"‘Veronica Mars’ Television Club: High School Social Mobility And The ‘Mean Girls’ Connection"
This post discusses the ninth and tenth episodes of the first season of Veronica Mars.
One of the things I’m coming to really enjoy about Veronica Mars is the way, compared to other television shows and movies about being a teenager, social groups are relatively fluid. This was an insight that Mean Girls, which made its bow in theaters five months before Veronica Mars debuted on television, made brilliantly at its conclusion: that being a Plastic was a temporary condition rather than an ontological one, and it could pass with the end of a school year or on the occasion of a momentous bus accident. Veronica Mars actually takes that idea a step further in these two episodes, which serve as an illustration of how porous the 09ers are as a clique. They’re people, after all, rather than rigid a fraternal order, and their social group can’t actually provide everything they want, whether it’s support in being more compassionate than their parents or someone who’s willing to ante up for a genuinely high-stakes poker game. Veronica herself has always been a reminder of that fact, but these two episodes are a reminder that she’s not an exception—she’s actually more of the rule at Neptune.
The Moon Calves subplot in “Drinking The Kool-Aid” is a little half-baked, unfortunately—it’s an over-the-top way to get at a concept that might have been fleshed out on a smaller scale, that being one of the 09ers, and being part of one of Neptune’s wealthy families, is actually a corrosive and disillusioning experience. Casey (Jonathan Bennett, who played Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls), has come to realize that, as he puts it, “I wrote the Jackass Bible, the Jackass Koran, the Jackass Talmud.” His parents, who have been wealthy their whole lives, let the desire to keep consolidating their wealth corrupt their interpersonal relationships, particularly with Casey’s grandmother. “My parents, who call her Grandmonster behind her back, stopped paying attention to her,” he explains. Having him work out those issues through a cult gives Veronica and her dad a case, but it’s also a kind of quick way to dispense.
By contrast, the person who appears to be working out those issues on a relatively large scale and over an extended period of time is Logan Echolls. The show’s taken time to establish the misery that lies behind the gates to his family home, some of the tension between him and his friends, and the ways in which managing his pain at Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried, another link to Mean Girls) has lead him to tweak Neptune’s establishment by helping Veronica subvert the whitewashed memorial the Kanes had planned for her. And one of the things the show is doing now that we know these things about him is showing how his relationships with Weevil and Veronica, the main people he hangs out with who aren’t 09ers, are shaping up like fencing matches, shaped by the participants’ needs and the ground they’re willing to surrender.
“What if I run into a pack of you white boys on some clean, well-lit street? I could be bored to death,” Weevil tells Logan when he’s trying to get in on his poker game. The language of the negotiation between them is similar to what it was when Weevil was going after Logan’s car in the pilot. “You people can hand-roll like nobody’s business,” Logan tells him of the Cuban cigars he’s passing around, and when Weevil wins big, Logan tells the other player “Sean, the money box so I can pay the pool boy?” But the fact that Weevil’s seeking out the invitation at all, and that Logan’s willing to grant it—and that when the theft goes down, Logan’s willing to let Weevil search his friends rather than calling security and having him tossed out—demonstrates how far the two of them have come. I’m not sure how their relationship will shape up long-term given that there seems to be a great deal we don’t know about Weevil’s relationship to Lilly, and how Logan might react when he—and we—find out what the truth is there. But the fact that they were both drawn to the same girl, that they both have parental figures who are willing to sacrifice them for their own good, whether it’s Logan for his good name or Weevil’s grandmother who believes he can do shorter time as a juvenile, suggests a similarity to them that is obvious to us, even if they can’t see the extent of it.
And that’s also true for Logan and Veronica as well. Of course, they were friends for real, once. And it means that Logan’s willing to let Veronica back in when she volunteers to investigate the poker game theft. “Annoy, tiny blonde one! Annoy like the wind!” Logan tells her, more affectionately than anyone else. “You are a natural at this,” Weevil tells Veronica when they stop by the Echolls’ ill-fated Christmas party. But the truth is that it’s just as normal for Logan to want people like Weevil and Veronica in his life as it would be for Weevil and Veronica to want in to the mansion, with its catering and its horribly over-the-top Christmas decorations. As Sean’s experience faking it as a member of the 09ers illustrates, it’s exhausting and ultimately unsustainable to posture all the time, even when you do have the money and social position to back up your bravado. Negotiating the minefield of high school is tiresome no matter who you are. And sometimes the best friendships can survive in the clandestine spaces in between cliques, where nothing is clearly expected, and as a result, everything is possible.