Never underestimate the will of the heartbroken TV fan whose beloved show has been canceled before its time. This week, Veronica Mars fans contributed millions of dollars to the promise that their show could find closure, greater glory, and romantic resolution through a long-envisioned movie. The Veronica Mars Movie Project broke Kickstarter records on Wednesday, the same day it was launched, hitting its $2 million goal in about 10 hours. The number was rising into $3 million territory by Friday morning. The people have spoken, and what the people want is a film about a teenage girl detective, based on a long-canceled UPN/CW show.
Veronica Mars was a sharp, strange treasure of a show—a true cult classic. Its heroine was an angry blond class warrior, its creator seemed resolute in denying happy endings, and its fans were the smart viewers who bring critical, not popular, success. Which is why it was canceled after only three seasons, in 2007. Although its creator, Rob Thomas, and star, Kristen Bell, have long attempted to get a Veronica Mars film funded, the studios stalled, citing a perceived lack of audience interest. But then! A hilarious, heartfelt Kickstarter call-to-arms video (but where’s Wallace, Veronica? Where’s Wallace?), a viral sensation, a Veronica Mars story in every major entertainment outlet! How’s that for interest?
The Veronica Mars Kickstarter success is good news for women in particular (and not just those who might write long mash notes to Veronica Mars on blogs). First of all, Rob Thomas loves women (and not in the creepy, Brent Ratner sense). Like Joss Whedon before him, Thomas built a show around a strong, independent young blond navigating an unfair world and fighting the forces of evil. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that often means, you know, vampires. In Veronica Mars, it’s the entitled rich kids of Neptune High, arguably scarier and less sympathetic than vampires.
In this frankly unjust world, in which the rich and powerful get away with everything from school election rigging to murder, Veronica rights wrongs for the underdogs with a righteous anger and scathing wit, armed only with moxie, a talent for disguise, and, very occasionally, a Taser. She’s a complex, multidimensional character with great strengths and vulnerabilities, a trope-resistant heroine. This isn’t just academic: As a detective, Veronica continually plays on people’s low expectations of women—acting the ditsy cheerleader, the hysterical damsel in distress—in order to solve the case.
Cooperative funding also opens up possibilities in the world of crowd-sourced film, which ensures that a larger pool of content, perspective and filmmakers is invited into the cultural conversation. The Veronica Mars movie was repeatedly punted in the studio system—a system that’s about as good at accurate public opinion polling as the modern GOP. In this kind of hierarchy, once a project gets passed over—even if it has a built-in audience, as Veronica Mars did—the possibility for a green light is essentially killed. But with the Kickstarter crowd-sourcing approach, the consumers of the product are emboldened and empowered.
It remains to be seen if this kind of funding can translate into successful theatrical releases, but as long as Hollywood insists on making endless Gerard Butler rom-coms and minor-superhero epics, there’s room for new approaches and fresh content. Especially if it means the continuing adventures of the world’s toughest marshmallow, Veronica Mars.