Mystery Blonde Girl

27.04.2010


Veronica Mars, “Pilot” (1.01).

Veronica Mars is both character and narrator. The biggest mystery in Veronica Mars (2004-7) is not one of the cases that the blonde teenager tries to solve but the character herself, played by Kristen Bell. In the first and second seasons, Veronica’s voice-over reflects the protagonist’s puzzling identity.

One of the first sounds heard in the first episode is Veronica’s voice-over explaining the social structure of Neptune, a “city without middle class”. When a character is an internal narrator (or intradiegetic), the resultant narration is not necessarily restricted and may recount events that she or he did not witness. That is not the case in Veronica Mars: her voice-over is highly subjective and it is always related to something she has lived or is experiencing. Consequently, it is used to make observations about the present and to give details of her inner life, and it sometimes confines itself strictly to specifics of a case—with consistent expressive variations in intonation.

There has not been a tradition of using the voice of narrators in television series. Its use has been mainly limited to introductions—as in Bewitched (1964-72). Yet in recent years some shows have explored this way of presenting information and comments through a speaking agent more frequently. In Sex and the City (1998-2004), Carrie Bradshaw’s spoken words are observations of situations for her articles on sex and love. In Desperate Housewives (2004-), Mary Alice’s voice makes comments about Wisteria Lane after her suicide—and following the revelation of the reason why she did it during the first season, an unfamiliar spectator will probably interpret her voice-over in the next seasons as if it came from an external and omnipresent narrator. Veronica Mars’s voice establishes a different point of view; one that is not simply narrative because it is not simply justified by her investigations. Some cases have a personal and intimate nature—her rape, her best friend’s murder, her boyfriend’s accusation of homicide—which is signalled by the use of the voice-over, but her derisive and baffling remarks make it clear that she does not present the facts with rigour and objectivity.

Veronica’s voice is similar to Georgia’s voice in Dead Like Me (2003-4). While talking about their “professional” experiences they assume a subjective position to make sense of their life—or death, in Georgia’s case. What is singular is the way these private thoughts often involve a detachment from the scenes. In “Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang” (2.03), for example, a confused Veronica criticises Wallace’s (Percy Daggs III) love interest in Jackie (Tessa Thompson) and he asks her: “What did you mean?” Then her voice-over repeats the question as if she is positioning herself as an external observer: “What did you mean?” This detachment contributes to the bewildering narrative structure of Veronica Mars, which incorporates her ignorance about certain events—well conveyed in the scenes in which she is not present, and through numerous flashbacks that forgo point-of-view shots and occasionally depict the same occurrence in different ways.