ANCHORMAN: An Ode To Veronica Corningstone

The ladies can do stuff now!

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is, as the title suggests, the story of legendary (fictional) anchorman and lover of scotch Ron Burgundy. However, in spite of suits so fine they make Sinatra look like a hobo and a voice that could make a wolverine purr, Adam McKay's 2004 movie, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this month, is actually about someone entirely different.

Anchorman actually belongs to the luminous Veronica Corningstone. A hero to any woman who has ever been tasked with writing baloney news stories (in my case, it was what kind of hat Meghan Markle was wearing on any given day), she breezes into Channel 4 News eager to prove herself. In an environment drenched in testosterone, where women work only in hair and makeup, Veronica's tearing down of the long-established patriarchal rules governing the newsroom, and inspiring the other ladies to fight back alongside her, is hugely impressive.

Veronica's gender is the biggest topic of discussion when she gets hired – it's the whole reason she's hired in the first place, as part of a push for more diversity. The news team describes her as "terrifying," an "ice queen," and a "ball-buster." Station manager Ed addresses her as "Ms. Corningstone, ma'am" and "sweetheart" while condescending to Veronica about the kinds of stories he deems her capable of covering. Only Ron, reduced to a bumbling idiot after his usual pickup lines ("I'm kind of a big deal") fail miserably, calls her a "classy lady" (though, later, he will criticize Veronica for being a "smelly pirate hooker," a "whore," and, most devastating of all, a "scorpion woman" when she crosses him).

When Ron first spots Veronica across the party, in that stunning white jumpsuit and red lip combo (her style is the perfect mixture of feminine and boss bitch throughout), she's bathed in a heavenly golden light. He admits to his beloved dog, Baxter, that "she's different, quite different." Tellingly, Ron's intro in the movie is soundtracked by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose's "Treat Her Like a Lady," while Veronica's arrival at the news station is soundtracked by The Isley Brothers' "Who's That Lady?" Not only is Veronica a classy woman, different to all the other broads Ron has so effortlessly charmed before, but she demands a different approach entirely.

He knows she's out of his league from that very first encounter. The only way Ron can get Veronica to take him seriously is by getting on an emotional level with her. Veronica really goes against her better judgment agreeing to a work date with Ron ("He's cute, he's very cute, no he's not, no he's not, he's hairy") but rather than being charmed by his incessant patter, she finds herself pleasantly surprised by his hidden passions. He doesn't quite return the favor, obliviously responding that she's beautiful when Veronica confesses her desire to be an anchor some day.

Veronica is very eager to tell club owner Tino she's a journalist just like Ron. She’s constantly fighting to be taken seriously. This professional and demonstrably successful woman faces ruthless, attempted take-downs at every turn. Ron's team might soften towards her initially, when they realize his feelings are real, but it doesn't last long. And, once it's Veronica's time to shine, they're quick to try to throw her off during her first broadcast by acting up in the corner of her eye.

Outwardly confident, strutting around in no-nonsense business suits adorned with feminine accents, and with an inner monologue (the only one in the movie, it must be noted) as passionate and self-assured as her demeanor suggests, Veronica is a force to be reckoned with. Her abilities are never in doubt, the self-confessed "damn good journalist" constantly fights Ed for more responsibility. Right before she goes live for the first time, Veronica quietly repeats the word "power" over and over, to soothe her nerves. Once it’s done, Veronica has to hold back her emotions in front of the all-male team, with only the female staff cheering her on backstage.

The problem is Veronica is too smart for the dudes who dominate the news station, too smart to show any weakness. They're intimidated by her attention-grabbing attitude, which is in defiance of the other ladies working there, who hang around in the background quietly, sometimes trying and failing to take part in their shenanigans. It's only when Veronica shows up and starts taking names (and punching dicks) that they fight back, too, much to the chagrin of the boys’ club.

This change is clearest in Kathryn Hahn's hairdresser who spends most of Anchorman hanging out on the sidelines reacting first to the men's rough-housing and then, with barely-concealed delight, to Veronica’s many tussles with them. She finally gets her moment to shine by telling the news team to grow up, and is also the one who gives Veronica ammunition to take Ron down (even if the anchorwoman does regret it later). The Evening News team describes Veronica as Channel 4's "mother," but she's hardly a nurturing presence. She doesn't have the time or inclination to babysit anyone. Still, she's an inspiration to the women around her regardless.

Veronica is razor-sharp, whether she's schooling Ron on his dodgy San Diego knowledge or cutting him down with the worst insult he can imagine ("You have bad hair"). She cocks her eyebrow confidently, doubling down on how good it is. She knows how good she is. Indeed, her mid-credits zingers are much better than his – no wonder Ron storms offset and refuses to work with her. Veronica has a great response to Wes Mantooth's suggestion she should go make him a sandwich, too, pointing out how she's winning the ratings war. It all combines to make her most vulnerable moment, with the public news anchor who pushes her into the bear pit, sadder because poor Veronica believes, finally, a man understands where she's coming from.

The only real issue with Veronica, of course, is that she's better at her job than the previously untouchable Ron. This is something Ron admits only to Danny Trejo's bartender, who unsuccessfully tries to school him on feminism, out of earshot of basically everybody else in San Diego. His whole identity is about being the go-to guy for the news. Seeing a woman take on that role, and make it her own, is too much for the great Ron Burgundy to bear. In contrast to Veronica, who knows exactly who she is, Ron is defined by his role.

Crucially, it's Ron who has to change in order to succeed, not Veronica. Rather than lowering herself to his boorish ways, he has to rise to her level and finally see his co-anchor as an equal (or, whisper it, his better). Only then can they move forward as a team (the terrible Anchorman 2 kind of steps on this idea, but let's just forget it exists). She fights the whole movie to earn her spot but it's Ron who has to prove himself worthy of the only woman who didn't immediately fall at his feet.

The name Veronica Corningstone suggests this is a woman who's going to make her mark, and who will change the system irrevocably from within (it's not too far off "cornerstone"). Anchorman might be named after her peer and gentleman lover, but it's Veronica's story. Her struggles and eventual triumph are ours. The persons, locations, and events may have been changed but Veronica's story strikes a chord for every woman who's fought for her place at the table. Especially if it means reporting on the world's greatest meatloaf recipe in the process.