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Majoring in Criminology

by Curtis Marez

During its first two seasons, Veronica Mars is set in the fictional beachside community of Neptune, somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego, where the title character solves crimes while working for her father’s detective agency, Mars Investigations. The crimes Veronica solves often foreground class and gender issues, including violence against women (see the “Veronica Mars and Feminism” clip and commentary). While her high school is played by a public high school in Oceanside, California, in season three the young detective enrolls in Hearst College, represented here by San Diego State University. Veronica becomes a criminology major and  attempts to identify a campus rapist.  She also gets involved in the investigation into the murder of a dean, and the prime suspect is her criminology professor, who is having an affair with the dean’s wife (SPOILER ALERT: the TA  for the criminology class did it!). What are the implications of bringing elements of the detective genre to college? By combining the roles of detective and student researcher, what does the character of Veronica Mars suggest about the aim or value of education?  And what is the significance of the focus on criminology as an academic major and framework for community outreach in the context of expanding state investments in prisons (and the corresponding disinvestment in public education)? A different set of questions are suggested by the SDSU setting, with it’s distinctive “Spanish style” architecture. If university architecture gives concrete shape to influential desires and fantasies about education, what is represented by so-called “Spanish style” architecture in light of ongoing local histories of settler colonialism and the under representation of Latinos and other people of color in public universities? Moreover, what does the difference in architectural styles between UCSD and SDSU--blurred in the two clips in this lecture--suggest about the differences between the two educational systems?

Majoring in Criminology

Opening of Veronica Mars episode where the title character attends criminology class on her "Spanish-style" college campus.

from Veronica Mars (2006)
Creator: Rob Thomas
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Posted by Curtis Marez