Veronica Mars, Bullying, and Victim Blaming

Welcome back to Marshmallow Interludes, where I break down topics that come up in Veronica Mars that I feel like need their own discussion outside of the episode recap. In this case, we’re talking about something that tends to run rampant in the Veronica Mars franchise – victim blaming. But here’s the thing about it – a lot of the time, the victim blaming is on the flip side of bullying, and that’s probably how they were able to get away with it at the time the show aired. Now, though, in the world of #MeToo and other very influential (and correct) movements, it just doesn’t work anymore.

Let’s start with “Mars vs. Mars,” the episode I reviewed last week.

Carrie Bishop, a character we’ve never met before, makes this claim that a teacher has been sleeping with her. That he may have gotten her pregnant, although that’s what she reveals in class, that he doesn’t have to worry about that. After the theme song, we’re back, where Veronica is immediately sympathizing with said teacher. I immediately felt icky about it, like, VERONICA WHAT DOING. But she was adamant from the beginning – Carrie Bishop was a bully and a gossip, so she must be lying.

Think about that. Is that logical?

I understand Veronica’s point of view, truly. It’s hard to sympathize with someone who hasn’t been kind to you, who has made your life miserable. But to say that you blatantly don’t believe them is… gross. Even in 2004/2005, I think that would have been thought of as pretty gross, right? I haven’t rewatched all of my favorite shows to see if this was a pattern of the time or not, but it didn’t age well, that’s for sure. So yes, Carrie Bishop wasn’t pleasant. And I think the show did right by her in some ways by making her strong enough to be able to handle the weight of the school when it ganged up on her. But this has moved far away from a bully getting her comeuppance and into victim blaming. Which is what I want to talk about more than anything else in this post.

According to a very reliable source (Wikipedia, obvi), victim blaming “occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them.” There’s a very interesting and insightful piece in the Atlantic from 2016 about victim blaming that I would also recommend. In any case, the part that needs to be focused on is this – it’s when a VICTIM is held at fault for THE HARM THAT BEFELL THEM. So, to return to Neptune, it’s like… Carrie Bishop being at fault for her own statutory rape. That isn’t explicitly said in the episode, but something that goes hand in hand (and is also discussed in the Atlantic article) is that low-key victim blaming is not believing the victim. And that runs RAMPANT in this episode.

Again, let’s think about this logically. Why wouldn’t Veronica believe that Carrie Bishop would have been preyed upon by a teacher? This is where it doesn’t connect for me. Like I’ve said, Carrie isn’t a pleasant person. She’s not someone you’d rely on to have your back, we can say that much. She was catty to Veronica about Duncan, in the one flashback that we got in “Mars vs. Mars.” But there was no evidence that anything she said WASN’T TRUE. In fact, it’s that flashback that kept Veronica digging into Duncan’s MEDICAL FILE, my god, how did I not remember she did that. So, by the experience we have with Carrie, what reason does Veronica have for not believing her other than being super petty?

There’s nothing. She has no ground to stand on. So she assists the rest of the school in putting Carrie through hell for no reason at all. Isn’t the whole thing about V that she’s different? Not like other girls? A cool girl? A manic pixie dream girl? All that bullshit? She’s the most stereotypical basic bitch in this episode, because she can’t see outside of her own bullshit to look at the bigger picture. And I hate that. I hate that my favorites and flawed and problematic. I hate everything about this discussion that I’m having.

But it can’t be overstated. The victim blaming in this show is PROBLEMATIC. This is where I’m going to get into a few mild spoilers, so STOP READING IF YOU’VE NEVER WATCHED THE SHOW BEFORE. I know there are a lot of examples, but I’m only going to talk about two – Lilly Kane, and Veronica herself.

First of all, Amanda Seyfried as an actress is beautiful and sexy as hell, and she really played up that playful side of Lilly in the flashbacks. She’s a great character, and the way she’s structured in the show has always been a favorite aspect to me. We never know her alive in the present day, but we KNOW her as a character. It’s awesome. Anyway. Many MANY times in those flashbacks, we see Lilly as a tease. Short skirts, midriff-baring tops, cleavage all over the place. The scene that we see in almost every “Previously On,” at the carwash? She’s basically draping herself over a car saying “I have a secret. It’s a good one.” She was dating Logan. She was sleeping with Weevil. She was having another affair that SHALL NOT BE NAMED because I don’t want to spoil EVERYTHING. I think Aaron Echolls even says at one point that Lilly was a tease. In framing Lilly’s character this way, what is that supposed to make us feel about her? When the big reveal is made at the end about who her killer is, how are we supposed to feel?

Are we supposed to feel like Lilly deserved it?

That’s where all of this victim blaming doesn’t work, and I truly blame Rob Thomas for this. He can’t frame a character like that and then expect us to 100% believe that she didn’t deserve it. I fell victim to this the first time I watched the series. I was upset with who the killer was, OF COURSE, but I was also like “gross, Lilly, really?” AND I HATE MYSELF FOR EVEN THINKING THAT. I’m sure I’ll revisit this topic IN DEPTH when I get around to reviewing the finale. But I want to talk about the other glaring example of victim blaming in the show.

Veronica’s rape.

When we see Veronica enter that party (and there’s a lot more on that in the coming episodes), she’s dressed in a white dress. I’m assuming to represent virginity, because Rob Thomas is that type of asshole. Her hair is teased and her makeup is all done up. She gets drugged. She gets raped. She goes to the Sheriff’s Office the next morning, and they tell her to go home, she probably was just upset that she had sex. It definitely wasn’t rape. Go home and sleep it off, honey. It’s INFURIATING, and really, it’s no wonder Veronica tends to blame the victim a little first. She’s been blamed herself, and she’s watched the memory of her best friend get tainted by terrible rumors and awful people.

I’m not sure how good of a job I did at making a point here, but this is what I’m trying to say – the representation of victims of horrendous things on this show – particularly sexual acts involving women, because again, Rob Thomas is that kind of asshole – is terrible. The show is sometimes framed so that we sympathize with the perpetrator, just a little bit. It sucks. And while a lot of things stand the test of time on this show, this has not. That’s one thing that sitting down and talking about each episode has really taught me. Some of the themes in the show hold up, but some things really don’t. And that’s okay. I think pointing out the problems in your faves is sometimes cathartic in itself.

What do you think about this? Do you think the representation of victims in Veronica Mars has stood the test of time? Let me know! I’m curious about other takes.

Stay healthy, Marshmallows.

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