Sunday, 17 March 2013

5 Things I Love: Veronica Mars

I know, I know. The movie hasn't been made yet. It hasn't even started filming. But with all the excitement this week, I thought it was definitely appropriate to do a 5 things post. Finding out that they reached their Kickstarter goal of two million dollars - in one day! - and that the movie will actually happen, was right up there with getting third row tickets to see Bruce Springsteen in my "greatest moments of my life" list. It's just one of those warm and fuzzy examples of what people can actually achieve, and using the interwebs for good and not evil. And nerdpower, of course. It's kind of like girl power, but far more inclusive.

1. A strong female heroine

As a girl who went through my teenage years in the nineties, I consider myself pretty lucky to have had a few strong female role models on my television screen (speaking of girl power). I don't really feel like I can say the same about the last decade or so. In the last year or two things things seem to have been looking up a little, but not quite enough for my liking. There are still better roles for women on television than there are in film, but it feels like there always has to be some kind of caveat. Claire Danes does an amazing job as Carrie Mathieson on Homeland, but Carrie's intelligence and strength is inextricably linked with her struggles with bipolar. Lena Dunham is starting some serious conversations with Girls yet people still just seem concerned with how often she is naked (and the fact that as someone who is not a size two, she probably "shouldn't" be naked on our screens. Our eyes! Our valuable eyes! Her thighs touch! How will we ever be the same again!) as opposed to the stories Dunham is telling, the comments she is making and questions she is asking about being a young woman and that particular journey towards independence, self-worth and self-awareness (hopefully). I'm not even going to touch on all the great female comedians there are gracing our television screens at the moment, but I just get this overwhelming sense that these characters aren't allowed to be intelligent, successful and strong without being slightly unhinged, or worse, obsessed with their dating lives. There's a little too much laughing at, and not enough laughing with sometimes. Cue, wacky camera angles and those awkward moments that make me cover my eyes and just try to ride it out until the scene is over. I mean, Geena Davis started the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media for a reason. If you haven't figured out what that reason is yet, I'm not sure I can help you...

Anyway, I could stand on this soapbox all day, but for the sake of my blood pressure I won't. My point is, that in the last ten years, Veronica Mars has been one of the best examples of a strong female character. Like Buffy (you didn't think I'd get through this post without mentioning Buffy did you?) she's strong, not just because of her internal resources, but because of her friends and mentors. Strong female characters don't need to be lone wolves, but they do need to be interesting, independent, layered and diverse. When Veronica displays vulnerability that's exactly how it's portrayed, rather than as weakness, when the two are too often mistaken for one another. Sometimes she's overconfident and falls down, needing someone to help her up again. Mostly however,  she is three (or four or five) steps in front of everyone else. She stands up for those who are downtrodden and harassed, and for what she believes in. All in a completely realistic wardrobe for a teenage girl, and with a good helping of snarkiness, of course.

Oh yeah, and Kristen Bell is amazing. Seriously.

2. I just love a good noir

For the unfamiliar, Veronica Mars is a story about a high school girl who is also a private investigator, in the fictional California town of Neptune. Veronica investigates the death of her best friend Lily, while assisting her P.I. father (who used to be the town sheriff), and solving mysteries for her school classmates - for a fee, of course. Being noir, the show has a darker side of course. In the pilot episode, Veronica describes how she was drugged and raped at a party, and how she is still looking for answers in regards to that particular investigation. The show also addresses the class divide in Neptune, with the town being divided between the ridiculously rich, and the people who work for them.

It sounds like a lot of Very Important Issues for one TV show, but it's all handled intelligently and with grace and humour. So much humour. There are so many quotable one liners, your head will spin trying to remember it all. One of my personal favourites:

But remember, it's noir, so don't go expecting too many happy endings, okay?

3. What's that song?

Choosing songs to appear in episodes of TV shows is a big deal, with most series' having their own soundtracks, and it can be an amazing platform for unknown artists to be heard. It's certainly one of the ways I sometimes find out about new music, and the Veronica Mars team were particularly good at finding great songs to appear in the show. Plus, they got We Used to be Friends by The Dandy Warhols for the theme song. I don't think it gets any more perfect, you know? So if you like shows that not only have smart and clever scripts and casting, but smart and clever music choices as well, this is the show for you.

4. The supporting cast, featuring Enrico Colantoni, i.e. the best TV Dad ever

I could write a whole blog post about each of the supporting characters in turn, and I kind of want to. Who knows, maybe I will? My favourite though, is Enrico Colantoni who plays Veronica's father, Keith Mars.

I touched on this a little in my 5 things post about The Perks of Being a Wallflower - I get really tired of dysfunctional families being overused as part of the narrative arc in films and television. The relationship that Veronica has with her (single) Dad, played by Colantoni, is a delight. The chemistry between Colantoni and Bell is undeniable, and together they have some of the best scenes in the show.

It's full of humour and care, and the difficult father/teenage daughter moments are navigated with a light touch rather than that baseball bat that I swear some screenwriters keep beside their desks with "use liberally" painted on the side. Plus, Colantoni is just awesome. And for those of use who love it when things get "meta", there's a storyline in which he dates a woman played by Laura San Giacomo from Just Shoot Me. I know, right?

5. You adorable marshmallows, you.

Fans of Veronica Mars are referred to as "marshmallows" and as I write this, contributions from the marshmallows to Kickstarter to fund the film are standing at almost 3.5 million dollars. Not only is this an amazing show of passion about a show that was only on for three seasons and left the air six years ago, it's opening up a whole new way of getting things made that people want to be made but the big studios won't give the green light to. Firefly, anyone?

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