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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Article


Veronica Mars compared to Buffy
By Nadine Matthews

From the beginning, “Veronica Mars” has been compared to “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. Both characters are tiny, blonde, teenaged girls living with one parent in southern California. Buffy lived in the fictional town of Sunnydale while Veronica lives in the fictional town of Neptune. Both, despite their “tininess” and “blondness”, and all around seeming perfection, are outcasts. In Veronica’s case though, it is not so clear that she is in fact, an outcast. She has incredible investigative skills (think Nancy Drew on steroids), plus access to her private detective and former sheriff father’s databases and files. She is also quite technically savvy. I guess if she had superpowers, skill with technological gadgetry would be it. She whips out her laptop and Sidekick the way some girls whip out their lipstick! Because of all this, Veronica’s services are actually in very high demand in her school as well as the community at large. People from all age groups and social backgrounds clamor for her help, albeit begrudgingly. So, in my humble opinion, this sort of throws the whole social outcast thing into question. Veronica is not textbook popular, but she’s not quite a pariah.

Still, Veronica is no ordinary teenager and neither was Buffy. They both have a preternatural level of maturity and sense of obligation to their fellow man. That though, is where the similarities end. Well that plus the fact that Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, and Joss Whedon have all appeared on “Veronica Mars” since it began. “Buffy” was really in a class all by itself. It was a fascinating, captivating, addictive mix of horror, romance, comedy, and drama—often all in the same scene. The show was completely modern and was at the vanguard of a movement in TV writing. It was one of the first shows to season its dramatic dialogue with snappy quips and pop-culture references. Although “Veronica Mars” is a great show, it is more of a hybrid of old-fashioned nighttime soaps and new-fangled dramas. It uses some of the same type of clever dialogue as “Buffy”. However, “Veronica Mars” is also marked by the slings, arrows, passions, and mystery of old fashioned nighttime soaps such as “Dallas”, “Knots Landing”, and “Dynasty”. Plot twists, surprises, red herrings, bitchiness, and backstabbing are all par for the course. Frequently, I find myself screaming at the TV set as if the characters could hear me (or would care what I said if they could) or just gasping in astonishment at a new twist in the plot.

“Veronica Mars” also has another important element that is similar to those classic soaps- class conflict. Class prejudice and the resentment that it breeds is a recurring theme. We are reminded that Veronica is not like most of the people in Neptune because of the use of multiple interior locations. Most of Veronica’s friends and clients live in posh homes while Veronica lives in a modest bungalow. You know the kind where there are no walk-in closets, there is just one bathroom, and there is no pool out back. Still, she is not exactly set apart from the other characters. Both of her current and ex-boyfriend are filthy rich—rich enough to live in a hotel suite —that’s hotel with a capital “H”, five stars, and room service. Her former best friend, who is now dead, was also wealthy. In fact, at the center of this season’s mystery is a tragedy that befell a number of the show’s characters due to their economic circumstances.

Another way that this show is different from Buffy is the webs of deception that its characters continue to weave. Not so with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In that show, it was evident pretty quickly who the bad guys were. Supposedly good characters did not tend to be as deeply flawed as those in “Veronica Mars”. In Buffy, we tended to be pleasantly surprised at the morsel of goodness and warmth that managed to survive in the hearts of the villains. Remember the Mayor in season three? As dastardly as he was, he grieved for Faith when she fell into a coma. Prior to that, he had evolved into something of a father figure for Faith, reassuring her of her worth as a person and even giving her gifts. Granted his gift was a dagger with which he hoped she would commit murder, but it’s the thought that counts. Even during the first season, the master grieved at both the loss of Angel and that of Darla. It was a superficial sentiment but the viewer could sense that there was the potential for, or vestige of, something deeper there. At the core of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was the belief that our need for human connection, our need for love and acceptance, was the key to our redemption. Lacking that, religion and/or technology could pull one back from the throes of evil. Take Spike for instance. From the beginning, there was a foreshadowing of his potential to be good. As tough as Spike was (was his leather outfit a metaphor for his “thick skin”?), he always had a soft spot for Drusilla. When she left him, he was devastated and bent on vengeance. His behavior was still written as someone who was not lashing out just because he was evil, but was lashing out from a place of pain. Technology, however, managed to tame this beast. After the chip was implanted into his brain, he was rendered incapable of doing violence to anyone. He could no longer act on his malevolent urges. Eventually, he grew emotionally attached to the Scooby Gang. Spike eventually fell in love with Buffy herself. Though it was inadvertent, it was his love for Buffy that led to the return of his own soul.

Veronica Mars takes a much more cynical view of its characters. In Neptune, the specter of human greed and selfishness looms large. No character is safe from being revealed as a conniving backstabber. Even motherhood is robbed of its usually vaunted status. Most saliently, and perhaps symbolically, Veronica’s mother is absent from the show’s canvas. This is not the same type of absence as in other teen dramas where there is at least an implication that the parents are around and they are just not featured. No, Veronica’s mother ran away from home. She is an alcoholic who has abandoned her family. When she finally materialized near the end of the first season, she whitewashed her reasons for leaving. Basically, she argued that she left for Veronica’s own good. This reasoning fell to pieces when one episode later, she pulled a David Copperfield—taking all of the money that Veronica had saved for college, with her. Buffy’s dad was also MIA, but that was because he was divorced and lived in another town. He neglected to show up to take her ice-skating for her birthday, but he did not steal her hard-earned money right from under her nose. Buffy’s dad was also MIA but he was divorced from her mother and Buffy knew which town he lived in. He neglected to show up to take her ice-skating for her birthday, but he did not steal her hard-earned money right from under her nose. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the mothers made mistakes, but they made them in the pursuit of their children’s best interest. In Neptune, the best interests of the children are an afterthought. They don’t love their children enough to sacrifice for them. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the most powerful symbol was the library in which the Scooby Gang regularly congregated. It was a symbol of their alienation from the larger society. In Veronica Mars, I think the absence of the mother figure is thus far its most powerful symbol. Taken together, we could conclude that where the mothers are absent, people are in danger of becoming alienated from themselves. When the mother figure remains intact, there is the chance for redemption. Without mothers, chances of redemption go from slim to none. Still, Veronica Mars continues to be one of the best shows on television. Though we may not like the decisions the characters make, we love the way they make us scream at the television set. And we wait, clinging to the edge of our seats, for the day when they seem to finally hear us.

The moms of Neptune:




Apparently committed suicide


Left Neptune to live in another town. Duncan now lives in a hotel

Dick and Beaver Casablancas

Lives in another part of town. She balked when one of them suggested that they go live with her instead of their rich, powerful, and largely absent father. Their new stepmother is sleeping with their best friend.


Abandoned the family. Veronica has no idea where she is.


Lied to him about, and kept him from knowing his real father.

New Baby

Mother Meg was in a coma for part of her pregnancy and subsequently died.


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Updated 2/11/07


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