Veronica Mars: “Grade” is not the verb I’d choose

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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.

Comments

  1. Gategrrl says

    Huh. You mean there were no mens’ asses involved? Now, an equal opportunity website showing men’s and women’s consensually taken photos I could live with. Women, after all, objectify men as well. (as my experience in fandom has shown me)

    However, what a repellent idea to present on a television show. Is it part of this character to be so …repugnant? Is it out of character? Is it supposed to show how sexist male college students are? (and they are)

    I’m glad the prof shut the Logan character down. Was it a male prof or a female? Do you think that would have made a difference?

  2. MaggieCat says

    Is it part of this character to be so …repugnant? Is it out of character?

    In my opinion (admittedly only from intermittent viewing), not really. Although it does seem to be a bit of a backslide. He was introduced via voice over in season one as “the [school's] obligatory psychotic jackass”, although for some reason a lot of people seem to have cut him a lot of slack after he and Veronica started dating (and even before). I never thought he was quite as awful as other people did at the beginning- just rich, entitled, and with a complete lack of sympathy for the huge percentage of the population that doesn’t personally affect him- but I never really saw the later redemption that others did either. Once a jackass, always a jackass was my personal take on Logan.

    I… just can’t even figure out where to begin on why the show thought this was a good idea. I can see it as in character for Logan, but I’d like to think better of the showrunners. (On a more fannish note, Mac’s involvement hurts. Even if she has been shown to be willing to exploit people’s baser natures for a profit with the Purity Test incident.)

    As for unoriginal- once something has been parodied on an SNL cartoon, please consider the horse not only dead, but buried.

  3. SunlessNick says

    It’s this part:

    We’re supposed to go all “poor Logan” because he worked so hard

    … that’s the deal-breaker for me. If it had been portrayed as the sick idea it is, that would have been one thing, but…

  4. Purtek says

    I don’t know if co-ed objectification would make me feel *totally* okay with it, but at least addressing the consent issues (or even, as SunlessNick says, recognizing that this is gross) would have helped.

    Good question on the gender of the prof: He was male. That’s probably in the show’s favour–if it had been a female prof, they risk having her come off as just another “humourless feminist”. As is, the male prof comes off as stuffy and out-of-touch, a middle-aged guy disapproving of youthful sexuality. Though maybe there will be a conversation later to change that, and I think it’s better than the risk of “humourless feminist” because they also screwed that up in the earlier story arc.

    MaggieCat’s reading of Logan’s character is pretty good. He’s often conflicted, and he’s both entitled (grew up with a famous movie star dad) and disillusioned (said famous movie star beat him and killed his girlfriend). Usually, though, when he does stupid things to get attention, people have at least called him on it (though they’ve probably been too forgiving). The “Bumfights” reference is to exactly that–he staged fights between homeless people, charged his rich friends to watch, and video taped it. So he definitely has a solid history of similar behaviour.

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