Veronica Mars, in its short life, has dealt an awful lot with rape. It has also received a lot of criticism for its approach during the first 9-episode story arc of the third season, which followed Veronica arriving at college and trying to solve the mystery of a serial rapist who drugs and shaves the heads of his victims. Recently, an interview with VM creator Rob Thomas was posted on Television Without Pity [article removed], in which, among other things, he responds to the accusations that he is anti-woman or anti-feminist based on his portrayal of the “Take Back the Night” women in that series of episodes. The women in question are a bunch of humourless, aggressive, man-haters who go so far as to fake a rape in order to get revenge and cast suspicion on the frat boys.
I’m going to comment in two separate entries on the problems with his defense of this storyline. The most problematic aspect, to me, is the fake rape, which Thomas justifies first of all because no one comes off clean and shiny and morally unambiguous in a noir universe, so even rape victims and feminists can behave badly, and second, by saying that Veronica herself is one of the best feminist icons currently on TV, especially given her age, and that he therefore should have the “feminist cachÃ©” necessary to avoid accusations of misogyny.
In my opinion, he does not have that cachÃ©, not because Veronica isn’t awesome (I’ll deal a little more with Veronica’s strength as a feminist character in the following post), but because I won’t let anyone portray a fake rape on television without raising a stink. In the world of TV, fake rape seems to be more common than actual rape. It’s happened a hundred times on L&O: SVU, on CSI, on Dawson’s Creek; you name the headline-seeking thought-free TV show, I’ll find you the woman who faked a rape. Sure, it’s a more interesting story. The reality and ubiquity of coerced date rape with very little physical violence is completely banal. That doesn’t mean that Rob Thomas or anyone else gets to contribute to the perception that women the world over are crying rape in order to manipulate, get revenge, get sympathy or initiate a lawsuit and expect not to face criticism for it. That attitude bleeds into the real world, and survivors of serious sexual violence face disbelief and accusations from friends, family, and authority figures, and contributing to that judgment will never be acceptable no matter how much of a feminist icon your title character may be.
(Part 2 to appear this evening)