“That Girl of Yours, She's Pretty Hard-Boiled”: Film Noir and the Claiming and Performance of Gender in Veronica Mars
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Veronica Mars, a television series aired on the WB and CW networks from 2004-2007, presents a world in which violence and conspiracy abound. The series starts off with the conspiracy that has most closely touched Veronica’s life—the murder of Lilly Kane. Lilly was Veronica’s best friend, and her murder set off a series of events that led to Veronica’s father losing his position as sheriff, her mother leaving town, and Veronica being drugged and raped at a party. After Lilly’s murder, Neptune’s noir universe shifts; Veronica goes from a fun-loving, happy cheerleader to a vengeful, hard-boiled detective. This study contends that Veronica Mars uses the conventions of film noir to create space in which gender can be discussed, evaluated, and reconstructed. First, the conventions of film noir are addressed in order to establish a framework for understanding how they are essential in the creation of Veronica Mars’ universe. The second section examines Veronica’s world in order to note that the noir transformation was inevitable, as well as explaining both the stylistic and thematic consequences of this shift. Finally, the project addresses the ways in which gender is restructured in the show as a direct effect of Veronica’s repositioning as the hard-boiled private investigator. Instead of being a biologically determined trait, gender becomes a fluid, claimed thing for the inhabitants of Neptune. Fredric Jameson’s theory of the pastiche is used to frame discussions of the series’ overall impact, while Judith Butler’s work on gender performance is the primary lens by which characters’ motivations are discussed.