Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Veronica Mars: somebody puts hookers in a corner

Words cannot express quite how giddily excited I am about the Veronica Mars movie coming out. I may have mentioned my love of the show before? I donated to the Kickstarter; I've been on a marathon rewatch to get my gentleman friend up to speed; I have tickets for Saturday night, and I have been trying desperately to fill up my Friday with lots of activities - including a trip to the GUM clinic, of all things - so I'm not tempted to download it and spoil my big screen experience.

And yet, following a mind-bendingly amazing talk by the Sex Worker Open University at the Wowzers Festival (on which more later!), I feel like the whorephobic remarks which pepper the script are jumping out of my tv and dancing around on my living room floor going "la la la, sex workers, they are preposterous and hilarious, AMIRITE?? Boo boo de boop, sex!"

Artist's representation

2.7, Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner
Madison: "Pretty Woman is still my favourite movie. Vivien is like my hero."
Veronica: "She's a hooker."
Gia: "Yeah, but only cos she had to be!"
Veronica: "She's a hooker."

The level of derision and disgust that drips from Veronica's voice at the idea of respecting sex workers as autonomous human beings is hard to capture in words. Man alive, a hooker as a hero? Ridiculous! Obviously, she is defined, always and forever, as someone who makes a living by having sex with dudes for money, has no other characteristics that could possibly be valuable, and is utterly beyond contempt.

1.22, Leave It To Beaver
"I can't risk my career on the testimony of, all due respect, a hooker."

2.16, The Rapes of Graff
Veronica opens the door to a blonde lady in a red dress and fur coat. She turns to Keith and says - as if their visitor isn't there, or can't hear her, or isn't an actual human person -

"Dad. Your hooker's here."

This storyline gets progressively more fun - turns out Cliff's one night stand was in fact a hooker, paid double by some mystery man to seduce Cliff and steal his briefcase. Because sex workers, even more than the rest of womankind, are two-faced, duplicitous bitches. We know this to be true.

It's been a while since I've seen 3.11, Poughkeepsie, Tramps and Thieves, so I can't give much in the way of analysis here, but the general message of "once a whore, always a whore" sticks with me.

It's one of those things that grates all the more because of the sensitive, inclusive way the show treats the stories of people from other marginalised communities. People of colour, LGB folks, people with disabilities, rape survivors - all get episodes devoted to exploring their experiences as people, beyond the difference that would define them in other shows. But apparently dipping even one toe into the sex industry instantly dissolves any other history, character, ability, story that a person has, leaving them uninteresting except as plot devices and punchlines. It's sad. The show has proven, over and again, that it could do better, if it wanted to. I hope the movie wants to.

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