Mercurial Mars: Veronica's Liminal Identity

Curator's Note

One reason that Veronica Mars is both a compelling character and an excellent detective is her ability to occupy a number of liminal spaces. The "in between" roles that Mars navigates recur in almost every scene of the show’s three seasons. As an adolescent, she straddles the world of children and adults. Using her fresh face and small frame, she manages to avoid suspicion, work as a babysitter, and infiltrate sororities. Simultaneously, she employs the real-world savvy – as well as costumes and accents – that she has developed from working in her father’s office to spy on adulterers and imitate older professionals.

Mars is perpetually in transition, moving from rich to poor and from popular to outcast. In the first episode, her wealthy best friend is murdered, and Mars is subsequently ostracized because of her father’s fall from his position as sheriff. Although she considers herself an outsider, Mars is familiar with the activities and secrets of the social elite at her school. She retains that knowledge while affiliating with other social outcasts – including the new student, Wallace, and “nerds” like Mac, who help with her investigations. It is Mars’ chameleon-like abilities and her seemingly age-inappropriate wit that make her a complicated character for the audience, her friends and her enemies.

Mars also exists between innocence and guilt, victim and criminal – making her a character you want to embolden but also protect. With the recent release of the Veronica Mars movie, she had to navigate these contradictions once again – as an adult. In the film, we see that the adult Mars is no longer capable of the versatility that defined her as a teen. Although she is becoming a lawyer in New York, she cannot commit to a truly adult role. She reverts to her old dress habits and behaviors when she arrives back in California, even though her old friends are accepting adulthood (Mac, Logan Echolls). As a teen, Mars longed to play the role of an adult. But once she has proven she is capable of adulthood she longs for the adventure of her teen years. In the end, maybe she is more like Dick Casablancas, committed to eternal adolescence. The very liminal position that made her so versatile and powerful in the TV show becomes her downfall in the film.




I enjoyed your post Molly- great insights! I think it's also worth considering how the differences between the mediums (tv versus movie) changes her ability to effectively navigate these liminal spaces. The seriality of television storytelling allows Veronica the space and time to explore these liminal spaces and roles as the narrative remains rather open. Veronica can move in and out of those spaces on an episode by episode basis. You're right to point out that she is unable to do this in the film- due in large part, I'm sure, to the temporal confines of a narrative feature film.

Hi Staci - I really enjoyed reading your post as well and think that you are exactly right that the TV vs. Film medium play an important part in the storylines and the flexibility of the plots. Veronica can only change so many times in an hour and half, wheras in a season she can take on many more roles. In a way, the medium also reflects the changes the show went through, from being canceled to the kickstarter campaign that re-invigorated the franchise. The audience grew up while the show was off the air as well!

I have not yet watched the film, yet I do agree with your assertion that Mars is allowed to play with the in between roles of almost every situation that she encounters. What is particularly interesting about this is the opportunity that she has been afforded because of her race and class to achieve a certain standard of living throughout her lifetime. In the serious we see that she has "fallen from grace" and is now a part of the have nots. Yet the have nots that she is apart of is the middle class; thus, she still has a lot of opportunities. While I identify with the obstacles that she has to overcome, I recognize that her obstacles are slightly less harder to overcome than that of people from a minority race.

Thanks for your comment, Victoria. I agree that Veronica's race and class enable her to navigate the town of Neptune - including all of its prejudices. We see this in how she is treated differently from Eli ("Weevil") as well as how her whiteness functions in her undercover work at restaurants, hotels and country clubs.

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.