upper-upper-middle class community of fictional Neptune, Calif., until her dad fingered a beloved pillar of the rich community for the murder of his own daughter. Veronica spends the duration of the series as an outsider who’s been pushed out to the wasteland fringes of her community’s lower-middle class. The tension between who Veronica was and is in the wake of her best friend’s death is equal to the ire between the meathead rich kids and the PCHers, the town’s criminal biker gang faction. The result of the latter is barbed-wire banter, turf fights, grudges and hardcore fisticuffs.
The mysteries are so good, they reward repeat viewing. Nothing is wasted on this show, and every line of dialogue or character quirk could be a clue. It’s clear the ‘VM’ writers weren’t making this stuff up as they went along (unlike one popular serial-story TV show about people stranded on a mysterious island). You can actually solve these mysteries along with Veronica if you’re paying attention.
Stephen King and Kevin Smith have both expressed their love of ‘Veronica Mars.’ This should be a last ditch effort if your friend refuses to drink the Kool-Aid. I doubt anyone truly cares what either gent has to say, but this could the magic key to altering a person’s conception of what the show is. King gushed about it in Entertainment Weekly and Smith eagerly played a small role in a second-season episode. Do you think either of them would have gone so far if they harbored a secret love of ‘Glee’?
Finally, here are four golden examples of perfect episodes to use for brainwashing once you’ve secured your subject to a chair:
No better place to start than the beginning. It sets up the backstory with painless exposition and gives us our first look at the best father/daughter dialogue ever written. Note, however, that the show is still finding its legs here and has a lot of heavy lifting to do introducing characters.
Season 1, Episode 20: ‘M.A.D.’
A great revenge episode. Veronica helps a friend whose dirtbag ex blackmails her with a private sexting video. You’ll also get a taste of the season-long mystery, but spoilers won’t matter much when you yank one episode out of context.
Season 2, Episode 13: ‘Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough’
This is one of the more fun episodes; it goes light on the show’s traditionally dark tone and heavy on snark. It’s also one of the better season-two one-off mysteries, in which Veronica is forced to find stolen profits during Neptune High’s Winter Carnival.
Season 3, Episode 5: ‘President Evil’
Another great mystery, this one from the show’s third-season college year. Veronica attempts to find the perps who held up an illegal campus casino and snagged the necklace given to her by her dead best friend.