Who’s the femme fatale in Veronica Mars?
I’m talking in class tomorrow about Veronica Mars (hooray!), and because it’s a class about narrative theory and we’ve covered a few different noir texts, I’ve been focusing on the explicitly noir aspects of the show and some of the basic narrative devices. In hunting around and browsing Rob Thomas’ fairly extensive offerings on his personal website, I landed on a pdf he’d uploaded of his original notes for the show, which begins as follows:
It’s pretty easy to see how all of this fits into the aesthetic and structure of the show, and I particularly like the foregrounding of the rape mystery over the Lilly Kane mystery. One of the points tomorrow will be that while Lilly’s murder represents a straight-up, classic noir device, Veronica’s rape is one of the re-writings Thomas plays with in casting his detective as female, and her trauma takes the place of a lot of post-war trauma that frequently haunts American detectives in the inter- and post-war periods.
My big question about this part of the document – Duncan Kane (Cain) is the femme fatale? Woah.
It’s not a question that can be taken too seriously beyond a hypothetical level, because these are just notes. By all accounts, the rise of Logan Echolls was not in the series’ original plan, and who knows how that and innumerable other factors may have played into what happened between this document and the production of the series. The notes replace Abel Koontz with someone named Strom Jenkins, so obviously there’s some reworking yet to do. Still, I wonder whether we should still be reading Duncan as a femme fatale, and if so, whether it’s a representation that failed to come through in the show, or whether he was actually re-conceptualized. (Or, third possibility, everyone else already thinks Duncan is the Bacall to Veronica’s Bogart and I’m just way behind the curve here.)
To be fair, I can sort of see the logic. Duncan’s attractive, he’s mysteriously connected to all of the major crime plots, he has a hidden flaw, he’s a love interest for Veronica, he’s dangerous, and he seems tragically unable to control the events surrounding him. Setting aside Teddy Dunn’s milquetoast Duncan, I could imagine a scenario where the season plays out with much more tension between Duncan and Veronica, which would significantly downplay the role Logan eventually takes in her life, and would make the question of Veronica’s paternity a more pressing issue.
From a purely structural standpoint, though, I have a hard time with Duncan in a traditional femme fatale role because something about the position seems to require a lot more enigma than Duncan ever carries, if for no other reason than that Duncan and Veronica dated long before the show begins. How mysterious and dangerously seductive can he possibly be – they went to Winter Formal together! I recognize that the epilepsy plotline and the resulting Duncan Hulk (DUNCAN SMASH!) are attempts to imbue Duncan’s familiar persona with new mystery, but it’s hard to imagine any circumstance by which he becomes more seductive as a result.
So that’s my query for the evening – should we be reading Duncan as a femme fatale, and if so, what does that make Logan Echolls?