A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Themes include integrity and perseverance. The idea of standing up for the vulnerable, the poor, the bullied is prominent. The idea that wealthy people are often corrupt and can get away with things is a central idea. Issues of race and class are integral to the show's premise, and marginalized characters are humanized.
Positive Role Models
Veronica is strong, independent, has a great relationship with her dad, and makes it a priority to stand up for the little people. But she often gets carried away in her quest to punish wrongdoers by lying, cheating, and/or breaking the law to get to the truth. Side characters are complex, too, particularly when viewed through the lens of the show's long history: Logan is transformed over the years from a spoiled rich kid to Veronica's loyal ally, while Dick is a longtime villain who has some moments of kindness and relatability.
Violence & Scariness
A main character is victimized by partygoers, including other main characters, who give her GHB, rape her, and cheer on her rapists, then later deny their participation. The rape is handled sensitively and the trauma from the event given proper gravity and respect. An early storyline revolves around the mysterious death of a teen. After the show's move to Hulu, the violence ratchets up a level, with shocking imagery like a brief visual of a decapitated head. Characters we've gotten to know are killed suddenly, though the show generally doesn't linger over blood and gore.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Early seasons on network television has frank sexual innuendo and images of teenagers making out in cars. Later seasons, particularly season 4 on Hulu, has stronger sexual content, including scenes in which characters have remove their clothing (nudity is confined to a brief glimpse of a man's bare backside), and have sex with rhythmic motions and moaning as the camera focuses on imagery like intertwined hands. Mature jokes focus on sex: a woman reminisces about giving her ex "head in the shower," a couple jokes about trading a "hand job" for a chore.
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Early seasons on UPN contain infrequent profanity -- "ass," "hell," etc. On Hulu, the language matures: "s--t," "bulls--t," "assh--e." Two characters have a bet on who can go longest without dropping an "F-bomb" and replace the word with "cuss." Writers like to play with profane language, with characters calling each other things like "c--k waffle."
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Products & Purchases
Macintosh products are featured prominently in early seasons; in later ones, brands are mentioned as markers of wealth: the Nest thermostat and the Echo smart speaker.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Early seasons show flashback scenes with teens drinking without consequences. Drug use is treated with negative consequences. A main character is unknowingly given GHB, which sets a major plotline about sexual violence into motion; other drugs, such as tranquilizer and "date rape" drug Rohypnol, figure into that plotline and character's actions. Alcoholism complicates characters relationships with parents. In the show's fourth season on Hulu, characters of legal are shown imbibing alcohol irresponsibly, gulping liquor at a club.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Veronica Mars centers on a smart, independent teen girl who stands up for victims, but who often resorts to breaking rules to accomplish this. The series features violence and sexual references. Although the program is set in high school, it deals with very adult themes -- including murder, greed, infidelity, gang violence, date rape drugs, and rape -- and should be prescreened before allowing teens to tune in. Early seasons of the show were aired on network television and content was aligned to network standards, with subdued language, sexuality, and violence (though concepts and drama are often mature). Veronica Mars' fourth season was made by streaming service Hulu, and takes advantage of its freedom. Sexuality includes lots of frank talk about sex, with jokes about oral sex, trading sex for favors, a woman jokes with her dad about "scissoring" a female friend, and more. Characters also take off their clothes and have sex, with rhythmic movement and noises, though nudity is confined to a quick glimpse of a man's bare butt. Violence is also ramped up, with many (offscreen) deaths and some violent imagery, like a severed head that is thrown over a fence, though the show generally doesn't linger over gore. Drug use, particularly date rape drugs like GHB and Rohypnol, figures largely into early seasons, and on Hulu, adults are shown drinking irresponsibly at clubs. Veronica retains her toughness and sensitivity in the Hulu version of the show, while other characters are depicted with increasing complexity as they've grown to adulthood.
Is It Any Good?
On the surface, this may appear to be yet another teen melodrama, but thanks to witty dialogue, unique direction, and exceptional acting, this unpredictable neo-noir sets itself a cut above the rest. That said, Veronica Mars' storylines can often be dark, complicated, and scary for young viewers: one episode features a bus of school kids that goes off a cliff, while another features a rape with complicated implications about power, abuse, and misogyny (that said, this particular plot twist is justifiably lauded for the nuanced, sensitive way it depicts rape and its ensuing and often long-lasting trauma).
The tangled history of Veronica Mars also adds to its allure: the show first premiered on UPN in 2004, and though it was a critical hit and cult fave, wasn't a ratings breakout and was canceled after three seasons. In 2013, creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell spearheaded a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a Veronica Mars movie, the result was 2014's fan-service-heavy Veronica Mars. Then in 2019, Hulu released a fourth season of the show, with a now 39-year-old Bell as an adult Veronica, and many cast members reprising their roles. It's an unusual way to tell a story, over 15 years and counting, and fans will be delighted to know that the latest season is as sharp as Veronica ever was, with the same sharp wordplay and sense of fun. Now, however, there's an added layer of emotional complexity thanks to the long gestation period. In short, fans will be glad they hung in there. It's worth it.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.