In a Nutshell: The Mythology of Veronica Mars

16 Aug

I’m stewing on a much longer entry about Veronica Mars Seasons 1-3, which I just finished watching for the first time, but thought I’d just mention this about the Mars use of mythology. There’ll be spoilers, if you’re trying to avoid them before watching the series.

I noticed (like everyone else) the use of mythological names and places–Veronica Mars, who lives in Neptune, drives a Saturn, and occasionally wanders into the River Styx. I especially liked their little nod to the Greek story cycle by having someone watching Clash of the Titans, a childhood favorite of mine starring Harry Hamlin (who plays action superstar Aaron Echolls).

But there are more layers than just the obvious ones.

To wit: much of the show is about class warfare, about have and have-not. But if you think about it, the Greek/Roman mythology angle can be applied to this dynamic as well: The haves, the O9ers as they’re called because they live in the super-affluent 90909 zip code, are also the Gods. The gods of the Greek/Roman mythos were not bastions of goodness and honor; they were selfish, childish, and not above entertaining themselves by antagonizing and torturing mortals. The have-nots represent the beleaguered mortals, ever powerless in the face of the haves’ money and influence.

'And after the lightning bolts come the unkind status updates on Facebook! Alcmene is totally a whore!'

That much of the comparison is obvious, but where does Veronica herself fit in?

Since Veronica moves in both worlds, she represents the cthonic heroes: Perseus, Theseus, Heracles, Bellerophon. Chthonic heroes were more earthly gods, and were often people who were half-god or were elevated to the status of deities; if you’re at all familiar with the old myths you know that part of an Olympian’s daily routine was impregnating mortals–just after the morning wine and olive buffet.

These half-gods were usually the ones who stuck up for mortals: who else would? (A fun example of this is the old Hercules: The Legendary Journeys show, all of which is available on Netflix. It starred Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst, and was a hoot most of the time)

Add 50 lbs, a stupid haircut and an oversized Xfiles tshirt, and it's me in high school!

Enter Veronica Mars, whose name is a derivation from Berenice, which is Latin for ‘She who brings victory.’ In the context of the show, that’s just brilliant right there.

Veronica enjoys some status when her father is Sheriff, making her partly one of the haves, but after he is stripped of his office and becomes a PI she becomes an outsider, a former-have who is no longer welcome among either group.

In my world, Mars and Bunk from 'The Wire' solve mysteries in Miami or New Orleans while wearing straw fedoras and linen suits.

Keith Mars himself is no one’s idea of a god of war, at least not Kratos–short, bald,  and generally good-natured, he can nonetheless throw down when necessary. Somewhere in the film world, there’s a ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ coffee mug with his name on it, and rightfully so. (A sidenote, if Veronica had just fessed up to her Dad more often, her life would have been simpler and thus less television-worthy).

And while there are probably more salient points to the whole mythology angle of Veronica Mars, I think I’ll leave today’s entry at that. It really is a fun show–the funny thing is, you can’t put your finger on why it’s so good, I mean nothing about it particularly sticks out. Possibly because every aspect of the show is that interesting and well-done. The subtle California Noir aspect of the show is one of my favorite things about it, and it’s done well without hitting you over the head. Like many other people, I wasn’t that into the 3rd season, probably because it was so uneven and the new intro didn’t do it any favors, but I still watched and enjoyed it.

All three seasons are available on Instant Watch.

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