My Friend Veronica Mars

(Warning: If you care at all about spoiling the plot of the Veronica Mars movie, don’t read this until after you’ve watched. Also, if you haven’t watched Veronica Mars, this will likely make no sense to you.)

A long time ago, Veronica Mars and I used to be friends.  We don’t talk as much as we used to, but I’d like to think we still are.  She remains up there with Liz Lemon and Mary Richards in my pantheon of inspiring yet believable independent women of the television world.  Unlike Mary and Liz, Veronica was always a little bit colder, a little more cautious with her feelings, and sporting a much more caustic view of the world.

This caustic view is why she and I get along so well.  In fact, the reason I got into the show is because my friend Jenni implored me to watch, explaining, “She talks like you. I mean, she says sentences you say, verbatim. She dropped a sarcastic, ‘Be cool Sodapop’ in the pilot.”

In other words, on an emotional level, I feel connected to Veronica, even though she isn’t real.  Her decision making over the course of three seasons of TV always made sense to me, even if I was always rooting for her to dump Duncan and go back to her real love, Deputy Leo (for those unaware, Max Greenfield from “New Girl” can play incredibly charming and boyish when he wants to be. If you doubt me, go watch Season 1’s “Ruskie Business” and watch the moment where he shows up the dance and, in his signature mumble asks, “What’s wrong, Veronica?” as it is beyond swoon-worthy).  While I always thought Leo was the guy I’d pick though, I was very much happy with the Logan and Veronica relationship (full disclosure: I knew Jason Dohring, or Jay as we called him, while I lived in LA, which probably helped explain why I was on board with this ‘shipping from the start).

Like everyone else, I rolled my eyes when Piz (Chris Lowell) showed up on the scene in Season 3 as a potential college love interest for Veronica. Sure, he was sweet and doofy, but Veronica and Logan were, as Logan aptly put it, “epic” and Piz was, well…I mean…his name was Stosh Piznarski.  I don’t want to call the love of my life Stosh nor do I want to call him Piz, so right there we have problems.  As a girl who has had very lovely boys express interest I simply didn’t reciprocate for an array of reasons, I had Veronica’s back when she went with the troubled Logan over the seemingly superior Piz.

That is what friends do, they support each other’s decisions. We also support each other when we need help, which is why I eagerly contributed to the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign and spent the past year eagerly awaiting answers as to what happened to the people of Neptune.  I finally returned to my friend’s side this past weekend thanks to the release of the Veronica Mars movie, fully prepared to be on board with Veronica’s decision making once again.  After all, even if you lose touch with good friends, if they are truly good friends, it is no problem to pick up where you left off.  They change, sure, but they aren’t unrecognizable.

Veronica ten years removed from high school, like most people, has changed.  She is still prickly and snarky and self-depricating, but some of her spunk is gone.  I can relate.  In high school you have the hope of the future to keep you going.  Veronica is experiencing that ennui we all do as we grow up.  It reminds me of a Great Big World lyrics: “Cause we’re all getting older, wishing we were young, Hanging on the memory of what we would become.”  There comes a point where you realize some of these big dreams aren’t going to happen. While it is disheartening to come to terms with sometimes, it is part of growing up, and the good news is that you may end up down a path you never considered instead.

Veronica is reaching that point in her life where she is starting to feel that pressure that there won’t be enough time to become what she set out to become.  Yes, her life plan is falling in place, but  the whole premise of the movie is that she needs to go back home and make sure this life she left behind deserves one more shot or not.  While I don’t necessarily agree that Veronica’s options are as binary as presented in the movie, which offers her Neptune or NYC, it is a believably conflict nonetheless.

I think most people who set out on a different life path than their friends can relate.  I can also understand why Veronica is still under the pull of that boy who was supposed to work out even though the whole world is her oyster in New York City where she has a life, a great job, and a supportive boyfriend that is none other than Piz.  In other words, she has her doubts, but she also has the life most 27 or 28 years olds would kill to have.  Three years ago, if you told me things were coming together like this, I would like to believe I would be thrilled.  Really though, two years ago I got the job I wanted for years and, while it was great to get, I realized fairly early on that the job didn’t make all of the other life issues easier to take or disappear. It helped sure, but it wasn’t a cure.

Veronica has her chance to live that life and hope it makes those feelings of self doubt and uneasiness disappear, but she throws it all away.  For the first time in our friendship, I didn’t quite understand Veronica.  She not only chooses to return to her old life, give up what she spent years working towards, and basically just concede she is a lost cause who can never be more than what she was in high school, she is also a gigantic bitch to Piz.  Seriously, this girl is supposed to be in New York to meet this boy’s parents and she doesn’t even bother to call to tell him she isn’t coming even after this supportive boyfriend flew all the way to Neptune, CA to see her and did not say a peep about the fact she was frolicking around with the very same boy from college that kept Veronica from choosing Piz the first time around.   You could argue Piz was being a doormat, but come on Veronica. You dated this boy a year that, unless you just straight up hate him, you call him and tell him why you can’t come home and you certainly don’t get lippy when he calls you out on your bad behavior.

As I watched the movie and, for the first time, really felt like I was on Piz’s side, I had to wonder if it was Veronica who changed or if it was me.  Credit to the show’s creator, Rob Thomas, this is actually right in Veronica’s wheelhouse of behavior.  She will double cross anyone, her dad included, if she feels like it is what she has to do (see her and Duncan’s insane plot to get baby Lily out of the country).  She can be selfish (see her unabashed and unashamed using of Deputy Leo’s attraction to her to get details on the Lily Kane case).  She can be a little ruthless when it comes to other people’s feelings (See her initial courtship with Piz back in college where she readily admitted she should want him, but that she wanted Logan, yet still messes around with Piz nonetheless).  This behavior was classic Veronica, it was me who was different.

Somewhere along the way, I began to identify more and more with Piz.  In fact, I have to wonder why fresh out of college Jess didn’t seem to notice how sad and unfair it was that Piz did everything right and Veronica just couldn’t bring herself to care.  Yes, the heart wants what the heart wants, but come one Veronica, your heart finally sees what this guy has to offer years later and you can’t even call him to apologize that you aren’t coming home?  This is a step beyond standard selfish Veronica behavior. It is just cruel.

In fact, I will say one thing that I was surprised to see in the movie.  The Veronica I knew from the TV shows would answer phone calls from her potential employer.  Even in the worst of times, Veronica always managed to get her school work done, show up for events, and be a responsible human being. She didn’t run from her problems and she didn’t hide from things that scared her by clicking ignore on her cell phone.

But the more I think about my dear friend Veronica Mars, the more I realize I am not nearly as upset about her actions as I was about Liz Lemon’s out of character behavior near the end of her “30 Rock” run.  Yes, it is disappointing, but for the brutal noir-toned TV series about a girl hardened by life, it is an ending that makes perfect sense.  She had a chance to get out, but, like the rest of us, life wore her down and, when an opportunity arose to go back to what was easy and familiar, she took it.  Some may believe it is dissatisfying and I can’t disagree.  I want to see Veronica pick Piz, even though Logan in his weirdly oversized Navy whites is rather dreamy.  I want to see her get what she set out for.  But, this has always been a show about the harsh realities of the world and a girl coming of age and learning just how harsh they are, that even ten years later, there seems no other way this story should end than with her learning a life lesson that, even if you manage to check off all the boxes of the life you are supposed to live, it may not feel like you’ve accomplished much of anything.  And sometimes you decide that returning to what you know is easy and comforting, even though it may not be the smartest thing to do.  Even Veronica Mars can get tired and selfish sometimes, which makes me feel a little less badly about the fact that sometimes I do too.

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