The Veronica Mars movie due out Friday embroils the heroine in a love triangle familiar to anyone who watched season three of the gone-too-soon TV show. Veronica and Piz versus Veronica and Logan. But why must we make Veronica, or really any heroine, choose?
It's no news that the love triangle is a trope, especially when it comes to TV focused on teens or young adults. Don't get me wrong, I love a good romance, a good love triangle even. But triangles can also breed something a little more sinister. Take a highly competent female character and suddenly define her by her choice of Man A or Man B. It's disappointingly reductive, particularly when often the best answer is none of the above. Then there's the characterization of these triangles, in which romantic options tend to fall into a familiar binary: there's the safe choice or the dangerous one.
Look at Veronica's choices. On one hand we have sweet, safe, somewhat sexless Piz. On the other we have brooding, smoldering Logan. Logan whose actions before the start of the series contributed in part to Veronica's rape. Logan who loves Veronica deeply but has the power to be unbearably cruel to her. You see this pattern reflected in all sorts of shows, to some degree. Felicity's title character was stuck between enigmatic (but magnetic) Ben and sweet (but annoyingly passive) Noel. The triangle was such a defining part of the show that when it got picked up for an unexpected five episodes in its final season, the writers injected a time-travel plot to explore what would have happened if Felicity had picked Noel instead of Ben. In the latter years of the WB, Gilmore Girls' Rory is forced to choose between her first love Dean or the new-in-town, street smart, fight-starting Jess.
But perhaps the best example of a Veronica Mars predecessor is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show to which Veronica Mars owes the most, wherein Buffy is either paired off with vampire-with-a-soul Angel or lovesick baddie Spike.
Buffy is never faced with the direct choice, but Spike versus Angel is a topic that still inspires debate. When Sarah Michelle Gellar said in a Reddit AMA a few weeks ago that she would choose Angel over Spike, BuzzFeed published a story with the headline: "Sarah Michelle Gellar Just Picked Angel Over Spike And Nothing Will Ever Be The Same." Ignoring the hyperbole inherent in freaking out over the non-binding opinion of an actress about the show she was on almost fifteen years ago, let's consider Buffy's options for a second. In the Buffy narrative, Angel is a vampire with a soul who can't have sex with Buffy or he'll achieve one moment of true happiness, have his soul taken away, and become truly evil. Meanwhile, Spike is a reformed villain once intent on killing Buffy, who Buffy is drawn to in the midst of her deep season six depression. At one point, Spike attempts to rape her, and yet in a poll last year at Entertainment Weekly the coupling of Buffy and Spike won over the coupling of Buffy and Angel. Neither of these men—or, rather, vampires—are perfect choices for Buffy. She's the slayer for goodness sakes.
In the Veronica Mars movie, Veronica, now a corporate lawyer in New York at the verge of a big break on her career, is dating Piz. She is called back to Neptune to help Logan, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend, a pop star who also went to their high school. We're told Veronica gave up sleuthing after she left Neptune's Hearst College for Stanford, but throughout the movie, her relationship to detective work is framed as an addiction, as is her relationship to Logan. As an audience, we want Veronica to succumb to addiction to solving crimes. To her addiction to Logan? That's more complicated.
Logan, for most fans, is the ultimate Veronica Mars relationship. In a highly unscientific poll at Fanpop! 91 percent of voters chose Logan over Piz. (For more evidence: just look at the comments on a Wire story from 2012 wherein Jen Doll implied that Veronica and Piz should have lasted forever. Sample? "How dare you?!?") At the end of season two Logan basically articulates the reason people love their romance, drunkenly confessing to Veronica that he believed their love was epic. "Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined. Bloodshed. Epic," he says. It's hard not to fall for that. Dangerous love is exciting, especially when Jason Dohring is practically an expert at tortured puppy eyes. But while that clip is an extremely romantic one out of context, think of it in context. The next day, she goes to see him and finds him, shirtless, with his best friend's stepmother. Logan's "epic" speech recalls what Spike says to Buffy in the moments before he attacks her: "Great love is wild and passionate and dangerous. It burns and consumes." Put talk of epic love in that context, and it seems truly frightening.
The 2014 Logan is a reformed man. He's even joined the military. Sure, he's accused of murder, but the audience always believes his innocence, whereas in the series that was sometimes in question. In that way, the movie makes it even easier for the audience to root for Logan and Veronica, despite the fact that long time fans know their tormented history. Piz, meanwhile, is Piz: nice, sweet, working at This American Life, not accused of murder. And still the movie gives Veronica and fans a choice. One of the trailers even asked members of the cast to declare their "team."
I would be a hypocrite to say that I don't care for Veronica Mars' romantic plot lines. I do. Deeply. The story would not be what it is without the sizzling, tortured chemistry between Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring. Still, I reject the idea that fans should choose "team." In a video on the New York Times when the first Hunger Games movie came out, a young fan declared proudly she was "Team Katniss." I'm Team Veronica. We all should be Team Veronica.