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This post contains spoilers for the Veronica Mars movie, along with gratuitous Dandy Warhols lyrics because that’s compulsory for VMars posts now.

I was a Veronica Mars fan without being in the fandom.  By the time it aired in Australia, it was already in its second season in the US, and I knew, without being spoiled, that disappointment lay ahead.  I actually enjoyed the second season, probably because my expectations had been lowered, but I bailed part-way through season 3, partially because I found the mysteries unengaging, but mostly because I was sick of Logan.

So when the Kickstarter appeared last year, I was intrigued, but not inclined to give it actual money.  (I was, however, quite disappointed to discover that there was only one cinema screening in Melbourne — and that was sold out before I knew it was happening.)  But through the miracle of simultaneous worldwide digital releases, on Saturday night I sat down to catch up with the residents of Neptune, California.

I didn’t hate it.  I’m not sorry at all that I spent an evening watching it.  But days have passed, and I keep coming back to its storytelling choices and going, “…Really?”

A few weeks ago, I said on Twitter that the only thing that would make this movie work for me is if Logan is totally guilty, and it ends with Veronica watching stoically as he goes to prison.  Alas, saying things like, “This will only work for me if…” never ends well.  It was clear from the first round of publicity that this wasn’t going to be that movie.

On Saturday night I tweeted, “I wish the VMars kickstarter had had a level where the reward was a movie without Logan.”  But that’s not fair.  In the TV series, when it was at its best, Logan was an interesting and dynamic character.  And it’s not like he was even in this movie, anyway.  Jason Dohring gave a perfectly performance as Stepford Logan, bad boy turned air force hero.  And that was fine and all, except for the complete lack of tension — sexual or otherwise.  Is Logan guilty?  Not for a second.  Are he and Veronica going to hook up?  Yep.  Does anyone who’s not a long-standing LoVe shipper care?  Well.

(Things I hold against Logan:  not only did he hijack the series to a considerable extent, but his name comes first in the pairing portmanteau.  Sure, it’s cute, but it’s kiiiiind of symbolic of the way Logan, and Veronica’s romantic relationship with him, became the show’s albatross.)

So Logan has abandoned his rich jerk lifestyle to become a naval pilot/JAG officer (obligatory comment about his ill-fitting uniform here) who allegedly engaged in dogfights with the Taliban.  (We hear so little in the media about the Taliban’s air force!  Why is that, I wonder?)

I double checked with Google, and the only dogfighting in Afghanistan is the kind that involves real dogs, which is apparently undergoing a resurgence in popularity.  And while that doesn’t seem beyond the kid who organised fights between homeless guys, I don’t think it’s what we’re meant to be thinking.  Nor are we meant to be thinking that Logan has been dropping bombs on civilian populations, I suppose, because being in the military is supposed to be a sign that he’s respectable now.

(Obligatory statement of ambivalence towards military organisations in general and the US military in particular.)

It’s a real shame to see Logan go from Homme Fatale to Woobie, but that’s what happens when you love a character too much.  Well, you love a character and you don’t to piss off the shipper-heavy fanbase that just paid for your movie.  And it’s not really a surprise, because this started well before Kickstarter even existed.  (This is a good article about the problem of Logan.)

It’s more disappointing to see Logan’s partner-in-douchebaggery, Dick Casablancas, being equally softened.  Sure, he’s still a sexist jerk, but the script goes out of its way to prevent him from being a suspect in the crime-that-triggered-the-crime-that-starts-the-movie.

In fact, the ultimate guilty party is a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who didn’t know his place.  And that doesn’t sit right.  “When the class war comes, Neptune will be ground zero,” says Veronica in the rather stilted opening montage.  So it’s kind of awkward that the two rich white dudes are above suspicion, and we’re left with the “total trailer park weirdo” as the criminal.  This could have been interesting, setting him up as a foil to Veronica, another outsider who observes and critiques the corruption of Neptune’s stratified society.  But it all falls flat.

I also have problems with Weevil’s subplot, not so much that he doesn’t get justice — it’s noir, after all — but because he gets four scenes, and the last one is just a glimpse of him riding with his gang again.  Is he seeking justice on his own terms, or has he given up?  What has happened to his family?  It’s a problem that we don’t know.  People are suggesting that this is all going to be answered in some form of spin off or sequel, but so far, the next entry in the Veronica Mars franchise looks like a webseries about … Dick Casablancas.

This is particularly sad because Rob Thomas says good things about class and race and injustice.  But the actual movie isn’t quite there yet.

And what of Veronica?  We end the movie with her abandoning her career in law and moving back to Neptune to continue her work as a PI and her relationship with the new, cuddly Logan.  At first I liked this — the career move, not the relationship — but it’s feeling increasingly like a step in the wrong direction.  It’s all very well for Veronica to mock the school bitches for reliving their glory days in high school, but look who’s going back to her after school job?

Meanwhile, she has a law degree.  Sure, it would take some work to pass the bar in California when she’s been studying for New York, but it’s not impossible.  And we already know she’s quicker and smarter than the attorney working for her father.  Veronica Mars, Attorney at Law.  An ally to her father, rather than an employee.

All in all, this felt like a high school reunion, and not in a good way.  Decade-old in-jokes and too much time spent with dickheads, not enough time with your actual friends.  I suppose we’re lucky that we didn’t catch up with the student played by Paris Hilton.  Though at least I remembered who she was.

One good thing, though, the movie really has me wanting to watch the series again.  And who knows, maybe this time I’ll finish season 3.

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Remember my post about Tsaritsa Sophia Alekseyevna of Russa and her amazingly cranky face? Well, I accidentally inspired an anthology, which is crowdfunding as we speak.  This is the most viral a post of mine has ever gone.

The crowdfunding campaign coincides with a blog tour celebrating various cranky women in history, so if you enjoy history, feminism or good stories, this is your lucky month.

Which brings me to today’s Cranky Lady, Janet Kincaid.

You probably haven’t heard of Janet.  The problem with history is that, by and large, we mostly know about the wealthy and powerful.  Monarchs and aristocrats and people who happened to be in the right place at the right time and were remarkable enough that others paid attention and wrote about them.

Janet Kincaid is not one of those people.  In the mid-nineteenth century, her husband went to try his luck on the Victorian goldfields, leaving Janet in Glasgow to care for their six children.  By sheer luck, one of her letters to her feckless husband survived, leaving us with a vivid impression of a very cranky woman:

You left to better your family, you don’t need to write that any more, we have had enough of that talk.  You had better do something for them.  You left the ship to better your self and to get your money to your self.  You never earned much for your family, far less for your Wife, you sent five Pounds, two years and a half ago.  You mention in a letter to me that you made more money at the digging than ever you made at home.  You might have sent us the half of what you made.  You are a hard hearted Father when you could sit down and eat up your children’s meat your self.  I was a poor unfortunate Wretch, little did I think when I was young what I had to come through with your conduck.  We might have been the happiest couple in Greenock, you got a good wife and many a good job at home if you had been inclined to do well but folks that cante do well at home is not to be trusted Abroad … poor Duncan does not know what sort of thing a Father is, he thinks it is something for eating … find a proper place where I will send my letters.  No more at present from your deserted Wife Janet Kincaid.

The letter is in the archives at the State Library of Victoria, so it presumably reached the elusive Mr Kincaid.  How he replied, if at all, is unknown.

The narrative of the Victorian goldfields, when I was growing up, was about the Brave Single Man, Seeking His Fortune.  Janet’s letter was printed in Clare Wright’s The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, a book rich with cranky ladies, which points out that many of those gold diggers had families left behind — and many others brought their families to the camps.  It’s a shame Janet Kincaid and her six children didn’t come to Australia — or maybe they did, and the record is lost.

“You left to better your family, you don’t need to write that any more, we have had enough of that talk.” Ladies and gentlemen, an 1850s Skyler White.  Respect.

 

This post is written as part of the Women’s History Month Cranky Ladies of History blog tour. If  you would like to read more about cranky ladies from the past, you might like to support the FableCroft Publishing Pozible campaign, crowd-funding an anthology of short stories about Cranky Ladies of History from all over the world.

After I made the other day’s post, I hopped on a tram to the library and picked up the DVD, then scurried home to watch it.

The most important thing first:  Carmel’s brother Vince drives the exact same bright yellow ute used by Tara’s dad in Dance Academy.  God bless Our ABC.

Yellow ute 1999

Yellow ute, 2010

Yellow ute, 2010

I’m not saying that my next step is to watch every single ABC series with rural scenes, but I’m a little bit tempted.

My friend the yellow ute aside, I’m quite mixed about the mini-series, and am mostly inclined to come down on the side of “nice try, but this was not a good adaptation”.  But since the book and series are both divided into three — with an epilogue, or fourth episode in the TV format — I’ll break it down.

CarmelAdaptation-wise, Carmel’s story is the best — but then, it was also the easiest to adapt, which is probably why it spills out over all the other episodes as well.  Alicia Gardiner is perfect, and it’s a joy to watch Carmel’s confidence grow.  At first I thought her voice was all wrong for Carmel, who is described as having a really deep voice, but as Carmel became braver, her voice deepened as well.

Her family, too, were great.  Ben Mendelsohn plays Vince, and while he’s way too young and skinny to remotely look like the mental image I had, he has a quiet strength that’s ideal for the part.  Carol Burns as Nance McCaffrey somehow sounded exactly like the character in my head.

I was, however, disappointed with the casting of Carmel’s boyfriend Anton, who is supposed to be tall and skinny, attractive in an off-centre sort of way.  In the role is Justin Smith, a short guy with no chin.  I was also let down by the writing — although Anton betrays Carmel in the book, he basically comes across as a strong, reliable guy who, having failed once, will never do it again.  TV!Anton is more like a petulant brat.

vlcsnap-2014-03-01-12h55m39s189Jude’s episode was a mixed bag.  She’s portrayed as suffering from PTSD from her experiences in Chile as a child, which make perfect sense, and is really well-portrayed.  But once again, we have a disappointing love interest — Eduardo has gone from being a brooding, young factory worker to a married older man, and Jude just goes to pieces over their relationship in a way that doesn’t reflect well on her.  In theory I like the idea that she realises that, while she’s great at helping others, she has a blind spot where her own life is concerned — but this Jude never really comes to that realisation.

Incidentally, while I thought the actress was fine as Cynthia — although not at all how I pictured her — I kept being distracted by her strong resemblance to Pauline Hanson.

vlcsnap-2014-03-01-12h56m45s20

I bet that actress had a great time in the ’90s.

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Kat’s episode was where I went, “Right, nope, this is not good.”  Her story is completely soft-pedalled — her drug use is dramatically toned down, Jordan make a pass instead of raping her, and Jules, the book’s only gay character*, is replaced by a douchey boyfriend.  Oh, and instead of having her nude pictures published by a tabloid, her dad just finds them in her car.

I can’t quite believe I’m regretting the removal of a rape plot, but Kat’s experiences were really important to me growing up.  Through Kat, I learned about impaired consent and victim-blaming.  And it was important, too, that she really experiences injustice — from everything she goes through herself, to witnessing the homophobia of the Victorian police — because you end the book with a strong feeling that Kat is going to become a fighter for the oppressed as much as Jude, just in the legal arena.  (I expect she will also spend a lot of time representing Jude for petty protest-related crimes.)

Kat’s story is so weakened, she ultimately comes across now as a spoilt child, and very much responsible for her situation.

Finally, instead of an epilogue, we have a whole fourth episode.  That makes sense!  You need to wrap things up, and it’s not like they can go, “Yeah, we’re just gonna end it in 30 minutes.”

Only, the final episode is incredibly bloated, and I spent much of it wanting to smack Carmel for abandoning her character development.  (And maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but this other guy started having scenes with her?  And I thought, oh, that must be one of her brothers.  Then they started making out.  I WAS QUITE CONFUSED.)

On the other hand, this episode had four shearing montages, which is just about the most Australian thing ever put on television.

One final letdown: like so many Australian dramas of this era — and now — this was cheap.  Sure, there are lovely, sweeping helicopter shots of the countryside, but Anton’s window isn’t stained glass, and the gay rave Kat attends in the book becomes a cheap, nasty looking nightclub.  (To which she drives.  Who drives to a nightclub?!)  The cheapness meant that a lot of the iconic scenes of the book were watered down,or removed all together.  And that’s a real shame.

*  Only openly gay character, I should say.  I am firmly convinced that if there was a sequel, it would be called Jude Realises She Was Bisexual All Along And Also She Is Vegan Now, Would You Like To Sign This Petition For Amnesty?