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She’s smart and funny, beautiful and perceptive, sensitive yet hard-nosed. She’s my TV girlfriend, Veronica Mars, the protagonist of the show of the same name which airs on UPN Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
Before you have me committed, let me explain. Lately, I’ve had awful luck with women. A friend calls it a “fizzle” when someone has a date or two but the relationship doesn’t progress from there. By that metric, I’ve had something like five fizzles since the middle of October.
There was the beauty who has been engaged for 18 months and the senior who “forgot to mention” she had a boyfriend. Then there was the young woman who abruptly stopped returning my calls and e-mails and the one who insisted that I not refer to our trips to the movies as “going out” or “dates.” And I must not neglect the girl who said—and this is a direct quote—“I’m not ready to date anyone now, and not you when I am.”
And these are just the ones who agreed to go out with me in the first place.
You can imagine why I’m so infatuated with Veronica Mars. The high school-aged Veronica Mars is portrayed by 24-year-old actress Kristen Bell who, despite being best known for a minor role in Pootie Tang, is actually quite talented. Ever since Veronica Mars found her best friend’s murdered body, and was drugged and raped in the aftermath, she became ostracized from her remaining friends. Why? Because her father—then the sheriff—accused the deceased’s father, a very popular local businessman, of murdering his own daughter. Since, she has helped her father in his private eye business.
Any lesser mortal would have shrunk from the enormity of trying to cope with all of that at the same time, but not Veronica Mars. She rebounded from her travails with a toughened yet witty edge, all the while maintaining compassion and zealousness for the truth. She sometimes takes on cases pro bono and does what it takes to accomplish her goals. She is charmingly effervescent and incisively brilliant.
All that, and she’s gorgeous to boot.
I’m struggling to describe what it is about Veronica Mars that has such a hold on me. Clearly it’s not some aspect of her TV-ness (i.e., she’s not a real person and she never disagrees with me) since I find Summer Roberts of “The OC” attractive but not nearly as perfect. It’s also not just lust run amok; I’m not usually into blondes, and actress Bell, while pretty, is a far cry from being a Catherine Zeta-Jones- level knockout.
What is it about Veronica Mars? And more importantly, why can’t I find a real live version of her?
In the “Ask Veronica” section of the official show website, someone (by coincidence, I swear, named “J. Lurie”) asks that very question. Veronica replied, “Look at your school, look at all the girls sitting by themselves or wandering around and ask yourself why you haven’t noticed them before. I think, within the next day or so, you will realize that your school is full of girls just like me.”
When Veronica Mars answers my very question from someone with my name, how could I not do what she says?
For several days, I went out of my way to notice all the young women who I used to overlook for their flashier or louder or more immediately fascinating colleagues. My findings were less than promising. That girl in my section really is obnoxious. That girl in my lab doesn’t have any sense of humor. That girl in my student group isn’t all that smart. What’s a poor, lovestruck boy to do? Veronica Mars has failed me.
That’s when it really hit me: Veronica Mars isn’t real. (There’s still no need to call the asylum.) No one is as articulate as Veronica Mars. No one is as self-assured, as charming, as vivacious. The same things that make “Veronica Mars” an amazing drama make Veronica Mars an impossible person. She is inherently unrealistic.
No one could be as perfect as Veronica Mars, but the problem of finding someone like her is exacerbated here at Harvard. Veronica Mars is not unambitious; she is driven to solve the mysteries which have warped her life, to get into Stanford (if she can afford it) and as a whole to do what’s right rather than what’s popular.
But at Harvard, the soulless pursuit of success and an utter lack of personality are standard operating procedure for vast swathes of the student body. Ambition to be the best in things that ultimately don’t matter—to get the highest paying investment banking job, to get into the best medical or law school, to ace every class—trumps all else.
A male friend of mine was recently turned down for a coffee-shop date because the young woman claimed she didn’t know him well enough. Let’s ignore that she couldn’t possibly get to know him better by categorically refusing to hang out with him. The real problem was not that she wasn’t already close with him, but rather that going out with him didn’t accomplish any of the young woman’s larger goals. He’s a nice guy, but his father isn’t the dean of a med school.
Veronica Mars the ideal may not exist outside the collective imaginations of several million viewers, but maybe I can find a Veronica Mars of my own. I will continue to look for facets of Veronica Mars in unexpected people and places, but I refuse to lower my standards. I refuse to settle simply for the sake of settling.
Because, frankly, I’d rather be alone with the vibrant Veronica Mars than together with a soulless Ann Radcliffe.
Jason L. Lurie ’05 is a chemistry concentrator in Cabot House. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.
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