You’d think Veronica Mars might have learned from the widespread criticism they got for mishandling the portrayal of sexual assault that treading into such territory requires a good deal of caution and dexterity. At least, I would hope so, but apparently I’m a baseless optimist.
The most recent episode (“Debasement Tapes”) features, as one of multiple storylines, Logan working on a “business plan” proposal for one of his classes. It seems this project can deal with any business at all, and the main point from Logan’s perspective is to outline how it will make lots and lots of money. So his Dick-inspired idea (Casablancas, but they’re using the pun intentionally and so am I) is a website called “Grade My Ass”. The premise is obvious from the name–photos of women’s body parts (asses in this case, but with the potential to expand into other physical features) and the invitation to rate and rank them.
I think Hathor readers are all clear on the idea that the internet isn’t exactly lacking in sites designed to objectify and degrade women, and this “business plan” is both offensive on its face and incredibly stale. That point, however, never comes up in the conversations during which Logan, Dick, Max and Mac–MAC!!–are designing the site and figuring out how to maximize profits. What’s far, far worse in my opinion, and what a show that is just getting to the point where people might forgive and forget its problematic depiction of sexual violence should definitely have considered, is that they never mention where these photos are coming from. Requesting that women submit photos of themselves and provide permission to be graded would be bad enough, but we’re in a whole new ballpark if these photos are used in this context without a woman’s consent. We’re in still another if people are being implicitly or explicitly encouraged to take photos of women’s asses without their knowledge and post them for grading (or degrading, to borrow the pun structure from the episode title) purposes. A real-life example of this, in the form of the “hottest law school women” contest, is currently raising exactly these issues (see Jill’s commentary on Feministe).
Are we really supposed to give Logan “Bumfights” Echolls the benefit of the doubt that he would only be using photos offered consensually for this expressed purpose? Apparently we are, or at least, we’re supposed to focus on the fact that it’s a brilliant (if insanely unoriginal) marketing idea and feel sorry for him when his professor cuts off his presentation in class after he and Mac worked a weekend of all-nighters preparing it, as we zoom in on his puppy-dog face after hearing the hoots and cheers of his male classmates (indicating, I guess, that a market exists for this concept, which: duh). We’re supposed to go all “poor Logan” because he worked so hard, when, even if this crap is already all over the internet, the fact that it’s (at best) wildly inappropriate for class should be apparent, even to poor, selfish, entitled Logan.
The Veronica Mars writers are telling me two things in this storyline:
- They think making money off of objectification is not only fine, it should be encouraged in a college marketing (or economics, or whatever) without ever questioning the morality of it–one may come down on the side of free market consumerism on this one, but you still have to ask the question.
- They have learned absolutely nothing from their sexual assault story arc(s) and it presumably never occurred to them that there are consent issues that come into play here.
Aren’t they listening to me? I’m typing as loud as I can.