On Veronica Mars

The United States of Veronica

Teen Noir as America’s New Zeitgeist
By Deanna Carlyle

I have something in common with Veronica Mars.

Last year I was sexually molested, and the cops laughed it off. The incident left me in danger of becoming a cynic. But it also taught me a hard truth, a truth that teen detective and TV sensation Veronica Mars learned an even harder way after her rape, when, with unnecessary cruelty, Sheriff Lamb let the case drop.

The truth is, sometimes even the “good guys” aren’t looking out for us. Ultimately, we’re thrown back on ourselves and our own self-preservation instinct. What then? Who can we turn to? The new task, maybe even the task for our times–the one Veronica Mars gives us the tools to tackle–is figuring out how to protect ourselves without putting too much faith in an external authority or blocking out feelings that make us vulnerable, feelings like trust, empathy, and love. The temptation is to join our violators’ ranks by walking away from responsibility or acting out in some eye-for-eye campaign for revenge, a temptation Veronica struggles with mightily. But as Veronica learned after she was repeatedly condemned for her reliance on vengeance, that way lies misery, hate, and solitude.

That way lies our current zeitgeist. That way lies teen noir.

“Tensions in Neptune Are the Highest They’e Ever Been.”

That Veronica Mars falls squarely within the film noir tradition has been shown by sharper pens than mine. What I’d like to explore here is why teen noir is surfacing now and what it can teach us. Why does it hit  …

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