Last night I watched the first episode of Veronica Mars and it blew my mind. I have never felt a need to write an episode recap so badly as I did watching that pilot last night. I mean, holy shit, one of the first shots of the episode is of Veronica cutting a black classmate down from a flagpole to which he’s been duct-taped, naked, her face at about waist-height.
Granted I’ve been studying lynching, but these are loaded opening shots for a girls’ after-school special.
And she’s holding a knife! Talk about appropriating phallic symbols!
I’m not actually going to write a recap of the whole episode, but I will, quickly, summarize. In the first episode we get introduced to Veronica Mars, a private investigator and high-school pariah in the rich suburb of Neptune, California–kind of like Beverly Hills meets Silicon Valley, since all her rich classmates are the children of tech billionaires.
From the first few scenes, we see how Veronica has been expelled from the new millenium’s cult of true womanhood. Visually, she has short, choppy hair and wears a tomboyish sweatshirt. She has none of the niceties of a good girl: she is immediately sexually associated with a man of color, and throughout the episode is the object of sexually explicit insults both from the white popular boys (who include her rich ex-boyfriend) and the guys of a Latino motorcycle gang. The former she ignores; with the latter, she gamely plays along, challenging the leader to show her the big package he’s suggested she eat. She is immediately constructed as being outside the norms of genteel white womanhood, defined by long hair and dresses, demure femininity, no interracial associations, and certainly no tolerance for such foul-mouthed come-ons.
This episode–maybe this whole series–is all about how patriarchy let Veronica down. As a pretty blonde white girl, patriarchy was supposed to be on her side: it was supposed to protect her, keep her safe, keep her from ever having to do anything. But the realities of class, family, and sexual violence got in the way: Veronica’s dad lost her job as sheriff, her mom left when they fell out of the town’s good graces, and V-ron was drugged and raped at a party, then laughed out of the new sheriff’s office when she tried to report it.
A couple of times in the episode, Veronica’s dad, played by the totally friendly Enrico Colantoni (who I think of as the hapless photographer from “Just Shoot Me”), asks, “Who’s your daddy?” Repeatedly, she asks him not to “say that.” His goofy behavior makes clear that nothing untoward is going on between V-ron and her dad, and yet the script’s explicit attention to sexualized fatherhood, and Veronica’s expressed disgust at dad’s use of this phrase, is a clear signal that even Veronica’s relationship with her own loving father won’t remain uncomplicated by this show’s investigation into gender, patriarchy, and power.