Saturday, May 17, 2014

On running away from a home you don't love

Sorry for the delay folks, a combination of feeling that this post wasn't ready, a good sized headache, and then my computer acting like the slowest machine to ever grace this Earth all pushed this back, and this week's book review is getting pushed back to Saturday (which seems to have been happening a lot lately anyway).

 As a more-or-less fan of the tv series, I went out and saw the Veronica Mars movie pretty soon after it came out and while I enjoyed parts of the film and problems with other parts my biggest beef with it in the ending (which is my way of saying that this little write-up is going to contain rather large spoilers). As longtime viewers know, the town of Neptune has not been kind to Veronica and it's destructive influence hurt both her and her friends over and over again. You could even argue that it was partially the town itself that re-shaped Veronica after her friend's murder and made her into someone where "untrusting" is an understatement. And so, at the end of the final tv season Veronica left, she went off to another college and, as the movie tells us, while she's been in some contact with her old friends and family she hasn't been back to the town in nine years (which I think makes her reasons for suddenly coming back seem a bit impulsive, even given her history, but that's not precisely what I'm talking about here). And then she stays, Veronica decides that instead of becoming a big shot lawyer in NYC like she's been working towards for the past nine years that she's going to go back to this town which has hurt her so much (and actively despises her) to become a private investigator and try to fix the town because she thinks it's still savable. And based on my own personal experience that just didn't sit right with me.

But let's talk about another show first, coming from a completely different direction the manga-turned-anime Silver Spoon. Yugo Hachiken is completely different from Veronica Mars, he's a city boy who, despite being pretty good academically, has chosen to go to an alternative, farming tech school for high school and is the only one of his classmates who doesn't already come from a farming background and he doesn't seem to have any gusto for it. The show plays its cards close and takes a while to slowly show why he made such a radical choice, back in middle school the stress from his studies and his family caused him to have a breakdown and realize that there was nothing in his life he was spectacularly good at or even wanted to do which is a pretty crushing realization when you're only 14. He liked his teacher's suggestion of going to Oezo since the school had dorms and he could completely cut himself off from his family, he could run away and when he admits this to the principal he replies "What's so wrong with running away?"

When I was was watching that episode I felt like breaking down and crying at that point since what I was doing then felt like running away. My life wasn't like Hachiken or Veronica's, I wasn't in a town that hated my guts or dealing with disapproving parents, I was simply stuck in a small city with no chance of making a life I'd be happy with and everyone agreed that it would be the best for me to move and not to delay it. And I still felt like I was giving up, that by not trying to stay around and fix a place which I had no affection for that I was doing wrong which hey, is my main complaint with the ending of the Veronica Mars movie. Aside from the fact that she's still tackling her problems at 28 the way she did when she was 18 (instead of using her hotshot lawyer skills to make actual progress in changing the town) there was this air to the movie that staying in this incredibly toxic environment was the "right" thing to do and I think that's an incredibly unhealthy line of thinking and romantic in a very bad sort of way idea as well, the "if I stay with him I can change him!" idea.

I do think that in the 22 episodes of Silver Spoon we got more concrete character development than in the 60ish episodes of Veronica Mars and SS makes it clear that the characters are in no way done with it. I can start to see the various paths Hachiken might take after seeing him struggle, succeed, and fail (even if he hasn't yet), yet in VM when Veronica succeeded half the time it was counter-acted by someone worse so it was a personal victory instead of one that brought about change, and when she failed there was usually mortal danger involved. VM tried to show that change was hard and every season the important characters would waver between being better people and falling back into old habits (which was another of my major complaints with the movie) and SS says not that it's hard to change but shows how hard it can be to defy expectations which VM never quite did. And let me make it clear, the first season of VM is absolutely amazing but as it went on it felt staler and staler, never quite bad but when it should have grown it instead clung to the town of Neptune and restricted it's characters too much. So I must say to Veronica Mars, bullshit, running away can be good for you and sometimes there's never a good enough reason to go back home. Especially when home means people actively trying to kill you.

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