Veronica Mars and Philosophy: Interview with the Editor, George Dunn

1118843703George_Dunn-582_ppWe recently caught up with George Dunn, editor of the recently published Veronica Mars and Philosophy: Investigating the Mysteries of Life (Which is a Bitch Until You Die). George tells us about the record-breaking Kickstarter campaign which bankrolled the recent movie, talks a bit about why he loves the show, and explains why it has hidden philosophical depths.

Don’t forget to read the FREE CHAPTERGetting Past the Velvet Ropes: Status Anxiety in Neptune by William Irwin.

. What’s so great about Veronica Mars?

George Dunn: Well, the short answer is that Veronica Mars must be something pretty special to generate fans who are so fervent that they not only succeeded into getting a movie made about their beloved heroine six years after the original Veronica Mars television show was cancelled, but also were able to make history in the process. The Kickstarter campaign that funded the Veronica Mars movie raised a whopping $5.7 million in one month’s time, surpassing the $1 million mark in just under 4 ½ hours—both crowdsourcing records! And the movie did not disappoint. Veronica’s return to Neptune and her sleuthing ways after her long hiatus was every bit as much fun as the fans had anticipated. What drew you (personally) to Veronica Mars? When did you first become a fan?

GD: I started watching Veronica Mars not long after it first premiered in 2004. I was hooked from the beginning. Having been a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which aired its final episode the previous year, I was intrigued by the comparisons people were making between the two shows. Both knitted together a coming-of-age story with a classic form of genre fiction—horror for Buffy, film noir for Veronica—both addressed disturbing real world issues faced by high school students, and both featured a winsome and often snarky blonde heroine. Of course, unlike Buffy, Veronica didn’t have any superpowers, unless being smarter than everyone else counts as a superpower. And that for me was another aspect of Veronica’s appeal. As a philosopher, I have tremendous respect for someone like Veronica, who is able to solve tough problems through imagination, logic, and brainpower—though admittedly she does occasionally need to supplement her wiles with a juducious use of her taser. And why is it so appropriate for the sort of philosophical treatment you give it in the new book?

GD: Most philosophers share Veronica’s dedication to snooping out the truth with the use of logical reasoning, however disquieting that truth may turn out to be, along with her conviction that knowledge is inherently empowering. In turn, Veronica shares our penchant for making global pronouncements about the meaning of life. (For example, in the very first episode, she offers a succinct but incisive interpretation of Alexander Pope’s famous philosophical poem, An Essay on Man. We allude to it in the subtitle of Veronica Mars and Philosophy.) So Veronica and philosophy seemed to me like a natural pairing from the start. And evidently I was right, judging from the quality of the chapters written by contributors to the book. In addition to chapters that directly explore Veronica’s noirish philosophy, we have essays that examine the ins-and-outs of the reasoning she employs as a detective, the class and racial dynamics in Neptune, and a wide range of ethical issues that come up in connection with her hazardous vocation and sometimes equally hazardous personal relationships, such as the value of trust, the nature of friendship, the morality of revenge, and the legitimacy of law-breaking. And, of course, recognizing the special challenges that Veronica and other women in Neptune face due to the chauvenistic attitudes of their male peers, we have several chapters that address issues of timely importance to young women in today’s society, such as victim blaming and the sexual double standard. What sort of reader did you have in mind when you started work on the book?

GD: All the books that I’ve edited for the series have been aimed at fellow fans who share my enthusiasm for whatever piece of pop culture it is that we’re examining. I don’t assume that all our readers have a background in philosophy, though, which is why we work so hard to make sure that the philosophy in “And Philosophy” books is presented in a way that’s both accessible and fun for the general reader, minus the off-putting jargon. That’s why anyone who enjoys Veronica Mars should love this book. Reading it may actually enhance your appreciation of the show, since it’s like rewatching the series in the company of some extremely bright people who are eager to share everything they’ve learned from many hours spent pondering the whys and wherefores of life in Neptunes. You may even get a little smarter in the process, though perhaps not as smart as Veronica.What I wouldn’t give to be that smart! What’s your current project? What’s next?

GD: I have several irons in the fire right now. With Jason Eberl (my co-editor on Sons of Anarchy and Philosophy), I’m editing a volume of essays that explore philosophical themes in the movies of director Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight, Inception). I’m also preparing a Festschrift, a collection of essays honoring one of my teachers. And Avatar and Philosophy, another book that I edited for Wiley Blackwell, is due to be published this fall.

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