The Veronica Mars movie due out Friday embroils the heroine in a love triangle familiar to anyone who watched season three of the gone-too-soon TV show. Veronica and Piz versus Veronica and Logan. But why must we make Veronica, or really any heroine, choose?
It's no news that the love triangle is a trope, especially when it comes to TV focused on teens or young adults. Don't get me wrong, I love a good romance, a good love triangle even. But triangles can also breed something a little more sinister. Take a highly competent female character and suddenly define her by her choice of Man A or Man B. It's disappointingly reductive, particularly when often the best answer is none of the above. Then there's the characterization of these triangles, in which romantic options tend to fall into a familiar binary: there's the safe choice or the dangerous one.
Look at Veronica's choices. On one hand we have sweet, safe, somewhat sexless Piz. On the other we have brooding, smoldering Logan. Logan whose actions before the start of the series contributed in part to Veronica's rape. Logan who loves Veronica deeply but has the power to be unbearably cruel to her. You see this pattern reflected in all sorts of shows, to some degree. Felicity's title character was stuck between enigmatic (but magnetic) Ben and sweet (but annoyingly passive) Noel. The triangle was such a defining part of the show that when it got picked up for an unexpected five episodes in its final season, the writers injected a time-travel plot to explore what would have happened if Felicity had picked Noel instead of Ben. In the latter years of the WB, Gilmore Girls' Rory is forced to choose between her first love Dean or the new-in-town, street smart, fight-starting Jess.
But perhaps the best example of a Veronica Mars predecessor is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show to which Veronica Mars owes the most, wherein Buffy is either paired off with vampire-with-a-soul Angel or lovesick baddie Spike.
Buffy is never faced with the direct choice, but Spike versus Angel is a topic that still inspires debate. When Sarah Michelle Gellar said in a Reddit AMA a few weeks ago that she would choose Angel over Spike, BuzzFeed published a story with the headline: "Sarah Michelle Gellar Just Picked Angel Over Spike And Nothing Will Ever Be The Same." Ignoring the hyperbole inherent in freaking out over the non-binding opinion of an actress about the show she was on almost fifteen years ago, let's consider Buffy's options for a second. In the Buffy narrative, Angel is a vampire with a soul who can't have sex with Buffy or he'll achieve one moment of true happiness, have his soul taken away, and become truly evil. Meanwhile, Spike is a reformed villain once intent on killing Buffy, who Buffy is drawn to in the midst of her deep season six depression. At one point, Spike attempts to rape her, and yet in a poll last year at Entertainment Weekly the coupling of Buffy and Spike won over the coupling of Buffy and Angel. Neither of these men—or, rather, vampires—are perfect choices for Buffy. She's the slayer for goodness sakes.