Mars Investigations 13: Lord of the Bling
Hello and welcome back to Mars Investigations!
One small piece of annoying news: Hulu (which I use to stream Veronica Mars) seems to have disabled the ability to take screenshots while streaming. This is a bummer because one of my favorite parts of working on this newsletter is deciding on screenshots and coming up with snappy captions for them. If a workaround for this becomes available (or I come up with other visuals to pop in) I will absolutely give it a try. In the meantime, I am sad to say that this newsletter will be image-less.
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Also please note: The start and end of any potential spoilers are marked with this emoji: 🤐
🔍 Intro and housekeeping (above, already happened)
🔍 Synopsis of S1E13 "Lord of the Bling" from veronicamars.fandom.com
🔍 Some thoughts on hamhanded attempts to deal with the realities of race and racism
🔍 Stray thoughts and observations on cultural references (📝) music (🎼), and tech (🚀)
🔍 Next time in Mars Investigations
🔍 Synopsis of "Lord of the Bling"
Originally aired February 8, 2005.
"In this episode, Veronica investigates the mysterious disappearance of her old friend, Yolanda, when the girl's father approaches Keith for help." (source)
🔍 Some thoughts on hamhanded attempts to deal with the realities of race and racism
Hoo boy did I misremember this episode. Actually, it's probably more accurate to say that I'm simply paying closer attention now than I did in 2006 to the more subtle details around representation and identity. Upon rewatch, I noticed what I've mentioned like a zillion times in this newsletter—that this show tries pretty earnestly to make race and racism part of the world of the show. I think that's great! Unfortunately, they do it hamhandedly and poorly more often than they offer insightful analysis.
Veronica Mars departs from other shows of its era (and earlier ones, of course) that either simply didn't have nonwhite characters and elided all conversations about race and/or only considered the realities of race and racism for Very Special Episodes.
While I appreciate the show's efforts to not simply re-create the exclusively white, racism-free worlds of other TV shows, we gotta talk about how clumsily they handle it. This is the first time this season that we're seeing Black characters anchoring the episode's main storyline. They include a "gangsta rap impresario" who's obsessed with his son's masculinity and a rapper named Dime Bag (whose hits include "Shot My Boo" and "Thuggin'"). Dime Bag's entourage is obsessed with luxury and leers at/says gross things about teen girls.
While there's nothing objectively wrong or bad about telling stories about these characters, it does raise some questions about what the creators thought they were doing, especially considering how marginalized non-white characters and their stories have been thus far (and will continue to be).
There's another element of this episode that makes it difficult for me to take the show's attempts to deal with race and racism seriously. It's one I've remarked on before—Logan's racist/racially insensitive jokes. A persistent theme in this show is that Logan's racism is very rarely portrayed as hostile or harmful but instead as playful, clever, an extension of his impish mischievousness. For example, when Logan says, "Hey, I judge not by the color of their skin but by the content of their sweater," we're meant to react the way his friends do—ignore it or roll our eyes and think "Oh, Logan." We are not meant to experience Logan as racist or misogynist, not really. Not in any substantive, meaningful way that acknowledges that racism or misogyny are harmful or destructive or dangerous. And this sure does tell us a lot about how serious the show is about engaging in a real way with the topics it is purporting to grapple with.
There is a moment when the show exhibits a tiny bit of self-awareness:
WALLACE: Stop staring. It's just hair.
VERONICA: Resisting the urge to touch (Veronica raises a hand towards Wallace's head.)
WALLACE: [Pressing her hand away] You keep resisting that urge.
Veronica is fetishizing Wallace but she knows she shouldn't. She's jokingly calling attention to her own condescending behavior. What is the purpose of this brief scene? It's almost as if the show knows it's doing the same thing—engaging in some fetishizing, othering behavior, and making fun of itself for that at the same time. Unfortunately, pointing out your own foibles doesn't make those foibles any less annoying or harmful.
Thinking of the Very Special Episodes of my youth, I am happy that Veronica Mars is trying something different. I just wish their execution was better. A lot better!
Let's see how they do going forward.
🔍 Stray thoughts and observations
- Shout out to Bryce for dropping PE. Legend shit. The only smart move.
- It's hard to make out the lettering on the cover of the hip hop magazine Keith is reading to research Bone, but it looks like it's called "Served."
- We have some new additions to our pantheon of minor Jewish characters: accountant Sam Bloom, his son Ben, and his wife Rebecca (née Leibovitz).
- Also, Aaron's agent Harvey can probably be added, too (between his name and the fact that Hollywood agents are often portrayed as Jewish...and kinda greedy. Sigh.)
- Veronica says of Yolanda: "We used to be friends...a long time ago." Fun little reference to the show's theme song.
- There's a tabloid called Week Beat on the coffee table at Mars Investigations. Very simple but very good name for a tabloid. A+, no notes.
- The pot on the stove that Veronica is stirring—it looks like she's putting a lot of muscle into the stirring, yet you then hear the spoon clang against the bottom of the pot as if the pot is empty. So, is the pot full (of something very dense and thick) or not? Then she takes the spoon out and taps it on the side of the pot. There is nothing at all on the spoon. Was Kristen Bell miming the stirring of a pot full of, what seemed from her stirring motion, like concrete? This is maybe the minorest detail I've ever commented on for the newsletter but it distracted me so now I am distracting you with it.
- The club in LA that Yolanda and her friend go to is called "Blender." I guess only Neptune has fun, punny names for its businesses.
- Man, Logan is a handful as a boyfriend. His jealousy sounds exhausting and during a flashback we see him pull an elastic off Lilly's wrist as she's eating so he can shoot it at Duncan. Very annoying teen boy behavior!
- Harry Hamlin grieving in a robe and dress shoes: I vote for this image to be on the one-dollar bill.
- We get some additional details about Logan's childhood. First of all, seems like Aaron's been an abusive fuck for many years. Second, the story about Lynn dressing up as a mermaid (her favorite animal) and staying in costume even when it was clear she'd be the only one doing it, is pretty charming. RIP Lynn. Or...not?
- Logan's sister can't make it back from Sydney for Lynn's funeral because she's filming an underwater scene. I'd like to think she had a small role in the 2005 movie Into the Blue starring Paul Walker and Jessica Alba, which is about a group of divers who come across a drug kingpin's illicit cargo. According to a review I read on IMDB, it has some great underwater cinematography. Also, a 21% on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Dime Bag is staying at Neptune's Duke Hotel, the third luxe hotel we've heard of since the beginning of the season.
- "What do you think, the T6 or the T9?," Veronica asks Keith, referring to the listening device Keith will plant in Dime Bag's room. I did a little googling and wasn't able to find any real listening device with either name. Pretty decent made-up names for surveillance equipment!
- Keith must really like Shepard Fairey's streetwear brand Obey because both his office and his home have big, framed Obey prints on display.
- When Logan is flirting with Yolanda, Veronica says, "Careful, Logan. Lilly's just sick. She's not dead." Ooooof. That one's gonna leave a mark.
- Veronica tells Lilly that when she saw Logan and Yolanda kissing, it was a "one-second look." But wouldn't she have had to approach them to retrieve her purse thereby getting a longer look? I think Veronica saw more of the makeout than she let on but is trying to protect Yolanda a little bit here.
- So....is Lynn Echolls dead? No, seriously, I'm asking because I don't remember.
- It can't be overstated how baggie guys wore their pants in this era. Including suits!
📝 Cultural References
- The title is a reference to the fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein.
- We get a few references to animosity between Black Americans and white Jews. It's sort of intimated and referenced obliquely and then resolved when Yolanda Hamilton and Benjamin Bloom get married. OK?
- Related: Yonjamin is a tad young to tie the knot, no?
- National Velvet refers to the 1935 novel by Enid Bagnold and the 1944 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney. Per IMDB, the story is about how "A jaded former jockey helps a young girl prepare a wild but gifted horse for England's Grand National Sweepstakes." They would really make movies about anything in the old days, huh.
- Steve Urkel, the nerdy next-door neighbor played by Jaleel White on the sitcom Family Matters (1989-1998)
- Percy "Bone" Hamilton, founder of Drive-By Records, is based on Suge Knight, who founded Death Row Records and was famously rumored to have held Vanilla Ice by the ankles out a hotel balcony.
- Nelly, the rapper
- Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech
- Dixie Chicks
- The Eagles, the rock band
- Vibe magazine, which was founded in 1993 by Quincy Jones
- Jude Law, Colin Farrell
- Tupac Shakur, the rapper (1971-1996)
- Lucky magazine, which Lilly is reading while they're hanging out at Yolanda's. We also see the magazine The FADER in Dime Bag's room at the Duke Hotel.
- Dokken, the glam metal band founded in 1978. Sidenote: Has anyone ever said "rockin' like Dokken"? No, right?
- ICM, the talent and literary agency (that represents Aaron Echolls)
- Korean War
- "Free at Last," the Black American spiritual quoted by MLK Jr. in his "I Have a Dream" speech
- Variety, the entertainment industry trade publication
- Fleet Week
- The game Logan is playing on his Xbox during his mom's reception is called Fable, and it was released in 2004. Fable is an action roleplaying game where your character can decide whether they want to be good or evil. It's a pretty cool game—a little goofy, a little naughty, just like Our Logan.
- "My father thanks you. My mother thanks you. I thank you." This is a reference to the 1942 movie Yankee Doodle Dandy, a movie about George M. Cohan, the famous composer/actor/producer/entertainer. Here is a 20-second clip of the line reading. Logan knows his culture!
- Beach Blanket Bingo, the 1965 movie starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello
- I recommend listening right away to Cam'ron's classic "Hey Ma" (feat. Juelz Santana) and the Pharcyde's "The Bomb"
- Bone's wired, single-ear cell phone headset
- Docked iPod (looks like 3rd generation to me)
- Bang & Olufsen BeoCom 2 cordless phone
- External webcam
- "The pinhole at the top of the screen is a camera." Mac laptops didn't come with a built-in iSight until 2006 so this must refer to the external webcam we see later.
🔍 Next time in Mars Investigations
Considering my disappointing experience with "Lord of the Bling," I don't want to get too excited BUT the next episode is "Mars vs. Mars" which means we get a heaping helping of Adam Scott. That's never a bad thing, right?
Edited by Andrea Lynch
Tech support by Jen DeMarco