Earlier today, Ta-Nehisi Coates noted that while MSNBC’s Chris Hayes is “making himself into a hell of a broadcaster,” he is also a “hell of a writer.” As proof, Coates pointed to a transition-era Nation essay by Hayes on Obama’s “pragmatism,” calling it “definitive.” Having just read the piece, I can agree that it is great, though I’m not quite sure what aspect of it is definitive. The critique of the Beltway CW conception of pragmatism?
Regardless of what definitions Hayes’ has set, Coates’ praise for him reminded me of the first article of his that I can remember reading: Veronica Mars, Class Warrior. I read this article (via Matt Yglesias’ old TPM blog) while working the front desk at a hostel in New York City soon after I graduated from college and it immediately landed Neptune, CA’s youngest private eye a spot on my Netflix queue. Weeks later, it bubbled to the top and I was soon obsessed. I concurrently watched seasons one and two on DVD and the inferior CWed season 3 as it aired. Unfortunately, it was that third season that falsified one of Hayes’ claims about the show’s nuanced virtues:
Of course, if the show was devoted exclusively to a sledge-hammer message about the perfidy of the ruling class, it would be boring propaganda, not art. But “Veronica Mars” never settles for cartoonish, political stereotypes: The working-class insurgent candidate for class president turns out to be a snitch who falsely accuses Veronica of drug use; the charismatic, liberal history teacher who critiques U.S. “imperialism” has an affair with a student and dumps her when she gets pregnant; and Duncan Kane, the ultimate icon of privilege, is unfailingly decent, compassionate and humane.
Season 3, unfortunately, did settle for cartoonish, political stereotypes, particularly in the form of the feminist activists Veronica encountered at her college. The characters were straw feminists. As s.e. smith noted, “They’re man haters, they’re willing to frame people for crimes they didn’t commit while they themselves commit rape, and they ride roughshod over numerous other characters.”
I guess you could say that Veronica Mars’ third season prevented Hayes’ article from being “definitive” in casting the show as one that all progressives can love.