We’ve had fun this week discussing Veronica Mars through the prism of her potential suitors. We’ve heard from Team Duncan, Team Piz, Team Weevil, and Team Everyone Else (in the parlance of our times). For Team Logan, I’ll direct you here. But, with all due respect to Team members everywhere, the obvious correct choice is TEAM VERONICA.
When faced with the bad boy versus stable-but-kinda-boring boy trope, often overlooked is the interests of the boys themselves. In lesser series with this trope, and lesser-than-everything Twilight, very little work is put in to explaining why anyone would want to date anyone else, especially if “anyone else” is the main character of the show. The most egregious example perhaps being Sookie Stackhouse of the True Blood series who — despite displaying very little in the way of basic survival instincts, loyalty, or even intelligence — prompts each man she comes in contact with (good or evil) to want to have an exclusive committed long term relationship with her.
Now, Veronica Mars is a much more appealing person than Sookie — she’s intelligent, funny and generally loyal to her friends. I’d totally want to be friends with her. I also understand why Logan specifically would love her. I was both caught off guard by their first kiss and felt genuinely moved by it, then moments later felt foolish by not seeing it coming earlier. They undeniably have chemistry that was earned, and she has made him a better person (on the balance) by serving as a (comparatively) solid moral compass and got him down from 100% brooding and/or cynicism to about only 40% brooding and/or cynicism. She found him at a fairly low moment and took a chance.
On the other hand, it’s not clear to me that she would be good for Logan long term. Her flaws and his flaws trigger each other such that it seems like he is always going to end up hurt (and brooding). Her primary flaw is almost a necessary trait for any TV detective/officer/slayer, which is that her identity is so wrapped up in being a detective that it leaves little room for anything else. This is difficult for her relationships in a number of ways. The first is that she applies the “trust but verify” ethos that make her an excellent detective to her relationships with disastrous results. This manifests itself most directly when she plants a GPS on Logan (and nearly plants a second one in his car). It doesn’t help her trust issues that Logan is an individual prone in good times to misdemeanors and gambling, and in bad times to bum-fighting and leaving others behind in burning buildings, which means that when she looks in on him she often will find highly significant unpleasant things and she is likely to keep looking.
The second aspect of being a good detective is that Veronica is a workaholic who is constantly working in dangerous circumstances (the danger may abate when, between series and movie, she goes to law school, but she’ll almost certainly retain her work ethic). When Logan is around this he freaks out by being overprotective and prone to throwing punches prematurely. He seems like he would make a lousy detective, which makes him a less than valuable sidekick. Yet when she goes off without him, he freaks out because he can’t protect her — even going so far as to hire a bodyguard to look after her.
Dating Parker, by comparison, seemed to make him (briefly) happy without the up and down drama. She makes (or has someone else make) cutesy cakes with their faces on it. Not dangerous at all!
As to who Veronica should date: I don’t think she needs a boyfriend at all. She could look to the example of Raylan Givens of Justified, who when given a choice between a bad girl and good girl in season 1 slowly loses both to his workaholism. Whereas in that show the loss of each woman feels tragic as Raylan is aging and he does seem genuinely hurt when his position gets in the way of love, even a decade after the end of her show, Veronica is young and has time to take romance less seriously. She should just enjoy herself.
[Ed. Note: This will be explored further in a #TeamVeronica post very shortly.]
Much of this week’s Veronica Mars discussion has revolved around proposing various love interests for Veronica, both because the show has a rich cast of characters that are fun to defend, make fun of, or outright disparage; and as a countermeasure to the myopia of seeing Veronica Mars as a show about a girl and her on-again/off-again boyfriend who started a bum-fighting ring one time (THAT WE KNOW ABOUT).
What Veronica/Logan stuff obscures, for me, is the strength of Veronica Mars as an amateur-detective show, and now, yes yes yes, an amateur-detective movie. Admittedly, this comes from a bias as strong as any shipper: I love movies and TV shows about amateur or semi-amateur or non-traditional detectives. Maybe books, too, but I don’t have a lot of experience with reading detective fiction, unless Encyclopedia Brown counts. I never got into the Hardy Boys and I only read part of one Easy Rawlins novel, although it was pretty good; I just put it down and forgot about it and wound up moving on something else. Our book expert Cristin will favor us with more in-depth book companions to Veronica; here now is a brief recent history of a genre I didn’t know was my favorite genre until Veronica Mars was about halfway through its run.
I think the biggest mistake we made with Veronica Mars week is that it’s only one week long. I’m not going to have time write an article about everyone we could ship Veronica with, so here’s a list of everyone else I at least have an outline on..
There is no choice. There is only Piz.
Proof, using many examples from things that aren’t Veronica Mars:
Piz Is a Nice Guy
I have to admit there is some personal bias at work here. I never really had a bad-boy phase. (I invite all the girls I know to do the same. It’s great! You get to stay on good terms with all your exes.) This often rears its head in pop-culture conversations, like the time my friend from high school said I was “obviously a Jack girl” even though we hadn’t talked since Lost premiered, or the repeated conversations about Reality Bites that have ended with “screw it, let’s agree to be #TeamVicki.” (Really, though, there’s nothing appealing about Ethan Hawke.)
Sure, Piz is a little square. Sure, it’s lame that he wanted to go work for Pitchfork. But he’s a nice guy. He’s never murdered anyone. He’s never slipped a mickey in anyone’s drink. He never provoked a fistfight. He’s never even coerced bums into fistfighting each other. If that’s square, then maybe square is good for Veronica.
“Eli ‘Weevil” Navarro. Ex-con. Somewhat reformed gangster, and the only man in Neptune who might just be smarter than Veronica Mars.”
– fuckyeahweevilandveronica.tumblr.com, from which most of this media is taken.
Eli ‘Weevil” Navarro’s relationship with Veronica Mars was bumpy but they respected each other. Could it have been something more? Maybe not, but their relationship often goes unobserved. So maybe. From the horse’s mouth:
Continue reading #TeamWeevil
On September 22, 2004, I had been living in New York for just under two months, after graduating from college in June. I had always wanted to move to New York, so I found a job and did it, without really knowing anything about the industry or field I was getting in to—or, for that matter, without googling my future boss (a major error that would become obvious within hours of starting the job)—and without any friends other than my boyfriend, who had moved the month before. I had found a 6×10 room above a Mexican restaurant, which featured a giant light-up sombrero directly below my window, and I didn’t get along particularly well with my roommates.
That day, I watched the premiere of Veronica Mars.
I distinctly remember why I sought it out: A capsule review in the AV Club’s fall TV preview, which I just spent half an hour searching for and does not appear to exist any more. It said something about teen detectives, and hardboiled noir, and that it had snappy dialogue. Sold.
Somehow, in the age before DVR, I managed to get home from my stressful job in time to turn on UPN every Tuesday at 9 PM. Plus I had to make sure my roommate didn’t want to watch TV at the same time. She had her own TV, but since we were splitting the signal, things got wonky if we were trying to watch separate shows in different rooms. It was a different time. No DVR. No pausing. Waiting a week between episodes. The fact that I was the only person I knew who had heard of this show, let alone watched it, seemed like another symptom of the general loneliness and out-of-place-ness that I associated with post-college life.
Here’s an email I wrote to my college roommates a month later, on October 20, 2004:
i’ve recently decided to take up Veronica Mars on UPN (the one network actually worse than the WB!). it’s brand new, not bad, a sort of buffy the vampire slayer meets twin peaks meets clarissa explains it all, and since it’s UPN, there’s way more drugs and sex than on the regular networks. who can say no to that? the first episode featured a weird pseudo-lynching, a flashback where veronica is given a roofie and (presumably) raped, a preppy asshole caught with a buddha-shaped bong in his locker, and a mexican biker gang generally shaking shit up. and it’s funny!
(All capitalization and double-spacing [sic].)
It’s obvious to me now that I was trying not to overhype the show so that I wouldn’t scare them away. I really, really wanted them to watch, and I blew that carefully faked nonchalance by following up only five days later, on October 25:
btw, I will pay someone–metaphorically speaking–to start watching Veronica Mars. It’s no fun without having fellow fans.
It didn’t work. Not right away, at least. Ten years later, I’m pretty sure all six of the recipients of my 2004 emails eventually did watch it. But the first evidence I have that someone I know watched the show is from October 7, 2005, soon after the second season premiere. This was my response:
AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Finally! Someone! Has! Watched! Veronica! Mars! Quick, someone get my inhaler.
Of course I read the Television Without Pity recaps; back then they were the only recap game in town, and they were especially important before I got a DVR. The write-ups helped me notice and remember things, and they assured me that I was not a crazy person hallucinating an entire show. But I’ve never been much of a social person online, so I didn’t comment, and I didn’t join in discussions, and I didn’t seek out livejournals or other fan outlets. Veronica Mars became something that existed almost entirely in my head.
This post is supposed to be a defense of Logan Echolls, since the rest of SportsAlcohol.com is heavily invested in #teampiz (or team anyone else). I am also forgiving and understanding and generally fond of poor Piz, but I am here to tell you why, from my personal experience, the Logan Thing became so overwhelming and satisfying, at least in that perfect first season.
(I call it a perfect season, and narratively I think it’s a thing of beauty, but we should never forget that Paris Hilton was in an early episode. That was something I was careful not to mention in any of my pleading emails to far-flung roommates.)
Watching the show week by week, I (and, I suspect, the other early watchers—and probably even the writers) found my/ourselves genuinely surprised by Logan Echolls. Jason Dohring gave a sociopath a heart in just a few smoldering glances, and the quick-witted chemistry between Logan and Veronica worked.
If anyone had been around to ask me my opinion of Logan Echolls 2004-2005, I would’ve said he was a monster until after episode 6. Episodes 6-13, he was still a jerk, but one I could understand. Then by episode 18—bam. I loved him. This was pure magic. Alchemy. How on earth could they have managed this transformation?
I think it’s because Rob Thomas and the writers didn’t know what they had until they had it. They watched their own show and they saw what was percolating beneath the surface, and they exploited it. I don’t consider this fan service. First off, no one was pressuring them; practically no one was watching. Secondly, we (the fans) didn’t know we wanted it until it happened, or perhaps right before. How could they have bowed to “pressure,” with the schedules of network television being what they were, and the feelings of the audience changing practically week by week, based on they were giving us? It was smart, savvy storytelling; it was paying careful attention to not just the larger arcs but also the small, charged moments that only happen when the episode is actually shot and performed and edited.
Logan surprised us all, including Veronica. If Veronica wasn’t able to allow herself to be surprised, she’d have been a bad detective and a boring character. Noticing Logan like this made her three dimensional. Yes, she could be rigid in her judgments, and sometimes let that blind her to the truth, but she wasn’t a robot. The world hurt her, but she hasn’t closed herself off from it completely. She felt things and noticed them and eventually acknowledged what they meant.
Neither Veronica nor Logan changed who they were at their core when they got together—they only added layers. Logan was an entitled monster and he wanted to protect her. Veronica was bitter and paranoid and she cared about him. Things got more complicated in later seasons, but I believe this relationship stayed central because it showed Veronica’s humanity and vulnerability, and reinforced the idea that even if we thought we had everything figured out, people could surprise us. What had seemed shallow showed depth.
A show on UPN could bring us just what we were looking for.
My first year in New York, the first year of being an “adult,” I became obsessed with a show about a teenager solving crimes. Why? I probably would’ve gotten obsessed with it whenever I found it — it’s just the type of thing I like — but perhaps the show’s willingness to show change and evolution as scary but manageable made it particularly appealing. Veronica’s life had changed dramatically. It was still changing. Those changes were rarely good. Inevitably, surprises would come — not just (arguably) good ones like Logan. Things sucked, often, and people were jerks. But Veronica could handle it — she would be okay.
In the summer of 2005, I moved out of the apartment above the Mexican restaurant and left the ridiculous job for one I loved. We got a DVR. I started making new friends. My old friends started watching Veronica Mars. My new boss at my new job was a fan. Veronica Mars got canceled, but love for the show would continue to spread. I fell in love with other shows; I discovered ones I’d missed. (I didn’t start watching Lost until the summer of 2006—and it premiered the exact same day as Veronica in 2004. There’s always new stuff to discover! Hooray!)
And now ten years later I get to revisit Veronica Mars, this time in a movie theater with hundreds people (including over a dozen close friends) and tens of thousands more across the country. People listened and watched and noticed. People fell in love.
Veronica Mars has surprised me again.
Today kicks off Veronica Mars Week at SportsAlcohol.com. It was never our intention, but all of our feature weeks to date have been about little-seen genre films. It’s exciting to cover a movie we think will actually be good for once.
As fans of the show, we will post a variety of thoughtful, well-written pieces throughout the week. There will also be multiple posts by yours truly on the topic of shipping. Marshmallows, as fans of Veronica Mars are known, have strong opinions about who Veronica should be involved with romantically. With the characters being revived for a movie, these debates have been renewed in full on the internet. Fans have taken to social media declaring themselves #TeamPiz or (more commonly) #TeamLogan in support of their favorite paramour for Veronica. They are even selling shirts.
Absent from this debate almost entirely is Duncan Kane, Veronica’s first boyfriend. Being written out of the show in season two, there were no shirts for him (until the fans made some). This makes very little sense, as Duncan and Veronica are great together!
[From this point down, there will be a lot of SPOILERS. Consider yourself forewarned.]
Your tumblr theme doesn’t say anything about you. It’s just a thing you picked from a list.
I was just surprised that I googled the phrase “What Your Tumblr Theme Says About You” and got no exact hits. This post is just clickbait. Thank you for clicking. Now can I interest you in some of our finest offerings?
In a move that pays off approximately one Beyonce per decade, I decided to give Lorde a listen. I’d heard a lot of good stuff about her, and I try to occasionally branch out from my indie-rock geekery. It’s super fun to actually like a popular music artist because those albums are super-easy to find at Best Buy or used-CD bins (note to the youngs: used CD bins are boxes of CDs… wait. CDs are things with music you can buy on Amazon or in in stores where… wait. Stores are places where… oh, fuck it, look it up). Contrary to the indie-rock stereotype, I am always in the market for stuff that is easy to like. I was so excited when I thought that maybe Nicki Minaj would be really good.
I was a little skeptical about Lorde because of the praise she’s earned in publications such as Rolling Stone, but then her album (albums are like mp3s, but like, in an order and stuff) was two dollars on Amazon. I would buy almost any popular album for two dollars. I’m often tempted to buy albums I know for a fact I don’t like if they’re two dollars. Plus, no matter how big-boxy it is to buy an album from Amazon for two bucks, I can know for sure that the royalty Lorde gets from that single copy Amazon-discounted copy will be roughly a thousand times higher than what she’d get if I listened to her album on Spotify three or four times. Never say I never did nothin’ for ya, Lorde, he said, when tossing her the equivalent of two quarters, or: the total amount of money your twenty favorite artists have earned from you listening to them on Spotify, total, in their and your lifetimes.
Anyway, I bought the Lorde album and listened to it a bunch of times and now I have an opinion about Lorde and the dominant opinion is: Lorde needs to be taken down and also I shouldn’t listen to this album very much anymore except maybe “Royals” and perhaps “World Alone.”
It’s not that Lorde or Pure Heroine are all that bad. But the cred Lorde seems to be accruing needs to stop or at least slow down a little. Yes, I will acknowledge the coolness of Lorde being a (a.) seventeen-year-old (b.) female (c.) from New Zealand (d.) who looks sort of like a witch and (e.) helps write her own songs that are then (f.) only marginally overproduced in that trendy faux-minimalist sort of… OK, now it sounds less like I’m acknowledging her coolness and more like I’m writing a takedown! Now we’re in the spirit! The general problem with Lorde is that she gets instant cool cred the same way that the record industry embraces anyone who is successful.
I might sound like a cranky Generation Xer here — and I seriously don’t know if I’m in the Generation X or the millennial boom or maybe, just maybe, a sub-generation I just invented called the Third-Greatest Generation (the top two are NOT the ones you’d expect) — but we need to stop giving young people awards for just showing up. I’m not complaining about, like, Participant ribbons here. Participant ribbons are reasonably honest. They say PARTICIPANT and are given to people who participate! I would be happy if Lorde showed up on the cover of Rolling Stone wearing a ribbon that said PARTICIPANT.
But Lorde gets way more credit than that, sort of like how Taylor Swift gets infinite cred for kinda-sorta writing her own songs — even for lyrics that other people have basically already written. I’m not suggesting that Swift wrote “so casually cruel in the name of being honest” after hearing Paul Simon sing that “there’s no tenderness beneath your honesty.” Actually, I’m suggesting quite the opposite: I’m sure Swift hadn’t heard the Paul Simon song. And that’s fine. But you don’t get full credit for re-discovering and re-phrasing that idea. And you certainly don’t get credit for not phrasing it as well.
But that’s another story for another post that tries hard to reconcile how much I love “We Are Never Getting Back Together” with Taylor Swift’s authenticity, which I do not question so much as classify under “authentic self-regard” (see also: Roberts, Julia). Let’s get back to Lorde.
Lorde’s voice is weird.
I don’t mean weird like truly eccentric or wild, like Bjork or Corin Tucker or Nicki Minaj in-character. I mean that somewhere between her native accent and her vaguely American-accented singing, her tongue starts to sound heavy. Her vowels are rounded and some of her consonants come out muffled together, like she’s only singing out of the very front portion of her mouth. It has a weird slurry-baby effect and yeah, it’s a little unnerving to hear a teenager drop truths while sounding like a drunk baby.
Lorde’s songs pretty much all sound the same.
Everyone loves “Royals” for the way Lorde rolls her eyes at music-industry materialism…
Actually, hold up. Let me clarify something.
Lorde is overrated but not racist.
There was a big internet thing recently about whether “Royals” is secretly or not-so-secretly racist because it dismisses elements of culture that are coded as black. But while several of the images in “Royals” seem to be derived from hip-hop videos, the idea that no one is allowed to mildly bag on perceptions of hip-hop culture strikes me as enormously ridiculous. Not least because hip-hop covers a far broader spectrum of songs and styles than what Lorde describes — fair to say that when she says “every song’s like,” she’s referring to a rhetorical “every” song on Top 40 radio, not “every” song in hip-hop, which is not mentioned in her lyrics.
Of course, a lot of “every” song popular in 2014 does have some kind of hip-hop influence — which is exactly why trying to parse out some racism “Royals” seems like a fool’s errand. That complaint misses how mainstream the culture the song describes actually is. It makes sense that Lorde, as a teenager, focuses on that kind (that is to say, hip-hop-influenced) materialism and consumption, rather than, say, Old White Male materialism and consumption.
In fact, despite the rap-video imagery in the lyrics, a lot of what she’s singing about also recalls the flood of the we-invincible-cause-we-drunk party anthems of the last few years — songs that have further mainstreamized a sensibility that might have once been more identified with a particular strain of pop hip-hop, but is now pretty much pop culture at large, especially in the music industry. I get that these trends are often most exploited and encouraged by an old-white-male offensive line up at the executive level, but does this make any artist or any song further down the food chain automatically above reproach? You could call Lorde a hypocrite for appropriating hip-hop-lite beats in a song that seems to knock hip-hop culture, or you could admit that it is, in fact, OK to say that 200 songs about swigging Cristal are not necessarily that interesting without throwing the artist babies out with the shitty music bathwater. Look, a lot of mainstream music made by black people fucking sucks as bad as a lot of mainstream music made by white people. It’s part of the universal law of music suckage.
Anyway, back to:
Lorde’s songs pretty much all sound the same.
Everyone loves “Royals” for the way Lorde rolls her eyes at music-industry materialism. On her album, a few tracks after “Royals,” in which we learn that she’s “not proud of her address,” “we’ll never be royals,” and that she’s not interested in what “every song’s like,” there’s a song called “Team,” in which we learn that Lorde and her crew “live in cities you’ll never seen on screen, not very pretty but we show them how to run free,” and that she’s “kinda over gettin’ told to throw my hands up in the air.”
I, on the other hand, am kinda gettin’ over what an iconoclast Lorde is and now wondering if maybe she is a little racist. (Still probably not, but still.)
Even on the songs that don’t repeat themselves lyrically, there’s a very clear sound on Pure Heroine that gets very clearly exhausted. The album’s basic formula, moody but accessible beats plus Lorde’s voice, is reasonably appealing but even after a mere ten tracks, it feels a bit like an extended remix of itself. Basically, she sounds like a sassier Lana del Rey, but less self-consciously lush and “cinematic.” As it happens, this makes her somewhat more tolerable than Lana del Rey (GATSBY EXCEPTION INVOKED, by the way). But it does not make her a major sonic adventure. I don’t know a lot about production, but the Postal Service Lite beats on this record don’t seem like the height of electrosophistication to me. “World Alone” is particularly Postal Service-y in its vocal melody and multiple beat kick-ins. And it’s easily one of the best tracks on the record. I also like the way she uses the phrase “like yeah” in “Tennis Courts” because I’m always in favor of people using that phrase, but when she sings “it’s a new art form/showing people how little we care,” I don’t even think I’m learning about how today’s seventeen-year-olds think, because millennials seem, if anything, to care a lot, sometimes about good things and sometimes about bad things. Showing how little we care, on the other hand… isn’t that back in Gen-X territory again?
(I couldn’t tell you; I’m a Third-Greatest.)
I’m not sure if Lorde’s rediscovery of Gen-X and Postal Service beats is more or less impressive considering that…
Lorde is a music-biz lifer.
Here is a quote from the Rolling Stone cover story on Lorde:
“I think my whole career can be boiled down to one word I always say in meetings: strength.”
Feminists, rejoice! Lorde says the word “strength” at meetings! I wonder if these meetings literally begin with Lorde sitting down at a big conference table and just announcing: “Strength.” And then the marketing execs have to go from there? Or does she follow it up with other key words that she only sometimes says in meetings, such as: “robust.” Or: “disruptors.” Or: “low-hanging fruit.”
I don’t mean to bag on Lorde for taking meetings. But it is funny just how little difference there is between her career arc and, say, Katy Perry’s or Justin Bieber’s.
The Rolling Stone article goes into matter-of-fact detail about how Lorde won a school singing contest with a classmate, the classmate’s father sent their recordings around, and Lorde’s voice caught the attention of the head of A&R at Universal Music New Zealand. Her development deal “went nowhere” after three years. As Rolling Stone dramatically phrases it: “The idea of a music career could have floated away.” (NO, I imagine we are meant to cry out. LET NO IDEA OF A CAREER FLOAT AWAY!) But in a turn the magazine terms “fortuitous” but seems more like “what happens when you have a development deal with a major label,” a local manager heard Lorde and offered her his songwriter client as a collaborator. Then they made some songs that the label wasn’t crazy about, but despite the label’s disinterest they took it to the internet, guerilla-style, which is much easier to do when you are guerilla-style disseminating professionally written and produced songs with major-label backing.
If you haven’t done the math yet, this means that crazy from-nowhere success Lorde has been doing this since she was twelve years old. This makes her slightly more of a novice than Miley Cyrus. Slightly.
That’s not to say we should get hung up questions of authenticity. Miley strikes me as enormously mannered and self-conscious, from the Lady Gaga school of explaining why what you’re doing is subversive and interesting, but I still like “Wrecking Ball.” But I think pretty much everyone would agree that Lorde is hyped as the real deal because of her age and hairdo and ability to think in complete sentences. If we’re talking about music, she has about as much good material as Miley or Katy Perry or anyone else with one or two good songs and a lot of stuff that sounds like those other songs but not as good.
In other words: “Royals” is a pretty good song but it’s nothing you couldn’t say at meetings.