"I'm No Longer That Girl": Rape and Roofies in Veronica Mars

Curator's Note

Veronica Mars is a survivor of sexual assault; an identity marker that is often overlooked when discussing her character. This revelation is given after several cast members mention Veronica’s reputation of being sexually promiscuous. The retelling of her rape is portrayed a way to persuade the audience that Veronica is not sexually promiscuous but a survivor of rape.

The flashback of her rape shows no assault or assaulter. This choice puts the focus on her as a survivor but effectively removes the rapist and the act of rape as something that is traumatic and emotionally detrimental. The experience of her rape is restrained to a roofied drink, her waking up in a strange bed alone, a pair of her white panties on her the floor, and a single tear streaming from her eye once she realizes that she has been raped.

At no point is the audience allowed to see her heal or receive support as a rape survivor. Veronica even asserts that she “is no longer that girl”, erasing her experience of rape and separating her identity from that of a sexual assault survivor. Her rape is not a focal point in her narrative until later in the series, in which she wishes to discover who raped her. Her healing is tied to finding out who raped her; a simple solution to a complex issue. This choice could mirror our present day stigma and lack of support for survivors of sexual assault, or it could simply allow the producers to erase her identity as a sexual assault survivor, leading the audience to believe that the strength of the character is not tied to her rape.

Veronica Mars is portrayed as strong, spunky, clever, loyal, and resourceful. The most traumatic events of her life are connected to the murder of her best friend and how her support of her father ostraticized her from her high school friends. Her rape is the opposite. It is quick, unmemorable, and no longer who she is.


Thanks for such a thought provoking piece, Victoria! Your insights here also prompt me to further think about the ways that a rape narrative may be used as a plot twist to complexity the character and gain audience sympathy. Promiscuity, in the representation you described, is unacceptable and unfavorable characteristic for the show’s protagonist. Rape survival, on the other hand, evokes sympathy. The twist is that an unfavorable characteristic (other characters describe her as promiscuous) becomes a preferred one and more socially acceptable mark of the character (she survives rape). The twist reveals a naturalization of violence against women while simultaneously demonstrating promiscuity as socially stigmatized.

I’ve never felt that Veronica’s identity marker as a victim of sexual assault is one that leaves her but, instead, it stays with her for the entire series. After she finally discovers who raped her and gets whatever closure she can from that situation the marker of victim remains with her in the following season when Parker Lee is raped. Parker blames Veronica for allowing the rape to happen and spitefully asks Veronica how her rape was. Here the marker presents itself again when Veronica responds that the details are a little “fuzzy”, making Veronica exactly that girl. She’s a victim, too, and this marker allows her to form a bond with Parker. I think it also propels her forward in finally discovering who the Hearst rapist is (something that she left unsolved the season prior).

Great post, Victoria! Something else that always bothered me about the series' portrayal of the rape is how quickly it got pushed to the side when she discovered that it was Duncan. Her original desire to find out who raped her was fueled by her anger at her lack of consent-- she was sure she was obviously intentionally drugged and then raped while out of it. When it turned out that the situation was a tad more complex than that (Duncan thought she was more lucid than she was and it was someone she had loved), all of a sudden Veronica stops classifying it as a rape. This completely obscures further issues of consent with respect to date rape and is really problematic. The closure that Veronica gains (by finding out who it was and that he THOUGHT she consented when she obviously was not in a state of mind to do so) sends the message to viewers that as long as your rapist's intentions are right and as long as it's a former lover, it somehow becomes okay.

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.