This weekend I rewatched the first season of Veronica Mars, one of my all time favorite tv shows. Veronica Mars, which aired in 2004, is about a teenage girl trying to solve the mystery of her best friend’s murder. Veronica assists her father as a private investigator and puts her sleuthing skills to work to help classmates at school while she continues her murder investigation in secret. Veronica Mars is completely badass and as good of a feminist role model as you are going to find on television. I made the video below as a tribute to Veronica Mars. It’s a compilation of scenes from the first season that illustrate why I think she’s so kick-ass.
Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency made a great video explaining why she loves this show. She makes a lot of great points, and while I’m not going to repeat them all here, I would like to expand them a little bit. I’m also not going to discuss the show as a whole and just focus on Veronica and why I think she’s a great role model for teenage girls.
1. Veronica Mars is smart. She’s in the top of her class and manages to keep her grades up despite her time-consuming detective work. She’s not afraid of technology, using advanced cameras and spy gadgets and the like. She uses her wit to solve problems, resolve disputes, and find the truth. She’s also not afraid to ask for help when she needs it.
2. She apologizes when she makes mistakes. Veronica Mars is not perfect. Sometimes she goes too far and she invades a friend’s privacy or betrays someone’s trust. She always apologizes sincerely – a vital social skill that is often overlooked.
3. She doesn’t compromise on her ideals. The series begins after Veronica is cast out of the popular crowd because she and her father refuse to accept that the man who confessed to the murder was really the killer. After a year of bullying at school, she is given the chance to admit she was wrong and sorry and rejoin her old group. She decides not to, saying that she didn’t feel “the least bit wrong, or sorry.”
Occasionally her grasp of right and wrong can seem a little too black and white. For example, when her father tries to explain that her mother’s reasons for leaving are complicated, Veronica says, “No. The hero is the one who stays, the villain is the one who leaves.” This kind of “all or nothing” morality is problematic but feels realistic because it helps remind us that, despite her maturity, she is still a teenager. Still, it’s heartening to watch her resist peer pressure and stick to her guns despite whatever effect it may have on her social life – something that is rare among teenagers on TV or in real life.
4. She sticks up for the little guy. Along the same lines as #3, Veronica stands up for people she sees getting bullied. I cannot stress enough how incredible this is. It takes a lot of guts to stick your neck out for someone else, and it’s something that does not happen enough – especially in high school.
Veronica’s story in the first season is very much a coming of age story. The murder of her best friend and rejection by her peers is a huge turning point in Veronica’s life as she loses her innocence and struggles to rebuild her identity as a strong and independent young woman. Her story is complex, yet relatable and instructive. It has so much more to offer than the simplistic morality lessons on other teen dramas like Secret Life of the American Teenager or Glee.
I sincerely recommend that you watch the first season of Veronica Mars, and share it with your kids if you have any. (The second and third season are terrible, but the first season can stand on it’s own.) We need more shows on television with female characters like Veronica. And, it would be great if Kristen Bell could find some equally awesome movie roles. It hurts to see our beloved, sharp-witted Veronica fall into the “pretty blonde” rom-com void a la Katherine Heigl.
So, here’s to you, Veronica. Let’s hope we see some more like this on tv soon.