lizzieladie: (feminism)
lizzieladie ([personal profile] lizzieladie) wrote2010-06-03 12:05 am
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Some thoughts that I've been acquiring over the last six months...

So now that college is over I finally have some time to post on some things I've been meaning to talk about for ages.

First up: my thoughts on Veronica Mars. The first season was one of the best pieces of television I've ever seen. Ever. I love Veronica (she's so deliciously flawed and strong, all at the same time), I love the noire feel, the depth of the characters, their complex relationships, and the writing.

After that, it went a bit downhill. The bus crash simply never captured my interest. I think [personal profile] musesfool's assessment that intense emotional connection that Veronica felt to Lily's murder was never really recaptured is correct.

S3 was a mess on several levels, and I'm going to devote the rest of this post to my issues with its depiction of feminists, and a separate post to depictions of rape.

In the DVD commentary Rob Thomas defended his negative portrayal of feminists from three different angles. 1.) This is noir, everyone is a little bit sinister and untrustworthy. 2.) I gave them a very good motivation - their friend literally jumped off of a roof after her treatment at the hands of frat. 3.) You have Veronica, clearly a feminist icon, and isn't that enough for you?

My response to points 1.) and 2.) is simply that to reduce both the frat boys and the feminists to such ridiculous stereotypes is bad writing. When I compare the depth that Logan and Weevil were given in seasons 1 and 2 to the portrayal of the frat boys and feminists there is simply no question as to which constitutes better writing.

As far as I could tell, the frat boys' motivations were completely interchangeable - get laid and drink. Dick is a magnificent character simply because he's so hilariously flat (you know that his response will be sexist, classist, simple, and utterly ridiculous in any given situation) but an entire crowd of Dicks is boring and disturbing at the same time. If the frat was just in the story to provide a joke about how well Dick fit in there (and it is funny that he fits so well into the stereotype after being established as a character in non-college setting) then it would have worked just fine as a one dimensional entity. However, when the frat is a major player in the plot and its members are possible perpetrators in the mystery then it needs to have at least one character who stands out from the crowd and gets developed. The depiction of the PC gang worked in seasons 1 and 2 because Weevil stood out and gave it some depth. I accept that there isn't screen time to develop every character in any given group that show deals with (the basketball team, the PC gang, the rich kids, the gay kids, the frat, ect.), but it makes the story a lot better when you develop at least one. Furthermore, if you're going to have recurring episodes with different frat boys being accused of different rapes, from a narrative perspective it's a good thing if both the frat boys and the victims exhibit some distinguishing characteristics. It's boring if they all react in exactly the same stereotyped way.

The feminists are a similar mass of completely interchangeable characters. Although Nish stood out because of her greater role in the narrative, I can tell you absolutely nothing about her except that she is opposed to rape and people being humiliated into jumping off of roofs, that she thinks that the frats should be banned in order to prevent those things from happening again, and that she's willing to do almost anything in order to make that happen. Those are positions that all of the feminists seem to hold. The feminists also come off as adhering to the man-hating stereotype because we mostly only see them interact with the frat-boys, who are stereotyped as being everything that a feminist would hate in a man.

Simply put, I think that if Rob Thomas wanted to undermine what we know about frats and feminists and show the dark side of each in the best tradition of noir, then he failed miserably. What he did instead was reinforce the bad things that we already think we know about each group. That did not make for a particularly interesting story. I went to a college full of feminists, and my sister is dating a member of a frat, and I can say with a great deal of certainty that everyone I've ever met or heard about from either group was in a fact a real person who was more interesting than the characters given to us in S3. Even the ones I've heard of only in the context of small anecdotes.

To address 3.), I'd like to say simply that there is a disconnect between the portrayals of strong female characters and women who are willing to actually claim the feminist movement in television. If Veronica explicitly identified as feminist, but disliked the tactics of the feminist club on campus, or if at least one of the feminists had been a fleshed out character with depth instead of a stereotype, the whole thing would have played differently to me. But as it stood, I saw Rob Thomas reinforcing the message that women who claim to be feminist can't also be strong and moral. Compared to his treatment of the many high school stereotypes he dealt with the in first two seasons, I think that this comes off at best as poor writing and at worst as a suggestion that to organize in order to demand better treatment is an inherently flawed prospect, that the best (ie Veronica) simply individually demand better treatment, and that if you can't get better treatment on individual terms then you don't deserve it. Either of those things elicits a major Do Not Want reaction from me, and I think that Veronica Mars would have been better show without them.