Resources for Paper #2

Key Terms:

  • Film noir
  • Roman noir
  • Femme fatale
  • ambiguity
  • classical Hollywood cinema
  • Neo-noir
  • basic film terms handout


Further resources as you research your second paper:


Life Lemons to Detective Lemonade

Although Mars and Jeffries are both capable observers and detectives, they are both hindered by disabilities; for Mars, her social isolation and unlucky position as the daughter of a publicly shamed shamed ex-police chief act as hinderances in her pursuit of truth (namely her pursuit for the case of her missing mother the death of her best friend).  Jeffries has the obvious physical obstacle of his broken leg.  The two protagonists, however, are not entirely hindered and their supposed weaknesses are, in fact, advantages that allow them to better fulfill their duties as observers and detectives.

Jeffries broke his leg during a photography job at a racetrack and, because of his injury, he is required to wear a waist-down cast extending down his left leg.  This physical representation of Jeffries’ immobility not only causes him to be incapable of leaving his perpetual position next to his rear window, it causes him to form an addiction to observing the goings-on of his neighbors.  This addiction causes the serving of justice to a deserving criminal and the reignition of his passion towards Lisa, his girlfriend.  He is ultimately better off due, transitively, to his broken leg.

rearwindow2 Rear-Window-rear-window-28348571-720-480

Mars is seen as an outsider due to her fall-from-grace from the top of the social hierarchy.  Not only is she an social leper, she is an outcast in her own city due to her involuntary position as the daughter of the disgraced ex-police chief.  Her identity as an outcast allows her to act as a third party observer to the goings-on of the town, giving Mars an advantage and allowing her to be a better detective.  This behavior manifests itself when Mars cuts Willis down from the flag pole, completely disregarding social restrictions about interacting with the publicly humiliated teen. That, coupled with her ability to trust no one due to her belittling at the hand of her father’s replacement for her unsolved rape causes her to become a more cold hearted detective, concerned only with her pursuit of justice.  The use of her father’s loyal followers to accomplish tasks is another added windfall of her relation to the ex-police chief, such as the fire chief’s cooperation in Mars’ VHS replacement operation.


Not only are Jeffries and Mars’ detective abilities improved by their disadvantages, the products of their past that supposedly act as obstacles actually place the two in better positions to accomplish solid detective work.

The Female Detective

When one thinks of a regular teenage girl, things like begging her parents for a cell phone or shopping at the mall with their friends might come to mind. But what is normal? Is it what everyone else is doing that makes it “normal” or is it because it is socially accepted at a geographical location that makes the conventions “ok”? Whatever the case might be, Veronica Mars, the title character of the series, is anything but normal. Instead, her involvement in Lilly Kane’s murder and her unresolved rape case are reactants that helped shape the detective that she is now.


In the one of the flashbacks that were show in the pilot, we know that Mr. Mars is not who he use to be after he has publically humiliated himself by arresting the wrong person for the murder of Veronica’s best friend, Lilly Kane. One should take a moment think of the irony in the aftermath of this event. The technology developed by Jake Kane, the CEO of Kane Corporation, that enabled video streaming over the internet exacerbated the unwanted attention that was drawn to his family during the course of the investigation. Well, how does this matter? As a former teenage girl with normalcy in her life, Veronica has never witnessed such a heinous crime. This turning point marks the transition of the innocent schoolgirl to the sarcastic and witty teenager that she is now.


Sure, one might also say, “so what? she’s got a smart mouth now. How does that change anything?” For one, the rape that occurred shortly after coupled with the murder of her best friend shook her trust in the police force. This in turn made her more wary of her surroundings and questioned the motives around her. Does that sound familiar to the behavior that a person of a certain occupation does?

The past reflecting on the present



Being an outsider within Neptune High’s social hierarchy gives Veronica Mars a perspective that enables her to be an excellent detective. This is because of Veronica’s past experiences that haunt over her and shape the life around her. In the pilot of Veronica Mars, we discover that she is an outcast because of her disgraced father, missing mother, best friends death and the unsolved rape case that only two others have knowledge about. All of these factors motivate her to be a misbehaved overachiever.

Veronica receives good grades and can solve almost any crime yet she has this wall up that she only lets down for certain people. She speaks harshly to her teachers and the people around her but supports the people she is most close with. The new kid in town, Wallace, manages to break through this wall and gain Veronicas trust by also taking the role of an outsider, and giving her a true friend that is much needed in a time of despair. Wallace and Veronica work as a team to uncover crimes. Wallace being called a snitch the first day of school and being tied to the post allowed him to have a first hand view of how corrupt this society is. It allowed him to discover that he does not want to be a part of the groups who are bullies and choose to befriend Veronica instead. This guarded wall that Veronica puts up, is to protect her from harm that she is unstable enough to face.

Not only does Veronica constantly reflect on the past, but also she is desperate to uncover the truth that lies beneath all of the secrets and interferes with her moving on. Veronica allows the scaring incidents to fuel her anger and motivate her to solve the crimes as a distraction from society. This is her source of escape from the people around her. She wants to be able to know why everything is being kept from her and why her mom is always on the run so that she can bring her home.

Veronica’s protective cover not only wards people off but also makes them fear what she is capable of doing. During the episode Veronica claims that peoples opinions on the norm do not get to her, but she does admit that it is all depending on whom it is coming from. Her surrounding students are constantly bullying her to feel better about them selves when they know the death of her best friend was truly not her fault. These trust issues enable her to isolate herself from her surrounding peers and use a tough cover. A friend of Veronicas even states that getting tough may be a good idea, but getting revenge does not always help her case.

Veronica uses her troubles as a weapon to make sure justice is served. Throughout the show, Veronica is willing to help anyone who comes to her with pay or any close friends for free. She is always a step ahead of everyone and the people in her community are shocked when they figure out that she has outsmarted them. Veronica uses her influence and sneaky ways to be on top of society, without anyone in her society being aware that she holds that amount of power.


Voyeur on both sides of the lens

Magazine photographer Jeffery broke his leg by accident. His daily life is taken care of by his beautiful girlfriend Lisa. Only able to sitting on the wheelchair, Jeffery’s biggest interest is to observe what his neighbors are doing through the lens.  Each window contains its own story. But something unusual is happening in the apartment at the opposite of his rear window. He was suspicious that one of his neighbors killed his wife. At that time, he has already sunken into this quirk fondness. Actually, we audience are also as eager as Jeffery to find out what is going on. Everyone shares a trait that being born to be a voyeur because of the emptiness inside his or her heart. That’s what helps Hitchcock succeed in this movie – it is about voyeurism on both sides of the lens.

With only a few number of given camera angles, Hitchcock really made such thrilling  suspension out of  a small space. The main plot line may be the murder, but there are still lots of subplots are going on at the same time – each window indicates a different storyline just as our real life.

Hitchcock successfully captures our inner desire to peer what others are doing.  The Rear Window also reminds me of a film called Dans La Maison I watched earlier this year. It is about a writing teacher who asks his student Claude to observe and record what he saw about one of his classmates. Claude’s description is so fascinating and realistic that the teacher can’t help but keeping reading his assignment just like peering Claude’s classmate in person. What Claude writes offers the teacher another rear window to learn everything that’s going on. A voyeur may take different form to spy on others. But what is the main motivation for voyeurs?

Just like we are never tired of browsing our friends’ even strangers’ homepage on various kinds of social network, watching other people’s lives seems to be usual(like watching a TV show and we always want to know what next episode tells). Bound to bed due to his broken leg, Jeffery chooses to look through the window to kill the time. Yes at first it may be out of curiosity for him to do so. Yet as things develop, he find it more interesting to observe others’ lives than living his own one. Lisa and the other nurse whose name I forget persuaded Jeffery to do something else more than once and they show little interest in peering because they have their own meaningful life. In contrast, the emptiness inside Jeffery’s heart can only be filled by his craving to continue voyeur.

(need to be revised :/)

On the Outside looking In

In the pilot episode of Veronica Mars first season we are introduced to a character who is on the outside of the social hierarchy in high school. Due to her lack of mother, disgraced father, and her rape case that was not investigated, Veronica is set apart from everyone else and therefore cannot relate to them. It is this characteristic that makes her a good detective. In order to be a good observer you must be able to view situations just at face value, without any inhibitions of potential suspects or evidence. In “Rear Window” James Stewart’s character Jefferies is physically removed from all the events that occurred throughout the movie. He is given a vantage point, literally, and therefore is allowed to be able to make unbiased, clear observations. Another example of this is Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon”. Spade is a man removed emotionally from the women and people in his life. By being emotionally an outcast from the group of people involved in the case. It is this advantage that he has over people, making him a good detective. Finally the last example is Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler in both the television adaption of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia”, named “A Scandal in Belgravia”. Sherlock Holmes is an outcast intellectually, always being a step above everyone else, even if it seems unreasonable to his partners at that time, but it is Irene Adler who is in the best place of speculation. Her sexual dominance over Sherlock, displayed by her ability to distract him, makes her able to have no distractions from what shes doing; a place of high power. While Sherlock is the detective, he is conned by his own job’s best technique. Using all of these examples as proof of other fictional detectives, Veronica Mars is a detective, and is a good one, because of the fact that she is a social and emotional outcast who is able to create any conclusions about the situations at hand due to the benefit of observing at face value. Looking on the outside in on a situation is far more analytic than the alternative. Veronica Mars is a good detective because, like the other detectives, cannot, and should not, be involved in society.


The Outsiders

The Outsiders

It seems as though many of the brilliant detectives of the film noir genre share numerous qualities that make each one of them special in their own ways. Among these qualities are: cleverness, dedication, perseverance, and passion. However, there remains one more quality that the likes of Sam Spade, Jefferies, and Sherlock Holmes share with the new-age detective, Veronica Mars, and that quality is isolation. Each detective, in their own way, remains isolated from those around them either by personal choice or by other external circumstances. One can argue that the success of these detectives could have derived from their outsider statuses.

In Sam Spade’s case, he constantly has people around him interacting with him, but he manages them in a way that isolates himself so that others don’t interfere with his work. For instance, almost at all times, Spade is interacting with one of his many women, Brigid, Effie, or Iva, or any of his foes, Gutman, Cairo, or Wilmer. However, though he is interacting with these people, he remains independent of their influences. When making the ultimate decision on whether to protect Brigid or turn her in, Spade used this isolation to do what was legally correct, thus, completing his job.

With Jefferies, he is physically isolated from the world as he is confined to his wheel chair in his room. The only connection he has with the world outside is through his window. This isolation allows him to get an angle on crime in a manner in which no one else can. He is able to see everything that is going on from his window and has the time to come up with logical deductions from that point.

Sherlock Holmes is mentally an outsider. His quirky personality and detachment from normal social and emotional reactions allow him to free himself of any of the many distractions he may face while allowing himself to view the case as logically and unbiased as possible. This detachment is evident in the interactions between both he and Irene Adler. Adler is extremely sensual and attempts to use the emotional reactions she gets out of men to her advantage. However, this attempt doesn’t work on Sherlock Holmes because he has essentially transcended the emotional component of human beings.

Veronica Mars, a typical high school student, faces the isolation that high school students are often known for going through, however, her case is an extreme. With all of the struggles in her life, especially in her rape, Veronica is forced out of her natural comfort zone and into almost complete isolation. This sudden fall from grace in her life attests to the fierceness and spitefulness of her personality. During all of the adversity that she had been faced with, Veronica never got help; no one was on her side, and no one was there for her. This isolation has driven Veronica to a state where her only goal was to get the job done at whatever the cost. Her exile from her group of friends allows her to get to observe them in a way that she previously would not have been able to. This isolation, in turn, leads to her improvement as a detective and problem solver in general.

The isolation that each of these great detectives go through at some point in time does not always stem from the same causes. However, it can be heavily argued that a view from the outside, isolated from the world around ones self, can give a detective a new and unique perspective that eventually classifies them as great.

Veronica Mars Sitting Alone at Lunch

Eye of Providence

Being an outsider within Neptune High’s social hierarchy gives Veronica Mars a perspective that enables her to be a good detective Her change in social class allows her to gain this new perspective of her surroundings. She was perviously a part of the “in crowd” in her school, however, when her popular, wealthy boyfriend broke up with her and her father was removed as sherif, that all quickly changed. Now, without the popular boyfriend or the important position of her father, Veronica Mars was an outsider.

This change in social classes has allowed Veronica to gain an intimate understanding of all social facets of her school. With this unique perspective she possesses, in addition to being a detective, she is in the position of being an “all seeing eye.” The director of this show makes it clear that this she is intended to be an “all seeing eye” in her world by the carefully chosen logo on the doors to her and her father’s detective office; the eye of providence.

The eye of providence has been used throughout history and even in our own culture today, (on the Great Seal of the United States on the back of the one dollar bill), as the all seeing eye, the eye of God or the eye of the world. The eye is usually used to symbolize someone, or something that is always watching over everything.

The fact that the eye of providence is the logo for Veronica Mars’s detective business is indicative of the fact that her outsider or “watching over” perspective is a big part of what allows her to be a great detective. The usage of the eye also fits in with the theme of her “hobby” as a photographer and making observations. 

Eye of Providence depicted on dollar bill



Wikipedia: Eye of Providence

Lonely Girl Saves The World

Through the Veronica Mars episode ” Pilot” , Veronica Mars, exemplifies how being alone in  high school world, works into her detective ways. Being an outsider within Neptune High School gives Veronica Mars a perspective that enables her to be a good detective. Due to past events in her life, she is more guarded and has obtained more knowledge in the world around her.

With a past of a parent divorce, a break up with a long time boyfriend and rape, Veronica Mars has become more independent and keeps to her self. At Neptune High, the common theme of ” cliques” comes into play. In the opening scene at the high school during lunch, you see how different people are sitting at different tables. She explains to the audience that the table across from her is the table where her ex boyfriend and the ego central Logan Echolls sit. She says that she used to be one of those people at the table. Although now she is alone at her own table. Veronica has no interest anymore in being that group although she claims that she misses the life she had with her Ex Boyfriend. Veronica is alone in the world and is perfectly acceptable of it.

Being alone for Veronica Mars, gives her a detective advantage which helps her vastly throughout the episode. Having been through traumatic events and experiencing teen age loneliness, gives Veronica more insight on the things around her. She does not have a main group of friends. In a way this helps her because, being an detective requires extreme amount of observation. In this scene, VeronicaMarsS01E01ExtendedPilota-47 , it shows how the detective  eye really works into her favor. Because she is alone at the moment, she able to observe more. Although surrounded by groups of people who are friends, this doesn’t cross her mind at all. She is more involved in observing the people around her.

In addition, her separation to others works in her favor because she is able to meet different people. When she arrives to school one morning, she is greeted by a guy taped on the flag poll. Everyone else is standing around the guy taking pictures and videos. Veronica Mars decides to help take the guy down. This results into a new friendship with the guy from when he sits with her at her lunch table the next day. There she finds out how he ended up on the flag poll and then hears about the Biker Gang which she meets at another point of the story, who she ends showing up to save her when Logan starts hitting her car at the beach.

Through series of encounters with different people she is able to  have a better detective outlook. This helps prove the point that being an outsider helps Veronica in ways that help a detective better their observational and encountering approach to the surroundings around them.


The Power of Three

In Veronica Mars, our title character is a social outcast, her father the disgraced sherif, her mother gone and her social life destroyed. But in our other two films, we understand our main characters, Jeffries and Holmes, to be outsiders as well, Jeffries within the confines of his home and Holmes within the confines of his mind. Being an outsider in detective film, gives our main characters a perspective that enables them to be stellar detectives. The common thread that all three films weave is that either the audience or the main character looks at the film through both a metaphorical and a literal lens. In Veronica Mars, we see our main character’s literal telephoto lens that she uses to spy on people and in Rear Window, Jeffries watches his neighbors through his own telephoto lens. Sherlock is more subtle, the audience is placed behind the lens, always looking through windows or glass or the screen itself. Sherlock seems to exist in a sort of world all his own, very isolated from everyone and the audience feels that by being so removed from the action.

Isolation is a metaphorical lens that weaves these three together as well. Veronica Mars is a social outcast due to her father’s disgraced status as the town sheriff, her previous status with the popular kids revoked and we see her life tumble into a downward spiral that eventually leaves her cynical and on a path for vengeance. Jeffries, is also forcibly removed from his previous environment, having broken his leg. He’s stuck having to watch his neighbors for lack of better things to do because he cannot be in his normal environment. Like Veronica when we meet her, he’s not totally isolated, Jeffries has his girlfriend and caretaker during the film and Veronica has Wallace and her father (though her cynicism begins to make her not trust her father in the episode viewed in class). Sherlock is the lone character who is not forcibly removed from society and instead chooses not to partake of common societal norms (socialization for one…). This allows him to view the world from a different perspective, one that isn’t muddled with biases towards or against people. We can see this in the episode A Study in Pink where he begins to describe and convict Watson for shooting the villain, but then stops as he realizes it was Watson who most likely saved his life.


In The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett creates the idealized detective as someone who is removed and will do whatever is necessary to accomplish their goals. In The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade throws his entire clientele to the police in order to save himself and bring back some semblance of normalcy. In Veronica Mars, our title character breaks into lockers and steals security feeds to bring some form of balance back to the corrupt justice system of Neptune High. Jeffries spies on his neighbors and ignores social norms to discover that his neighbor is a murderer. Sherlock constantly breaks laws, breaking into homes, stealing key cards, ignoring orders from authority figures, all to discover whodunit, how and why. Characters who partake of social hierarchy are usually portrayed as being less efficient then our detectives, who ignore rules and norms to achieve their ends and be stellar detectives.