Episode 18 of VM, which I discussed yesterday, opens with Veronica making out with Deputy Leo (whose reappearance near the end of season 3 is a much needed bright spot) before her front door. He wonders why he's never been invited in and wants, he says, "to get a really good, long look at your bedroom ceiling."
"Wow! College girls must be easy," she replies.
The focus of the scene is the talking, not the kissing. There's no dramatic music, nothing unusual in the camera shot. You understand, from everything in the scene itself, that these two people like each other, but you also understand that Leo likes Veronica a lot more than she likes him. I thought Deputy Leo was a great character and was sorry Veronica wasn't nicer to him. But the show doesn't intend for them to have incredible chemistry, and they don't. The show does intend for Veronica and Duncan to have incredible chemistry, and they still don't.
The show intends for Veronica and Logan to have incredible chemistry, and they do. And it makes sense that they do. Because as they work together on things like finding out who stole the money at the poker game, what's going on with the various witnesses who claim to have seen Lynn Echolls jump off the bridge or ride away in a van, who is using the credit cards of Logan's supposedly dead mother, they come to see one another's virtues and vulnerabilities.
The kiss signifies something complicated and wonderful: they've discovered they have an emotional connection. As they acknowledge this emotional connection, it allows for an embodied attraction. (I use that slightly odd phrase because I think it covers more than calling the attraction merely "physical," as opposed to some other sort, like "emotional" or "intellectual." Emotions and thoughts are not just emotional and intellectual, they are embodied, and can cause physiological changes, including alterations in blood pressure, pulse, expression, posture, digestion, etc; and embodiment includes things like the way we carry ourselves, what our voices sound like, and how we adorn or decorate our bodies.) Admitting and acting on that attraction allows their emotional connection to deepen. And lust is part of every aspect of the embodied attraction and connection.
These people want each other, and the kiss makes it clear. OK, it's a pretty tame kiss in a lot of ways: it's just a first kiss, and just first base, and they're juniors in high school, and while Veronica isn't a virgin in that she was roofied and raped while unconscious, she's never had consensual sex she remembers, so she could be considered a kind of psychological virgin. But there are little things, aside from the camera work and soundtrack, that show how passionate this kiss is. One gesture I particularly love is when Logan slides his hand down to the small of Veronica's back and stops there for a moment: he knows that according to the protocol of a first date, his hand can't venture any farther down, but it then allows him to slide his hand back up along her spine--not too far up, mind you--but this time, his hand is under her shirt. The kiss continues a moment longer, before they break apart and stare at each other, alarmed, excited and confused. There's an awkward disengagement from the embrace, then Veronica goes to her car and shrugs at Logan before she gets in and drives away. Days later, after an inconsequential conversation about something else, Veronica will think to herself, "All right-y, Logan. We'll just skip over the two minutes in heaven we had. You want to pretend it never happened? No argument here. My lips, for all intents and purposes, are sealed," but there's virtually no talking involved in this kiss. And it wasn't two minutes in heaven: it was closer to a minute.
I acknowledged Monday that I could watch a fairly explicit, completely naked sex scene I enjoyed and admired, and still not get worked up, because the sex wasn't about me. Whereas this kiss I've just described is, as I've already acknowledged, pretty tame. And yet, as I imagine my account of the details make clear, watching it is a complete turn-on. This is because the kiss replicates both my experience and my fantasies in really lovely ways. The kiss is a nice, accurate representation of what I have been taught to consider the early stages of how you act when you want to deepen not feelings of friendship, nor admiration or respect or esteem (though I think things develop more nicely when you feel all those things), but feelings of lust. And I have found, that just as turned out to be the case with Veronica and Logan, lust can make you feel more kindness, affection, respect and tenderness for the person with whom you explore it.
I grew up being told, flat-out, "Lust is evil." We had countless lessons on it in every venue the church could provide. Lust is evil. Love is pure and virtuous, and completely unconnected to lust, which is evil. Lust is an evil feeling, and the actions that proceed from it are, from start to finish, evil. Never mind that, more than just about any other branch of Christianity, Mormonism is obsessed with sex, scorning and condemning celibacy as abnormal and insisting everyone get married, while the big whoop-de-doo reward of Mormon heaven is that you get to have sex for all eternity, which you wouldn't find much of a prize if you didn't have an active enough libido to experience lust to some degree and with some frequency. In Mormon culture and doctrine, you get married, you have sex, but somehow, you're supposed to do it without feeling lust, feeling only this other, pure desire for children or SOMETHING that is divorced from anything erotic or bodily--again, ironic, since Mormons claim to love bodies, and insist that God has a body.
I don't believe lust is evil, any more than hunger or illness or being incredibly, incredibly cold, or even buoyant good health, all of which can also prompt people to commit evil acts. (I think people get up to mischief sometimes when they're feeling REALLY good.) I believe that the Mormon church's vilification of lust is evil, and one more reason that Utah is the most depressed state in the nation.
All right. I have to run off to meet a student now and I'm going to be late. But I'm still moving towards my final point, and I promise to get there eventually. Thanks for your patience.