Rape in Veronica Mars: Third (and final)

As my final post on this topic (for now anyway), I’d like to look back a bit on the portrayal of survivors’ reactions to sexual assault. The overall grade? Not good.

Veronica’s own reaction is the only one that approximates complexity, which is fitting, given that she is, in fact, a complex, three-dimensional character. She’s clearly traumatized, struggling to trust people, and plagued by a sense of betrayal, while at the same time attempting to maintain her tough, capable exterior. Kristen Bell’s acting choices, both subtle and overt, were phenomenal in this regard, as the vulnerability that was there not just despite her edginess, but was rather its origin, was always visible just beneath the surface. That said, I must note that it is extremely unlikely that she would immediately forgive””not to mention start dating””Duncan on finding out he slept with her while she was drugged, primarily because he was also under the influence of GHB. Regardless of her position on his guilt or innocence, I can’t imagine not feeling a big ick factor there.

Next, we have “Beaver” Casablancas, who is revealed at the end of Season 2 as a) a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and b) a mass murderer. Do some survivors, particularly male ones, react by continuing the cycle of violence and abuse in order to regain some sense of power and deal with the anger? Absolutely. Is it likely that said violence will take the form of staging a bus crash that kills several innocent students? Not so much. Is this a complete oversimplification of the statistics relating to the perpetration of violence by survivors? Big fat yes.

And finally it’s unclear how much overlap there is between the serial rapist’s victims and the “Lilith House” women, but the message from Season 3 seems to be that all the non-Parker survivors (ie. those who don’t have to have a personality and can be reduced to caricature) react identically. They’re all marching at “Take Back the Night”. They’re all publicly outraged. They’re all protesting the frat house. None of them wants to be left alone, to curl up in her bed for a week or a month and cry, to engage the complex questions of self-blame/minimization that she may be experiencing. This is where the headshaving had unexplored potential: it automatically makes the experience more public, and limits attempts at privacy, another disempowering move. Because it was unexplored, however, all we have is Veronica (and to some extent Parker) who display any complexity or variety in response to an act that has a unique affect on anyone who survives it.

Posts in this Series

  1. Rape in Veronica Mars: Part 1
  2. Rape in Veronica Mars: Part 2
  3. Rape in Veronica Mars: Third (and final)

Comments

  1. says

    The one-size-fits-all reaction to violation strikes me as so unrealistic that I can’t even fathom how someone could write it. When I was a college freshman, we had a problem with a voyeur who came into our dorm repeatedly to look at women who were showering. I was one of his victims (the first to report it to police, actually, though certainly not the first to be harassed), and got kind’ve friendly with a few other women on my floor who had been targeted, after the fact. We saw a lot of each other, and I can confidently say that our responses and reactions to the experience had almost nothing in common. Hell, my responses from one day to the next (or even one hour to the next) had very little in common with one another!

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    Let me get this straight: Veronica is dating her date rapist because she believes he wasn’t responsible for his actions? I bet that goes over well with folks who think men are never responsible for rape. That is creepy as all hell. While I don’t believe in censorship, this is the sort of thing I was sure as hell self-censor out of my own work, just because I don’t want to feed those fantasies.

    As for the sexually abused boy, cycles generally continue in a like fashion. I.E., the boy would most likely become a sexual abuser, not a mass murderer. While a lot of mass murderers have sexual abuse in their background (and that’s the titillating part of the story that our media highlights), all the ones I know of had additional traumas and abuses that are more likely to killing.

  3. says

    I tend to forgive a lot on VM, but basically all of season two…ick. I didn’t buy Duncan and Veronica getting back together for a number of reasons, ranging from her blaming him for the rape (it’s fair to say it wasn’t his fault, as he’d been drugged as well; fair has little to do with emotional responses, though, and I don’t buy Veronica being okay with it), to her having spent months wondering if they were siblings, to just the fact that their characters had developed beyond what they’d been when they were together. (Veronica in particular; when she was with Duncan, pre-breakup and pre-Lilly’s death, she was a very happy, pep squad stereotype; she had moved WAY beyond that by the time they got back together, and I don’t see how she’d still have been interested in him, given all that.) So there were many reasons I was never sold on Veronica and Duncan getting back together.

    I like *nuances* of Cassidy’s reaction; I think his fear of humiliation at being discovered as a victim was interesting, which is what led to the murders. I think, however, it got taken waaaay too far; it was necessary in order to give the season a plot with Cassidy as the villain, but I also don’t think they played it too well in the season finale. So there were moments of it I liked, but overall it could have been done much better. (Cassidy also did become a sexual abuser; he actually did rape Veronica, despite his story in A Trip to the Dentist. As his character had been presented, however, I feel like the murders were more in character than the rape.)

    I really liked Parker’s reaction, as contrasted with Veronica’s. Parker’s role in the finale of the rape arch was really impressive to me — her drive to be compassionate and do the right thing saved Veronica in the end. She also worked to try and save and educate *others*, as opposed to Veronica, who was always working towards *vengeance*. Though I agree, it would have been much better to actually see responses from other rape victims, instead of the cookie cutter responses from the non-characters.

    (So I guess, like I said, I forgive a lot, but the show also could do a better job. It’s also one of the few I think is *capable* of doing a better job, which is why it’s disappointing.)

  4. SunlessNick says

    Let me get this straight: Veronica is dating her date rapist because she believes he wasn’t responsible for his actions? - BetaCandy

    I think – though I’m far from sure – that both of them were roofied by a third party who then got them to have sex while they were under the influence. If that is the case, it would be reasonable to view both of them as victims. Though I’d imagine they’d still be reluctant to get back together after that.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    Nick, I agree with all that, but the surface logic is still that the rape was not the rapist’s fault. Which sounds uncomfortably like what rapists, judges and jurors alike seem to think. I’m not saying that’s what the producers intended. I’m saying I wouldn’t go there myself, just in case it might be accidentally on purpose misinterpreted to back up that prejudice in our society.

  6. says

    I think – though I’m far from sure – that both of them were roofied by a third party who then got them to have sex while they were under the influence. If that is the case, it would be reasonable to view both of them as victims.

    Indeed: Veronica was roofied by accident — she took a drink from someone else (who the drug was intended for) and neither of them knew what was in it. Duncan was roofied by Logan, who wanted him to “just have a good time” or somesuch. Which brings up a point I hadn’t considered before, which is that it’s INCREDIBLY disturbing that Logan would do that, and that Veronica, when he confessed, said it was fine and went back to making out with him. As much as I love the character, and their relationship, it really isn’t fine for him to go around drugging people to begin with, and it’s especially not fine when his actions led directly to her having unplanned sex (and the guy she was sleeping with definitely wouldn’t have done it if he wasn’t drugged, because he believed her to be his half-sister). So creepy.

  7. Jennifer Kesler says

    which is that it’s INCREDIBLY disturbing that Logan would do that, and that Veronica, when he confessed, said it was fine and went back to making out with him. As much as I love the character, and their relationship, it really isn’t fine for him to go around drugging people to begin with, and it’s especially not fine when his actions led directly to her having unplanned sex (and the guy she was sleeping with definitely wouldn’t have done it if he wasn’t drugged, because he believed her to be his half-sister). So creepy.

    I’m getting even more confused here, but this sounds beyond the pale. How did they work this in so it didn’t immediately gross people the heck out? Is it that trick of spreading things out over so many weeks that viewers never have all the info in their heads at the same time?

  8. says

    The whole thing is done in a series of semi-confusing flashbacks in one episode. Veronica discovered in the last scene of the previous ep that Logan was the one who brought the drug to the party; as she goes through a series of confrontations of other party goers, she discovers that 1) the drugged cup of soda was given to Madisyn; 2) Madisyn (Madyson?) refused it because it wasn’t diet, then spat in it and gave it to Veronica; from there on, Veronica doesn’t remember anything herself. She discovered through other accounts that she was alone in a room with Cassidy (in this ep, he appears innocent; the reveal that he is not doesn’t come until the end of season two), and THEN that she was with Duncan, who knew nothing of the drug but had not planned to sleep with her because he believed she was his half-sister. When Veronica explains what happened to Logan (present day, not flashback) we get his quick side, where he sees Duncan is too depressed to enjoy himself (basically ever, but specifically at the party) so he decides to drug Duncan’s drink so he’ll be *able* to have a good time, not knowing that he would then end up hooking up with Veronica.

    So we’re supposed to think Logan did this incredibly sketchy thing for good reasons, and it was all a big accident. It’s also pretty confusing to figure out who did what when, considering the flashbacks don’t come in order. (I had to watch it several times to work out what happened). I like that Logan’s character is morally ambiguous (he’s done horrible things; he’s also done good things), but I’m also frustrated that the show doesn’t follow up on things like, oh, Logan drugged his best friend’s drink (which, had he done it to a woman, I think would have been played as a much bigger deal — but we aren’t supposed to think of Duncan as someone who could potentially be raped, only as being able to have a good time).

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    Yeah, that really reads like they knew how many gaping holes they were leaving and hoped the flashback thing would distract viewers.

    but we aren’t supposed to think of Duncan as someone who could potentially be raped, only as being able to have a good time

    That’s another good point. And I think it’s because the male staff on the show do not see themselves as people who “could potentially be raped”. To substantiate that myth, they simply don’t allow guys to feel violated by sexual encounters on TV – ever. (We’ve discussed elsewhere at length an episode of Stargate in which Daniel is drugged by something that causes him to do whatever this female Goa’uld wants – when she wants sex, he actually clearly tries to resist, but can’t because of the drug. By the end of the ep, the writers are making jokes about it.)

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’m also confused on the drug. Was Duncan given something different than Veronica? I thought roofies made you semi-conscious and immobile? That wouldn’t exactly enhance his desire or ability to have sex, would it? Or is there something about roofies I don’t know? It’s certainly not a research hobby for me.

  11. MaggieCat says

    I’m pretty sure it was GHB, which is a central nervous system depressant. It increases sociability and decreases inhibition, kind of like a short-acting antidepressant. It can cause unconsciousness (especially when mixed with alcohol) but it doesn’t have to and that’s not the purpose for people who use it intentionally.

  12. salla says

    You know, thinking about the whole Veronica-Duncan-Logan thing, I don’t think Duncan ever found out that he had been drugged. He just thought for almost an entire season that he had slept with his half sister and then finds out that she didn’t remember anything about that night.

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    I don’t think Duncan ever found out that he had been drugged.

    If you’re right, that’s even more of a violation of Duncan than just drugging him. Imagine if you’d done something really stupid or awful, and you’d been carrying the burden of it around in your self-image for all these years, and then you found out you were drugged at the time. It would be like, “Oh, great. I’ve wasted all this time thinking I was just an idiot, and it turns out it wasn’t really my fault after all!”

    Which is what a lot of rape victims have been made to feel – that it was their fault, somehow, and they should blame themselves.

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