September 26, 2007

A Eugugoly, Part II

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A year ago, I wrote my very first real article for the Sun; a eulogy to The OC’s Marissa Cooper. I was not very nice. In fact, when I say eulogy, it was more of a relieved rant about how female characters like Marissa are awful role models for the pre-teen and teen girls who watch them; in it, I hoped that Marissa’s “death” would mean an end to the one-dimensional, permanently-in-distress, whining hot-mess party girl character. I must have really stinkin’ bad karma though, because the opposite happened: two shows with arguably the most substantive female protagonists on prime-time were both axed last spring. So now, while The Hills blares annoyingly from the next room (what? You think I like LC? What sane person likes LC?), I sit here, forced to write a eulogy for the one character and the one show I never wanted to say goodbye to: Veronica Mars.
A quick summary: Veronica Mars was about, of course, Veronica Mars, a once-starry eyed blonde teenager in a class-divided fictional so-cal town who had the perfect life: rich, happy boyfriend, crazy-fun best friend Lilly, happy family with sheriff dad Keith, etc. Then life deals her a horrible blow: Lilly is murdered, her father loses his job, she gets roofied and raped at a party and becomes a social pariah. In response, she doesn’t whine, or cry woe-is-me, but instead makes it her goal to protect and defend the defenseless and solve each mystery blown her way. Though the show was criticized for taking a lot of dips in plot and character development during the second and third seasons, the script retained its quick-witted dialogue and dark humor, while the actors had more chemistry than every science lab I’ve managed to avoid since high school.
It’s only fair for me to make one clarification: although my love for the show was originally pure I am now sort of biased, mainly because I lucked out and got to intern for the show my post-high school summer. (Not only was I just transparent about my lack of objectivity, I have now name-dropped, and we can all pretend I’m cool.)
My lack of journalistic integrity aside, Veronica Mars was a little known show that deserved accolades. Veronica embodied the characteristics commonly looked over in female heroines on TV: she was smart and sassy, and she took what life threw her with humor and aplomb. She may have had her bitchy, tough moments, she may have been a little over-judgmental and she definitely, and understandably, had serious trust issues. But she never whined. Ever. You may not have always liked her or agreed with her actions, but you understood her. She was a real, multi-dimensional person.
Forget “feminism” for the moment; forget females entirely. Since the so-called boob tube is a much more personal medium than the big screen, the characters featured on it are more easy to identify with. There is no reason for any character to be a two-dimensional stereotype; that’s just bad writing. Two-dimensional, hot mess characters like Marissa are just as bad as stereotypical flamboyant gay men on sitcoms and the token angry-black-woman “Oh no she didn’t.” There’s a time and place for moronically entertaining stereotypes, and it’s called The Real World.
Because of her multi-dimensional character, she was called a bitch a lot; more unfortunately, the CW couldn’t figure out how to market her and most of America wasn’t sure how to receive her. Thus, the show met its untimely demise after three seasons; the same year that Gilmore Girls was also dropped and Gossip Girl, Cane and Dirty Sexy Money, were picked up.
I’m cool with prime-time TV moving back into the Dynasty-era of soap operas; I just added Gossip Girl to my rotation. But any sense of equilibrium between soap and complexity is shifting past the soap opera and into the trash can, with all the so-called edgy shows opting for HBO and Showtime. Primetime, learn how to market your complex shows instead of burying them. Variety in all things is key, and I’d like a helping of my multi-dimensional female (or otherwise) characters along with the LCs and Marissas of the world. (Oh, and P.S.: ABC, cut Private Practice and bring Addison back to Grey’s — she was the only good thing left on that show.)
While Veronica Mars the show is dead, the character — and the intent behind her — lives on. Meanwhile, I have Weeds to keep me from complaining too much, and I’m waiting for the day when both the VM team and human complexity make it back onto my screen. Veronica, you do your thing, girl, wherever you are.