Fangirling and Veronica Mars
Paper presented at the ACMI Live in the Studio: Veronica Mars, 27 May 2014.
A few years ago, I finished watching Veronica Mars seasons one through three. Yes, I was late to the series, but I still fell madly and deeply in love with the show and the characters, the stories and the world. I slammed the entire series down in a little over a month and during this time I was completely infatuated – it’s all I could talk and all I could think about and I’m pretty sure I made everyone around me sick with Marshmallow poisoning. For that time, Veronica Mars was my everything.
So, let me tell you a little my experience, my story with the show, starting from the end.
That look! That last lingering look between Logan and Veronica in the college cafeteria where Veronica smiles slightly – her upturned lip curled knowingly, appreciatively, affectionately – as Logan smears the blood from his vengeance wielding hand onto his shirt.
It’s a look full that’s full of history and potential futures; with one glance so much tension simmers and hangs in the air. And while it only lasts a second, one could say that it’s definitely epic.
In the very last shot of season three, we watch Veronica silently leave the polling booth and walk away from her, her father and Neptune’s uncertain future. As the camera pulls back and Albert Hammond croons how it never rains in California, the rain indeed falls on the fictional West Coast town. Then the credits roll.
I’d like to say that, to paraphrase the immortal lines of Flight of the Conchords, while I watched this sequence I wasn’t crying, rather it residual Neptune rain on my face. But I tears really did fall down my cheeks because I was sad and overwhelmed with emotion about everything that held in the balance for this world I’d come to love, with V at the centre. So many relationships were strained and there was still so much left to say and do and experience together. This ending provided absolutely no closure.
But season finales often leave me feeling this way. And the great thing about coming to a show after it’s already aired means you can just roll over in bed, wipe tears of your cheeks, open your preferred browser and keep a love affair alive. I was so primed for season four.
Yep. That’s right. I truly believed at this stage that there was another season to follow. I sincerely thought I’d head over to JB HiFi to grab the next box set. Or, if I’m being honest, probably nab a torrented version straight away so I didn’t have to put pants on or leave the house – when you’re in lovesick, you just want to spend as much time in bed with your chosen partner as possible. Who needs the rest of the world?
So when I discovered that iTunes, torrent sites and any/every online store didn’t have a copy of the fourth season I was really confused.
And so began my experience with what I call televisual grief, with denial at the forefront and anger and depression still to come.
First off, I realise now, many years on, that it must seem pretty stupid of me to have thought a fourth season existed – particularly given how strongly fans had campaigned to save the show at the time. I’m sure some of you here are shaking your heads at my naivety. But, during the days that Veronica Mars had originally aired, I was busy with work and school and, due to the level of intensity I bring to my TV viewership, I had to limit my obsessive teen intake to The OC. So I missed the original hubbub – not everyone can multitask like our favourite sleuth, so can you blame me?
I’d also like to add that, I plan to play catch up with every defining teen TV show that’s existed. If I haven’t seen it, it’s on my longstanding mental to-do list. This is where Veronica Mars sat for a while. Accordingly, before I commit to a series, I try to dodge as many spoiler bullets as I can. And given the internet wasn’t a big part of our lives in the days that Veronica Mars originally aired – I mean, Kane Industries had pretty much *just* invented video streaming technology and not everyone is Mac – conversations around the show were pretty easy to avoid. The only info I really had was from googling to find the next season.
I call this exhibit A in my case of “How I was lead on by Google to believe there was a fourth season of Veronica Mars”. That screenshot was taken today. GOOGLE IS STILL MISLEADING SHELTERED VERONICA MARS VIEWERS AROUND THE WORLD AND MUST BE STOPPED. Because anytime you hopefully type “Veronica Mars Season” into omnipotent search engine, the predictive drop down function states “Season One, Two, Three and…wait, what’s that…Season Four”.
So, in the throes of this televisual grief, denial took over, because even after reading the IMDB tombstone, I still couldn’t believe it was over.
Because it couldn’t end that way. It. Just. Couldn’t. I mean, above all else, as a staunch Team Logan supporter, how was I supposed to go on not knowing whether they got back together? Discovering there was no season four made me feel like I’d been dumped via text message.
Now, this may sound dramatic to the average TV viewer. But to us obsessives, it feels very, very real. Sorry to group y’all in with me, but let me give you a few stats to demonstrate how important and serious and truly loving the relationship between a fan and their show is: we’ve spent an estimated total of 2,688 minutes with Veronica Mars. That’s roughly 49 hours and excludes the subsequent viewing of the new movie or reading the new book. I can guarantee you right now that over the past decade I’ve spent less time with my family – that’s some series DVD versus DNA truth.
And other than my sheer stupidity at believing Google…but come on…look…
I don’t feel bad about how strongly I speak about my relationship with Veronica Mars, or how excited I was when I heard about the film reprisal and when I got my hands the book that was released last month and how I anticipate the next one.
I didn’t care that only a few people in my life shared my passion for counting down until the movie came out or staying in on the weekend to watch it over other social engagements. I love being an avid LoVe shipper (as in Logan and Veronica – acronym style)!
I love being able to stand with other Veronica Mars fans at the Sydney Writers Festival debating the merits of the movie just this weekend past. And I’m not remotely ashamed. Because my friends, even though I attended high school in the same years that Veronica and Wallace and Logan and Weevil and Mac did, and while I watched the teen series at a later stage in my life, I’m proud to state, in front of you supportive folk that: “My name is Stephanie Van Schilt. I’m a twenty-nine year old Veronica Mars fangirl.”
Lifted Brow columnist Briohny Doyle says of “fangirling”:
If you are unsure about your terms, here’s a statement of the obvious: a fangirl is a girl who is also a fan of something, or someone. This is not a mild statement. Being a fan is not the same as pressing a ‘like’ button. A fangirl’s like is holy…it also leads to fangirl behaviours: activities like home crafted memorabilia, collages that would impress serial killers, blogging, raving, poeming [and] love songing.
Doyle developed this definition via the wise words of another diminutive teenage blonde whose intellect rivals Veronica herself: those of Tavi Gevinson, the founder of website Rookie and supportive theoretical voice of fangirls everywhere.
According to Gevinson, fangirls are incredibly enthusiastic and obsessive and embrace this fact. Fangirling is genuine and authentic; it’s the “refusal to act cool and disaffected and to just love something as a religion.” She also notes how it’s an incredibly communal act that allows fans of pop culture to connect with likeminded others and that through this community, you don’t feel like a failure, in fact it is actually a “comforting experience.”
Fangirling is also about empowerment and carving out an identity for our (predominately teen) selves. Tavi found power in fangirling because she started to look closely at what made her relationship to things that she likes specific to her; she is interested in seeing fangirling as a reflection of herself.
The creators of Veronica Mars have established a mirror upon which fangirls can bask in this reflection. I’d argue that Veronica Mars, more than any other teen show or show in recent times, supports fangirling as a form of viewership and cultural attachment. From the highly successful Kickstarter campaign, to the Easter Eggs littered throughout the series (like how Piz is actually named after Mark Pizsnarki who directed the show’s pilot episode) right down to the direct dedication at beginning of the new novel that declares that it’s “For all the Veronica Mars Kickstarter backers” and the casts’ continual reference to Marshmallows – their fans.
As an exercise in my own obsessive reading of the Veronica Mars vehicle, I feel like Veronica herself can even been seen as a symbol for fangirls around the world. Her character is crafted with attributes that touch on fangirl tendencies – toward addiction but also her deep, cerebral ability to take bits pieces of the world and carve stories, spin narratives, establish clues and solve cases. For instance, taking a line from The Thousand Dollar Tanline, Veronica doesn’t “really need to take notes – she had a memory for detail that was at best useful and at worst obsessive.” While, Tavi has admitted that fangirling offers her an opportunity to “see the world through the eyes of other people”, that this action is “thrilling” and “satisfies some hyper-obsessive part” of her.
Accordingly, Veronica Mars truly flips the bird anyone who tries to poo-poo or belittle this kind of pop culture worship and dedication. In it’s very form – skewing genre clichés and utilising teen TV tropes to relate to bigger social and political concerns – it underscores the idea that fangirling is fine at any age. Because as Tavi acknowledges: a “teenager is just a caricature of a real person. Cos you feel everything extra strongly and you’re experiencing everything at the same time. So I think everyone still deals with the stuff that we do, throughout their whole lives. It doesn’t get better.” This is what Veronica Mars does.
Through the subsequent expansion, I’m embracing my fanaticism once more – it’s a joyous exercise. At last I got the LoVe reunion I so desired, the world has deepened and open for even more adventure and enticing speculation that feels now gives me something to anticipate rather than grieve over.
Which is one of the many reasons that Veronica Mars is so adored. It embraces the fact that I love it – and pop culture – obsessively and that there’s no shame in that. And that’s why I’m even here to show my love of the show (movie, etc) and, alongside fellow fans, to help keep that love alive.