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Pop Pedestal: Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie

Welcome to another edition of Pop Pedestal, a series to honor our favorite characters in pop culture. Today, I'd like to turn your attention to an oft-unsung heroine: Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie of Veronica Mars, the Manic Panic-streaked computer geek of my dreams.

Mac, played by Tina Majorino, smiles slightly. She is a white woman with wavy brown hair with bright red streaks in it and blue eyes. She is wearing a short-sleeved olive green t-shirt and is outdoors on a sunny day; the high school cafeteria, with yellow umbrellas over tables, is out of focus in the background.

"Mac Attack, what's the haps?" (picture source)

The Pedestal Profile: In the dark world of Neptune—figuratively speaking, because the fictional city's somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego—Mac is a friendly but solitary teenager until she falls in with Veronica and her best friend, Wallace. This friendship leads the electronics expert into three years of helping solve crimes, including high-profile murders.

Admirable qualities: Friends joke about her being the Q to Veronica's James Bond since Mac is incredibly skilled with electronics, especially the computers with which she just happens to share a nickname. She can often be found in the high school lab creating websites, sometimes of a potentially profitable variety. The best part of Mac's nerddom, though, may be that she makes no bones about how she spends her time... or the fact that she is very, very smart.

The only copy I've found of this clip is pretty low quality, but the scene is just so Mac that I have to share it:

(Veronica walks into the computer lab and sees Mac and Pete standing in the middle of the room, arguing heatedly.)

Pete: Wait, how can you even have an opinion on Ubuntu if you haven't tried it? Two six kernel, Live CD... they even had GNOME 2.O the day Warty Warthog came out!

Mac: I'm sorry; I'm perfectly content with OS X! I have all the awk, grep and sed I want without any need for that pitiful font de-uglification.

Pete: But the fonts ARE de-uglified, and it's free! Fine, you know? Live in the dark ages.

Mac: I know what I like! And I like what I know.

Mac's matter-of-factness about her hobbies ties into a larger trait: an ease with being who she is, even though her classmates are hyperaware of others' judgments. She presents herself according to her own style, which is neither conventional nor instinctively rebellious: bright hair streaks, jeans and frequent appearances of plaid and/or flannel. (Yep, the '90s live on.)

Mac and Veronica are in the computer lab looking at a laptop. Mac, who wears a green shirt with an open blue and green plaid shirt over it and has her hair straight with one blue streak on the left, is sitting in front of the computer and smiling; Veronica, who has short blonde hair in pigtails and is wearing a short-sleeved green t-shirt over a long-sleeved white shirt, is bending down next to her, watching the screen blankly. Several other laptops are visible around them, and a large bulletin board with pastel-papered notices is behind them.  Mac, only visible from the shoulders up, is outdoors in the sun at a carnival. She has several bright red streaks in her hair and is wearing a brown jacket; she looks amused and wry. In the background, multicolored balloons and hand-made signs are visible.

With hair like this, who needs balloons for decoration? (left picture source; right picture source)

Of course, Mac's convictions go deeper than an awesome aesthetic: By the age of sixteen, she is already a vegan and a liberal, despite bemusement from the rest of the "nachos-and-Nascar" Mackenzie household.

In addition to brains and individuality, I admire Mac's strength. She is consistently exposed to crime and danger, yet she always has a smile and witticism for her friends and a persevering attitude. In the first season, Mac meets her biological family for the first time—she wasn't adopted; she was switched at birth, because that's the sort of thing that happens in Neptune—and viewers see how both how vulnerable and determined Mac can be. In Veronica Mars' second season (which is my favorite season of any show, ever), Mac has her first romantic relationship and works through reconciling her sense of self with her emergence as a sexual being. Without spoiling much, the not-as-good third and final season has a bright spot in Mac's increased screen time as she works through a major trauma, strengthens her friendships and explores the new freedoms provided by college. I never stop rooting for her.

Her influence: While Mac is second only to the title character in my VM book, she is all too often forgotten in conversations about the show, and in fact was not added to the opening credits until the third season. Still, devoted fans continue to write fanfiction about Mac, often exploring her unrealized romantic potential with quintessential frat boy Dick Casablancas... or Veronica herself. I can understand: The two have great chemistry. (Full disclosure: I've written fanfiction about them too.)

Video description (.doc)

See also: the first thirty seconds of this clip, in which Veronica asks about a gay-themed chatroom and Mac gives her the look that launched a thousand shippers.

That's not all: Actor Tina Majorino has continued to hone her craft in a number of projects since Veronica Mars was cancelled in 2007. Shades of Mac Mackenzie can be detected in Majorino's character on Big Love, as a secretly attracted friend to Amanda Seyfried (who was also in VM), and her starring role in Pink's stunning video for "Fuckin' Perfect."

Think of her when: you're tempted to make a nerdy joke like "Your wish is my shift-command" to people who may roll their eyes... before you say it anyway. After all, that's what Mac Attack would do.

 

Previously: Sookie St. James, Lafayette Reynolds

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Comments

8 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Mac Forever

Mac! She really was the best. Veronica Mars was always excellently cast, but Mac was an exceptional character.

Oh, VM...I still mourn your untimely passing.

Reading this entry was a high

Reading this entry was a high point in my afternoon. This spring after my first year of grad school I was so tired and lonely that I actually curled up with the entire series of Veronica Mars over a period of rainy weeks in Nova Scotia. It was entirely self-indulgent, a little bit lazy, and exactly what I needed! Aaaand Mac was awesome. Good work.

The best!

I loooove Mac's character! I loved the dynamic that she and Veronica had both as friends and when they were working together on something, it was just so well-written! I wish there had been more about her family because I really liked the storyline. The third season is overall a disappointment, and while I think the plot's potential picked up at the end of the season, it ended in such a shitty way! I watched the third season for the first time this past winter and the last episode is like stress-stress-stress... and then no more. I miss VM!

I think Mac added a great

I think Mac added a great dynamic to the show. I can't think of any other show that has a female computer geek who also is a legit nice person. Anytime a woman on TV or in a movie is nerdy or better at something than men, she's a bitch or she's not pretty. I like the Mac is a REAL person who deals with real problems and actually has emotions. Plus she kicks ass at cracking computer codes.

I can only think of one other example...

Angela Montenegro from Bones! She does ridiculous things with computers and is a hot lady. Also biracial and bisexual. Other than Mac, Angela is the only female computer geek who fits that criteria.

"Women: Bitch, bitch, bitch,

"Women: Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch."
"Why can't they look pretty and get their M.R.S. degrees?"

That should be this

That should be this magazine's slogan, by the way. ;D

Yep, they knew what was up.

Ah, I loved it when V and Mac made fun of and/or got angry with chauvinists. Wish it had gone further sometimes, but I like to think if the show had continued, its politics would have become more pronounced.

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