veronica mars, she’s a marshmallow?

Everyone who wants to see the Veronica Mars movie spoiler-free has seen it now, right? Just for clarification – here be spoilers.

I love Veronica Mars, character and show, but I have spent much of the past seven years pretending that season three, by and large, does not exist. Before the movie came out, I read some pieces about the show that said how although series three was weak it had ended well and how great it was that the finale didn’t wrap everything up with a nice bow, and I was like, ‘Sorry, did we watch the same finale?’

What I got from the season finale was that you can’t leave who you were in high school behind you, which is something I find fundamentally depressing – and Veronia was someone who could put high school behind her, because mentally she was out of high school while she was still there.

Despite that, I did also love the movie. Logan in his Top Gun uniform! Ira Glass! Veronica dancing with Wallace and Mac! Tina Majorino’s hair! No, it probably wouldn’t have worked as a standalone film for the majority of non-fans, but was it ever really meant to? I know the fan-creator relationship can be dangerously symbiotic and artistically unsatisfying it comes to creators giving fans what they want at the expense of what they think works for the creation, but Rob Thomas feels like he’s mostly treading the right side of that fuzzy line. But…

But. It’s that ending again. This is where it tips dangerously into fan service, as Veronica hooks up with Logan and takes up her father’s mantle at Mars Investigations. And it got me wondering, what do we really want for Veronica? It’s something that got picked up a bit while the movie was being made, as speculation swirled about whether Veronica would end up with Piz or Logan (or, presumably neither of them, though for most people that wasn’t seen as an option) – and Rob Thomas commented that while he recognises the charisma and chemistry of Logan with Veronica, he knows that Piz is the better person to be in a relationship with: that he’d want his daughter to find a Piz. Frankly, if they work end up working for This American Life, I’d want a Piz, despite the terrible attractions of Logan.

It made me think back to something I read earlier in the week by Hadley Freeman, in the chapter of her book (Be Awesome) entitled, ‘You don’t need Winona Ryder to tell you how to live your life.’

“the fictional character that you discovered as a child and became not just your guide to the world beyond your family, but the lens through which you for ever see yourself, even after you’ve forgotten the source material that truly shapes you… the character you over-identified with as a kid… It’s the limiting perspectives that these fictional self-images provide that is the problem.”

They limit us – but also, we limit them, because we loved them as they were and don’t really want them to change.

Veronica is one of those characters I came to over-identify with as a young adult (along with Buffy, who appeared when I was 17). I picked her up aged about 23 and recognised something of my late-teen and student self in her – or wanted to. I wasn’t Veronica as a teen. I probably wouldn’t have aspired to be. But a lot of the time, I would love to be the person Veronica, who is tough and smart, and makes some tough decisions, looked set to be growing up to be – if Rob Thomas, and the fans, would ever let her leave high school.

Because Veronica was ahead of the curve. She knew that working hard mattered and was worth it, that family was important, that peer pressure sucked, that normality was an illusion, no one was perfect, and that running away didn’t work. She was going to grow up into someone brilliant, moulded by her past but not owned by it, connected to the good bits and shedding the bad bits. She wasn’t an addict. And to some extent she did – she went off to Stanford, where she’d always wanted to go, she stayed in touch with Wallace and Mac, she was building a new career. I think she’d probably not have gone back to Piz, or into corporate law, but I understand why they went with the former, dramatically, and why someone with epic student loans would be tempted by the latter.

And in the movie’s finale, I loved a lot of it – the wrap up of the case, with a few loose ends in the sub-plot; Logan, obviously – but not all of it. While I am glad Veronica’s gone back to California, I wish it wasn’t to Mars Investigations. I wanted her to say yes to Logan, yes to SoCal, but also yes to law school and the person she’d grown into being. What, there aren’t lawyer or law-degree adjacent jobs in San Diego or LA that would allow Veronica to be prosecutorial or investigative rather than a corporate law goon? To be near home and possibly make a difference in Neptune without once again failing to leave high school? That’s both a plausible and an interesting future for Veronica, it would neither mark her as a failure or as a raging ‘broke out of the hell-town success’ – it’s a solid life for someone who was, remember, on an FBI watch list for kidnapping a baby and sending her boyfriend off to Australia with it (yes, it was his, but it’s still more than somewhat dubious, Veronica)

It would have kept the door open for more Veronica Mars letting it grow. Not letting her do that – sending Veronica back to the place fans loved her best, even when she always wanted to move beyond it, also keeps Veronica Mars the series alive, but in stasis.

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