feminism & equality, pop culture, television

Veronica Mars: Iconic Feminist Show and Teen Girl Detective

Veronica Mars: Iconic Feminist Show and Teen Girl Detective

Veronica Mars is one of my favorite television shows, and the title character is a fantastic depiction of a smart, vulnerable, brave, fallible young woman. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend setting aside some time and watching the entire series. (If you’ve got Amazon Prime, it’s available for free there right now or it’s less than $20 per season.)

Below I analyze a few episodes from the first season of Veronica Mars, in relation to feminist theory (and just because I love it).

About the show

In Veronica Mars, the main character, Veronica, attends school while moonlighting as a private investigator. (If you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to come back later, unless you’re one of those people who love spoilers.) Set in a fictional, affluent town called Neptune, California, Veronica Mars frequently covers issues of race and class division, and feminism is addressed through the struggles and triumphs of Veronica and her friends.

Veronica is a cute, blonde, white girl from California who viewers may assume is more surfer girl or spoiled brat at first, rather than the snarky, tough, girl-detective she actually is. Season one starts after Veronica has experienced a major upheaval: the murder of her best friend and subsequent firing and loss of status of her Sheriff father. It also depicts her rape after being drugged and her attempt to discover what happened to her and who’s to blame. Through flashbacks we see how she transforms from the sweet, naïve girl she once was, to the street-wise, sleuth we meet at the start of the show.

“Pilot” – episode one

In the first episode (“Pilot”), Neptune High’s teenaged motorcycle gang is bullying Wallace, a new student. When Veronica tells the leader, Weevil, to leave Wallace alone, Weevil replies, “Sister, the only time I care what a woman has to say is when she’s riding my big ol’ hog and even then it’s not so much words as just a bunch of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs,’ you know?” Instead of responding to Veronica’s request or ignoring her to continue picking on the new guy, his instant reaction is to belittle her as a woman, although it has nothing to do with the ongoing conflict. Weevil’s instantaneous, reflex-like response points to a lack of understanding (or care?) as to why such a comment is not okay.

Veronica Mars Pilot, Wallace Snitch Flag Pole

Gender is tied to certain cultural beliefs and representations and these establish how relations between women and men are occur and are understood.1 Weevil’s immediate disrespect and gendered attack on Veronica expresses his belief, whether intentional or not, that men can and should hold power over women. The idea (and real force) of men having power over women exists throughout society, and here Weevil has clearly internalized the idea that power is based on gender, which tainted his interaction with Veronica as well. 2 (Don’t worry. He learns.)

“Meet John Smith” – episode three

In “Meet John Smith,” Justin, a fellow student at Neptune High, approaches Veronica with a made up case as a guise to spend time with her. He asks her to locate his father, who he believes to have died a decade before. Veronica finds him, to Justin’s surprise, and when Justin’s mother hears about it, she acknowledges that his father is actually alive but tells Justin to forget him.

In spite of his mother’s warnings, Veronica takes Justin to meet his father and they find out he is now a transwoman. When Justin was five-years-old, his mom learned of his dad’s wish to transition, and not only divorced him, but also told their son he was dead, rather than allowing father and son to continue their relationship. When Justin sees his father again for the first time in ten years, he recognizes her (his father) as the woman he frequently assists at the video rental store where he works, although it’s over an hour drive from her house.3

It’s no secret that heteronormativity and gender binarism,4 including the belief that people fall into two distinct and complementary genders with natural roles in life, exists throughout our patriarchal society. And due to their overall position of power over women, men have long used their power to control women’s lives, including through threats of separating them from their children.5 Here Justin’s mom used her power over Justin’s father to deny him access to his child when he expressed his true identity as a woman. Did giving up his manhood mean he, later she, became secondary in rank to Justin’s mother, a person recognized as a woman at birth? Would a court system have treated each of them equally and fairly, as two women and biological parents, regardless of their individual gender identities throughout each of their lives?

As often as we hear of LGBTQ equality in the news, until recently it had been quite rare to hear the ‘T’ within that group addressed specifically and purposefully in relation to acceptance and ensuring equal rights, so it’s not hard to imagine that a court system would favor Justin’s mother (the “real” woman) in a custody battle even now. In fact, there’s no need to imagine it. Google “transgender parent custody battle” and you’ll see pages of stories about trans parents losing their children simply for being trans. Not abuse or neglect. Just gender identity. Veronica Mars acknowledges this sad fact.

“Like a Virgin” – episode eight

The patriarchy influences what women wear, the food we eat, and how we care for our bodies. The woman of the nineteenth century was idealized for delicacy, agreeability, and sexual passivity, and the rules that instructed women’s daily lives were specifically addressed and put into words. These days the so-called rules are often less direct and are more likely to be conveyed through images throughout society that instruct us on acceptable body shape, facial expressions, beauty standards, and behaviors.6

Veronica Mars Purity Test Locker gifIn episode eight (“Like a Virgin”), an online Purity Test containing detailed questions about sexual experience makes the rounds at Neptune High. As one girl explains, “Anything under sixty is really slutty.” A boy sitting nearby replies, “Unless you’re a guy.” The lower a person scores below 100 on the test, the less pure they are. When Cole admits to having scored a 91, a friend cracks a joke that Snow White, a Disney princess, got a lower score. Right away it’s clear that the acceptable scores for boys and girls are different. (Veronica, a frequent target, got a fictitious 14.)

When the Purity Test website starts allowing people to buy the results of others to see their scores, numbers are painted on corresponding lockers and accusations fly. Cole’s girlfriend, Meg, gets a 43 painted on her locker, although she says she never took the test and has always claimed to be a virgin (an impossible feat if that score is true). To save face, Cole7 later tells their friends that Meg is “good at everything she does, and she does do everything.” Meg continues to protest the score, but no one listens to her (except our favorite girl-detective, Veronica) because Cole has managed to hit certain societal cues, such as all boys and men being highly sexually active and “good girls” trying to cover up their secret, slutty ways.

“M.A.D.” – episode twenty

Similarly, in a later episode (“M.A.D.”), a girl named Carmen tries to breakup with her longtime boyfriend, but he blackmails her instead. He forces her to continue dating him, including the continuation of the physical aspects of their relationship, by showing her that he has a video of her simulating a sex act on a popsicle while in a hot tub. She has no memory of the night it was filmed and had no idea anything was ever recorded until he uses it against her. His threat to post the video online and email it to her parents and classmates works because he’s reinforcing the idea that girls must behave a certain way or face the consequences when they don’t (even if, like Carmen, it’s due to being drugged and secretly filmed).

The modern day requirements of what it means to be a “lady” were not being met by Carmen in the hot tub and rather than knowing he shouldn’t have filmed her or threatened her with humiliation, he uses his power over her and her shame in being “unladylike” to get his way.

Veronica Mars with camera season 1

The trend continues…

In later seasons of the show, Veronica Mars continues to address serious issues head-on. The show’s real power comes in through Veronica, dedicated righter of wrongs, who takes on each of these issues, digs until she finds the truth, and saves the day. While it’s full of tough situations for Veronica, her continued perseverance and determination sees her through. The show allows her to confront issue after issue and provides an outcome in which the cute, teenage girl gets to come out on top.

Although many of the lessons are often at the expense of Veronica and other girls on the show, the reaction to them is what makes Veronica Mars particularly adept at dealing with them. (Plus she teaches her fair share of lessons through the cases she solves too.) Veronica and others may be victimized at times, but she never lets herself or anyone else be tossed aside as a nameless, faceless, powerless victim.8

1: Joan Scott, “Deconstructing Equality-versus-Difference”
2: Charlotte Bunch, “Not by Degrees: Feminist Theory and Education”
3: Aww. She drives so far every week just to see her son!
4: Definition of gender binary
5: Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”
6: Susan Bordo, “The Body and the Reproduction of Femininity”
7: Ugh. Cole is such a weak, loser-dude. Own your score, bro!
8: Because she’s awesome.

pop culture, television

Watch The Mindy Project ASAP

Friends, have you subscribed to Hulu so you can watch The Mindy Project?

If not? WHY?


Because I canceled my account about two years ago, in a cable-login-required fury (nevermind that I have cable, it was the principle of the thing!) and only got it back when Mindy made the switch to Hulu-only. That annoyed me at first, but watching this one show is worth it, to be honest. (And I even pay for the no commercials upgrade. ILY, Mindy Kaling.)

What I’m saying is: The Mindy Project is worth the monthly price of Hulu all on its own. And then you can also watch other stuff if you feel like it.

But really just watch Mindy:


pop culture

Hamilton White House

Have you seen Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2009 visit to The White House? He literally mentions that he’s working on Hamilton (and it seems like a joke but isn’t) and OMG watching that and knowing what happened is fantastic:

And a few days ago, President Obama welcomed Lin-Manuel and Hamilton to The White House:

I’ve listened to the cast recording so many times, and pre-ordered the book. Hope I get a chance to see the show too!


It’s Ghostbusters Trailer Day!

I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a Ghostbusters trailer and it’s hereeeeeeeeeee:

It looks fantastic! Ghosts look fun, outfits look cool, and ghostbusting looks classic. I grew up loving the Ghostbusters movies and never could’ve imagined seeing a genderswap. So awesome. (If I have one issue though: why is the one woman of color the non-scientist, blue collar worker?)

Excited to see the whooooooole movie! And buy the action figures! 😀

feminism & equality, television

Abortion & Last Week Tonight

Did you watch John Oliver talk about abortion last night on HBO? It’s must-see (and he’s the best).

And it’s an important topic, especially if you’d hoped the abortion access matter was settled by the Supreme Court long ago and haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on in states across the country.

Because things like this are happening:

Abortion regulated like a sex offender?! Requiring birth when fetal anomalies exist?! Forced Ultrasound?! (And if you’re picturing the cute ultrasound with the little wand on the belly, think again. Have you heard of transvaginal ultrasounds? They’re not as simple or fun, especially not if you’re required to get one during an already traumatizing situation, like seeking an abortion after rape.)

And on March 2 the Supreme Court will be hearing Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case out of Texas (remember the one Wendy Davis filibustered a few years back?), and the outcome will impact Americans for a very long time.

pop culture, technology & web

Wintertime Tip: Up Your Netflix Game

Watch TV All Day gif

You’ve got Netflix, right? I know I’m not the only one who watches something on there basically every day. I should really offer to pay them more based solely on the number of times I’ve re-watched Buffy. It’s pretty straight-forward and easy to figure out, but there are a few adjustments that might make your viewing experience even better.

First, make sure you’re rating everything you can. That’s pretty obvious and I still forget to do it sometimes, but it really will make a difference and your recommendations will seriously improve. Once you’ve got your ratings situation down, up your game and try out some of the options listed below.

Seven Ways to Improve Your Netflix Experience:

  1. Add IMDB & Rotten Tomatoes ratings to your account with Chrome extension, Netflix Enhancer. In addition to ratings, it’ll link you to the matching page on each site for quickly checking out reviews.
  2. Make sure you’re really watching in HD! Click Your Account, then Playback Settings, then High. Done! (Ah, that’s better!)
  3. Change your subtitle settings if the default yellow ones just aren’t working out. Click Your Account, then Subtitle appearance, then change the color, font, and size to whatever works best for you or what you’re watching at the moment.
  4. Turn your smartphone or tablet into a remote control. If your Playstation & mobile device are both logged into the same WiFi network, many of them (including iPhone and iPad) will let you select something to watch then give you the option to watch through your PS3 or PS4, instead of just on your tiny screen. And if you have a Roku, they have an app that’ll let you play & pause, at least.
  5. Watch with faraway friends using rabb.it. Fire up a room, invite someone to join, and start watching. It’ll play on both ends, so you can watch together and be at the same spot in the video. (They can do more than Netflix too: there’s Hulu, HBOGo, YouTube videos, and more.)
  6. Delete stuff from your history. Go ahead and remove every trace of that time your niece watched Dora the Explorer on your profile constantly and totally ruined your recommendations. (Just me?) Click on Your Account, then Viewing activity, then hit the X next to anything you want to erase. While you’re adjusting settings, add a “Guest” profile for next time, too.
  7. Stop scrolling incessantly through your queue! Get a better grasp of what’s new and/or popular on InstantWatcher, and see what’s going away soon.

Now that your Netflix account is handled, what’re you going to watch?! Might I suggest Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls Religion Lifestyle gif

…or Friday Night Lights, because:

FNL coach taylor wink gif