Veronica Mars as a Hardboiled Story
Women are generally and discriminately treated as damsels in distress—more often just as an accessory for a prideful male. But the times are changing, we have been shown how powerful and capable women could be—both in fiction and the real world. But it seems many depictions of women are imbalanced, black and white, too violent or two passive. Seeing a woman play a crime detective may surprise many enthusiasts of mystery fiction. This maybe the case for the popular teenage television series Veronica Mars. What is interesting about Veronica Mars is that it is deceivingly presented as a teen series, but it actually shows some elements of the hardboiled detective genre.
Moreover, Veronica Mars takes an innovative form, an evolution from the hardboiled genre only commonly presented through novels. In a sense, new hardboiled works like Veronica Mars takes on a timely medium for the consumption of a new generation of enthusiasts of the hardboiled genre.
But before we traverse further in the discussion, it would be essential to first recap the description of the hardboiled detective genre. This particular literary genre is generally described as a story wherein a detective is usually the protagonist. A typical storyline for the hardboiled genre would be that the protagonist detective would be entangled in the complexity of a crime he or she is trying to solve. Another typical description of the hardboiled genre is that crime, sex, and violence would be often portrayed in cynical and unsentimental fashion—synonyms of hardboiled.
Veronica Mars would fall under the listed descriptions of a hardboiled story. The only difference would be the medium, popular hardboiled fictions are commonly communicated through novels.
As opposed to earlier hardboiled stories, Veronica Mars is a story most people could relate to. The earlier hardboiled stories would be typically talking about complicated crimes, more often than not too complicated for the average reader to grasp. The plot of Veronica Mars is basically about a teenage girl, who is formerly popular, who had turn to crime solving.
And of course, the plot is centrifugal to the character arc of the protagonist, Veronica Mars. Initially, she the challenges she has to face could be immediately categorized as petty. She had to deal with peer pressure as she had to change her status from being popular to an outcast. She also had to deal with being dumped by her boyfriend.
Her family background has much to do with her father being a formerly well-respected County Sheriff, now a humble private detective. The case of her father’s demotion seems to be functioning as a warning for Veronica. Her father had investigated and accused a wealthy and rich man for a crime. Unfortunately, Veronica’s father failed to prove his point leading him to lose his credibility. But the situation of her father does not seem to scare off Veronica. She continued investigating crime, not by the others of her father, but mostly out of conscience.
One the more serious note, her best friend has been murdered and Veronica was drugged and raped in a party. This collection of unfortunate experiences had fueled Veronica’s passion for crime solving.
It is just understandable that puritans of the hardboiled genre would not accept Veronica Mars as hardboiled. In defense, a writer of a magazine had written that “…the hardboiled dialogues comes from Veronica Mars’s teen protagonist’s mouth in a way that stabs any potential cutesiness in the heart with an icepick” (Abele, LA Weekly)
The crime solving has always been male-dominated, both in the fictional and the real world. Veronica Mars had shown its audience that a high-school or college girl should be aiming more than just to be popular. Veronica is also characterized as an intelligent and independent woman. This is in great opposition to other protagonists of other popular series, who are typically merely damsels in distress. Moreover, Veronica Mars had shown us that the hardboiled genre is also for the younger audience.
Abele, Robert (2004). Eyes of Veronica Mars: Buffy teen heroine with the weight of the world
on her shoulders. 4 November 2004. Accessed 12 June 2008 < http://www.laweekly.com/film+tv/tv/eyes-of-veronica-mars/1225/>
Mizejewski, Linda (2004). Hardboiled and High Heeled: The Woman Detective in Poular
Culture. NY: Routledge